Not long now until the start of the season! For my first winter with the horses, the cold, snow, ice, frost has seriously toughened my resolve. Over past years, at school, if the temperature was just slightly unpleasant, I would quite happily retire back to my room, whack on a DVD and settle comfortably into my leather executive chair feeling very smug indeed. Now it’s up at 7am shivering as I put on my cold leather chaps and trying to defrost my toes and fingers whenever I get the chance.

I told you last week that I’ve moved yards — I think this raised a few people’s eyebrows when I told them. I could see them thinking, why? Moving away from the comfort blanket that was Little Cheverell, where I had lived and ridden for over 10 years did seem like I was a little crazy. I think that that was exactly the reason (one of them anyway) why I decided to move. With the next three years as a clean slate I thought it was about time I made my own way in life and start the journey of setting up my own yard. Also with the prospect of having Mark work for me, it seemed like the perfect timing; of course Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks and Jane Bredin will always be my trainers and mentors.

I have moved to a large livery yard near Basingstoke in the village of Sherfield-on-Loddon called Lillymill Farm. Sorrel Porteous who owns the yard has several horses she competes herself, an 18 stable barn for her full liveries and a second barn where Team China has set up base! She also has three very large Great Danes and Baloo the puppy who terrorises Mark by stealing everything he can reach! We have a great atmosphere and bustle on the yard and there always seems to be something interesting going on! I am also helping Sorrel and other liveries with their jumping and flatwork. I never really saw myself as a teacher but it’s quite fun taking the role of Lucinda or Clayton in turns! Maybe the novelty will wear off.

On top form

The horses are all on great form and looking incredibly well. In fact, this is the best winter they’ve had, despite the stressful moves and all the snow. We started a new feed three months ago when we moved called Pure Feed. The most incredible thing that happened in the past couple of months is that Maggie (Magenta) has suddenly developed a beautiful cresty neck. I would quite happily take the credit but I honestly think that this feed has worked wonders with them all. We have had so many issues with Maggie’s weight in the past that it is really reassuring that she looks and feels well before the season starts.

Jeans too has never looked so well and stayed so calm at the same time! Normally I’d be headdown in a ditch if we fed him the amount that we are at the moment, but somehow he is wonderfully relaxed! All good news when I have to go cross-country on him for the first time in nearly six months! This is definitely one for the My Favourite Things section of my website.

On a very sad note, we lost Limbo (left) in January to colic. WP In Limbo was Clayton’s Badminton horse having been in the top 25 on three outings there. We bought him as a schoolmaster and although I only competed him three times he taught me probably more than any of my horses. He took an inordinate amount of patience to get him supple in the dressage due to his kissing spine, and cross-country he liked to take charge! Since he did his tendon at Kreuth 2007, he had been blissfully out in a field at Jane Bailey’s Spring Bottom Farm with my other retiree Monkey (Chance Bid). He will be sadly missed.

Going back a bit… I was hugely honoured to receive the inaugural HSBC FEI rising star award at the end of last year. The FEI very kindly flew me to Copenhagen and put together a huge gala dinner compered by the BBC’s star commentator Clare Balding. It was great to meet the other award winners, some amazingly inspirational people. I also saw some familiar faces and people I hadn’t seen for a while.

Until next time,

Alex

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