The Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead

What a super day I had at The Royal International Horse Show on Saturday 28th July.  The day was spent with many other F & I members and their guests where we had the luxury of the BHS box    with a supply of drinks and a lovely lunch right next to the main ring.  I wouldn’t like to try to work out how many times I have been, but I always love it and this year definitely didn’t disappoint!

We watched a speed class, some showing classes (Miniature Horse and Supreme Hack championships) and the fast and furious Scurry Driving.  It was particularly lovely that we were all able to congratulate Elisabeth Boyce, the latest member of the F & I group who was awarded her certificate by Lynn Petersen (BHS CEO) and Jillie Rogers (Chair of F&I).  Congratulations Beth!

Highlight of the day for me was walking The Queen Elizabeth Cup course.  Matt Sampson kindly took us round.  (He’s the chap who sang his way to Bolesworth International show by serenading Nina Barbour (the show’s organiser!)).  The arena had the most amazing green grass (I’m struggling to remember what that looks like!) and was like a cushion to walk on.   What never ceases to amaze me about Hickstead’s arena is the undulations of the ground which you struggle to appreciate on the television.   The course builder cleverly used these undulations to make a technical and tricky course for the riders.  Matt was most informative during the walk.  He highlighted the first fence as an area where the horses may lose their concentration due to the camera man who was on one side of the approach and a big TV screen on the other.  The third fence was a large parallel (although there weren’t any small fences!) with a hedge as a filler in the centre which Matt felt was not particularly inviting.    Another fence, quite early on, had horizontal stripes and he commented that horses can struggle to assess these though, in the competion, neither fence caused too many problems with these experienced horse and rider combinations!

We put Matt on the spot and asked him what he expected the result to be.  He predicted there would be 8 through to the jump off and that James Whitaker would win (because he wanted him to win as he’s his mate!)  Well he got one prediction right anyway!

Four made it through to the jump off – there were plenty of problems around the course – notably at the water jump (some horses definitely said ‘no’ to this) and also the treble – which came up quickly after the water on a right-hand turn.  Possibly some horses were rattled by the water jump and others were keen to leave at the nearby exit!  Of the four riders who were in the jump off, three of these were female – quite apt for the Queen Elizabeth cup – one being Pippa Funnel riding her husband’s lovely stallion Billy Congo, now 17.  He seemed to be on springs!  The combination achieved a second clear round but finished as runner up to the only man in the jump off, James Whitaker riding Glenavadra Brillivant.

The day concluded with a speed class – talk about riding forward …..!    The end to another fantastic day at Hickstead.  Thank you to the BHS, the Education Team were well in evidence, with our own members of F&I Oonagh Meyer and Julian Campbell. The Director of Education Alex Copeland joined us with his family and, of course, the wonderful Karen Irving who organised us all brilliantly! 

Nicole Biggs BHSI

Jumping Techniques Training Day Nick Turner FBHS

at Bold Heath Equestrian Centre, Cheshire on 5th July 2018.

We had five groups of eager riders for the training day with Nick Turner. Mark Baker and his team at Bold Heath had built a fantastic track for us, with a testing series of jumping exercises for us.
They have fantastic outdoor arenas at Bold Heath, which we planned to use but due to the penetrating rays of the sun they kindly let us have the indoor school! The surface was amazing, which allowed us to ride more confidently and positively through the exercises.

Nick expertly supported and challenged us through combinations of angled fences, skinnies, spreads, corners and brush fences. All the exercises required us to commit to a positive canter and hold focus and conviction to the line. This really allowed the horses’ to think, perform and learn.

This was shown very clearly by Mark Baker’s and Becky Cooper’s young horses who really began to understand what was being asked of them and improve their technique and confidence.

Common themes with many riders where, preparing sufficient balance and energy in the canter and maintaining an equal contact with hands together and down to allow the horse to think and react. Props to hold or riding with reins in one hand were used to assist control of the contact in some cases!

Nick did a wonderful job involving spectators in discussions whilst they were observing the sessions. All horses and riders survived the heat and humidity and were provided with challenge and skills they can use in the future.

A huge ‘thank you’ to Nick Turner and all at Bold Heath.
We look forward to the next time!

Sue Ricketts BHSI

F&I Day in Ireland


Photo by Fran Russell

On arrival we were greeted and shown round by Olga Doyle (Greg Broderick’s sister). Greg represented Ireland as the only Irish show jumper at the Rio Olympics in 2016. I think to say we were blown away by the organisation of the whole operation was an understatement. There was design and thought oozing out of every corner. The whole underlying principle of the yard is a horse centred equine production where no corner is cut and no detail forgotten. First, we were shown around the newly constructed barn and client reception rooms all of which were beautifully finished and appointed with everything an international buyer could want; kitchen, comfortable seating and viewing galleries of both the indoor school and two grass arenas.

