Hello, I’m Charlotte Alexander and I am very much looking forward to sharing the thrills, spills and excitement of Denman’s (pictured right) retraining from racehorse to hunter/team chaser.
I was absolutely bowled over when I was asked to have one of the greatest National Hunt horses of all time. I feel so honoured. Denman’s trainer Paul Nicholls also trained my wonderful horse [dual Cheltenham Foxhunter winner] Earthmover (Denis). I rode him from 2005 until he died earlier this year at the age of 21. He enjoyed an active second career team chasing and was a much-envied hunter with the Duke of Beaufort’s.
The phone call came back in March. Paul knew that Denis had died and offered me Denman to do exactly what he had done. I had always kept in touch with Paul’s office, sending them pictures and news of what Denis had achieved, so they knew exactly what an active and happy life he had enjoyed here.
I am hoping that Denman will take to hunting and team chasing. The long-term aim for this season is to run him in my open team, Lycetts; A Class Act. He will need to learn the ropes slowly and we will see how it goes on a day-to-day basis. There is no need to rush him as his new best friend, the ex-hurdler No More Prisoners (Fred), stepped up to open level at the end of last season.
Denman is currently at Peg Livingston-Learmonth’s yard near Sherston and will be spending two weeks on her horse walker to start his fitness work. She is a friend who also hunts with the Duke of Beaufort’s. When he has done this he will come back to me to begin his ridden work. He has had nearly a year off [after sustaining a small tendon injury], so it is important to get him fit properly.
I work full-time for insurance brokers Lycetts in their Marlborough office, specialising in the bloodstock insurance side of the business, and have three horses in over the winter, but keeping everything fit while I’m working is actually surprisingly easy. I just have to be organised with each horse’s exercise schedule, knowing who is being ridden on each day and what type of work it needs.
At the moment I am getting up at 5.30am and riding out before work – sometimes I ride and lead, other times I do grid work, schooling or fast work. I can ride before/after work in the spring and summer, so I normally get the horses team chase fit by the end of August before the light goes. Once they are competing/hunting regularly they do not need so much work as they all get turned out daily unless the weather is appalling. At weekends I ride them all individually and that is when I go cross-country schooling – usually to Lyneham Heath Equestrian Centre.
Denman will be doing a lot of flatwork, grids and cross-country schooling once he has done his initial fitness work, before he goes hunting. He will also have to learn little things like being tied up to the trailer to be washed off and getting used to me hopping on from the ground (there’s no-one to give me a leg up).
He really is the most beautiful horse with a lovely eye and fantastic conformation – wonderful shoulder, length of neck, jumping bum and a great big chest. I am so looking forward to taking “The Tank” out hunting and flying over some hedges. I expect he will be utterly amazing and what an adrenalin trip that will be!