Let’s begin with the oddest thing I’ve come across during the past couple of weeks.
The package pictured above was waiting outside Hartpury Arena one morning last week and was the source of much hilarity, not to mention a quest to track down who it was meant to be delivered to. We decided that either there was some kind of Trojan horse conspiracy going on, or one of the students had decided to save some money on transport and test the capacity of Royal Mail instead!
There was a decent amount of comedy value gleaned prior to finding out that the package was actually destined for the vet nursing department where they use a plastic horse for students to practice bandaging on prior to graduating to the real thing.
Whichever way, it’s not what you expect to see on your way to breakfast very early in the morning!
Back to normality
We’ve had all the hustle and bustle of normal life here otherwise, with visits from Sparsholt and Abingdon & Witney Colleges among the very many things keeping us busy.
We also recently completed the first phase of the redevelopment of our equine surgical suite into our new rider performance centre.
Prior to building work starting, we needed to first dismantle and remove the knockdown and recovery box area where our mechanical horse and rider analysis suite will be situated (pictured below).
It was a really weird feeling to see such a massive feature of our building taken out; there’s a lot of history in these walls! But progress marches on, and I’m really excited about what the future holds for the centre. When the work is complete, it will provide us with something unique to the UK — an amazing facility accessible for all, be that at grassroots or elite level, for able-bodied or para-athletes. Suffice to say I can’t wait for it to be finished!
The last of the big Easter events here was the British Dressage (BD) Winter Nationals and the top moment of the whole show for me had to be Lewis Carrier winning the elementary restricted championship on his own lovely young horse, Diego V. Lewis was a student here last year and so we got to know him a bit, he’s super talented and a really nice guy to boot. He’s now based with the Eilbergs and it’s fantastic to see him doing so well. I was particularly impressed with his highly enthusiastic lap of honour — it was great to see someone tearing up the arena in a blaze of glory!
It’s always nice to see familiar faces among the officials too, such as the ever-cheerful Dan Chapman, who along with his fellow stewards pulled off some incredible shifts to keep the whole thing running smoothly. I did catch Dan sneaking off for an ice cream at one point — perhaps this is the key to happy stewards?
And then there was Valegro. What can I say about Valegro? What a performance from him and Charlotte to retain their World Cup title again in Vegas, especially considering the difficult conditions they faced on arrival with high temperatures and a sand storm to contend with. And that’s not to mention those faced by Alan [Davies] (Valegro’s groom), who endured food poisoning when he got there!
What struck me most about the whole thing, besides their extraordinary tests, was how much it still means to secure such a win. Some people seem to get used to winning, but a picture of Charlotte and Alan bringing “Blueberry” back into the arena for the prize-giving with tears in their eyes really got to me. What a privilege it is to be part of the Valegro generation.
Happy retirement, AP
As a devoted National Hunt racing fan, last Saturday felt like a momentous occasion. I cleared my afternoon of all things bar sitting on the sofa with the dog watching all of the action from AP McCoy’s swansong at Sandown Park.
The affection and atmosphere generated by the crowd was palpable and I have to admit that I cried on three separate occasions throughout the coverage! For as long as I have loved racing, McCoy has been a steadfast presence, personifying the heart, soul and grit required to be successful in this most brutal of sports. I’ve grown up watching him and, for my money, his talents as a horseman have only improved with age and he retired as the best he’d ever been.
He said something that really struck me in one interview I saw last week, stating that he had always aimed to “find something impossible and then figure out a way to do it.” Personally, I can’t think of a better way to live your life, what an inspiration.