Somehow I managed to get through two days at Aldon with six horses even though I was at the Cheltenham Festival the day before (on the Friday) celebrating with the rest of my family. My brother Harry trained his first Cheltenham Festival winner with Unowhatimeanharry winning the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, ridden by the superb Noel Fehily.
It was really quite a special day as mum’s horse, Zulu Oscar, ran in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hurdle. Although Zulu didn’t get placed he ran with credit and we were all pleased with him. Everyone kept coming up to me at Aldon asking if I still had a hangover, but I was designated driver so was feeling fine, albeit still on cloud nine! It really was the most fantastic day and one that will live long in the memory for years.
Aldon was a good start for my horses and they all performed encouragingly for their first runs of the season. Archie (Arise Cavalier) ran in the intermediate novice and was rather exuberant all day, but I knew he would be for his first time out so I can forgive him. Nick Engert’s Effie (Augusta Firefly) ran in the BE100 and put in a pleasing performance with a lovely clear cross-country.
Lady Venetia Hardy’s Max (Maximus Meridius) was the star of the weekend picking up third place in a competitive open novice section. He did a beautiful double clear with a 27 dressage so we were all thrilled. Ruby (Rubabell Cruise) also excelled herself in only her second intermediate. She jumped a lovely double clear with a good dressage and a steady cross-country round meaning she just missed out on a placing.
We had the old boy, Kitkat (Another Breakfast), back for his first run in nearly a year but it was bittersweet as he picked up another injury across country and consequently we have decided to retire him from eventing. He has been a super horse for me and gave me my best three-star placing to date coming fourth in the Blair Castle CCI3* back in 2011. He has not been the easiest to keep in one piece over the past couple of years as his exuberant way of going meant he was very hard on himself. This, although a very difficult decision to make, is the kindest thing for him and he will live out a very happy life at home nannying the youngstock. Thank you for all the happy memories, Kitkat.
The following weekend we were at Gatcombe with Ruby and Archie in the intermediate. Ruby did another classy but steady double clear with an improved dressage.
I have to hold my hands up and admit I made a huge mistake on Archie across country. Having walked the course and thinking I knew the long route at a tricky double of corners I decided to take him long at the last minute. But alas I hadn’t walked the long route properly and managed to muck up my line big time to the first corner and the poor boy was faced with jumping the widest part of the fence. To his credit he did go, but we just couldn’t get our line to the second corner so picked up a very undeserved (for him and totally deserved for me) 20 penalties. He then went on to jump a lovely round so I was very cross with myself and will not be making that mistake again. Lesson learnt!
We were then out at Portman this week with Max in the intermediate novice and Effie in her last BE100 before she steps up to novice level. Max produced a stunning test for a score of 25, but sadly struggled with the slightly sticky ground in the showjumping. She then flew around the cross-country inside the time to pick up ninth place. Effie showed great improvement from Aldon and just missed out on a place finishing 11th. I will be taking her novice next time out at Bicton, which I’m looking forward to.
Huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers at all of these lovely events; we really are extremely grateful for everything you do.
I am very excited to have renewed my sponsorship with Unicorn Saddlery for a third year. Their support is so important to me and I can’t thank them enough.
Our next outing is Belton Park International with Ruby doing her first CIC2* and Archie running in the intermediate.