• Laura

New horses, new yard - 2020 so far

This is roughly the sixth edition of this blog post, as I never fully finish writing it and by the time I get back to it so much more has gone on! So, sorry if this is a bit long winded, it’s turned into a huge winter (and now Spring!) update.

Being half English how can I not start this blog without talking about the weather…! This has been by far the wettest winter I have ever experienced in my life. I have regularly questioned my sanity whilst also continuing to have the upmost respect for our amazing horses who have knuckled down and focused on their work in the most hideous wet and windy weather. Another massive shout out to my parents, boyfriend and two amazing girls, Megan and Hanna, for battling through this weather with me in what feels like the longest winter ever! Then what an ironic change we had, as soon as all events have been put on hold, the sun comes out and we’ve never had such good ground at this time of year! Can I quietly whisper I would actually really like some rain now…? The ground needs it!

We have certainly kept ourselves busy, with a winter full of dressage lessons, jumping lessons, combined training, BS shows, galloping, water treadmill sessions and cross country schooling.

There has been lots of change for 2020 which I’m really looking forward to and I’m so grateful and excited to be working with our supporters this year. We have had schooling and breaking liveries keeping us busy over the November, December and January months. Two I mentioned at the end of my last blog were utterly gorgeous Kadans who was with me to sell and 3yo Marula who came to be broken in. Marula had a textbook attitude to starting his ridden life. He put himself into a ‘two day routine’. Day one I would introduce something new and day two he would master it! After a month he was schooling, hacking and popping a small fence and the second month he was consolidating what he had learnt. His lovely owner came to ride him in the second month as well and then he went back home to have a well-deserved holiday and to think about everything he has learnt, which is so so important for the young horses. Kadans did not stay for long! After a few weeks he was snapped up by 5* ride, Eliza Stoddart, and is now named Kashmir. Although I was gutted to not keep him (to make this a business you can’t keep them all!) I was so pleased he’s off to join Eliza’s string and we’re really looking forward to seeing them out eventing once the lockdown is lifted!

Just before Christmas we headed out on a small adventure to France. I had been keeping half an eye open for a 3yo to buy myself for a while. I received a Facebook message from a lovely lady I had met through a friend a few years ago. When we first met she was telling me about her breeding programme, which included the 5* eventing mare, Prada, who was ridden by Lucinda Fredericks. Being a horse crazy girl my whole life, I loved the Horse & Country Channel and watched every episode of every eventing relevant programme there was, which included the Team Fredericks series, where I first fell in love with Prada. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard there were offspring from Prada and also the even greater excitement when I was sent details of a 3yo gelding for sale who was out of her! Hundreds of questions were asked, videos were sent over and before we knew it, my dad and I were on the ferry and driving down to see him. Once I sit on a horse it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for me to decide if they are the one or not. We have a family joke that I never get a good deal on a horse because I can’t contain my smile if I like them…! The next week he was vetted and x-rayed and the week after he arrived on Christmas Eve. I rode him at home for a couple of weeks before he was turned out on holiday. He had been in work since July so really deserved his holiday but it was so hard to let him stay out there! He had 3 months out in the field and has now been back in work a week. He has filled out so much and is starting to look so grown up. I love riding them at this age, it’s just all about making sure they enjoy what they’re doing and letting them experience new things. He is definitely one to watch for the future.

At the beginning of February I had the most exciting addition to the yard. Corgary Femme Fatale (Piglet to her friends) who is owned by Tess Bishop is a 16hh 10yo mare who Tess has produced herself from a 4yo to Advanced level last season. Tess and I first met at A Test training at Talland School of Equitation back in 2015 and then ‘properly’ met the following year at the Pony Club A test coaching camp. I had always admired Piglet, particularly for her kind and genuine personality, insanely tidy and neat knees jumping and just all round desire to make sure she jumps every fence clear. When Tess asked if I would be interested in taking on the ride I think my parents thought I was hyperventilating, I was talking so fast with excitement I could barely breathe. We are in the initial stages of setting up a supporters syndicate, named The Hundred Acre Wood (part of the forest from Winnie-the-Pooh where he and his friends go on adventures, with one of his friends being ‘Piglet’). We want to make this syndicate feel like a group of family and friends of Piglet. Everyone will be involved in all the behind the scenes action and get to know Piglet on a much more personal level, as if she were your own horse. There won’t be a buy fee, just a fixed monthly fee, so there are no hidden bills! Unlike co-ownership or a buy-in/ownership syndicate, this really will be an affordable way to join a team and experience what it’s like to support an event horse at under a tenth of the cost of funding a horse outright. I couldn’t think of more perfect horse to set this support group up with. Piglet is such a kind and

