Sophie Mathew’s team chasing blog: Riding on the Burghley turf

  • They say practice is the key to success — so team Forelock and Fully Loaded have tried to cram in plenty of preparation for our first run of the spring season.

    Learning from last year’s errors, the last thing we wanted was to be concerned about fitness, so we have been taking every opportunity to get fast work into the horses.  During the winter months, combined with working full time, this has been a challenge in itself. Trying to be innovative with interval training around the school only goes so far. So when the local draghound announced a Sunday meet at Burghley Park, Kerrie and I jumped at the opportunity. Wow, what fun we had!

    As you would expect the going was dreamlike and the pace was fast. My horse having thrown a shoe early on, I elected to stick with the non-jumping lot — which was easily done as most of the fences were avoidable. We got some brilliant work into our boys. Galloping up the avenue towards the Cottesmore Leap was just fantastic, as were the suggestions it looked small from horse back!

    We were very lucky that a super good friend and amazing photographer; Sam Empson–Pawley was there with her flashy camera. The results of her efforts and the fun of the day can’t be denied in this exceptionally beautiful photograph — Kerrie far side and me on the grey having a splash in front of the Lion Bridge. What memories are made of…

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    The following week we had a fantastic group schooling session at Ely Eventing Centre — Tina Ure has put in lots of new, exciting fences. Perfect for those of us who’d spent the winter only jumping hunt rails and hedges. We had a total ball, egging each other on to jump all sorts of combinations — hats off to Christie for taking on her nemesis that is trakehners in total style and Kerrie (pictured below) for conquering an enormous skinny.

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    The next six days at work seemed to drag while waiting for the morning of the Worcester team chase. Being over 140 miles away meant we had a pretty epic journey to get there. I was really lucky that our fourth member for the week, Briony Jackson, who works for the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket, and I were able to stay at my uncle’s as a half-way point — even if we did have to build a stable! Kerrie and Christie elected to make the journey in one day, which was some six hours of driving — that shows dedication to the cause.

    We arrived before 9am for a quick team ‘jog’ around the course — missing out the last few hedges as we were tight on time. No need to walk your lines for this one: “we’ll just watch a few teams from the warm up”.

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    The organisers had a seriously good grip on the course, it was lovely. Due to the way the new water fence was riding in the first class, it was removed for the remainder of the day — a decision which fills you with confidence that the organisers really do have safety as a top priority. All the fences were really well presented and the ground held up really well.

    Kerrie took the lead and stormed away from the hilarious character that was the course starter — he was certainly enjoying himself and made sure all the competitors were too! It’s people like him that really make getting up at silly o’clock worthwhile.

    We quickly got into a rhythm and had an absolute ball. We had to hold for a bit to make sure we were altogether for the pen — where the first three horses entering the pen should have twelve feet on the floor. We then kicked on to complete the final part of the course and some lovely hedges. (Pictured below: Christie on Alice giving Briony on Alfie a lead).

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    A massive thank you to Kerrie’s mum Sandra, aka Mumarazzi. She has a brilliant knack for always being in the right place at the right time and producing some brilliant photos. It was the perfect first run of the new season and we came away feeling really positive and excited that the next few weekends are going to be lots of fun…next stop Fernie!


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