I’m very pleased and relieved to say Miley (Absolut Opposition) is none the worse for his overreach/pulling the shoe off at Somerley Park Horse Trials last week, so we’re full steam ahead with our preparations for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
Miley’s fitness regime is a glorified version of happy hacking. The yard is at the base of a massive hill so twice a week we go mountaineering. The scenery is stunning, the horses love it, it saves on time and money going to the gallops, but most of all it gets the horses seriously fit.
The ground is undulating and far from perfect, but it ensures the horses are sure footed and the twists and turns are great for practising flying changes! There are also lots of gates to negotiate (pictured below), but so far I’ve resisted the urge to jump them — although it might be good practice as it’s likely we’ll be seeing a gate on Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s cross-country course!
For sure a touch of paranoia is setting in about the risks of all the stones and tree roots on the tracks, but I’m all about trusting in the system that has got us this far. I’m not suddenly going to go off to all-weather gallops when Miley has never in his life been on them!
As for dressage and jump training, I feel very lucky to have help from Chris Burton (a top Australian event rider, pictured top) who is based in the next door village to me. He is someone I have huge respect for as he is a supremely talented horseman and top trainer. He has also been amazing about fitting in around my childcare restrictions and is equally good humoured about having my son Toby hang out with us during our training sessions if needs be.
The added bonus for me is that he will be at Badminton all week as he will be competing TS Jamaimo. He won Adelaide four-star on TS Jamaimo, who incidentally is part owned by my good friend and Toby’s godmother, Katherine Watters.
Last week we endured a second 3am start in three days and headed to Norfolk for the weekend where we had a very happy and successful time at Burnham Market Horse Trials with Ollie (Uwald) and Abs (Abbeylara Prince).
Ollie finds dressage fairly tedious and an experiment with a change of bit backfired so we got a deservedly rubbish mark! However he was a total machine in the jumping phases and we both got a real buzz pinging around the fabulous three-star track (pictured). Ollie was produced up to two-star level by my sister, Patricia Price, but I took over the reins at a time when she was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully she is now in the clear and was the first to phone us to see how we got on.
‘Ab Fab Mr Abs’ was a superstar to finish third in the hotly contested advanced section! He has always been an outstanding jumper and again proved this by jumping an awesome double clear. It was also very rewarding that lots of hours practicing our dressage homework in the ‘classroom’ over the winter has paid off as we got a great mark with lovely comments from the judge.
He is a top class horse who is on target to compete at Badminton next year and I’m particularly pleased for his fantastic owner Margaret Peet, who’s been very loyal and supportive over the years. We bought him from a friend of mine, Charlotte Gray, as a five-year-old. It’s lovely that within two minutes of our journey home, she also phoned to see how he got on.
A sad farewell
It was with great sadness that we heard this week of the passing of Bill Allen. He gave so much in so many ways to our sport and I’ll always remember his warm greeting as I approached the start box and the “5-4-3-2-1-GO-GOOD LUCK!”. He must have wished a zillion “good lucks” as he sent us all on our way.
Another memory is of one rider who (she better remain nameless… and no, it wasn’t me!) walked her horse to the cross-country start pushing her baby in the buggy before leaving an unfazed Bill to babysit as she went off around the course! A wonderful man.