It’s been incredibly busy for us since the end of May. Crossing the Irish Sea was fun as usual on our annual trip to Tattersalls, which has to be right up there as one of my favourite events. The atmosphere is always so welcoming and the facilities are great, which is perfect when you have a young family in tow.
It was the first time we haven’t had anything running at Houghton Hall International Horse Trials the week before Tattersalls for quite a few years, so we thought we’d take advantage of this and leave on the Monday morning, instead of doing the usual drive in the middle of the night. Victoria thought it would also be a good idea to book a cabin on the boat so the kids could rest after the long hike up to Holyhead. But if I’m completely honest, she may as well have bought two tickets to Captain Jack’s soft play area, considering the bunk beds in the cabin turned into a make shift slide and climbing wall.
Unfortunately we had no winners at Tattersalls this time around, but the horses had good, confident runs which left me feeling really positive for the rest of the season. OBOS Colombus surprised me the most, feeling much more rideable and like he’s really starting to understand his job and our partnership together. The Corn Crake finished on a double clear around the CCI3*-L (pictured top competing there last year) and Monbeg Maximus didn’t disappoint in the two-star and finished in the prizes for ninth place.
We had a quick turnaround as soon as we got back in preparation for Bramham and left on Wednesday afternoon with Rapide GII for the CCI4*-S and new ride Comfort for the stallion parade. Niall Fergusson very kindly brought Caunton First Class up to us for the Burghley Young Event Horse qualifier on the Friday afternoon, which she only went on to win despite the testing conditions of torrential downpours that lasted all afternoon. I have to say a huge thank you to Lorna and Sarah at Baileys Horse Feeds who have really helped with the feeding plan of Caunton First Class, which has got her looking in great condition. She’s a fussy eater so we really had to find something suitable for her.
The rain didn’t stop that night either and continued into the Saturday, leaving the ground on the slippery side, which caused Rapide GII (Pele) to have an uncharacteristic two fences down in the showjumping. As it was obvious luck wasn’t on our side and Pele wasn’t favouring the conditions, it seemed pointless to risk something silly when there is always another day. The most important thing is that the horse remains confident to enable us to build a good partnership together. He’s not going to have my back if I’ve not got his, and some days if they’re not feeling it, you have to respect that when they are usually very good.
I’m feeling incredibly lucky to have some super young horses coming through again — it certainly gives you that fire and competitive drive. A couple of years ago I was ready to retire, but there’s nothing more exhilarating than producing a young horse through the levels. I never thought I’d sit on the class of horses like L’Aristo Du Lado or If You Want II again, but it’s now becoming a reality. I’m so very grateful to the people who believe in me and keep supporting me, even when I don’t believe in myself.
Last week we brought the three-year-olds in from the field to start their education under saddle, which I find is always a good time of year to do it. This way they can come in during the day and live out at night. We always start them off with plenty of work on the long lines and laying across them first. I think it’s important that the horse learns to go away from you and walk confidently on the long lines before you do this with a rider on their back. Same goes for jumping them loose too — allow them to find balance and make mistakes on their own and certainly never make a judgement on them within the first two weeks of being in. Young horses need time, and some more than others. They will then have another holiday for the rest of the summer once they’ve learnt to walk, trot and canter with a rider on, before coming back in after Christmas in the New Year as four-year-old.
Article continues below…
You might also be interested in:
Matthew has been flat-out competing all over the UK recently
It has also just been that very important date in the sporting calendar — the school sports day ‘dad’s race’! Due to the over-competitive nature of this particular race, school decided to change it up a bit and make it the ‘mums and dads’ relay. They even brought out the school nurse for precautionary measures. I am pleased to report our relay team remained victorious. I also learnt according to the wife, that it is okay to shout and cheer on your own child embarrassingly, but not other people’s children that are in the same team. And most importantly to not shout and cheer on my son when running, as he looks over to me instead of concentrating and completely misses at the hurdle.
We have a busy few weeks now getting all the horses running again with three-day events in mind for the back end of the season. I’m also really looking forward to heading to Hickstead at the end of July for the MS Amlin Eventers Grand Prix.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.