It’s been snow, snow and more snow in the Cotswolds! There was no hunting for a couple of weeks and the horses enjoyed a well-earned break. They were turned out everyday and played in the snow, but as the road outside my yard was an ice rink for two weeks, I couldn’t get them out on exercise.
It did them all good and I’ve managed to put some extra condition on Denman. He’s now on a higher protein conditioning cube, which Harry Meade recommended. I wanted something that wouldn’t blow his brain, and so far so good — our first day back on the hunting field wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be.
I was thrilled that after nearly three weeks without hunting, Denman was incredibly well behaved and hadn’t regressed in his excitability on our return. He queued well and jumped lots of rails and walls. Thanks to the training and pole work we’ve been doing with Harry, I now have so much more confidence in tackling upright fences.
Parading at Newbury
Last Saturday was the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury. Betfair and Newbury asked whether we would parade there, so off we went in the snow. We were one of the first to arrive and parked alongside the smart red boxes from Paul Nicholls’ yard. It was wonderful to see Donna Blake, who used to ride both Earthmover and Denman at Paul’s yard. The girls all loved seeing Denman, who thought he might be going hunting initially!
Newbury photos by Tracy Roberts www.turfpix.com
I had various interviews with BBC Radio Berkshire, Racing UK and in the paddock while my friend Hayley led Denman round before the racing started. Clare Balding also came to interview Denman. I’m reading her book at the moment (My Animals and Other Family) and I’m a huge fan.
I found the interviews seriously nerve-wracking, but after the first one with Racing UK, Richard from Betfair took Mum and I up to their box for a quick glass of bubbly which helped calm the nerves for the rest of the day. Newbury couldn’t have looked after us better.
Then it was time for Denman to parade in front of the stands so I hopped on board. When we were walking round the pre-parade ring lots of people came down to see him. We walked past the stands, the runners went down to the start and then I turned Denman round and breezed back past the crowd.
Denman clearly loved it and was so good. The roar that went up from the stands and the clapping brought a tear to my eye. He showed his fans he’s fit, well and having fun — and I managed to pull up by the exit without any problems. I had put his hunting bridle on as there isn’t much room beyond the winning post!
And as soon as we’d finished he went back to happily munching his hay as if nothing special had happened.
It was lovely to meet Denman’s owners Paul and Marianne Barber, who had not seen him since he left Ditcheat. They were so delighted to see him looking so well and happy in his new life.
Training on TV
The following day I took him for another lesson with Harry Meade. The weather was appalling again, so Harry kindly organised for us to use a friend’s indoor school. BBC Points West came to film for a feature they will be putting on during Cheltenham week, so keep an eye out for that.
I love these sessions with Harry, teaching Denman to jump in a different style that he needs for tackling gates and uprights out hunting.
Denman could do no wrong all weekend and he had his ears pricked the whole time, enjoying every minute. Now I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the snow will disappear so we can get out hunting at Saturday.