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I do enjoy this time of year. It’s good to look back and reflect on the season, weighing up the highlights versus the lows. It’s important to keep positive and focus on improving and training for next year. It’s a valuable time for the open horses to have a well-deserved break, and there’s the excitement of starting on the new projects.

I have to say I looked at my cobs roughed off recently and they now resemble bog monsters. They have really gone back to nature. They do look happy though, hairy and muddy. I don’t like to see horses stabled and rugged up to the eyeballs all year round. Let horses be horses. It prevents sourness and “old weight” not stripped off looks awful.

I have some lovely new novices that I am very excited about. I love to see the young horses come on, along with all the challenges they bring.

I am hoping to be able to venture out to the sales in Ireland to find more stars. If you have never been to a sale, I urge you to go. It’s a great education and experience. It gives you the opportunity to look at a lot of stock in one place. There’s nothing worse
than doing more miles than TV travel correspondent Alan Whicker to view one horse that at a glance in the stable is unsuitable. Dad always says: “Let your eyes be the judge and your money the last thing you part with.”

A word of warning if you do have the chance to go to the sales, though — always take a knowledgeable eye with you. Some people have the gift to see a diamond in the rough. You have to be able to make quick decisions on a horse’s conformation and type, and trust your first impression on its temperament.

I was always taught, if in any doubt, leave it — don’t try and convince yourself.

But there’s nothing more satisfying than the hammer going down and you’ve bought it, and then when they arrive home and you like them even more.

Hunting class

One of the most important educations for show horses can be hunting, especially for a naive or backward horse. They can really come into their own, become confident in open spaces and learn to cope with other horses. Once you have established forward motion you can spend time pulling them together and schooling later on.

I am hoping to see some positive changes in showing in 2016. It would be great for shows to be more generous with passes for owners, producers and grooms.

I would also like to see closing dates extended, or even the inclusion of substitute entries.

Showing needs to be more user-friendly and we have to encourage people into the job, including sponsors and owners.

Wishing you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 December 2015