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31
MAY
Alex Bragg's latest Blog

You may have noticed but my Badminton trip with Zagreb didn’t go entirely according to plan.

We went hoping to obviously be competitive – but one of the dressage judges wasn’t keen that morning, perhaps they were looking forward to lunch or hadn’t had enough coffee! Anyway it didn’t work out for us well enough on the scoring – especially in light of Oli Townend’s record score of 19.7 on Cilnabradden Evo aka Gary. Our test of 31.7 left us very little room for error, to be in with any chance. It also didn’t help that there was quite a cold wind on Saturday as Zagreb can be quite a sensitive soul and doesn’t respond well to the cold during winter training, which is why we took the decision to withdraw him from the running. As I wrote last month in my blog, when a horse gets to the stage in his career that Zagreb is at (he’s 15), he doesn’t have loads of runs left, so you have to ensure that each one counts.

As he didn’t get to run at Badminton (you usually would give a horse 6-7 weeks off after a 5* run), we were able to aim him at Tattersall’s in Ireland, and then will be pitching him at Luhmuhlen after that.

Following Badminton we headed to the ERM at Chatsworth Horse Trials in Derbyshire. We were galloping around pretty much nailing the course, and in contention, then at the last but one fence from home, I took quite a tight line, and Zagreb tried to run over the fence rather than jump it; he did an aeroplane-style nosedive and it meant quite a heavy fall for me. A couple of physio sessions later, and I was as good as new – that’s the good thing about my earlier days of rugby training, it toughened me up. But it was frustrating to miss out on a potential podium place.

It did make me take stock, and watch footage back of my round and accordingly my fall. It was a salutary lesson. I never realised how fast I ride through combinations, and watching others trying to judge how fast it will take to get back from the last ditch to brush, it was estimated to be about 30 seconds to get home. Well I got there in 29 seconds. Just with my natural riding style, I tend to go faster than I think and faster than others. Thus a valuable lesson learned. Now I know when I’m on the latter part of the course, I don’t need to panic about time, and I can just trust my own ability to get us round without taking unnecessary corner cutting risks.

To coin a popular phrase of the moment, ‘every day is a school day’, with this lesson under my belt, I continue to develop, improve, and obviously I’m also trying to win. With the amount of cross-country rounds I ride, I’m bound to come off occasionally!

An exciting prospect for this season is King of the Mill, a 9-year-old, now in his third season with us. He got the fastest round of the day at Chatsworth. Unsurprisingly, this horse is built for galloping and is exceptionally fast. So am I naturally a fast rider. King of the Mill, began his career with us quite sharp and spooky, and a little hesitant. He’s now stepped up to Advanced level and has really taken it on and grasped the challenge. He’s a big scopey horse, and I think at the lower levels he didn’t have enough to focus on. Now he’s really concentrating on the job in hand. He needs more experience of championship level shows, with the dressage and show jumping elements having people much closer to the arena, but I think he’s ready for the challenge. He’s another horse competing at Tattersall’s so we’ll see how we get on.

The thing with eventing is when you try and take a risk cross-country if it comes off you’re a hero, if it doesn’t you can expect the criticism to come thick and fast. You’re treading a fine line regarding getting it right.

It’s funny; after I’d hit the deck at Chatsworth I took Zagreb XC schooling, needing to practise turns and learn from my mistakes. Anyway, he was not deterred one bit; in fact I had to calm him down. He’s such a stalwart, such a warrior, and such a dude. (Where’s the emoji for loveheart eyes?) I do love this horse.

Those of you who follow the fortunes of Team Bragg on social media might have seen the success of our oldest daughter, Ellouise at Howick recently. She led from the start with a dressage score of 21.5, and with a fantastic double clear she finished on her dressage score for an amazing win. We’re so proud of her performance, and for her total commitment to the sport and her horses. At her first ever event, she lost due to time penalties for being too slow on the XC; at the second one, she lost due to being too quick, and now she’s got the desired result. She’s totally immersed in the Team Bragg ethos – as long as the horse is enjoying it then she can too.

