It’s been a whirlwind few weeks in more ways than one for me. Following on from where I last left off, I’ve managed to fit in quite a lot, albeit with life resembling a little bit of a soap opera at points along the way.

It started at Rockingham with a neck strap baby horse day on the Friday. I was delighted with all four young horses, who were all clear-cross country after having not run for a few weeks.

By the Sunday the ground had dried up considerably more and was rather firm by this point — I couldn’t believe the difference since the Friday. Therefore I decided to do my dressage test and a round of showjumping on Prince Mayo ahead of Tattersalls, but didn’t run cross-country. I left the other advanced horses on the lorry who weren’t going to three-day events and thought it best to bring them out another day and not risk them getting jarred up.

Before leaving, we loaded up a new addition to the yard — a new purchase for Charlotte Cole and Sir John Peace that goes by the name of The Corn Crake (Herbie).

It was then an incredibly quick turn around in between events over the next couple of weeks. I thought considering I had entered the new horse into the CCI* at Tattersalls and hadn’t sat on him yet, I should probably go cross-country schooling to make sure I’d made the right decision. I left early Monday morning to Grange de Lings with Herbs before returning to ride Prince and DHI Paparazzi (Pom), followed by all the horses leaving for Houghton on the Tuesday.

My wife Victoria drove all the horses down on the Tuesday afternoon with our fab new event groom Jenny Walker, who has been a god send these past few weeks. They managed to settle them all into their stables and get set up while I stayed behind so I could ride the young ones ready for Shelford the following Monday. It also gave me chance to take Pom, Prince and Herbie to the gallops again. After getting everything I needed to get done sorted at home, I made my way to Houghton with the kids in tow.

William helping graze Obie

Houghton had many ups and downs over the course of the week. It started on the Wednesday when I got a phone call from Horse & Hound asking me to comment on an incident which happened nearly two years ago at Osberton Horse Trials. I declined to comment and said that this was in the past so didn’t feel the need for the past to be dragged up and would prefer it if they didn’t have to bring it up.

I’ve done many a stupid thing in the past, more so when I was younger, which I’ve never denied. I said that I didn’t mind mentioning something in my next blog, as I am doing now, so was livid on the Friday evening to see a story published that I felt was written very negatively. Seeing the comments people put on the link were hurtful and being completely honest, I sent a message to H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome explaining how hurt I was by the whole thing and that I wanted to withdraw from doing this blog.

Pippa, to be fair to her, dealt with the matter exceptionally well and explained that because the news report had just been published on the FEI website, H&H had to report on it and if I had given my side of the story it would have given me the opportunity to explain what really happened.

In conclusion, we decided that I would set the record straight in my next blog. For somebody who suffers from depression, I found this emotionally very tough and was ready to withdraw from Houghton on the Friday night. This changed though when I was overwhelmed by messages of support I got over the duration of the weekend. I owe a huge amount to my Facebook followers and friends for what you did for me that weekend. You all picked me up and pulled me through.

In relation to the incident, which was put down as a passport irregularity. The week before Osberton Horse Trials in 2016 was the week of my wedding. I had planned to have the two horses I was riding taken to Osberton ready for when I got back. One of the things I have always been guilty of in the past is being spoilt when it came to grooms. I’ve always had people who have been incredible grooms and that have evented internationally themselves. They always just dealt with everything for me. In many ways though, this made me very lazy when it came to the paperwork and the office side.

For the few years I was receiving treatment and suffering from quite a few mental issues, I barely had any horses at a level and was only competing at the lower ones so it didn’t warrant me having an eventing groom of this calibre. But stupidly and me being me, I expected things to be done as they would have been before.

The horses competing had been vaccinated in January as per British Eventing rules, but when my yard lad, who I still have to this day, had looked in the passport for the within six monthly vaccine required for FEI events, nothing was filled in. The vaccinations had actually been done for the horses, but at the time, several passports were in the lorry and should have been sent to the vets to fill out. In a panic, he just filled the passport in with the date of the vaccination, which to be honest, I was such a bastard to work for at the time and knowing I’d have gone catatonic, I’d have done that out of fear too.

As there were no batch number stickers in the passport, the FEI steward at the event said they needed the batch numbers for the vaccine. After realising what had happened when I’d spoke to my lad who I felt very sorry for, I told the FEI officials on-site and voluntarily withdrew both the horses from the competition. Both horses were actually fully vaccinated so there was no risk to any other horses at Osberton, but I wasn’t able to provide the FEI with the supporting documents for The Artist Almost Famous, because the horse was no longer in my care and so I wasn’t able to access its veterinary records due to data protection rules. I had to pay a fine to the FEI but received no suspension as the horses were in fact not breaking the rules and I had voluntarily withdrawn.

