Med Snookes, my tribute and my memories.

My personal tribute and memories of the great Med Snookes, who sadly lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.

As children my sister Anna and I grew up living opposite Med and Vivs house in Welland, we played with his children, Rory and Rebecca. This was not an ordinary house, Med played a guitar and their garden was not like any other garden in the 1970s. It had something called a wildlife pond, this pond contained wonderful things such as newts, frogs and in the spring frog spawn, we were even allowed to hold the baby frogs. However I wasn’t so keen on holding Rory’s strange pets which were some baby grass snakes!

My parents became close friends with Med and Viv. When we all moved houses the Snookes family now lived on the Common, a visit to Med and Vivs meant this became our extended playground, we would receive disapproving looks when we arrived back damp and muddy having been in the pond know as the Marley Hole.

We all went on holiday to a cottage in Hope Cove, when we arrived Med had given himself the task of cooking us all Macaroni Cheese (my eyes were opened I didn’t realise Dads did cooking!) there was some drama over the macaroni cheese, I can’t remember exactly what happened but it eventually was done and tasted good. It was an amazing holiday one of those when us 4 kids were left to our own devices to discover rock pools and caves, we made up adventures of Pirate and Triffid invasions.

Med would always drive really fast down the narrow Cornish lanes, his theory which has always made me chuckle, being the faster you drove the less chance you have of meeting anything, Med was so sharp to brake he never hit anyone. Luckily for us with their car full we would always be in our car behind. My terrified very safety conscious Dad doing his best to keep up, anxiously telling us Med’s theory was not a good one.

Med taught us at Hanley Castle High School in Art, he was an incredible teacher, his lessons were the best in the school, his class room was a treasure trove of art work, he would tell wonderful inspirational stories about past pupils, his enthusiasm inspired so many and not just in the Art that he taught.

When I was 16 and failed maths dismally with a level 5 CSE my Father was gutted as he was good at maths. I was told by the school that I would not be even allowed to retake it, as I spent too much time day dreaming and looking out of the window. Med had a word with my father. He said pay for her to take it yourself, Stella is a force to be reckoned with when she sets her mind to it. With those words in my ears I took extra lessons at lunchtime and knuckled down in class and I passed with a grade 2. I have never forgotten Meds words and they have been applied many times to anything that seems a tough task in my life.

My family now lived at Bakers Farm, which had an old cider mill and ancient orchard. Med liked Cider and it wasn’t long before he had gathered together a few friends and they were bagging up the Perry Pears and Cider Apples. Every year they would make Cider using the old Cider Mill and press, the group would all push the mill around by hand, these were wonderful evenings with Med being the driving force behind them, I remember there being much shouting, laughing and even possibly some swearing.

My Mum would take down chunky bread and cheese which was consumed with Cider, I often wondered why the cider was bought Cider and not last years crop!!

My Dad still has an audio tape of one such evening.

Med used to take groups of American students on educational tours around the local area, included on their route was always a visit to see our working cider press and see how it all worked, they were always fascinated, I used to love listening to Med enthusing about the old cider making methods, especially the part when he told them a dead rat would be added to assist the fermenting process. On one occasion a student then asked in a very strong American Accent “So what do you do about Hygiene?” Med loved this and that story became added to his many tales!

One of the American students told me they had been over the Malvern Hills and Med’s knowledge was incredible, she said they had to keep stopping as Med would spot some unusual rock, plant or tree he wanted to tell them about. They had learnt the names of numerous different plants, trees, mosses and lichens just in one afternoon.

In my early twenties I managed to pass a selection weekend and was chosen to go to Chile for 3 months on an Operation Raleigh Expedition. An experience of a lifetime. I had to raise several thousand pounds for charity as part of my work. Immediately Med was there to help, he organised a folk music evening at Castlemorton Parish Hall. The evening sold out and he raised a large chunk of funds towards my charity contribution. All Med asked for in return was for me to bring him back a souvenir. Early on into the expedition I found something interesting, which meant for 3 months I carried a large lump of Patagonia wood from Chile and a piece of rock from Argentina in my ruck sack. Med was delighted with the unusual gifts and the effort it took to bring them home.

