We’ve just about recovered from yet another 40th celebration when Penny and I threw a joint party for over a hundred friends on the farm. It was a great way to finish the summer and lovely to see so many mates from all our different walks of life.
September also marked the end of the polocrosse season. The National Polocrosse Club Championships were held at Rugby Polo grounds, and although my team put up a good fight, we couldn’t come away with the trophy this time, which went to a strong Highlanders side. I did, however, receive best veteran male player, which I can’t decide whether I’m pleased about or not!
In a shameless plug for what is a less well-known equestrian sport, polocrosse really is such a fun thing to do as a family; there is a level for everyone to play at and the social side isn’t half bad either!
The future for our club, Kent Target, looks bright, as we had two teenagers in our top side and others knocking at the door, not to mention a group of fantastic juniors coming up through the ranks. Our horses were on top form at the championships too. I was also delighted how my young mare, Sea Breeze, went. She is definitely the most athletic horse I have sat on; her pace and power is unmatched and now I just have to work on slowing her brain down so she thinks a little more about what is going on!
My other top horse, Banjo, played his heart out for our visiting Aussie coach, Zac O’Leary, and my son Jack won best junior horse on Wayward, who at the age of 20 is now retiring from the game. My nine year old daughter Rosie had a ball playing in primary juniors on another veteran pony, Gilly, and Penny came out of her “retirement” to win the C grade and pick up the best number one prize!
Back to the business side of things, I have the usual range of horses to work with, from youngsters in for starting to trickier older customers. These include a dressage stallion from the continent that has developed a rearing problem, to a couple of over-sensitive and, dare I say it, explosive horses! We have developed a routine with these two, that once they have been worked, they stay on the yard for a while and between myself, Annie and our new addition to the team, Hamish, we handle and get on and off them every time we walk past. These horses are sensitive on the ground so the transition to the rider being on the ground to being ridden is a real “flash point”. They are also sensitive to change and different people, so they are benefitting greatly from all three of us working with them. We also have the lovely Bambi in for starting, who has the most incredible mane we have ever seen; Billy and Bradley have taken great pride in keeping it in tip top condition!
Just like having new horses to the yard can make us think outside the box and come up with new perspectives, having a new rider to the team has brought in lots of fresh ideas too.
Hamish is Scottish but spent a year in Australia with some excellent horse people, and has been very proactive around the farm and coming up with new challenges for Annie and I! We want our horses to leave the yard able to cope with whatever comes their way, whether they are destined for the Olympics or for a hacking home. The photo at the top of my blog shows Helen and Milarky going over one of Hamish’s creations. This tests the rider’s ability to keep the horse to go straight, which is one of the most fundamental skills in training a horse. It also a great teaching aid for us, to show riders how to introduce a horse to a new obstacle so they both have a positive experience. And when Milarky gets near a podium, he’s going to be straight up there whether Helen wants him to or not!
I have just finished our Autumn Your Horsemanship camp, which was three days of horsemanship, training, fun and games, with lots of amazing home-made food from my sister-in-law thrown in. We had a great group to work with and although there were a couple of tricky four-legged customers, all the horses and riders improved dramatically over the camp. My next big event is an evening demonstration at Pepperwood Park in Surrey on 6 October, where I will be working with some young dressage horses, so if you are in the area, it would be great to see you! The week after I am working with JLT Insurance’s young managers in an equine leadership programme at Oldencraig Equestrian Centre and I will be back in Essex at walk to canter for clinics and lessons… looks like a busy start to Autumn!