Without doubt, the beginning of 2017 has been mixed. As you would expect, we have been very busy with lots of horses doing dressage, showjumping, cross-country schooling and the all-important fitness work in the run up to the fast-approaching eventing season. There have been some highs, winning a few jumping classes and having some inspirational flatwork moments, rivalled by some tough lows. One of which is that King (Traveller Royale, one of my 2016 Burghley entries) has had to have colic surgery.

The poor lad was rushed to Newmarket Equine Hospital a few weeks ago. On arrival he seemed relatively bright, but then all of a sudden he took a turn for the worse and they decided to operate. The surgery was successful, he is making steady progress and the vets at Newmarket Equine did a fantastic job of looking after him. He demolished a whole packet of Polos when I visited him yesterday which means he must be feeling better. Fingers tightly crossed.

I took nine horses showjumping last week. I love jumping all day, but it was a logistical nightmare as we had to go in two loads/shifts. All jumped really well and seem on good form. It was a day where I was so grateful for the people around me and their help. Without the team effort life would get very tricky!

I took some of the babies cross-country schooling the other day. I got off my second horse, slightly frustrated with myself that I wasn’t riding at my best even though the horse had gone well, where upon a great friend of mine who had come to watch arrived. A foster mother, she had one of the kids who I had not met before in the car. On opening the car door a young bright eyed girl looked at me smiling.

“I’d like to stroke the horsey,” she proclaimed, enthusiastically gesticulating to my next ride, Bramble, as she began to climb out of he car. She had no arms and both legs replaced with two prosthetic ones, but a smile and cheeky glint in her eye to die for. I was slightly taken aback, but didn’t have time to be as she was already half way to seeing Bramble. Happily stroking him, she told me all about how she was soon to try running blades and how she loves the colour pink. Her energy and enthusiasm, despite these disabilities changed my entire attitude to the day and the way I rode the next two horses. What a wake up call and tonic!

I was filled with enthusiasm to go and try out my new and improved dressage riding skills, plus getting that all-important cross-country fix which has been missing from my life for four months at the first event of the season, Isleham.

It didn’t disappoint and I had a fantastic weekend, winning three sections aboard Polly Taylor’s Freddie (Mr Fahrenheit III), Catherine and Merna’s Wally (Wallstreet VB) and my mum’s Bertie (Bonhunt Bertie) and finishing second in another, plus having a wonderful time with family, friends and owners coming to support.

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Isleham never ceases to amaze me how it runs despite everything being thrown at it, including copious amounts of rain. The ground was brilliant and it was great fun. The first win of the weekend, on Bertie marked the 60th win of my affiliated eventing career. It’s been a rollercoaster since the first one, riding the late, (crazy, but amazing) Jean Gow’s Corrib Blue Vinnie back in 2007. I remember driving miles up to an event in Northumberland, meeting her there in a tiny country pub in the middle of nowhere, for an extremely boozy dinner before our win the next day — we were both so thrilled, it was wonderful. I’m sure she’d be toasting my 60th victory up there with a large gin!

I’ve had some fantastic times since, twinned with some rock bottom ones too, but I wouldn’t change it for anything and I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date with how 2017 goes!

Simon