The American barn had a traditional look and feel with beautiful bamboo doors, a resilient non-water absorbing material with the V opening off to one side to protect the door from horse damage. Each stable was kitted out to perfection with sealed rubber matting throughout, deep shavings beds, sloping drains and innovative drinkers shrouded with a protective cage to prevent damage. The barn also hosted the most elegant tacking up stalls, wash bays, feed room and tack room all of which demonstrated fantastic design features – in the tack room there is a thermostatically controlled underfloor heating system. A huge upgrade from Greg’s original yard where exactly the same care was being given to those horses as they were prepared for exercise.

During discussion Olga made it clear that it is not only about the riding and the facilities but the care and recovery that are essential to successful horse training, with a vibration plate onsite which combined with regular hacking out and visits to the river as a natural hydro spa scheduled for each horse meant we saw some very happy horses. Daily individual turn out is key at Ballypatrick, however if a horse needs a companion “Jessie” the pony is always on hand for moral support!! The young horses were group housed in groups of six giving them time to “Be Horses” as they start their equine journey.

With 66 horses here in training and 20 staff this operation truly is mammoth. It was striking that though Greg was away competing in Belgium every staff member quietly worked away to the same motto, “It’s the last 1% that makes the difference” -Olga Doyle.

Prior to going across to Fethard we were treated to Ballypatrick hospitality with masses of coffee tea and homemade cakes and scones.

Fethard Horse Museum was a fantastic opportunity to understand the key place the thoroughbred horse has in County Tipperary. There was plenty of background information into the history of the town, showing how Coolmore Stud and Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle has become the mainstay of the thoroughbred industry. Here we say Sadler’s Wells skeleton – what a small horse for such enormous talent, the sire of so many winners who lived till he was 30.

We arrived at Coolmore meeting our guide Jack Dolan at the bronze statue of ‘Be Our Guest’. The original 350 acre farm was bought by the syndicate of John Magnier, Vincent O’Brien and Robert Sangster in 1975 making it one of the newer stud farms in Ireland. From there it grew into the 7,000 acres in the heart of the Golden Vale. All the hay and feed are grown on the farm which also has a beef enterprise, however, we were there to see the stallions. There are 16 stallions standing at Coolmore part of the 66 that make up Coolmore International which takes in USA Australia and Ireland.

The breeding season here starts on Valentine’s day and concludes around the end of June. In pursuit of “the early foal” all stables are fitted with UV lights which are set to entrain circadian rhythms to facilitate an early breeding season. Equine breeding is closely linked with the light and dark cycle. UV light is also closely linked with equine wellbeing.

We visited many of the 16 stallions on the stallion yards, including the new ones Carrivaggio and Churchill. Unfortunately, we did not see the world famous Galileo – son of Sadler’s Wells – who was out for his 4 mile walk on an enclosed wood-chip walkway. Walking around the stallions was like walking round an up market semi-detached housing estate. Each pair of horses had their own ‘house’ with a central tack room. Their daily programme includes daily turn out in individual paddocks, walking on the wood chip walk and ‘canter-work’ in the lunge pen to keep them in peak condition, which in turn keeps their fertility as high as possible. As the covering season in the Northern hemisphere now draws to a close some of the stallions travel to the Southern hemisphere, to Coolmore Australia.
After visiting many of the stallions Jack took us thorough the covering process including swabs etc. Biosecurity is a huge concern at Coolmore with all swabbed and teased by ‘Marmalade’, the most important person in the covering yard Jack explained as we saw this small bay bundle! The coverings are also filmed, again for security reasons.

Overall a fantastic day and many thanks to Faith Ponsonby for organising such a fabulous day. A donation of £240 was made to the charity CALM in memory of Tom Searle. We are all looking forward to next year – same week for your diaries- when we will visit Jessica Harrington National Hunt Trainer and the National Stud.

Report written by Brendan Bergin BHSI.
Photography by Fran Russell.

Report from Bramham

We were lucky to have the opportunity to study the Burghley young event horse classes with the assistance of Nicola Baguley who has bred and ridden winners here. 
Firstly we studied the 5 year olds starting with the dressage where the marks are awarded with future potential in mind as a opposed to it being based totally on the performance on the day.

A discussion on the influence that the strength and maturity of the warmblood breed type versus the thoroughbred was provoked which linked in to the apparent dilution of the significance of the dressage mark due to the new coefficient.

Onto the jumping and the height and complexity of the 5 year olds class had caused several to withdraw. We weighed up the merits of introducing a young horse to such a big atmosphere to further its education with the potential risk of a negative experience and a loss of confidence.
 Nicola explained that a pole down was not to be considered detrimental as long as the horse learned from this and jumped further fences better as a result.

The conformation and trot up followed directly afterwards and it was surprising how several horses seemed unprepared for this. Although we couldn’t see in detail this section as it was the other side of the ring Nicola let us into a few trot up secrets to disguise some defects in action etc!

