A state-of-the-art indoor arena, three horseboxes and underground stabling. In an H&H exclusive, we take you behind the scenes at the home of Martin and Michaela Wood, a former dairy farm turned spotless show production yard that is responsible for turning out show ring champions week after week.
1. A yard underground
Well, it’s not quite underground but these stables are beneath the indoor arena. The stable block houses the show animals and it maintain a constant temperature all year round.
2. The indoor arena
The 30x90m indoor arena has CCTV cameras in it but not for the sole purpose of security — it means Michaela can play back her sessions later on. The equine office overlooks the indoor arena, providing a warm and dry viewing gallery for anyone wanting to watch horses work. If you’re lucky, show team manager Nigel Hollings might make you a cup of tea.
3. The HGVs
Team Wood has one 3.5t horsebox and two HGVs, but Nigel is only allowed to drive one of them. Jokes do the rounds about the time he forgot to raise the suspension and the steady speed at which he drives. Apparently you can tell which lorry is Nigel’s because of the scratches on it…
4. Team spirit
Team Wood laugh and joke with each other a lot, but they also work very hard. Pictured from left to right are Dawn Morris, Martin Wood, Abby Spencer, Kelly Thackwroy, Sandra Wood with Michaela’s son Freddie, show manager Nigel Hollings, Tommy Wood, Jack Cochrane, Michaela Wood with her dog Bentley, Mike Holmes and Bridget Millington.
“We’re all competitive and we all want to win,” says Nigel.
5. Outside stables
This square-shaped stable yard is where some of the retired show ponies live, including Michaela’s first show pony Snaffi Bright Spark (William), and there is a small surfaced arena in the middle. Several people keep their horses on livery here too.
6. The horse walker
The horse walker is in regular use. A Bobcat tractor is used to maintain the muckheap, although this job rarely falls to Nigel — “he’s not allowed, for safety reasons,” jokes Martin.
7. The canter track
There is a gently sloping canter track in front of the house, next to the property’s gated driveway. There are a few cross-country fences in the middle, dating back to Michaela’s jumping days.
Pictured is Michaela on Login Lucky Lad (Lucky), who has won the coloureds at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) for the last three years and was best of his breed at Olympia 2016. Lucky is being aimed at HOYS and the Royal International again this season, before retiring to stud.
8. A new star?
Thistledown Rockin Robin (Custard) is a new ride for Michaela in 2017. Custard, a Welsh section C, is owned by her younger brother Tommy (pictured) and will be campaigned in novice mountain and moorland classes.
9. Cuddy stars
Martin is pictured with Cockney Ruby, one of his Cuddy finalists in 2016, who will be shown as a novice hack this season. Martin is looking for a fourth Cuddy final victory in 2017 following Renedene Royal Charm and Romanno Royale standing supreme champions in 2014 and 2015, and Ballycreen Rainbow Magic topping the horse section and finishing overall reserve last year.
10. The outdoor arena
The outdoor arena measures 20x40m.
11. The land
Post-and-rail paddocks provide all-year turnout for the horses, including several coloureds by the stallion Semper.
“We breed three foals a year at the moment. If we weren’t so full on with showing, there might be more,” says Michaela.
12. Glorious Yorkshire countryside
Michaela long-reins Custard on the quiet country road outside the Woods’ base. They regularly hack to their neighbouring 1,000-acre farm, where there are 750 sheep and 400 beef cattle, in order to check on the animals.
13. Palmira’s return
Palmira stood ridden coloured champion at HOYS in 2013, but was out of action in 2016. The mare — who Martin says is his favourite — was kicked by another horse and lost her nerve in company, a few weeks before returning to HOYS.
“I had to start again from scratch and take time to rebuild her confidence,” explains Michaela. “So last year we said forget her and just concentrate on Lucky, and I’m glad we did.”
14. Chilling in the solarium
The solarium is in the underground stable block. Lucky enjoys some downtime after his canter session.
15. Family affair
Martin and his wife Sandra moved to this former dairy form in 2000 with Michaela and Tommy. The first job was putting up stables and then they began transforming the farmhouse into a sophisticated family home, complete with Aga, and HOYS plaques have pride of place.
16. The house
You pass this post and wishing well to get to the front door of the Woods’ home. The kitchen looks out on to a patio with central water fountain feature, and views across the Yorkshire countryside.
Don’t miss the full interview with Martin and Michaela in H&H’s showing special (16 March), on sale now.