For instance around this event, in the lead-up she jumped the horse in the week, but then in the paddock it pulled a shoe off, and was a little footsore, so on the Friday she got up at 5.45am to get the horse ready, trotted it up to see if it was sound or not. It was fine, so she got on, had her jump lesson, and had the horse back in its paddock, and herself back at home by 7am, in time to get ready for school. It’s that dedication that makes us so proud as parents.

With three lively girls, a yard full of horses, jump lessons all day, owners to speak to, sometimes you realise the finely tuned plate-spinning act that’s going on; Simmone can be running around constantly organising horses, children, or the supermarket shop, and I might have Sienna tugging at my arm when I’m talking to an owner telling me we have ten minutes to get to the school for her PTA meeting. But we manage to – seemingly - pull it off.

The season races on with Tattersall’s, Wiesbaden ERM, Luhmuhlen 5*, and Arville ERM so we have some European touring to do! In between we’ll be taking a new wave of youngsters to Pontispool with their superb facilities, with something of everything required at this great venue. And when we’re not doing that, I might be on my new exercise bike at home, building other muscles to help with my fitness regime.

29
APR
Alex Bragg's Latest Blog

THE SEASON IS WELL UNDER WAY AND NOW ALL EYES ARE ON BADMINTON – LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!

Everyone in the team is happy at home, the weather has become more settled, and it’s great to be getting my teeth into the season. We’re already delighted to be notching up some good results with horses at all levels. We’ve just had a busy few days competing twelve horses at Bicton International Horse Trials, and a pretty successful trip it was too.

All of the horses put in great performances, and the ones we decided to ride competitively for the time XC all came home with super prizes.
Day One we took home a 2nd in the Advanced-Intermediate class with Alcatraz, finishing on his super dressage score of 29.
Zagreb was having his final run before Badminton and had a very steady XC but a double clear, and great dressage still earned him a lower rosette.
Bonmahon Blue Mist had a much-improved outing and performed a great test for a score of 27. Just one pole added in the SJ resulted in a solid 4th place in the Intermediate class.
Hester produced a brilliant dressage of 25, much improved from my first attempt with her. We’ve only been together a couple of months but I feel we are beginning to build a partnership, and the trust is growing. Watch out for this one by late summer, there are magic things to come from this horse.
On Saturday, Shannondale Aristo put all three phases together well and finished on his leading dressage score of 26 for a classy win.
Kilcannon Dude was solid in the dressage and SJ and we gave him a very steady XC round for experience. This 5-year-old has settled to his job fabulously.
Sunday was flat out with three Novice runs and the completion of the International 2* and 3*.
6yr old, Shannondale Mari contested her first 2*; she has only done two Novices but she took it all in her stride and produced solid performances in all three phases looking classy throughout. In a huge field, she finished on her dressage score for a fab top 10 place. (Could Le Lion D’angers be calling later in the year? ;) )
Our fantastic mare, Quindiva, who is now owned by the Roe family just keeps impressing. In he first 3* she held her own amongst a very large and competitive field. She allowed me to ride her in her dressage as if I was at home and produced a relaxed and consistent test for a great score. Her jumping never lets you down and I would be hard pushed to see a better display in both the SJ and XC. She was totally awesome and was rewarded with a top 10 finish.
The Novice boys all enjoyed a good outing. Ginger Gold led the dressage, but a couple of poles show jumping pushed him just outside the rosettes. Ardeo Premier was full of beans; although he was a little distracted at times he is feeling stronger and more connected. We saved his legs and didn’t run him XC as he goes to Withington next weekend. His lovely owners, Debbie and Neil Nuttall aren’t putting any pressure on me to have him peak too soon, and there is plenty of time for him to shine.
The weekend was closed with another solid performance from Newmarket Cobbler, a double clear and good dressage earned us a 4th place. Another top 5 finish for this guy.

