The spring season is starting to gear up for us now and we are looking forward to a few outings for the horses over the coming weeks. Last week saw three days of regional competition for Charlotte (Dujardin) and her girls, with Brioso (Bella), Mount St John VIP (VIP) and Florentina (Flora) contesting their various heats at Summerhouse Equitation Centre just outside Gloucester on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the aim of qualifying for the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships in April at Hartpury College.

Charlotte had a super start on Thursday with VIP winning the elementary gold section with 77.1% to secure her place at the winters. VIP may not be big (standing around 16.1hh), but she’s a superstar. She is gorgeous to look at and is a real professional about life; yes she’s talented, but she’s also genuinely just a really nice person to have around. At home her favourite trick is to drag all of her hay across to her water drinker and soak it as she eats — not unlike Blueberry (Valegro) who has exactly the same penchant for hay dunking!

VIP winning the Elementary Gold section at Summerhouse EC yesterday

Flora went to Summerhouse on Thursday to contest the advanced medium and thankfully the weather held up for them — it was not exactly tropical there on Wednesday by all accounts! Alan (Davies, Carl’s travelling groom) was seen sporting some very attractive additions to his normal get-up in the cold; needs must when it comes to warmth at shows. Flora is — and this is said with the greatest affection — a bit of a diva and we love her dearly for it. She is the most wonderfully elegant horse to watch and I admire the fact that she is quite happy to express just how she feels her life should go! She really is glorious and it will be great to see her career blossom as she goes forward.

Flora at home with her cat!

Bella (pictured with VIP) is a mare that Carl bought out of a point-to-point yard and she is a different character again. She’s also incredibly talented, particularly in piaffe, but she can get nervous about funny little things, yet be wholly laid back on the flip of a coin. She’s a real happy hacker out when she’s out and about at home and has the most enormous ears — they are like handlebars! She rounded off an amazing week for the girls last week having scooped top spot in the medium (gold) class on Friday — such a fantastic result!

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We waved Wanadoo off on his trip to Doha a week last Saturday, where he and Carl headed to compete at the CHI Al-Shaqab last week. Wanadoo is lovely horse and a real favourite around the yard. He’s like a giant Labrador (if Labradors could do grand prix) and is the ‘food alarm’ for those of our residents who are less astute than him when it comes to the potential of provisions coming their way. He knows the sound of the hay cart at 50 paces, even in the dark, and is never knowingly underfed! He is a joy to ride and deal with generally and so we’ll miss him for the few days he’s away.

Wanadoo ready to board the plane to Doha

One of the joys of working with horses is getting to know them all as individuals and it’s sometimes easy to forget their alter egos when you are with them every day. To us Nip Tuck is Barney, Barolo is Rolo and Hawtins Delicato is Del. To be responsible for the care of horses of such quality is a huge responsibility, but I do believe that it’s important that they are treated as horses nonetheless. Anyone who has horses knows that they all have their idiosyncrasies and characteristics that make them who they are. I love that about them, but when you’re busy and on the clock all the time it can be hard to make time to indulge their characters. Alan often talks about the key to this job as being a willingness and ability to individualise horses; to balance their various needs against the practicalities of residing in a busy yard. If you can crack that, and your horses are happy and relaxed in themselves, then you’re halfway to success already.