It’s been all go over Christmas and into 2013. We’ve had some lovely days hunting including the Duke of Beaufort’s Boxing Day meet and Denman’s first day visiting — with the South and West Wilts.
The meet was on the Fonthill Estate and it was stunning, with lots of little fences to pop over. Denman was amazing as he hasn’t been out first horses much (I tend to take him out at second horses) — I was thrilled with how much calmer he was.
I also managed to fit in a lesson with eventer Harry Meade (pictured right and below), which was brilliant. Harry is a huge fan of “The Tank”, so it was lovely to get them together. We wanted to concentrate on some pole work to help Denman with jumping uprights. Paul Nicholls, Dan Skelton and Clifford Baker have done a wonderful job with his jumping over the years, but a different technique is needed for tackling uprights such as hunt rails and stone walls.
Harry was so pleased with Denman’s attitude towards the exercises. I couldn’t believe how quickly he picked everything up and how clever he was. He really showed how athletic and light across the ground he is.
Harry rode him brilliantly, too, and it was amazing to watch him being schooled by a real pro. He looked like a four-star eventer with Harry in the plate!
There were a few pointers to my riding as well! I was taught old-school — hold on to the neckstrap, grip with the knees and kick. Now it is all about not gripping with your knees, but I hope I am getting there.
Lily Meade (aged one), who’d recently sat on Laura Bechtolsheimer’s Olympic gold medal-winning horse Mistral Hojris, also had a little sit on Denman. Although judging by her reaction I think she prefers dressage! Den just stood there while Lily sat on him and the Meades’ lurchers raced around the arena. I will definitely be back for more lessons as Harry is a brilliant teacher.
On Sunday, Channel 4 Morning Line came to film Den for a feature his former jockey Sam Thomas is presenting. Samantha Sandberg very kindly opened the cross-country course at Lyneham Heath Equestrian and let us use the wonderful facilities for filming.
I was so nervous as Den hadn’t been there before and I wasn’t sure how he would go in cold blood. He was incredible considering he hasn’t seen proper event fences before. With a lead he jumped over a coffin, roll tops and into the water complex. The only thing he wasn’t too keen on were skinnies, but we can work on these. You don’t get many stand-alone narrow fences hunting or team chasing.
Sam had a sit on Den and it was lovely to reunite them as he provided probably the best wins of Sam’s career as a jockey. He was thrilled to see Den looking so happy and enjoying his retirement.
I ended up rather enjoying myself, too, as I had the chance to jump the great hedges at Lyneham and Den showed me just how good he is. He flew the hedges like nothing I have ever sat on before — what a feeling. I kept whooping in sheer pleasure. I had a sound recorder in my jacket pocket, so the poor CH4 soundman must have had his ears blown out with my whoops of joy!
What a horse and this is still early stages in his retraining. I keep imagining what he will be like in a couple of years’ time — wow!
I hope you all have a very happy new year.