I feel the recent disappointing decision by British Eventing (BE) to remove the International status from Bicton’s event is a really bad one. It’s demonstrated that the South West is being totally overlooked by BE. Bicton is far superior to many other venues on the BE circuit. Both Bicton and Pontispool are exceptional venues. They each have a wonderful undulation to their courses, the surfaces are great for the show jumping, and the dressage areas are good and flat. At Bicton, Helen West and her team are extremely enthusiastic, and the army of volunteers that they are able to draw upon to help at their events ensure they always run incredibly smoothly. It helps that Helen, as a course builder and event organiser, is such a current rider, who looks at the whole business from start to finish through a rider’s eyes. It’s a real shame that BE have made this unfortunate decision at the start of the season. Let’s hope that they will take advice from the Event Riders Association (ERA) and perhaps change their minds.

Moving on, obviously I hope the horses all maintain their current form and learn from each competitive experience they have. There needs to be a good understanding from everyone in Team Bragg of the results in the ‘story arc’ for each horse’s career. I prefer to be kind to all of my horses and give them good experiences each time so that they keep on enjoying it. My ethos is ‘focus on the performance and the results will follow’, that way we always have at the forefront of our minds the horse and their wellbeing. There’s a reciprocated general decency and respect if you offer up that mind-set to the horses.

If I am who I am, and remain true to my ethos, then I firmly believe the right thing will happen at the right time.

And when good things happen I’d rather do them with a good team, so you can celebrate the wins together. The team who prepared and cared for all of the horses over the weekend (and week in, week out) deserve huge thanks; it was a very hot few days and they all worked amazingly. It was great fun to enjoy a drink with the owners at the end of each day too. As I like to say, teamwork makes the dream work, and Team Bragg rocks!

Badminton is now in sight, and I’m really excited about it. We had to pull Barrichello as he has unfortunately tweaked a little ligament behind his knee, which means he’s ‘off games’ for a recuperation period.

I know it might sound odd, but coming to Badminton with just one horse to focus on can be a bit like a fun ‘holiday’! Zagreb has been drawn number 65, so it’ll be quite a relaxed start to the event before ‘show time’. It’s been quite difficult preparing him out of the winter, especially with the spells of cold weather, but hopefully we’ve got it right and he’ll get there in super condition. If conditions are not absolutely perfect for his run we will have to make the right decision for him on the day. Fingers crossed the fine weather continues. He’s fifteen now, so for every big run – as he won’t have millions of runs left in him – we need to make sure they all count. There is no pressure from the owners; they just want what is best for him.

Since the season started the horses have settled in and are being consistent in their work. They’re all out in the fields, which temperament-wise makes them easier to manage. The freedom in the fields relaxes them. It’s good for their feet, their bodies, their respiration, and their wellbeing. We have them all in separate but adjoining paddocks, which is nice so that they can feel like a herd, without any potential for injuring each other with too much horseplay. We’re so lucky with our set-up at home; it’s grown organically since we moved here with a natural progression of what goes where.

Looking forward to whatever will be. Give me a ‘whoop’ if you see me on the course (maybe not in the dressage phase!). And don’t forget a whoop for the horse that Eventing Nation recently amusingly referred to as a ‘hunk’ (Simmone thinks he is too!)

And keep an eye out for Ces and Lucy’s Pontispool-owned, ‘Ginge’ (pictured), who has now progressed to Novice, and continues to do good things. As always, I want to give massive thanks to them for allowing the use of their facilities throughout the season to get my horses in tip-top shape.

22
FEB
Alex Bragg's Latest Blog

This year so far is already very good and very busy. With the event season just around the corner we have lots of horses on the yard, all in their various phases of fitness, getting ready for what lies ahead.

We had a great finish to the season last year, followed by a much-needed break in Mexico with the family. All horses that had a rest in September were back in work by the time we got home. We’ve not actually stopped all winter, pretty much like most eventing yards these days. The plan initially was to get ahead with the dressage.

But then Devoucoux – one of our sponsors - invited me to represent them at their Indoor XC Derby in Paris. It was my first ever experience of it. And Alcatraz and I only went and won it! We were the first ever Devoucoux representative rider to win it, so the Devoucoux team were chuffed to bits. I’m not going to deny, the ‘look at me’ gene took over that night, and Alcatraz and I worked the audience into an arena-rocking, high-fiving frenzy. The crowds loved it, and the rock star in Alcatraz shone - he has the temperament and ability absolutely suited to this type of event. We both thrived on the atmosphere and enjoyed the stardom equally! Then a day or two after we got home from the competition a guy in Geneva called me up and said ‘Heyyyy, Mr Showman!!’ I replied, ‘Erm, who is this??’ A chap called Michael saw our performance in Paris, and asked me if we would like to come to Geneva; so we went to the CHI Geneva show and very nearly won that too!

Now is the time of year where we sit down to formulate our plans and schedules. We put in lots of time and effort to clearly set out what we want to do as well as what each horse ‘needs’ to achieve in its immediate career path. As you might imagine, it takes a heck of a lot of organising when you have a yard with twenty competition horses in regular work. Schedules for staff and travel have to be like clockwork. We have three lorries – supported by the Equitrek fleet, which is an enormous help - going in different directions all the time, whether for training or competition. The timing and management from the team has to be spot on, then all I have to do is turn up and do my job right. For instance we went show jumping at Hartpury a couple of weeks ago. We took 16 horses, which meant we jumped 30 showjumping rounds across two days. As you might imagine, it’s important to ensure each horse is tacked up and ready to go at the right time! It’s a huge team effort.

Our team on the yard is working amazingly hard and pulling together really well. We’ve recently put a lot of time and effort into building and strengthening the teamwork with all of them by doing some management training exercises. Talking about things running like clockwork above, we try to help them realise that each of them are important cogs in the machine. If one cog stops working, or there’s a jam in the system, the whole thing stops working. It’s vitally important that every cog knows its role and importance within the team to keep the yard successful. It helps to keep the focus. We wanted to make sure all the guys realise that the grooms that stay at home, prepping the horses to be spot on for when I return to ride, are every bit as important as those grooms that go away to events. I never say it lightly when I say ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’

Right now they’re prepping EVERYTHING for the start of the season, so there’s an enormous amount of hard work being done on every level. Goals are set for different horses at different times of the season, meaning horses’ performances are peaked at intervals. This spreads the intensity of training out a little which relieves some pressure. At this time of the year it’s like a tsunami of preparation attempting to get everything ready for the first events in March.

We have 20 horses, with 4 full-time staff, 4 part-time staff, one work rider – plus Simmone and me, (and our three daughters when they’re not at school and not doing their own ponies). When we get a good result at a show, it’s a good result for all of us, and each person deserves some of the credit.

The quality of horses in the yard is incredibly high. Our owners are exceptionally driven and supportive. The yard team is very good and gelling together nicely. We pay well to ensure we get good staff, and have good camaraderie, which creates a nice atmosphere – so we seem to have struck a happy balance. Obviously, we have to ensure that everything that happens within the yard has to be the best at every level – whether that’s sweeping the yard, horse management, training, or performing. Success starts from the bottom up; you need a strong foundation then work your way up.

As mentioned, at this time of year we’re planning every step of what’s to come, using a combination of diaries, white boards and planners. We have a spreadsheet with all the events down the left hand side, and horses across the top (and because there are so many horses, events are on the right hand side too, so you can see at a glance!) We prioritise the 5* horses, then 4*, then 3*, looking firstly at Internationals, then Young Horse competitions, then Nationals, then age (such as 5-year-old) classes.

You can’t do more than 5 x XC rounds in a day, so that helps you to work out each horse’s programme. Then an extra horse might get added, so you have to shuffle them around a bit. Then you have to factor in the weather etc., so all your plans are provisional. Then I have to fit in my diary – including meetings with sponsors, owners, press, etc. and training days, clinics and so on. Communication is key, and it’s important to keep everyone updated and ‘in the loop’.

