2010 competition schedule (v2)

So it’s changed already.

The first change is I had to drop going to Allenshill this Sunday because the weather is against us; I can’t even get the lorry out of the yard.

There are a few other changes but they’re just ‘tweaking’ the schedule. I’ve put Larkhill back on the list and dropped the pony club one day event.

The Wolverhampton gig will get dropped if Tom shows any sign of tiredness, I’m going to have to monitor his condition very carefully especially as the entry date for Wolverhampton will be somewhere around 1st June which is a couple of days before A-u-W (2).

These are the intricacies of planning an Eventing competition schedule!

Date Event Class Entries
22-Jan Eventer Challenge, Allenshill BE90, Test 92 08-Jan
28-Jan Ascott-under-Wychwood XC Clinic 20-Jan
30-Jan JAS Hartpury BE90 11-Jan
06-Feb The Old Kennels Show Jumping 11-Jan
07-Feb JAS Solihull (2) BE90 11-Jan
20-Feb Ascott-under-Wychwood XC Clinic 11-Jan
21-Feb Swalcliffe Park XC schooling 21-Feb
20-Mar Swalcliffe Park BE90 12-Feb
10-Apr Larkhill BE90 26-Feb
02-May Broadway 1 BE90 29-Mar
21-May Mattingley BE90 16-Apr
05-Jun Ascott-under-Wychwood 1 BE100 30-Apr
26-Jun Wolverhampton BE100 21-May
17-Jul Ascott-under-Wychwood 2 BE100 11-Jun
12-Aug Aston-le-Walls 3 BE100 08-Jul
04-Sep Goring Heath 2 BE100 30-Jul
28-Sep BCA N 23-Aug
16-Oct Broadway 2 N 10-Sep

Looking forward to it!

The 2010 Eventing Season is really close – given that the Entry date for competitions are so far in advance of each actual One Day Event.

And because I’m anal about planning things, I’ve designed a draft schedule which gives us three ‘training’ competitions before the season starts, and then leads in to the season ‘proper’.

In addition to these calendar instances, I’ll have regular help from Owen, and will also go out to school at other venues.

I’ve also mucked around with an incremental scale of increasing difficulty, but we’ll see how things go!

Wanna see?

ID Month Date Event Class Entries
T January 10 Eventer Training, Allenshill BE90, Test 92 27-Dec
T January 30 JAS Hartpury BE90 11-Jan
T February 6 The Old Kennels Show Jumping
T February 14 Eventer Training, Allenshill BE90, Test 91
T February 20 Ascott-under-Wychwood XC Clinic
1 March 20-21 Swalcliffe Park BE90 12-Feb
2 April 10-11 Larkhill BE90 26-Feb
2 April 10-11 Grafton PC ODE (A-u-W)
3 May 9-10 Broadway 1 BE90 02-Apr
4 May 21-23 Mattingley BE90 16-Apr
5 June 5-6 Ascott-under-Wychwood (1) BE100 30-Apr
6 June 26-27 Wolverhampton BE100
7 July 14-15 Upton House BE100
7 July 17-18 Ascott-under-Wychwood (2)
8 August 12-14 Aston-le-Walls BE100
9 September 4-5 Goring Heath 2 BE100
10 September 28-29 BCA N
11 October 16-17 Broadway 2 N

Horses and courses (again)

Apologies for the overly-equine flavour of this blog lately, normal service will be resumed soon

Because you would, right?

You would pick up a horse on Monday, school it flatwork on Tuesday and Wednesday, pop it around a small course of fences on the Thursday and on Friday…

On Friday you’d take it to a Combined Training competition at a big equestrian centre, right?

Combined Training is a dressage test followed by a show-jumping round.

The class I decided Tom and I would have a go at comprised the dressage test known as Prelim 18 and a course of 10 fences set at 2’9″.

I’ll leave out the detail of the day, the bottom line is that we arrived back at the yard with two rosettes: 4th in the dressage and 5th in the show-jumping.

El fin de semana

Here we are, halfway through the weekend (because you knew what el fin de semana meant, right?) and it’s already time to sit down and take stock.

Today’s been cool, hot, interesting and a number of other descriptives.

This morning I drove in to Oxford to meet half of inLight – the Oxford-based Indie band of musical goodness.

Because I’m a little OCD about time-keeping and travel-planning I arrived an hour and a half early.

So that’s just a little OCD then.

I parked in the underground car park in Gloucester Green and made a mortgage payment on a three turret castle, this being the fee to leave my car there for three hours.

As it was lunchtime I thought I’d pass some time by having a sandwich. Cheese and Pickle. And a Latté.

The first place I tried in St Giles was a little café.

‘I’ll have a cheese and pickle sandwich please’.

‘We don’t have any pickle’, said the dull woman behind the counter, in the most unhelpful manner possible.

‘OK, I’ll just have a Latté’.

‘We don’t serve just drinks during lunchtime’.

I gave a little ironic laugh and walked out.

The second place was just a couple of doors up.

They didn’t have pickle either.

WTF is this? Is there some kind of pickle conspiracy going on? Do the good people of Oxford consider themselves too posh for the humble pickle?

Or have the good people of Oxford not yet been introduced to the wondrous properties of said pickle?

‘But we can make you,’ said the woman from the kitchen of the second shop, fetched out by the mere stripling of a boy behind the counter, in response to my quest for the Holy Pickle. ‘A cheese and caramelised [something] sandwich’.

Where [something] is a thing that I didn’t quite catch.

Anyway, it had cheese and a pickle substitute so I said yes please, took my seat and waited for my sandwich and Latté to be delivered.

The cheese and caramelised [something] sandwich was Ambrosia; food fit for the Gods. If the Gods have a taste for cheese and pickle, for that is what it tasted almost but not quite entirely like.

I sat, ate, read, drank, read some more and then left.

Still having 30 minutes to kill, I sat out on a bench and read some more, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine as I worked through American Gods – an interesting piece of fiction from the very readable Neil Gaiman.

Five minutes before the appointment I sauntered in to the pub where we’d agreed to meet, got my book out and read some more. This rock’n’roll lifestyle is just so exciting!

About fifteen minutes later Charlie and Mike strolled in; they’d been waiting outside, I’d chosen to wait inside.

Oh well.

We sat and talked, like the Walrus and the Carpenter, about many things. But not about ships and shoes and sealing wax, obv.

I hope the meeting was helpful to them, it was to me.

Then K, the American D.Phil student who occasionally rides Vin arrived – I’d arranged to meet her there.

Charlie almost drooled over her.

The four of us chatted for a while and then she and I said goodbye, we walked to the car and drove to the yard where I did much gossiping with various girls whilst K groomed, tacked up and rode.

I watched her and Vin in the arena.

Vin looks more relaxed since his visit to the physio on Monday. Max had diagnosed a tightness in Vin’s point of near shoulder which he corrected; there was nothing else that needed attention. In fact Max was very complimentary about the general state of Vin’s physical health.


It was interesting watching K ride him, he stretches easier now and is far more relaxed on the right rein.

Afterwards I drove K back to Oxford, then came home.

Being the complete pair of total culinary experts that we are, Soph and I instantly decided on a Chinese takeaway.

Woo yeah, go us!

Not long afterwards we sat, ate, watched X-Fuctup and followed that with a triple set of Angel episodes.

While we were watching Angel I managed to type up the notes of the meeting with inLight, and emailed them out to the band. I seem to have some actions against me. How did that happen?

And now it’s bed, at 23.30.

Tomorrow I’m off to watch the third and final day of Blenheim Horse Trials; I’ve blagged myself a pair of VIP tickets.

Soph is off to the Christening of a friend’s offspring and, faced with such a difficult choice, it was only after a long and fierce internal debate that I decided the Christening would have to give way to the VIP tickets for Blenheim.

