Report from Hickstead – July 27th 2019

Ladies Day at Hickstead dawned bright and clear – and it didn’t actually rain!  I look forward every year to a day at the Royal International Horse show, watching Show Jumping from the BHS box overlooking the main arena, and meeting up with friends.

It has now become an annual event for the Campbells, Anne and I.  We arrived just after 10am, and parked close to the trade stand area just over five minutes’ stroll from the box.

From the BHS Alex Copeland welcomed us and hosted the day with Michele Carmen.  Coffee was provided on tap with plenty of refills and a splendid buffet lunch with wine and scrummy desserts.  Lunch was consumed with chit-chat and catch-up.  After lunch we had the opportunity to walk the 1.5m course for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

The thing that takes the breath away is the size of the fences. Distances, both related and combinations, were standard.  However jumping a large spread fence at 1.40+ to a fairly short double of uprights, on a dog-leg, on eight strides, was quite a challenge.  Some did eight, some did seven, and one did six!   As one would expect the standard was high in everything seen – Show Jumping, Showing, Driving. The BHS Box offers one of the best views of the arena, you can see most of the arena and what you cannot see directly is on two large screens.

The trade stands were right outside and busy and offered an excellent range of horse gear covering a wide price range. There was also International Dressage just a stroll away.

The weather was kind, the food was excellent, the location at the side of the main arena was second to none and Jillie was her usual buoyant cheery self with Fab Fran taking photos. It was a privilege to be there, and slightly sad there were not more of us. Just over twenty! The price is superb for what we get, and the venue is outstanding – and we must fill the box next year.

I am looking forward to next year, come and join us for a great Saturday.

Julian Campbell July 2019

Report from the North West Training day with Andrew Bennie FBHS

Myerscough International Arena, 20th June 2019

The topic of the day was ‘Suppleness and Straightness within the Jump Arena’. We were all looking forward to Andrews’s wealth of knowledge and experience, plus the opportunity to catch up with friends and fellow peers.

The morning started with a couple of hours of flatwork, Andrew worked with horses of various levels, and throughout, the theme was ensuring the rider maintained their own balance and posture, therefore enabling the horse to balance and cover the ground in a correct rhythm and tempo. Riders were encouraged to improve the suppleness of the horses by being clearer when performing lateral movements, ensuring the horse was correct and soft around the inside leg, lighter in the shoulder and showing greater self-carriage. A perfect chance to brush up on correct positioning, and get test ready. Some very helpful pointers, greatly received, to get the extra mark in our next test!

The rest of the day consisted of jump sessions, Andrew started each session working horses over a grid, assessing the horses confidence and ability. The 4 year olds had chance to play with some poles first, giving them time to think and work out what was required, then progressed to the grid in a sensible manner. Each group went from the grid, then linked two related distances around the arena, so to encourage forward thinking and fluency.

Much was discussed about the technique and suppleness of each horses jump, and how the grid could be altered to assist with the training and development of the individual horses. Wide parallel’s/ double of cross poles as a spread/ V poles and straightening poles were all used throughout the day. Andrew explained he wanted to encourage the horse to think more, and during the day, referred to the horse’s confidence or lack of security and how as riders/ trainers we can offer so much support to the horses, by our feel, giving the horse time and again… encouraging the horse to think and assess what is required.

During the jump sessions, discussions and feedback from each rider was encouraged, riders were engaged and very keen to improve the feelings they were experiencing. At one point in the day, even though much was discussed about stride patterns and what the horse was comfortable with, Andrew still encouraged ‘Riding with your Instinct!’ as ‘sometimes you have to just go with what you feel’

Andrew was clear, calm and explained everything in an easy manner, he promoted the harmony within the horses and riders and everybody took much from the day, and thoroughly enjoyed the sessions.

The only complaint of the day was ‘Please turn the Air Conditioning on! This must be the warmest indoor arena I’ve been in!! I can assure you its lovely in winter!

From all that attended, Thank you Andrew for a fantastic day!

Report by Kirsten Owen BHSI

Report from the F&I Irish Day

How lucky were we to wake up to a glorious sunny morning in Co Kildare, for our Irish F and I day.