Then there are the yard diaries which lists what each horse does each day; also if we need the girls to do anything with the lorries (such as maintenance, servicing or restocking etc.)

We also have the white boards in the tack room – covering the next 10-14 days. This will tell them when ‘Alex is on the yard’, ‘Dressage training’, ‘Showjumping training’, ‘Gallops’, etc. Which means if I’m on the yard, they’ll know that between 8am and 3pm it will be mayhem and I’ll be riding all day. If I’m not at the yard, I’ll probably be away with 5 horses and it’ll be their responsibility to pack the lorry the night before etc.

In the main diary, it will detail (for example) which horses will be jumping that day, which ones will hack, which ones will lunge. It will also show which owners may be visiting and if any lessons will be given. If owners are coming then their horses may need to be specially prepped for a specific time.

White boards also list feeds; others will list tack, with jumping tack and flatwork tack. Then things will change on the tack boards as horses change shape over the season.

There are lots of reference grids on the white boards. The staff need to manage these boards carefully. Communication is vital. If I say something regarding a particular horse’s programme, or a trainer suggests changing a piece of tack in a session, they then have to transfer this alteration on the board so that everyone else becomes aware of it for future reference. Everything needs to be documented as it saves time and doesn’t impede progress with that horse. Simmone and I lead the way with this communication and the head grooms help. Whoever is on the yard that day has ownership and is responsible for passing that info on.

There cannot be a flaw in the system. We insist that everyone is on top of their game, to be in control of all their tasks and responsibilities. With such a high-pressured environment, it’s essential to have a good sense of humour. It’s better to impart some wisdom with a smile, rather than sounding like a nag. If ten things went wrong for one person on one day, it means there are ten things that person has learnt and hopefully won’t get wrong again. We try and encourage everyone to take a constructive and positive spin on things if possible.

As if life wasn’t hectic enough, we recently organised a fundraising Charity Ball – raising £14,600 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, thanks to the massive generosity of an awful lot of people on the night. Big thanks to Simmone and Kelly Roe who worked tirelessly alongside me to organise it and did an amazing job running all of the ticket sales. It ran really well, and we’re over the moon with the result. This definitely looks like becoming a regular fixture in January/February time. Simmone and I literally flew in from Bordeaux, after just three hours sleep on Saturday morning following the arena eventing – we were pretty much running on fumes! - and by Saturday evening we were in full flow at the ball. Rookey Manor made for a fantastic venue and they were super hosts. Everyone was on point and in top form.

We feel that Team Bragg is flying high at the moment, we have the right horses, the right staff and all I need to do is put in the right performances. We have the Europeans to aim for this year, and then of course we have the Olympics in 2020. We’ll be looking at world domination further down the track!

13
FEB
IMPORTANT UPDATE - FLU VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS

***IMPORTANT UPDATE*** 18:45 13 Feb 2019

Following discussions with British Eventing this afternoon, we have made the decision to extend the vaccination period to 12 months in line with their current protocol. Therefore, horses that have been vaccinated in the last 12 months and with vaccinations which are up to date are permitted at Pontispool Equine Sports Centre.


11
FEB
WE ARE OPEN FOR SCHOOLING

We have taken veterinary advice and the following guidelines must be adhered to:

All horses entering the premises must have had completed their primary flu vaccine course or have had a booster within the last 6 months.Please ensure you bring your passport with you as we will implement random passport checks.

Please adhere to the guidelines about the current flu situation and biosecurity measures which can be found on the Animal Health Trust website www.aht.org.uk

By Wednesday, we will have a clearer idea on the situation with the equine flu outbreak. At this point we will make a decision regarding this weekend’s Unaffiliated Eventer Challenge and Area 12 RC FOTH.

All being well, we plan to re-schedule the NSEA Eventer Challenge for Saturday 16th Feb.

7
FEB
BEF advises horse owners after equine flu outbreak

BEF advises horse owners after equine flu outbreak

Following British Horseracing’s decision to cancel all racing today (7 February) the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is closely monitoring the situation. Veterinary experts have advised that it is not necessary to cancel other equine events at this time, but we will issue a further update once the full extent of the outbreak is known.

In the meantime, we recommend that all owners follow the guidelines below as a precaution and ensure that all vaccinations are fully up to date. If your horse is currently vaccinated, we recommend a booster if it has been longer than six months since your horse’s last vaccination.

Actions for owners to take:

  • ·It’s crucial for all horse and pony owners to be vigilant and follow recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease.
  • ·Look out for signs of disease which can include high temperature, cough, snotty nose, enlarged glands (under the lower jaw), swollen or sore eyes, depression, loss of appetite and swelling in the lower legs.
  • ·If you see any of these signs, isolate the horse and call your vet immediately.
  • ·It’s essential that any horses showing signs of possible equine flu, or horses that might have been in contact with possibly infected horses, do not travel to competitions or other events where there will be groups of horses. If your horse has been in contact with an infected horse we suggest that you should take veterinary advice.
  • ·We advise that horses are vaccinated with a booster for equine flu with a vaccine that contains the Florida Clade 1. There are two such vaccines currently licensed in the UK, ProteqFlu and Equilis Prequenza. If your horse is currently vaccinated, but it has been longer than six months since the last vaccination, we recommend that you discuss a booster with your veterinary surgeon.

The BEF also has guidance on its website regarding equine infectious diseases and is urging owners to take the necessary precautions to avoid their horses becoming infected.

Further information

Follow @equiflunet

www.equiflunet.org.uk

www.bef.co.uk/Detail.aspx?page=Horse-Health-Biosecurity

5
DEC
NAF Kindly Supporting our Eventer Challenges

We are very pleased to announce that NAF are kindly supporting our Eventer Challenges on 27th January and 16th February as well as the NSEA Show Jumping on 24th March 2019. They will be providing prizes for all classes.

NAF are passionate about both horses and the products they manufacture to keep them healthy, happy and performing at their very best. They offer an extensive range of products; from joints, breathing, hooves, digestion and calming supplements, to silky mane & tail detanglers, super shampoos and luxury leather care.

Please visit their website www.naf-uk.com/uk for information on their products or contact the helpline on 0800 373 106.

22
NOV
4 Free Places to be won on Alex Bragg's Clinic

***We have 4 free places to be won on Alex Bragg’s Arena XC clinic at Pontispool on December 16***

This has been very generously donated by one of Alex’s owner’s Sarah Hughes.

Sarah has several successful event horses in training with Alex, earning great results this season at Millstreet, Blenheim and Boekelo to name a few, and has Barrichello aimed at Badminton next spring. Expressing her huge support of the sport she would like 4 lucky and enthusiastic riders to receive a free sponsored place in the clinic courtesy of herself -worth £70 each for a shared 1hr 20 minute session.

For your chance to train with Alex Bragg simply follow these 5 simple steps:

1. Book and pay for your place online from our website

2. Like the post on our Facebook page

3. Share the Facebook post

4. Comment why you’d benefit from training with Alex Bragg

5. Make sure you like our Facebook page

Ends December 7.

We will draw 4 lucky winners on December 10 when we will also notify you if you’ve won. We will then refund your payment in full.

Good luck!

1
NOV
Alex Bragg's Latest Blog

Wow, what an amazing few months! At the beginning of the year I could only have dreamed to be ranked 21st in the world and 11th in Britain by the end of the season, with Mrs Sally B. Ellicott’s Zagreb ranked 20th in Britain. I’m totally blown away by it all.

It’s been an incredibly busy and rewarding season, and due to its non-stop nature it’s quite nice to come to the end of it so we can have some family time and a long chill out. We’ve got a holiday booked, because we realised when we were in France, that family time was long overdue and necessary after we’d completed Boekelo.

