The hunting season is now over for Denman. Many packs have stopped anyway and because of team chasing I rarely hunt after 1 March, when the Duke of Beaufort’s have their final fling before they go up into the hills.
He came out for his final day and was superb. I am utterly thrilled with how he’s taken to hunting — it shouldn’t take long to get him back into the swing of things next season.
The recent weather has been so temperamental. However, the ground did dry up a bit before the Cheltenham Festival, so we were able to go cross-country schooling round the course at Calmsden Eventing, which is just up the road from me.
Sharon Robbins and Joe Stevenson, who ride in my team (A&E Lycetts; A Class Act), came over with their horses so we could have a practice. Steve Dennis from the Racing Post came to watch Denman in action, schooling for team chasing.
Sharon gave us a lovely lead and we practised our turns jumping an S bend of hedges, some with drops. We also practised jumping into water and over island fences. Denman was great — initially he was a little cautious jumping down steps, but he soon got the hang of it. His turns were so good and he was beautifully balanced. The flat work is paying off!
I had him in a snaffle and he didn’t get too strong, although occasionally he did take hold of the bit and fly into a fence, which was amazing. He is so fluent and careful, yet incredibly economical and was very keen to have a go. I will put my hunting bridle on for our first run team chasing as the tannoys and competition environment will no doubt excite him. Earthmover never showed much schooling, but was a completely different horse at a competition — he pulled like a train!
I was lucky to be at the Cheltenham Festival all four days. Denman and I were asked to parade for RoR on the Tuesday — something I have done numerous times in the past with Earthmover. We parade (ridden) before the first race and give the horses a breeze up in front of the stands.
Denman led the parade and was totally unfazed by what was going on. He was obviously on his toes, but couldn’t quite understand what was going on. He knew he was at Cheltenham, but with me riding him he knew he wasn’t racing! Everyone clapped him as he went past and he knew he was “king” — the roar from the stands when he galloped past was wonderful.
After the parade he was tucked up in his box in the RDA Centre, away from the course, eating his hay while I enjoyed the racing. Cheltenham did ask me to parade him in-hand with Kauto Star before the Gold Cup last Friday, but I slightly lost my nerve as Denman was very feisty in-hand at Newbury and I was terrified I’d lose him on the course and see him charging off behind the runners! He’s a big horse to hold when in-hand and I remember him getting away from Paul’s team when he was paraded at Sandown a couple of years ago.
Cheltenham was wonderful as always — to see the most beautiful horses at their best is such a treat. However, my thoughts go to JT McNamara and his family.