On arrival to Jessica Harringtons yard at 10 o’clock , we found that we had only missed one lot as they do not start till 8 as many of the staff have yards of their own. Our first vision was the infamous Sizing John, Gold Cup winner in 2017. Sizing John was just on road work due to being in rehab after an injury, which included trotting for up to 4 miles every day. Jessica and her daughters,

Emma and Kate are firm believers that roadwork is an important part of strengthening the horses after an injury.

We then watched over 25 two year olds trotting in a sand arena with their work riders, made up of some permanent staff and others freelance, which was fairly exciting!

Jessica watched them on each rein in trot,  before giving individual instructions to each rider for that day. We then walked to one of the gallops to watch them work in pairs or individually, and we were impressed at the speed that even the two year olds travel.

She has around 140 horses with capacity for 170, both jump and flat and they are in every corner of the farm. This included some areas offering 24 hour turnout, for horses with respiratory or stress issues.  The colts are all stabled in a new block with plenty of fresh air and a new type of lights called equi-lume, which keep them calmer and more relaxed as they cannot be turned out.

Interestingly, all the horses are only fed with locally grown hay which gets tested for aspergillus, ( a fungus which grows in damp conditions)  they have four feeds a day, which includes racehorse cubes, mix and fibre based nuts, which are fed last to keep food in their gut for longer.

They are weighed every Monday morning and all horses are tested for viruses before setting foot in the yard. The manure is taken away by local farmers for bedding for their cows, and rain water is collected and used to wash off the horses.. There are three horse walkers and an indoor school which has new perspex doors to make it lighter and so you can see in without disturbing the horses.

Each rider has their own saddle to use on their allotted rides for the day, with a towel under a padded numnah for ease of washing and hygiene . Jessica keeps the same combination of horse and rider together as much as possible. 

It was an extremely friendly, efficient, family run yard with a relaxed atmosphere which showed in the horses demeanour, we all loved our morning, what a treat!!!!

In the afternoon we  ‘raced’  to the Irish National Stud to have a very informative tour from David.  We saw how their stallions had huge paddocks each in which they were turned out in every day,  the mares and foals looked very relaxed in their fields and the retired legends , Rite of Passage, Beef or Salmon, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King and the amazing Hurricane Fly are apparently the main attraction.

There are seven stallions standing there, with fees ranging from €1000 to €120,000, they naturally cover at least 100 mares each, and some of them then fly to Australia for the season.

Interestingly, Colonel William Hall Walker , who founded the stud in 1900 was influenced by Astrology which determined which foals he kept and trained. 

He also installed a Japanese garden of Eternity, and the now Irish government owned stud continues to progress and develop and we look forward to viewing the new interactive museum which opens in 2020.

Many thanks to Faith Ponsonby for organising a great F and I day and we are already looking forward to next years trip!!!

Report by Annette Christey

F&I report – Visit to West Kington Stud 13th June 2019

A fascinating and informative day

It was a drizzly day to begin with, but as we started in the barn where the stocks are, we all kept dry. There was a maximum number of ten people which made sense when I realised how we were going to read scans to determine various different stages of pregnancy, also check for twins and the later scan to check for a heartbeat – we had a fabulous selection of mares that were being checked by the Veterinarian Lucy Collins who specialises in stud work and works for B and W Equine Vet Practise.

Lucy made the session very interactive and made sure we could all read the scans and that we thoroughly understood what we were reading, with the options we could use to maintain the pregnancy or correct the reason why the mare was not in foal.

The white board had a list of 14 mares to be scanned that day, 12 the following day and similar numbers over the weekend and daily throughout the following week, at this time of year Lucy said she would spend several hours daily scanning at West Kington, as she scanned each mare she made notes in her book and then moved the mare’s name on the white board to the next time she needed to be looked at. This process is very staff heavy as it needed two people if there was a mare and foal and then the next mare (and foal) would be ready and waiting.

Lucy explained the advantage of using fresh or chilled semen over frozen semen and the difficulties they have with trying to get some tricky mares in foal with frozen semen and negotiating with owners who have set they heart on a certain stallion that only has frozen semen available. We were shown how to look for a dominant follicle and how measuring them will tell you how old they are and that if they were small for their age they were likely to be lost prior to the next scan.

We saw maiden mares, barren mares and several mares with foals at foot which all stood beautifully beside their mothers, it was lovely to see such young foals so close and be able to scrutinise their conformation – Lucy also discussed checking the foals for issues in the legs and feet and when different growth plates close, so how early this needed to be done and how to trim and shoe the foals to correct any problems.