Med and Viv were one of the first of Mum and Dads friends who came to see our first house which Anthony and I bought in Morton Green they were so pleased for us. Many years later we started to renovate our next house, Eight Oaks Farm, they came round during the renovation for a tour. When it was finished we invited them round for tea and homemade scones, we were so proud to show it to them and it was an opportunity to ask Med loads questions about the history. His knowledge was just incredible. His last visit here was last year to advise us on our water leak which was not a burst pipe. Med said we have numerous natural springs here due to the bank behind the house almost certainly containing sandstone. The natural spring would have been why a house was built here in the first place, the bricks for our house would have been made from the clay on the common and the beams would have probably have come from the ships being put out of service at Gloucester docks., what a wealth of knowledge.

Med was the most wonderful man, an irreplaceable character he inspired so many with his enthusiasm. He remained one of my fathers closest friends and will be greatly missed by us all.

Eventing 2019 Has Began

Super excited to start the season with a 3rd place in the 90 at Aston Le Walls. Ruby Tuesday did a good dressage test, little bit tense and a clear SJ. I have always wanted to win my first event of a season, haven’t done that yet, and so we set off XC really positively. Ruby was flying, she was so quick through the water and the other tricky fences, she felt amazing reminding me of Icon my old Advanced horse.

A couple of fences from him I checked my stop watch and realised I was way ahead of the set time. I slowed Ruby up and gave her a pat, “steady up a bit lady” I whispered to her.

We cantered slowly towards the last and I had another quick glance at my watch, sugar, we had over done it and were now dropping behind the time. I kicked on and we flew the last but we were slow with 2 seconds over time. This gave us 0.8 of a time fault and dropped us from 1st to 3rd. I was delighted with Ruby she was awesome but I was kicking myself for my error. Lesson learnt and I will be sharper next time.

Meanwhile Captain has been out show jumping and XC schooling in preparation for his first event, he finished 3rd in the 1 metre class at Hartpury. He’s on springs and feels very ready to start Eventing soon. Very exciting to have some lovely ones to event this year.

The baby of the yard, 5 year old Chief is back in work and has been to his first show of 2019 today at Allens Hill. He won the 80 and also went DC in the 90. He now measures just under 17 hh and I wonder if I should maybe sell him as he is a big horse for me to manage. When he jumps so well and is such a kind and gentle giant it seems daft not to keep him.

Renkum Capitano Starts His 2019 With a Win

Thrilled to bits with my cheeky chap Capitano, he has had all winter off. He has been turned out in the 25 acres with his brother Chief. They have had so much fun together and also been in trouble, on one occasion almost getting into our neighbours chicken pens!!

So his 2019 debut outing was to the prestigious Hartpury Arena, he hadn’t been anywhere schooling other than at home so we planned on just nice schooling round.

Once he had done a super clear in the first round I couldn’t help myself and pushed him on a little bit on a few corners and he responded brilliantly, he was on springs. He finished with the fastest clear round to win the class.

My other pocket rocket Ruby Tuesday then went in the next class and finished in 3rd place. I was so pleased with them both, we came home with almost £50 prize money, clever ponies.

We will be beginning with Eventing season soon and have all our fingers crossed for a really good year.

Still Winning

Had a fab weekend at a Hartpury BS show. Ruby came 2nd in the 90 with some hot competition in the class, she even won money £20.

For the next class I had asked for special permission from the judge to jump first, as I had to take my lovely Dad for an important appointment. We jumped first and amazingly Ruby jumped a fab clear, it was pretty nerve wracking going first as it was a big class and all the other riders like to watch the first horse jump, everyone wants to see how the course rides.

Home pretty quickly and off to Redditch for Dad’s appointment. Then a few hours later, sat in the car in the middle of Redditch and, with the wonders of the internet, I get a photo from a friend telling me Ruby had only gone and won the class, another £35 won and she is now lying in the top 25 Show Jumping horses in the West Midlands Bronze League. What a little star she is.

