Clare Poole’s racehorse to riding horse blog: the place that sends shivers down my spine

What an incredible fortnight it’s been since my last blog. The weather looks to have settled and, after an exciting few days of racing at Aintree for the Grand National Festival, all the horses have switched to their summer routine of being turned out overnight and stabled through the day — none of them are keen when the flies descend and it helps with keeping their brains in check through the major competition months. We tend to play it by ear with the change in weather as to how long into the autumn they will stay in this routine — last year the overnight turnout continued well after HOYS (Horse Of The Year Show) into November.

The Grand National Festival was a lovely couple of days away for myself and husband Colin, leaving the yard under the capable eye of groom Rachel Gill who originally joined the team as an apprentice.

I LOVE Aintree, not only for racing, but it is one of my favourite competition venues. This is very apt considering that a state-of-the-art equestrian centre is based on the racecourse itself. It never fails to send a shiver through me when I pull up through the gates. Run by the lovely Carly Sage and her hard-working team, the equestrian centre hosts regular British Dressage and British Showjumping competitions, along with arena eventing, showing and working hunter events. It also hosts our favourite show of the season, the Aintree National Show which is held at the end of June. The equestrian centre is also host to many major championships including the coveted Retraining of Racehorses National Championships which offers an array of multi discipline finals for former racehorses. This event takes place over the August bank holiday each year.

Me at Aintree

The indoor arena at Aintree is such a beautiful building incorporating a lot of glass. This allows for so much more natural light than in most other indoor facilities. The arena though is almost unrecognisable come race week, when it is transformed into an awesome social gathering space, complete with main stage and some fabulous headline acts.

Word of Warning enjoying a new field

One of the highlights of the festival was seeing one of my all-time favourite racehorses One For Arthur make his incredible comeback in the Grand National itself. Two years on from his incredible win in the same race, he has spent a year on the sidelines through injury. His preparation leading up to this year’s race didn’t go entirely to plan for trainer Lucinda Russell. However she and he proved so many people wrong and I’m very excited to follow him in the 2019/2020 season — what a horse (one I’d love to retrain when he retires!).

The Easter weekend was a busy one for us. On Thursday we spent a fabulous morning at Seven Barrows with Nicky and Sophie Henderson. Here we watched the first two lots on the gallops including the awesome Altior and marvellous Might Bite. All of the horses looked incredible — Nicky certainly has an eye for a horse, none of whom would look amiss in the show ring. It was fascinating to gain an insight into the yard and its ethos and training methods from second in command Charlie Morlock. We were also treated to many a tale from head lad Albert “Corky” Browne, who has been at Nicky’s for over 50 years. Sophie laid on a wonderful breakfast and took delight in pointing out the sprinkler system in the covered school where my beautiful Jack The Giant (now retired to The National Stud) apparently thought nothing of throwing his signature acrobatics during morning work. Such were the height of his bucks that he left many a skull cap silk hanging from the rafters!

Good Friday saw the Emmet’s Definightly travel to Summerhouse Equestrian Centre to have a session with the incredibly talented Gaynor Colbourn. We first met Gaynor at the Original Equestrian Rider competition camp held at Aintree last year (organised by Katie Amos). Gaynor plays live to create uniquely composed test music and puts together a great floor plan for the horses. Gaynor truly is the best in the game — she has had over 10,500 winning tests worldwide to date. Last year Gaynor created an elementary floorplan for us with which we have had many successes — this year we are stepping up to medium and this was our first look at music and movements before completing our test when we next meet in July. We were also lucky enough to take part in the evening demo alongside some super special combinations.

Definightly at the dressage to music demo

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On Easter Saturday Gaitway and I let our hair down and set off on a 10-mile fun ride along the banks of the River Wye — he behaved like a pro and thoroughly enjoyed some new challenges of river wading and steps up and down. Fun rides are really educational for the horses, it teaches them not to worry what’s going on ahead of them in the distance or behind them, take in a varied scenery and a chance for them to have a good canter and just be horses.

Gaitway fun ride

The horses have all been spoilt by new sponsors Thermatex — they have all received gorgeous new rugs which will ensure they are looking extremely dapper while out and about!

We have some exciting new arrivals headed for the yard this week — all will be revealed in our next blog.

Clare

For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday.