It’s been a very busy couple of weeks during which Denman has come on no end.
The weekend before last I met up with some friends and took Denman to the Cotswold Farm Park fun ride. We set off with a couple of other grown-ups and about five little ponies (see picture below) and he was unbelievably good. He jumped absolutely everything and was, as I expected, much better over the slightly bigger fences.
He went in front, behind and in the middle and loved it. He didn’t race off and was quite content to jump logs with all the little ponies in front. We went down tracks, through woods and over rivers. We stopped to have hip flask breaks, for the children to swap ponies and he stood — although he does have a time limit of about 10min before he says ‘lets go’! It was all excellent training for hunting.
I can’t tell you how pleased I was. Denman was bold and honest and wasn’t going to stop or run out at anything — even a very skinny skinny. He’s a clever horse and fiddled anything he wasn’t sure about. Before too long he was looking for the fences and really wanting to jump them.
Towards the end he did a couple of fly leaps when I thought he’d done enough and the children went off to jump a line of fences. But he soon calmed down and walked home on a long rein.
The other highlight for me was when Adam Henson (pictured right), the BBC Countryfile presenter who owns the farm park, came out to met Denman. Adam is a keen racing man (he is the face of Ladies Day at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival) and I was thrilled to meet him as I’m a big fan!
After such a brilliant weekend I took Denman hunting with the Duke of Beaufort’s on Wednesday and Saturday. He was good on Wednesday and behaved even better on Saturday. He tried to tank off once and the steering went a little, but I managed to get him back quickly and all was well.
As you can see from the photo (below, courtesy of TTL videos), he jumped his first hedge on Saturday. He was also very impressive when popping over a deep dug out ditch on to the road. I was slightly nervous he was might slip over, but he was so sensible. He seems to be careful, which is wonderful as often when they come off the track they are not great at where they put their feet — they haven’t had to contend with tussocks etc.
Even though I jumped the hedge and some park railings (once the top rail had been broken), I won’t be introducing too much more jumping until his brain has accepted hunting. I don’t think it’ll be too long — sometimes it’s as if he’s been hunting all his life.
I really am pleased with how good he is to deal with and sort out afterwards. He does not “hunt” round his box once we get home and eats properly. However, I’m conscious that there is often an explosion around day five or six with horses hunting for the first time, once they understand more about what is going on, so time will tell! I am going to take him out again on Saturday.
As with most horses that are new to the country, Denman’s reacted to the Beaufort mud — not helped by the fact that on Wednesday we went through some pretty horrid slurry. However, he’s much better now after some antibiotics and isn’t lame. They have to build up a resistance to the different ground and mud types.
Mum’s keeping a close eye on me to make sure I keep things relatively quiet with him so he learns properly. It’s very easy to get excited as I’m enjoying him so much, but I know that groundwork done now will pay dividends in the future.
Find out how other top horses are enjoying their retirement in Horse & Hound magazine’s exclusive feature, on sale Thursday 22 November