Hartpury was a 2 day show and we went back the next day, a rail down in the 90 meant no prizes this time, but a double clear in the metre gave us a 5 more points towards our Bronze League placing.

Her winning jumping round can be seen here.

Winner X 3

It’s my birthday weekend, and although I would rather go jumping, there was a dressage competition being held at the lovely Hartpury Arena. With snow forecast an indoor event just down the road was slightly more appealing, even though it meant getting up at 5.30 am to clean and plait the horses.

The day turned out to be an exceptionally good one. The competition was a higher level than normal with 5* rider Franky Reid-Warilow having 3 of her Novice horses both in the Prelim and the Novice. She arrived in an enormous and very beautiful lorry, and had some stunning horses to ride, we were all in awe.

I have my 5 year old Baloutero home for the winter, we bought him last May, we based with Louise Harwood for the Autumn where he has proven himself as an outstanding show jumper, winning £200 in just a few outings and qualifying for the Blue Chip Championships and also jumping his first Newcomers with just one rail lowered.

Other news is that Mitty Hardy Eventing has sold Miranda for me , she was the kindest and most gentle horse to look after and she had been a bit of a winning machine both in Dressage and Eventing. I had hoped she might make me an advanced horse, she had a huge careful jump and gave me some super rides XC.

The days dressage at Hartpury turned into a perfect day, Baloutero was a bit green in the dressage but we won the class, coming equal first on 70% to the 5* rider Franky.

Then Tracy, who I coach, finished in the ribbons just behind myself and Franky. What an amazing day for her, by far her best dressage test to date, and only beaten by 4* and 5* riders.

Edentrillick Ruby Tuesday then was a little darling, best foot forward and did two super tests to win both the Novice and the Elementary.

We arrived home to find my friend Nikki who I also coach, had returned from Allens Hill and won both her classes too, she’s tougher than us and did outdoors dressage in the rain!!

A pretty fab day.

Happy New Year

Looking forward to leaving some of the sadder memories of the last 2 years behind and moving forwards into 2019.

I am so lucky to have recently found a perfect new horse in Ruby bred by William Green in Ireland, she’s an absolute delight both to ride and look after. We have already won several dressage competitions together, she’s such a fun, full of life horse she also absolutely loves her jumping. Can’t wait to take her Eventing and hopefully we will have many years of fun with her, as at last I have found a horse that I can start dreaming about doing a three day event on.

We have a new yard cat currently named The White Cat. He’s a partly feral city cat rescued by a friend of mine, he has spent a month shut inside the barn glaring at me, growling and hissing from his hiding place. He was supposed to be sleeping in the house at night but after a few scratches and even a bite, when moving him, I gave that up and left him alone. Suddenly today after a month, he mewed at me and came over purring and being lovely! Cats are very weird !

Sad News about Sweep

So sad that lovely Sweep my bearded collie X border collie, at 14 years old we sadly and suddenly lost to cancer 2 months ago. She was probably the most gentle happiest, smiliest and kindest dog you could ever wish for. She was well known locally for taking our 2 cats for a walk on the common while we were frantically looking for them all, they would be mouching through the gorse bushes together. She always came when called though and would arrive cheerfully bouncing in through the front gate, with the two cats running behind her. She happily tolerated both Tangle and Hugo as puppies, they would hang off her ears by their teeth, pull her tail and maul her about and I never once saw her growl or reprimand them. Bless her. Photos of Sweep and friends including two that always make me smile as she decided if her muddy feet weren’t touching the sofa then it didn’t actually count as her being on the sofa!!

Feeling Lucky

To live where we do, to be able to ride out of the front gate onto 1,000s of acres of open Common land, to be able to hack for an hour and not meet one single person.

Beautiful Autumn misty morning too.

