It is really quite alarming how often I have to write these blogs! It only seems like yesterday that I wrote my first blog of the year but it’s now two whole weeks and the season is right on top of me.
In the last two blogs I quickly ran over what’s happened over the winter and the couple of small changes since Blenheim last year. Before Tweseldown today, I thought I’d go over the plans and aims for the season. I have already sat down with Jon Pitts, the physical and mental fitness guru, and planned to make plans!
In all seriousness, those that know me know that I can lose focus from time to time. These little sessions help me be far better prepared than I would be otherwise and so more competitive as a result. The secret is that you don’t have to be a “professional” to benefit from help like this, whether it is mental or physical. It’s is all about the edge.
So my season starts at Tweseldown. Chico, Maggie (Magenta) and Jeans will do the open intermediate and Fiddle the open novice. The first major competition of the year will be Badminton! This will be my first time I will be tackling the biggest, most prestigious and most pant-wetting competition in the world. The plan is to have a crack with both Maggie and Jeans. Each day we get closer we seem to get more and more volunteers to help on cross-country days, I think the last count was six! George Hills is officially the last!
Chico on the other hand will be saved for the World Equestrian Games in September, obviously another enormous date in the calendar! So he will compete at Saumur as his spring three-day (only a three-star in comparison to Badminton’s four) then be wrapped up in cotton wool. I think it’ll be interesting, as the season develops, to see whether it ends up being Chico or Jeans that I decide to take to the WEG. Jeans gave me the most incredible and awesome feeling at Blenheim (left) last year and he has really come into his own over the winter.
Finally, in November, there’s yet another championships, the Asian Games. They will be held at my home city in China, Guang Zhou, and I was honoured to accept the role as Ambassador for the Games (along with the actor Jackie Chan). It is great to have a “new” sport representing the Chinese Asian Games. In fact this year will be the first time China will put forward an eventing team for a championship, a very significant moment indeed. It shows that China is ready for new things. We have always been so strong at table tennis and badminton for so long; people are looking for new sports to support.
New horse needed
There is, however, a small issue to overcome for me to compete. All of my horses are over qualified. Unfortunately, the Asian federation brought out a rule that not only are four- star horses ineligible to compete in a one-star (standard FEI rule) but three-star horses will also be over qualified. So the rush is on to find a suitable one- or two-star horse!
Loving the cardboard
Back at home, we have absolutely loved the recent spell of stunning weather. It is still very chilly in the morning, but it just so nice to have the sun on your face after such a disgusting winter. The horses have also been enjoying going out having stood in for almost three months (the picture at the top shows me bringing Chico in from the field). My groom Mark and I are both paranoid about putting the horses out in the snow and ice and if it wasn’t icy it was so wet the fields trashed themselves by just looking at them!
I have to say, we have both been completely converted to a brand new type of bedding we haven’t had the opportunity to use before. While moving, we experimented with different types and so my horses have been on everything in a short period. In the end, we’ve decided cardboard seems to cover all the bases. It’s truly dust-free (rather than dust-extracted), incredibly absorbent, odourless and makes a damn comfortable and thick bed. In fact all the horses were lying down sleeping last week, something I have never seen in the past couple of years.
Ecobale is a small and friendly company based near Newmarket and I went up to the factory a couple of months ago and had a quick look around. Michael, who runs the company, explained to me that all the cardboard is recycled and stuff that would have been thrown out due to small defects that stop it being used for packaging. Everything about the bedding is on My Favourite Things on my website.
As well as the announcement of the Asian Games ambassador, a lot of exciting things are happening in China. Riding is becoming more and more popular — taking over from the ubiquitous golf as a topic of conversation. I am amazed every time I go back at the interest and the hype! As well as my H&H blog, I am writing a weekly blog in Chinese for QQ.com, the fifth largest website in the world! The documentary that we all worked very hard on for Chinese Central Television in 2009 has finally come out and a cover page for CCTV-5 magazine with TV star Sun Li (right). Let’s just say it’s a rare occasion when I have my eyebrows brushed for me!
Hopefully next week I will have some proper competition news!