I learnt the lesson the hard way that I should be responsible for the paper work and passports of all of my horses. I also lost the ride on both horses, quite rightly so, although I am riding The Artist Almost Famous again now. This sport is expensive enough and for the owners to lose a run due to an error on my part must have been rather frustrating for them and I felt justice was served by them doing this. But I also feel I’ve grown up a lot since then and would never make such a stupid mistake ever again. Hence the reason behind the title of my first blog: “If you just behave yourself life is so much easier”. Anyway now we’ve put that subject to bed.

My results at Houghton were perhaps not what I was looking for with a couple of my horses getting a silly 20 penalties across country due to complete rider error on my part. But I was pleased with the overall performance of each of the horses.

Jane Duncan and William Buick’s Monbeg Maximus jumped an awesome double clear inside the time in the CCI* finishing in the top 20 and I’m extremely excited about his future. I felt I seriously let Obie down at the first double of corners, as he could have had a good result, but he was incredible the rest of the way round and most importantly, very good into a strong water, which has been his bug bear in the past. River Warrior and Dakotah VII will come on a lot from their runs in the one-star, despite green mistakes and will have a short break before being aimed at another one-star in August.

Getting some useful tips before cross-country

We arrived back from Houghton on the Sunday afternoon and got the washing machine working throughout the night to get things ready for the following evening. I had to be up at 3am on the Monday morning to take three young horses to Shelford for a BE100; Amanda and Craig Morris’s Roko Rock (Boots), Lynda Hollinsheads Class Booze Cruise (Boozy) and Peter and Bernadette Harrison’s Cooley Outlaw (Ainsley).

All three jumped fantastic double clears and are nearly ready to step up to novice level. I quickly got packed away and managed to get home for 2pm, in time to take Pom to the gallops ahead of Bramham and give the horses going to Tatts a ride.

It was then time to take a short break before leaving at 9pm to catch the 2.40am ferry from Holyhead. There was not enough caffeine available in the world by this point. So I proceeded to go through my phone book and make random calls to friends who must have thought I’d gone rather mad by this point.

Tattersalls was a week I could never have dreamt of. To win the CCI* on The Corn Crake (pictured top) on his dressage score of 28, giving me my 17th international win was a dream come true. I was more delighted for my owners who have supported me through hell and high water and for the team who work so hard for me to make it all happen. Prince Mayo also jumped his heart out in the CCI3* for me, which is the first big track I’ve jumped in four years. Not going to lie, I was slightly crapping myself, but he gave me his heart and a great spin. To finish in the top 20 after returning to this level after a while made me so happy for everyone involved. It’s been four years since I had tackled a difficult track of a three-star calibre and it felt like a great achievement after everything.

On the podium at Tattersalls

It’s now on to Bramham for us next week with DHI Paparazzi and we’ll be keeping everything crossed for a safe trip.

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I just wanted to finish though by clearing up some of the negativity towards H&H. Let’s not forget that H&H is the oldest standing equestrian magazine in the UK, with the very first edition being published in 1884. I know my parents followed it and I grew up reading it. Anything going on in the horse world is published in there and it’s great for the owners of the horses that are successful to be able to have memories to place in their scrapbooks by cutting out or framing the articles. So I don’t blame H&H for publishing news, despite being very angry at first.

I realise now that with the power of social media, news travels in many different ways and when stories are published online, just as it would have been in the magazine, it allows people to voice unnecessary negativity and is a hunting ground for trolls. So I think I speak for my Facebook followers when we say that why we are actually fed up is the influx of trolling and witch hunts, particularly in the comments. These comments sicken us to continue reading after a while.

H&H also runs lots of success stories and shares campaigns that help the horse world whenever it can, and it’s important to remember this.

But most importantly of all, we have raised nearly £3,000 in prize money for charity so far!

Finally, my thoughts go out to Jonty Evans and his family. Jonty suffered a fall this weekend in the CIC3* at Tattersalls and I hope he makes a speedy recovery — he’s a great guy.

Matt

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

This latest edition (31 May) is a training special, including a look at the world’s top trainers and whether you should have multiple coaches. Also check out our summer clothing guide, interview with showjumper and recent winner of the Hamburg Derby, Matt Sampson and feature on health problems in miniature horses.