Favourite Weather

I love this wild and windy weather we are having it’s so much nicer than the unbearable heat of this last summer. Thirty years ago I had the incredible opportunity to spend 3 months in Southern Chile working as a venturer with Raleigh International on charity projects,. My group of 12 venturers worked mainly in a temperate rainforest, which means it’s not warm and there’s lots of rain. We lived in tiny 2 man Chilean Ex Army tents, the tents leaked so badly we used to cut holes in the floor to let the water out!!! These days the experience still makes me really appreciate getting soaked through and being able to get into dry clothes and a warm house, and being able to have hot soup in 3 minutes, instead of having to try and light a fire first out of sodden wood gathered from the forest floor. A few photos from Chile below, including myself washing my hair!!! . One photos is of a lad called James who is about to rescue one of our boats which was heading in the direction of the rapids, backwards! The 3 months was an adventure of a lifetime and our story was told in a 3 part BBC Radio 4 programme.

Although I love this weather which is why I chose to go to Chile all those years ago, riding young horses in wet, windy weather don’t go together too well. Riding them Friday last in high wind and torrential rain was interesting and I failed to get a proper tune out of them. So last minute decision we loaded them on to the lorry early Friday evening and took them showjumping to Hartpury University.

Good decision, both Chief and Ruby jumped two double clears a piece coming home with rosettes for good placings including Chief 2nd in the 90 he even brought home some prize money.

Back late in the dark and it didn’t seem many minutes (it was 6 hours) before my alarm went off at 5.30 am and we were loading them up again to go to Solihull Eventing.

The horses were tired and sooo much easier to ride, they both pulled out good dressage tests and both went double clear. Chief went like a dream, my issue with his brakes had gone and he finished in 3rd and Ruby won. Between them they won £100 in prize money. What a fab end to the Eventing season.

I feel I should introduce Ruby. We had an awful experience last year, when Ant bought me an older horse for my 50th birthday present, after 7 days we returned the horse to the dealer as unsuitable. It’s been a compete nightmare as the case is still ongoing.

Consequently it has taken us 12 months to pluck up courage to buy a replacement which is the lovely Ruby who has been here for 3 weeks. Ruby is lovely and has restored my confidence in buying from a professional yard, hopefully we will have lots of fun with her. She’s a pocket rocket, light on her feet, moves well and a real fun character too. Photo is Ruby jumping the fence after the water, she’s wearing her lovely new Payrolls UK saddle cloth.

Confidence Crisis !!

Nothing quite as nerve wracking for a coach when someone brings their lovely horse to you for a few brush up lessons for the first time, and they announce they have less than 3 weeks to a big qualifier. Especially when that person is a friend, a very talented rider and also a highly renowned coach themselves! Plus the final they want to qualify for is at Badminton Horse Trials!

How much do you dare change, if anything. Overdo it and you might confuse the established partnership, don’t change enough and those few extra marks they need to qualify won’t happen. Stress levels are rising for both you and the rider as the day gets closer and you start to wake up at 1 am wondering how to improve that canter transition further and if it’s even possible within the given time scale! By 2 am I am still overthinking it and even life in general seems impossible and I wonder even why people are coming to me for help, they must be crazy!!

This has been my dilemma for the last couple of weeks, luckily in the light of day it turns out everything I was worrying about is actually possible and the talented, very hardworking rider pulled it off and won her qualifier yesterday at Dauntsey.

So relieved that I didn’t over cook the coaching and I am thrilled to say I have coached my 5th rider to qualify for the final of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton Horse Trials.

Very exciting and huge thanks to all the riders over the years who have put their trust in me to help them achieve their Grassroots Championships goal.

Past clients who qualified in previous years were

Sarah Dixon Smith – Mr Muddle – 2006 (final held at Aston)

Camilla Esling – Just Jake – 2011

Jen Clements – Mowgli – 2013

Annabel McCourt – Vainquer II – 2015 (WD from champs)

Victoria Gregg – Langston Governor – 2018

Well done to them all, so many amazing memories, all I need to do now is convince a few more clients that they can do it too!

Photo is Camilla Esling and Just Jake 2011