Gaby Cooke’s blog: falling back in love with eventing

  • Well, before I knew it we were straight back into the competing lifestyle and in the lorry off to Burnham Market, with no time left to lick our wounds. We had Liberty Rock (Bertie) and Saunders Lady (Poppet) on board and I also popped a five-year-old on the lorry for a play and a hack around.

    So now I’m a regular on the H&H blogging team, it’s time to start introducing you to the other cheeky characters in my yard. I might as well start with Bobby as he was on the lorry at Burnham. His competition name is still not decided on, but Bobs is a real sweetheart, underneath anyway. He came into our yard last year as an unbacked four-year-old, and he was a little tricky to break in to say the least. The getting on was the issue, once you were there he was fine.

    For this reason he got the nickname of “Bucking Bronco Bobby”. I’ve literally never seen anything like it apart from the clips you stumble across on YouTube of some mad but amazing guy hanging on for dear life in a rodeo. Needless to say, the first time this happened he got me off. I have to say, though, I lasted a couple of circuits around the arena, but when he was stopping and spinning on the spot in mid-air, I was more than happy to reach that point of no return and bailed!

    Thank goodness he’s hasn’t done it for ages now and it seems that the hours of getting on and off in the menage over and over again have finally cracked it.

    Anyway, he was a very good boy at Burnham – very worried about which way to go and what to do, but he settled enough towards the end. He’s a very special and super talented horse, so he will keep going on the lorry whenever there is a space until he understands what all these “parties” are about.

    Getting back in the game

    Back to Burnham. Both babies on the whole were super. Bertie did an okay test, just getting a little distracted by the quad bike next to his arena. Poppet did by far a personal best this year – she’s becoming much more rideable. She’s finally starting to realise that my legs don’t always mean go forward, they can mean sideways as well, making my life much easier to keep her soft.

    They both went on to jump double clears. The plan was to give them a competitive run having had two solid novice runs already this season. However, as soon as I got out of that start box I just didn’t really have the stomach for it. I had been in a daze all day and to be honest, didn’t want to be there at all. Everything was just still a bit raw after Roscoe.

    As both horses are owned by us there was no pressure to chase a good result and Daddy Cooke’s final words to me as I walked over to the cross-country looking a little glum were: “Just have a nice ride and bring them back safe and sound.”

    It was what I needed to get back into it – you slightly lose slight faith in the sport when something hurts you like the loss of Roscoe has, but by the end of the day I was back in love with the sport. I dread to think how slow they both ran, but they came back in very good shape and have got another novice run under their belts.

    Both horses are going to take a little time – Bertie is a very tall pure Irishman who needs time to catch up with the precocious foreign horses. Poppet is very sharp and on the ball, so she could all too easily get a little keen. She still spends a lot of time spooking at her surroundings, but she was much softer the whole way round.

    I’ve also got my head back in the game, something that needed to be done sooner rather than later, with my next event being Withington advanced!

    Bloated dogs, a London day and the Grand National

    We took the five-year-olds out showjumping as well last week – they were all so good considering they haven’t been out for a while, so confident and loving pinging round. However, Snowy (our Alaskan Malamute) and Ivy (my little Jack Russell slash sausage dog look-a-like) ate all the Easter choccy cakes! They kept telling us it wasn’t them with big puppydog eyes, but the bloated tummies and the fact they had sunbathed for hours without moving gave the game away, especially when they gingerly climbed out of the lorry clearly feeling a little queasy. What little monkeys. At least we’re staying slim!

    Life at the Wharf has certainly picked up – we had a chilled but working weekend over Easter. With threats of terrible weather on Monday we decided to work them all and give them Monday off instead – annoyingly the weather was better than it was on Sunday.

    So I decided to give them today off instead (Wednesday), I’m currently sitting in a friend’s house in London. Mummy Cooke had an appointment down here, so I thought I would join her as a treat, do a little shopping and catch up with some friends tonight. It’s been complete bliss but I’m now certainly twiddling my thumbs – lacking exercise I think!

    My highlight of the week was my boyfriend Jeremy receiving both his parcels in Afghanistan on Easter morning and the choccy Easter one hadn’t melted! I can’t tell you how much it made me smile, something had gone right and worked out like I had planned it to.

    The four-year-olds have settled in nicely to daily life now. It’s their big day tomorrow – a trip to the hairdressers! With the boiler suits and a lot of patience at the ready, let’s hope they’re good. With Aintree not far away, I’m very much looking forward to Saturday. Grand National day. It’s certainly one of my favourite days of the year. We all start early and get the horses done and worked so we can put our feet up and watch it and all the charming build-up. A true duvet day.

    I haven’t yet looked at the runners to see who I’ll be backing, however I’m all for a fairytale, so I think I’ll be rooting for According To Pete and his form isn’t far off. You never know. I’ll always be behind the girls too, Nina Carberry is aboard Organisedconfusion who won last year’s Irish Grand National and Katie Walsh on Seabass who’s embarking on her first National ride.

    As for the trainers, I think it would be lovely for Nicky Henderson to win it for the first time, plus isn’t Shakalakaboomboom the most fabulous name? I just can’t say it with out smiling! It will be an exciting race as always, full of surprises.

    It will be interesting to see how the continued modification of the course rides. I don’t know enough about it, but will these safety changes encourage increased speed and allow more horses to take their chances in the race that are not the traditional big jumping National types, therefore backfiring and leading to more fallers? This could be very worrying for the future of this unique race.

    Either way there are other huge factors, the ground conditions being one of them. Let’s hope a new fairytale will be written on Saturday.


    Full report of Burnham Market in H&H out today (12 April).

    Read all Gaby’s diaries

    Gaby’s website

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