uncomplicated horse who does her upmost to please everyone. I am so excited to see how our partnership develops together and even more excited to extend the size of her ‘family’ to enjoy the sport with people who love her. We hope to provide everyone with the best experience we can, with yard visits and demos, a base camp in our Taylor Made Financial Planning tent at events, online groups to keep everyone regularly involved and more! Tess has made a start with the Instagram account, thehundred.acrewood, so anyone interested can start to get to know Piglet and her journey so far.

Anyone who follows my Instagram knows I love a good quote! This one I found, from a page I follow on Facebook, I can really relate to. “I think that’s where a lot of athletes fall down: they don’t realise that it’s the graft that’s really the rewarding bit. Winning is the cherry on the cake. It’s not the cake. It’s just a tiny little piece of it.” – Toni Minichiello (Coach to Jessica Ennis-Hill, UK Coach of the Year 2012).

I love my job and I love what I do. I love riding these horses day in day out and feeling improvements in them and in myself. Winning is the cherry on the cake and I think everyone in the equestrian world needs to remember this, especially as we are working with unpredictable animals. Don’t’ get me wrong, I really reeallly love to win, but training the young horses something new at home or finally nailing the flying changes with the higher level horses in training gives me just as much joy. For example my young horse, Marengo Bonaparte (Leo), who is rising 5 this year, won a 90 combined training in January but then jumped clear round his first 100 CT a month later and I was much more excited by the latter! I hope this attitude to my job and the sport keeps me grounded. It definitely keeps me thinking positively as I have so many different levels of goals to work towards, as well as aiming for that podium placing, whilst always keeping my horses welfare as paramount importance. This has certainly helped me in the current lockdown situation, although totally gutted the start of the season has been put on hold, I’m still motivated and focussed on training and improving any areas I can whilst working at home. I occasionally really think about the competition implications, such as I will have missed my last year being able to enter the u25 Championships at Bramham and doing my first 5* this year is most likely not going to happen, but then it’s out of my control and I focus on what is in my control, which is training and bettering myself and my horses.

The winter has been full of lots of challenges, particularly due to this never ending rain (and now the Coronavirus too!), but one project that is keeping us all inspired is the build of our new yard. Two years ago we purchased a property of pretty much untouched grassland and an old empty barn, basically just a frame and roof! The endless work from our whole family has brought what was just a vision to something that is now very much reality. We now have two barns! The concrete floor is down and the Monarch stable walls will go in as soon as they can. Arena quotes are being finalised and the last part of the fencing will be finished in the summer. We are hoping to move in sometime in the late summer, but it will be very far from finished! Landscaping will need to continue over the summer/autumn time and then over the years we hope to keep adding more and more facilities to make this the best set up and workplace for us and all the horses. After this winter, all weather turn out pens are on the top of the list! I am immensely lucky to have a horsey family that are just as mad as me, as well as my brother going onto play high level rugby, making sacrifices and being dedicated to something is the norm for us!

I am so grateful that all of my team are healthy and well. We are so lucky to be on lockdown out in the countryside with fresh air and so many jobs to keep us occupied! I’m not so sure my brother and boyfriend are happy to be home… they have been put to work! With a never ending jobs list from my dad, he’s taking full advantage of the extra man power. My apprentice, Megan, mum and I are getting on with our own list; we are doing a proper spring clean for the first time, not an end of season clean. I must admit it is a lot more fun doing it in the spring sunshine and not in the winter! All the horses are ticking over with schooling, hacking and pole work. They are looking so well and their summer coats are almost through as well. Does anyone else just stand and look at their horses when they look so good? I waste a lot of time just watching them in the field at the moment as they’re going out naked every day and look so amazing when the sunshine hits their coats.

Stay safe everyone,

Laura x