Next Tessa Clarke showed us all around the stud and we saw mares and foals of varying ages in large barn-type stables followed by Tessa and Harry Thirlby introducing us to the eight stallions they have standing at West Kington at the moment:

Cevin Z – undeniably Tessa’s favourite!
Chilli Morning
Billy Congo
Greenlands Jester
Le Grand

And Jane Holderness Roddam’s three stallions:

Welton Double Cracker
Windsor Heights
Jamhoori – her new Thoroughbred stallion.

After that Harry used Cevin Z to show us how to collect fresh semen, use a nuclear counter to measure the sperm which told us there were 18.6 million sperm in that one collection which would be able to be used for up to eighteen individual mares, Tessa then showed us how she would centrifuge the sperm sample to improve the quality of the sample by reducing the plasma and check the quality of the sample under a microscope.

We finished off our visit by going out to the field to look at several mares and foals by different stallions which was lovely to see foals of various ages all settled and happy together, questions were encouraged and there were plenty, it was an excellent opportunity for everyone.

We then all went out to lunch where Lucy Collins (Vet) and Nick Gauntlett joined us and we had an informal discussion afterwards.

Enormous thanks go to Jane Holderness-Roddam for allowing us to visit her lovely premises, Debbie Follet for organising the visit, and Tessa Clarke, Lucy Collins and Harry Thirlby for making the day so interactive and interesting – it was a superb day.

Report by Sarah MacDonald FBHS

Report from Bramham Horse Trials – F&I Course Walk with course designer Ian Stark, June 2019

A small but high quality group of F&I members and guests gathered at Bramham. We headed up to fence 1 to meet Bramham course designer Ian Stark FBHS. 2019 marks Ian’s tenth year as course designer – when asked whether he was on a fixed term Ian revealed that when the compulsory retirement age for course designers was recently raised to 72, Bramham’s reply was ‘that’s great, we have you for another 7 years!’. 
Ian’s course featured a number of his trademark whopping great ditches, with riders making it only to fence 6 before being faced with a combination of trakehner, corner, corner and then a skinny brush with an open ditch in front. We were reassured that the corners were not 90 degrees; ‘more like 80’ – we remained unconvinced how much difference this would make!

The course remains very familiar from previous years but with fresh elements challenging riders in a number of ways. Ian talked us through his new rail, ditch, rail fence (very definitely still a coffin in Ian’s world), which came up following a long galloping stretch. Ian spoke of how riders would need to understand the canter required for this sort of fence and be able to produce it to make this work. A time-consuming alternative was available – which Andrew Nicholson had told Ian he was very definitely planning to take. It was remembered that Andrew had jokingly used this tactic at Badminton telling many riders he planned to use the long routes in the hope they would choose it themselves! Ian spoke about how he uses this type of fence across the levels with varying difficulty and how the experienced riders plead him to continue to include them at the lower levels to help educate their horses. 

Around the course we discussed various current eventing topics. The use of safety devices was discussed – they have obvious advantages, but Ian is keen to ensure that the penalty for activating them remains (with the obvious ground jury review). Some national federations do not impose a penalty and it sometimes appears that some riders take bigger risks when they know this is the case. The controversial flag rule was discussed – alongside the fact that rules cannot be changed mid-year! Ian also talked about the challenges of hosting a course on a site also used for the iconic Leeds Festival. Each year all fences have to be completely removed to avoid damage (or the risk of ‘happy’ festival-goers injuring themselves) and a £1million contract is in place for clean up after the festival in August before work can start on the ground for the following June. We also made a well-timed pitstop at the BHS ‘On The Move’ lorry for a hot drink just after the half way mark!
A light lunch gave time for a pleasant debate on qualifications and discussion on the forthcoming members meeting – alongside a lot of crisps! 

Lisa Morris very kindly provided notes in the form of her report from last year to support the discussion group for the Young Horse Classes as Nicola Baguley was sadly unable to join us due to commitments at home. As the BHS stand was rather busy (17 new members signed up on the Friday alone) I remained there to help so cannot further report. I understand the afternoon was interesting, but rather wet! 

A very enjoyable and educational day! I just wish I had been able to see some of the xc competition on the Saturday. Can anyone enlighten me about whether AN took the long route at the coffin?

Report by Ruth Baxter