After this the top 10 were announced and brought back in to be viewed at the gallop by another judge who has not viewed any of the last 3 sections. This judge is looking for the WOW factor as Nicola kept reiterating this class is designed to pick out future champions not just a nice type.

Much discussion arose on who liked which (my chosen horse proved popular within our group and was pulled in last in this section!) This provoked discussion on how subjective the results are and then further the relevance of this class as a showcase for breeders and producers. 
Nicola highlighted the influence of having a known professional on board and also the importance of making the picture look right. ( ie having a petite rider on a small horse and a larger jockey on a taller and stronger type).
  All the marks from the dressage, jumping, conformation and the gallop are then added together to produce the final line up.

We delayed our wonderful lunch on the BHS stand to view the stallion parade in which Nicola rode her wonderful Connemara Glencarrig Dolphin. Much was informally discussed on horse type and breeding and it was a great opportunity to see some of the popular stallions standing in the north.

After lunch we viewed the 4 year old class and as expected the horses were weaker and greener but as Nicola pointed out they had had less time to be produced for the class and that perhaps a clearer view of natural potential could be seen at this age. This was perhaps a point I considered to be of significance.

Without doubt I think that we all as a group agreed that trainability was a priority above raw talent especially for riders of a more mature age!

Finally thank you Ruth Baxter for organising a wonderful and informative day, and of course also to Nicola for giving her valuable input and encouraging some lively discussion.

Report by Lisa Morris BHSI



So, Faith Ponsonby and I offered our services to the BHS as volunteers on their various stands and what fun we had. We started in the Carlton Hotel near Dublin Airport as with a very early flight to Bristol Thursday morning, the decision was made that driving up to the airport in the early hours of the morning, 3am, was not an option if we were to be fresh and on top form. The Carlton did us proud but unfortunately it did set the bar rather high for our B&B in Chippenham!! We collected a tiny Fiat, promptly named Cherry and set off. Due to some flaws in our navigational skills we saw a great deal of Bristol!! However, we now know where the University is situated and the Cathedral.

The Princess Royal discusses the mechanical horse with Sam York FBHS. Photo credit Sally Newcomb

So, on arrival at Badminton we were in time for the BHS Debate, some very interesting points were debated and gave food for thought and talking about food the Lunch in a very smart tent for The Fellows & F&I Association was just fabulous. Beautifully served and very tasty it was a welcome meal as the B&B breakfast was not particularly appetising looking. After watching some dressage tests, we changed into glad rags as courtesy of Jenny Ham we were guests of hers at the Badminton cocktail party. OH WOW!! What fun, what a house & what wonderful paintings and garden. I did manage to scoop my jaw up off the ground on a regular basis especially as we bumped into Mr BHS Himself, David, and the Lovely Sam York – in a frightfully posh frock. We ended the day with a most delectable meal in a friend of Jenny’s horsebox.

The Princess Royal with BHS Chairman David Sheerin. Photo credit Sally Newcomb

Friday dawns, getting hotter, and this is ‘our’ day for shopping catching up with people and again watching dressage but first a F&I Committee meeting. Then a slight deviation as we walked the course with Nick Turner on the F&I Course Walk so ably organised by our Vice Chair Ann Bostock. Well now I say course walk with some reservations as to my little collected walk Nick is on a huge extended walk needing me to frequently break into trot. There is an ‘in depth’ report on this on its way. We were able to present to the BHS, as Charity of Badminton, £300+, not bad ladies & gentlemen thank you and my thanks to Nick.

Saturday, and we are to work on the stand with the mechanical horse. YES! That’s it no more mucking out, grooming, shoeing bills I’m sold on Henry. We had such fun helping people to improve their balance, for some a first time sit on a ‘horse’ and for others the chance to practise the flying changes under Faith’s tutelage. Having walked the course, the previous day we decided to watch some of the riders on the big screen and then we made our way to the Lake found ourselves an extremely good spot and drank in the atmosphere and excitement. No, I did not imbibe in the alcohol as I was in charge of Cherry. We saw Mark Todd, Oli Townend and others tackle the fences in and out of the Lake, including the one horse who having deposited his rider decided to ‘lock’ on to the picket fence and so nearly jump into the private enclosure, being turned by a nimble jump steward just before take-off. A frightening experience but also interesting as I was taken back to the BHS Convention when both Chris Bartle & Sam York were talking about watching the horse as he ‘locks’ on to his fence.

Sunday, last day, and again we were helping in BHS tents, Faith back with the mechanical horse and me making teas & coffees!!!. We had to leave at 1pm so when we had seen the course jumped once we were happy.

Well done BHS. We were proud to be part of your Charity fund raising at Badminton Horse Trials. Brilliant advertising from when we first drove on to the field, along with all the various stands, coffee places and the new travelling classroom. So many hard-working people from all the BHS departments as well as other keen volunteers.
Jillie Rogers BHSI Fellows & Instructors Association Chair.