We had a wonderful week there in the Netherlands and with just one horse to focus on it was a mellower week than the usual ones spent on the circuit. Shannondale Percy is a relative youngster at eight-years-old and fortunately our fairly new partnership has gelled really well this year. Being on a team adds an extra dimension and possibly a bit more pressure. You’re all truly in it together and digging in to get your best results. You obviously need to focus on your own performance as an individual but you also want your score to be counted in the team, so you’re absolutely giving it your best.

Being part of the Nations Cup team that sealed a series victory was pretty spectacular. Ending the season with Team GBR as 2018 champions called for a lot of celebrations, followed by some late night lorry driving, and especially some singing. Well there is a new Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic out…

At this level, you have to keep your eye on the prize, and the Olympics are something that every event rider strives towards. We have a lot of great horses in our yard that should all be hitting the prime of their careers for Tokyo. Young, vibrant, championship teams are a huge goal of ours. And they need to be! If we weren’t focusing on that there’d be something wrong. We’ll be pushing hard in the spring to catch the eye of the selectors for the Europeans next year. Don’t get me wrong, everyone realises the Olympics are a tough gig to get into, especially now there are only three riders picked for the team, with the fourth as a substitute member under the new Olympic regulations, so there’s additional pressure. But that’s what we have to focus on and prepare for. The quality of combinations in GB made it a tough decision for the selectors to pick five riders for WEG and now they can only take three for the Olympics. Whilst other championships are hugely relevant they don’t have the same impact on funding for our sport. To do well at the Olympics is vital. We have a huge amount of training and support depending on it and it would be a tragedy to lose that.

We’re ending the season on a massive high; it’s been absolutely great, with our new horses having proven themselves especially well since first coming onto the yard. The second half has been much stronger, mainly due to having had six months to get used to them. We’ll keep the momentum going with lots of training through the winter, and aim to come out with ‘all guns blazing’ in the spring.

By next summer we should have seven or eight horses at 3* level. I’m very proud to look along the stables at the quality of horsepower we have and it’ll be a wonderful team to play with next year. We’re off to look at some new horses through the winter to hopefully join our ranks. It’s vital to always be on the look out for the next superstars. The championships run on a 4-year cycle so each horse may only get one of these cycles in its prime to compete, and as it takes so long to produce horses to this level you need to keep the process of horses coming through the ranks continuously.

We’re very close to all our owners and try and spend a lot of time with them. When you finish cross-country your first concern is with the horse, cooling them down, washing them off, and usually the owners are with the team on the spot. But if they can’t be there either because they’re based abroad or due to work commitments, then it’s crucial to be in touch with them on the phone as soon as possible after you’ve finished to give them an update on how their horses have gone. We’re constantly trying to improve on how best to communicate with owners if they can’t be there, through time management, planning, whatever it takes. We value our owners and we want them to feel cherished.

We definitely finished the season better than we started. It’s been totally relentless – as well as a lot of fun. When you go to an event, there are so many commitments with horses, owners, sponsors, press, organisers and so forth. Now, even in winter there are the same sorts of demands.

We all do the sport for the love of the horses and competition but it’s important to realise that the business side is crucial. Without support and money the job wouldn’t remain sustainable; you can’t win medals on baked beans.

Happily the feedback that we get from our owners and future owners is that they want to join us because of the overall package. Everyone here is smiling and happy, and to us that is massively important. Having everyone on board sharing in the journey and experiencing it together makes it much more enjoyable. We’re always looking to the future and taking the positives from every situation is as important as highlighting the negatives. That is the ethos we want to express.

We spend so much time on the yard it’s literally in our blood. Sometimes things happen that will rock our world and there are bound to be occasional off-days. The children are a great distraction at times like that, and when all else fails – red wine helps!

I don’t consider this a job; it’s a lifestyle – one that I wouldn’t swap for anything.

29
OCT
WINTER COURSE CLOSURE

The main XC course on grass closes for schooling on Sunday 4th November for the winter months.

Our Arena XC will be open for schooling from Monday 5th November (fences from 80 cm upwards) and can be booked online from the website.

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