To finish off a fabulous couple of months, Will and I escaped for a weekend to Norfolk - beautiful meals, log fires, yet more champagne and walks on the beach with a rare bit of time together. Wonderful as it was to take the two little dogs with us breakfast in bed was definitely out as they insisted on sleeping on our heads! Will now has a week off at home so I'm busy planning a long list of jobs that need doing around the place - I'll think he'll need a holiday after we've finished!
I'm not really starting this in chronological order.....mainly because it's impossible and will take too long to get to the bit where Will and I are engaged! He was hugely romantic and proposed here at home.....having sourced the most beautiful ring for me back in December and rather unfortunately been carrying it around with him trying to find an opportune moment to pop the question in our favourite spot at home. I say 'unfortunately' because apparently every time he attempted to drag me off across the fields I would be heading off teaching/competing or riding yet another horse!
Bored of waiting Will finally told me that the deer had damaged many of the trees we had painstakingly planted in December - so I strode across the fields with him in tow, admittedly with me cursing loudly, ready to assess the damage. Happily, I found Will on one knee instead and all trees alive and well! I don't know if anyone else has ever been proposed to whilst clad in breeches and a riding hat before, or been so utterly taken by surprise! 2015 has started pretty well and we will plan our wedding for later in the year. Yippee!
Another exciting development is my partnership with Viv Gleave and joint ownership of the wonderful stallion Durable. He is a seven year old by Speilberg, standing at 17.3hh. He already boasts four year old Young Horse Championship titles to his name and is the father of the beautiful two year old, Reuben, that I bought last summer. He is a spectacular moving horse with unlimited potential and a dream to ride. I have taken him out to a couple of local competitions and he is proving to be a real head turner. My sister came to watch him compete with my niece, Millie, who immediately has become a Danny fan - not only did she insist on riding him round the car park bareback but her rocking horse has been christened in his honour! I'm really looking forward to showing him off this year and hopefully he can feature in a video or two on Horse Hero!
I have had a really busy February with horses taking part in Regional Championships. Yogi and Ardie went to Merrist Wood for Advanced Medium and Freestyle to Music classes - the wonderful 'DJ' Ros Kay accompanied me as she had written floor plans and set music for the pair of them. Yogi was 'dancing' to Kung Fu Panda tunes whilst Ardie pranced to the Game of Thrones soundtrack - I'm a huge fan and it's incredibly atmospheric, to boot. The boys were great, rather fresh to say the least and Yogi thought monsters hid beneath all the banners but they managed to hold it together and both qualified for the Nationals. Ros was over the moon that her Freestyles were so well received - she has only been producing them for a year but has such a flair for it that Tom Hunt had better watch out - Ros is definitely the new kid on the block.....!
December and January normally prove quiet winter months for me - with few shows and a chance to spend time with family and friends. This year has been an exception! I decided to keep Pasoa competing over the winter whereas historically I've allowed the coincidentally dark, cold and dreary months to be downtime for the pair of us (with hindsight my trip to Rosendaal may make me think again!). But I thought, as she is now an older horse, it may be best to keep her gently working and competing. It seems unbelievable that I am referring to my once feisty, tricky and opinionated mare this way - even more unbelievable that I will probably only compete her for a year or two more. She is such a wonderful friend above everything, I can't imagine taking the under study's out to competitions and leaving her behind to rule the roost at home!
Rosendaal CDI at the start of December is best described as a trip to the ‘Arctic’! Other, more sensible folk, wandered around in ski gear as a bout of below freezing weather set in for the duration. Not us! With a strange selection of jeans and, lightweight jumpers and only three coats between us we seemed to have packed for the Carribean in the off-season, as opposed to a winter wonderland. In a cruel twist of fate, my ever reliable lorry mechanic had altered the hook up connection on my lorry, so we were unable to plug into mains electric......which thereby denied us both heating and hot water. In true 'girl scout' style we eventually worked out that the generator could run everything - if only we had come equipped with enough petrol. Another character-building experience!
