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April (pictured below right) had her first day’s hunting with the Avon Vale on Saturday and I am proud to announce that I am now a bona fide member of the ‘tumblers’ club’!

My younger sister Georgia, who’s 13, and I went together and we had a great time. April behaved impeccably, although whether that will be the case next time remains to be seen as she now knows what to expect.1512853_809229465804494_4785272715715172233_n

We had quite a bit of jumping early on and then came to a large hedge which my sister flew over in front of me. I thought I’d better jump it too as she’d jumped it so beautifully but April’s lack of experience — she’s only four — meant she didn’t put her landing gear down the other side in time and we took a tumble.

Georgia came to the rescue and gave me a leg-up back on, which is no mean feat as April is 17.1hh. We stayed out for another hour and jumped some wooden gates and tiger traps and she was super. I look forward to taking her again and I’ve put my £10 fine into the tumblers’ kitty for the end of season drinks party – all at the fallers’ expense!

The old and the young

Both the foals, Henry and Duno, have settled really well since weaning. They’ve come into the main yard for a couple of weeks and have enjoyed the attention and the busy environment.

They get their feet picked out every morning and are led out to the field individually. It’s really important to establish this early on so that it becomes normal for them rather than stressful and a battle when they are three-years-old and twice the size. They’ll go back into the foaling boxes over the weekend.

The mares seem happy back out in the field with their friends. They’ll come in to the barns for the winter next month where they’ll also have access to the field.

We’ll also be bring in my old boy Darasass, or Darley as he’s known at home. He’s 24-years-old now and used to be competed by Lucinda Fredericks. We bought him as a schoolmaster several years ago and he’s really special to me. I retired him at 18 for no other reason that I felt he’d done enough. He’s a super “grandad” to the foals and is definitely the boss of them and keeps them all in line.

When they used to have the long format eventing competitions, Lucinda would have to stay on him in the ten minute box, otherwise it was impossible to remount him.

His quirks were all a result of an accident when he was a young horse before Lucinda bought him. You couldn’t change your coat on him, or your number bib, but once you were just riding him he as the safest horse you could ride. Lucinda did incredibly well with him including many team events.

More training

I’ve had some more jumping sessions with Corrine Bracken which have been really interesting. We worked on a circle going over trotting poles, picking up canter and jumping an oxer, then continuing on the circle, coming back to trot and encouraging the horses to stretch and reach through the poles. We repeated this on each rein until the horse was relaxed and responsive.

The younger horses were great but we are still trying to encourage the older ones not to be so rider reliant. The exercise threw them slightly and they seemed to be asking me why I wasn’t setting them up or adjusting them.

Certainly with Derby (Wellshead Fare Opposition — pictured top), when I landed over the oxer and came back to trot it took five to eight strides to get him to listen to me. First he’d ignore me, then he’d argue before he would come back to trot.

If we exaggerated and magnified this by imagining that the simple oxer was a large table on a cross country course, and we were going at 650 meters per minute, in fact where I am asking the horse to come back to trot it would be the equivalent of asking him to balance and listen for the next question which might be an arrow head. This really simple jumping exercise has highlighted that it takes Derby too long to listen and respond to me, let alone deal with the adrenalin and everything else that comes with riding around a big course.

It’s exciting because we have found a problem and we can work on it without the pressure of fixing it in a week or so. Sometimes it is the simplest exercises that can show something that is actually very obvious as proved by the younger horses who found this exercise incredibly easy.

Being sociable

Helen West, who is Bicton Arena’s manager, had a Halloween party so I drove down to Devon and it was great fun. There were a lot of event riders there and it was great to catch up with everyone.

I’ve caught up with Lissa Green who is feeling better after her shoulder operation. She’s off to Australia for five weeks to visit her dad and its lovely to have Emily back on the yard who’s had four weeks off.  I hope she’s missed us as much as we’ve missed her!

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