I don’t think ‘The Beast From The East’ was the start to the season that everyone was hoping for. But it’s certainly made getting horses fit interesting. All first events Epworth, Isleham and Aston-Le-Walls have been abandoned, which is such a shame for the organisers who put so much hard work into preparing the courses and putting everything together.
It didn’t help that I had a week away in the sun either, where temperatures hit a comfortable 20•c everyday. When I landed at East Midlands and got off the plane, I thought I’d landed in Siberia not Nottingham. It was great though to spend some quality time with my kids (pictured top) before the season gets into the full swing of things.
As soon as I got back, I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to visit the British Racing School in Newmarket and get some jockey coaching from Richard Perham on his RPSimulator. When he said “let’s start with 10 second repetitions” I thought he was either taking the p*ss or not overly convinced by my non-jockey looking physique. But 10 seconds is actually seriously hard work on this thing.
With the Equicizer you have the shape of the horse underneath you, which still allows you to grip with your knees offering some balance and support. On the RPSimulator, there’s nothing. It teaches you to find your own balance, strength and security as well as improving your general fitness. My advice to any riders wanting to improve on their stability in the saddle that also wants to get fit — scrap the treadmill or gym membership and invest in one of these. I guarantee you’ll be more knackered after seconds on this than you will be after minutes on a treadmill.
Top sponsors TRM Ireland excelled themselves again with a nice surprise delivery while I was away. When I got back I was greeted with over a pallet of their products and supplements to see us through the 2018 season. I put a picture on Facebook of the delivery I had, when an old member of my staff contacted me saying that they still have the TRM T-shirt they were given 13 years ago when they worked for me. Despite it making me feel ancient, it also made me realise it’s been over 14 years now that I’ve been using their products. And I can honestly say that in all that time, I’ve still never found anything better. The only supplement missing from their range is a human one for your liver after surviving a night out with the TRM boys.
We’ve also welcomed new sponsors to the team, Venn Healthcare. The company is one of the leading suppliers to the UK of shockwave and laser therapy technology and they also ship their range of equipment globally. I’m extremely grateful to Venn’s CEO Chris Schiel and veterinary operations manager Hugh Fullerton-Smith for their support and generosity. Having access to this equipment has made a massive difference to the maintenance of the horses and treatment of any injuries or conditions.
This is the general maintenance period now with the horses at the start of the season as they all have their pre-season checks from the likes of the dentist to the physio. It’s better to know you are starting with something firing off all cylinders, then if a problem arises later on it’s much easier to detect. I always got taught you should feel your horses legs every day and learn what’s normal or not normal for them individually. Changes can be small but very significant.
If the weather decides to clear up, our first event will now be Oasby Horse Trials, before hopefully heading to Great Witchingham. I don’t envy event organisers right now!
Matthew pays tribute to his 'horse of a lifetime'
It’s been a very tough week for us keeping the horses in work in these conditions. But credit to my team who turned up every day and helped to keep the show on the road. Although it did look like I’d employed a bunch of Eskimos at one point when it reached -6 and they all came dressed for the occasion, but they have just soldiered on. Without them my job would not be possible, they really are the backbone of everything.