Finally! The nightmare exams are over, and for the next three months the horses will have my undivided attention until I go to university in September.
However, my momentary euphoria last Tuesday was short-lived as by 7.30am on Wednesday morning I found myself rather reluctantly in Chico’s stable with a pitchfork in my hands. As everyone in the horseworld will know, the glamour of competing is not without its drawbacks, something I had momentarily forgotten.
While I’ve had the excuse of boarding school I have been very lucky and almost always had my horses on livery; firstly with Tammy Weal near Salisbury when we first moved from Hong Kong in 2001 (when I was 11), then with Cinda [Lucinda] and Clayton Fredericks, with whom I’ve now been having lessons for 10 or so years. So, suddenly having the full responsibility of the horses (only 3 at that) has been a bit of a shock!
Recently, I have just moved base, a stone’s throw away from Cinda and Clayton, literally across the road to Coral Keen’s yard where the horses have settled in brilliantly and all seem rather smug with themselves. Coral and her team have done a first rate job keeping them fit and schooled ready for me to hop on and (probably wishful thinking on my part) take all the glory.
Meet the horses
I think before I go on, I should introduce my horses. In preparation for the Olympics last year, Clayton and I spent a month in 2007 flying around Europe looking at hundreds of horses and eventually, after many nights in airport hotels we bought six superstars, three of which I have in work at the moment.
Chico (FBW Chico), the horse I took to the Olympics was actually the least experienced and the horse we expected the least from. When we first tried him he was a skinny grey who held his tail in a funny way, but had a great attitude and was hugely fun to jump. And he quickly showed that he was the real star of the show.
In fact, Chico was actually bought as a back-up for Jeans. Levi (Jeans) is really much too talented for his own good. Last year he and I just did not click like I did with Chico, and I was not able to bring out his amazing qualities. However, since he’s been in Germany for six months with Kai Ruder, he seems to have soaked up a bit of Germanic discipline and so I’m really looking forward to competing him this year.
Maggie (Magenta) is the relative baby of the group at 10 and has never had a cross-country jumping penalty to her name! Something I always remind myself in the start box just in case I get complacent. She has been the one I have been working on intensively with Jane Gregory trying to improve her dressage, with some hugely improved results which is hopefully a great sign for the future.
Gearing up for Purston
This last week has consisted of getting back into the rhythm of things in general as I haven’t actually ridden since the start of the summer term (not counting 5 days of half term). Luckily I seemed to ease back without too many issues. Ellie Tisch, the Team China physio, came out to give each of the horses an MOT before competing started off in earnest. When I called Ellie, her response to me mucking out was to joke about having to be careful to not put my back out.
Next day, Chico threw an over-enthusiastic flying change (i.e. a huge fly buck) which did something very uncomfortable to my back. Fortunately Ellie was out the next day to see the horses and she quickly put me right.
Clive Hamblin, our vet, has also paid a visit to administer the horses’ six-monthly flu jab, and watch Chico trot up. Unfortunately the fly buck performed the previous day had tweaked a muscle in his shoulder and so I have been icing crazily for the past few days. Hopefully with a couple of days off, he will be right as rain.
Next week, I will be practising my dressage thoroughly, with two lessons with Jane Gregory on Wednesday and an unaffiliated dressage competition on Thursday at Hunters leading up to Purston Manor, our first proper outing since Powderham Castle about three months ago! So hopefully, by then, I will have some more exciting news.
Until then, feel free to visit my new website which we have been working on furiously. Thanks to hard work from Tom Tao, it will hopefully be up by the time you read this.