The show itself was beautiful - an arena decked with Christmas trees and fairy lights putting everyone in festive spirits. My classes ran late into the evening; it's a tricky taskmaster filling your day with nothing, then a frenetic burst of activity from 8pm when normally you would focus on dinner and a movie! Getting changed into riding gear in a cold lorry felt hideously reminiscent of secondary school changing rooms, before plunging into an unheated swimming pool in mid February, with an over zealous PE teacher bellowing into your frost bitten ears ....'you'll warm up soon, keep your shoulders under.'
That aside, I was thrilled with Pasoa's performances - I have been working hard on developing better balance and self-carriage in her work with a more open top-line and, for the first time ever, I felt that we had breathing time in our programme. Normally, if small mistakes creep into our tests I start to feel like I'm in a train crash.....each move like a separate carriage smashing into the one before. But not anymore!!!!! I did feel, in a small way, what it must feel like to be Carl riding a test. He always looks to have more time than anyone else between moves - like an eventer taking the long route at a combination - and I decided that better balance was my answer to creating the same illusion. To this end, transitions have become my best friends! For example I have ridden quite literally millions of simple changes (canter, walk, canter) on three-quarter lines to help my often erratic flying changes, focusing on an improvement in straightness and collection, and I feel it's working.
Next stop was Olympia. It's a dreamy show to ride at - definitely on anyone's Bucket List and I feel very fortunate to have ticked that box twice now. However, I shall gloss over it for 2014........... In brief, I managed to take an error of course on the first day. It's testament to how well Pasoa was feeling that we still scored a fraction under 69% and qualified for the Freestyle. So many friends and family had come to support me and I felt a total idiot. Debuting my new Freestyle the following evening would have absolved me of some feelings of disappointment and failure but that wasn't to be. I was struck down with a stomach bug the like of which I haven't had for years. By lunchtime the following day I can safely say there wasn't a single piece of sanitary ware in the Hilton hotel we were staying in that I hadn't leant over or sat on! Not very glamorous and I feel for their staff!! From my deathbed I felt partly consoled with 'rather me than my horse.' We'll be back this year I hope to put it all to rights.
Back home just before Christmas saw a change of 'hat' and some avid tree planting. Brook Farm/Paradise has many wonderful features but a distinct lack of trees, and we have designed a final vision of the property with avenues of trees running up the walkways between fields. One hundred Hornbeam had been ordered, along with twenty of something red and pretty - I'm not a horticultural expert at all, but both mothers had been drafted in to advise and were there in force to assist! My Dad and Will along with 'Derek the Digger' (Will convinced me it was must-have kit!) did most of the hard work to be honest......although you can't put a price on a good sandwich-maker I believe!! Even as brown sticks planted in the ground it looks fantastic (here's hoping we've not been duped and they actually grow) and I can't wait until spring ....in about five years time! They will ultimately provide some shelter in the fields and windbreaks in the winter, so long as the deer that traipse nightly across the fields don't get them first!
Christmas has passed in all too much of a blur. We spent it at home with various family and friends visiting and welcomed the New Year in an equally quiet fashion. It was utter bliss! I have a great feeling about 2015 - I have some wonderful horses to ride, we have great and exciting plans for our home and we woke up New Year's Day living in the kind of place I've only ever dreamed of owning. In short, it's pinch yourself stuff.......I'm now off to muck out though. Good to keep yourself grounded!!
Despite a few manic days moving house and yard all of the horses seem to be beautifully settled in their idyllic new surroundings. We have stacks of grass, increasingly plump ponies and about 10,000 swallows nesting that, whilst rather pretty, seem to be on a permanent mission to cover not only my car but also the horses in bird poo on a daily basis. One of my lovely owners, Anne, has visited from the Isle of Man to see her boys new quarters and we thought it only right that she should help me road test the local drinking holes.....a big thumbs up!!! Anne has two super geldings with me that are aimed at Small Tour next year, so hopefully they can accompany Pasoa and I on our overseas adventures soon.
Finally I can reveal my secret….I hate tempting fate so I have been uncharacteristically tight lipped for a while, but since signing on the
How fateful the last sentence of my previous blog proved to be!! Addington CDI was supposed to kick start the 2013 season. The night before we were due to leave my lorry was fully packed, I’d crammed in extra training
Recently, the yard that I rent has seen the arrival of a new tenant - Swedish event rider Ludwig Svennerstal has come to share the stables -