As Soph will be out of the county for the day I’m taking K. It’s very exciting, the horse owned by the woman who owns the yard where Vin lives (if you see what I mean) is currently sixth after the dressage and cross-country phases.

Under those circs, to have a VIP ticket for the show-jumping is a very special opportunity.

And so that’s it.

Tomorrow I will walk the cross-country course, watch a bit of CIC *** dressage and some CIC *** cross-country, and then watch the CCI*** show-jumping.

All very exciting.

Oh yeah, and eat much bad food – that’s a given at a horse trials.

So how’s your weekend going? And what do you have planned for Sunday?

The best start to a dressage life

The URI below points at a YouTube-type clip on a German website. The clip is 57 seconds long and there’s no audio.

If you view it you’re going to see the six-year-old daughter of Ingrid Klimke (big BIG time dressage star) riding her mother’s dressage schoolmaster.


I’ll say the salient points again.

Six years old. No saddle.

And if that’s not enough…

The eagle-eyed cognoscenti will notice that the horse performs and repeats a sequence of one-time tempi changes which is very advanced, high-school dressage movement.

Just ask anyone who rides.

So that’s:
* Six years old
* Bareback
* One-time tempi changes
* Repeated


(here’s the link)

For the record, I think the schoolmaster is doing most of the pupil’s work as well as all of his own. But she’s six years old and riding tempi changes bareback FFS!


Jordan can’t ride

Look people, can we just get one thing straight? All of the stories in the media about ‘celebrity’ Jordan (aka Katie Price) aiming for a place on the British Olympic Dressage Team is, sadly, complete and utter bullshit.

If you believe it, you’re being had.

There have been stories circulating on the internet that she and her husband are putting out these stories to:

a. keep her name ‘in the news’ and

b. revive her ‘pony’ book-sales.

I don’t mean to be unkind to Jordan, I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but there’s just one significant and inescapable fact.

She can’t ride.

Oh sure, she can ‘stick on’ but her legs are shocking (why the fuck does she wear spurs when she can’t keep her feet still?!) in their inconsistency, she can barely trot, her seat is adequate but her hands are completely disastrous, she’s rigid through her back to her neck, doesn’t flex her stomach and if she spends any more time looking down the horse’s shoulder she’s going to get lost. Oh yeah, and she collapses her hip.

I’m not being mean, I’m just being realistic.

Being able to spend £150,000 on a dressage horse doesn’t make the rider Olympic material, it makes the rider – in this case – a rich horse owner who can barely ride at Prelim level.

So come on, let’s forget the hype and bullshit.

Jordan, you’ve got a lovely horse, but the only way it’s going to get to Olympic level is in the hands of someone who can ride at that level. And that, unfortunately, will never be you.

Do us all a favour, eh?

Give it to someone who can get a tune out of it and find another way to promote your pony books.

Evidence for my views?

Want to see how a real Olympian does it? Look at the tune that the incomparable Anky gets out of her magic Bonfire!


Berrington Hall – not eventing

A day of mixed fortunes and there’s good and bad to be taken home.

We were given, as you’re probably aware, some lovely times; a little on the late side of the day but frankly, anything that doesn’t involve having to get up at 04.30 on a Sunday is a Big Win!

We left the yard at precisely our planned time of 14.00 – how good is that?

Arrived safely at Berrington Hall – a National Trust manor house in the wilds of Herefordshire – at 15.10, did the admin, studded up, tacked up, changed, mounted, rode over to the dressage arenas and began working in at 16.00.

Vinnie boy felt completely relaxed; not ‘switched off’, just chilled.

He was soft, supple, attentive and obedient.

I mentally rubbed my hands because today he was in a good mood.

Our working in went brilliantly right up until about 20 minutes before our test – when he tensed, became argumentative and generally entered the ‘Kevin the Teenager’ stage that he does oh so well.

But with a little gentle nagging and much brain food from me he relaxed again; we were called in and calmly trotted around the arena twice and then we were in.

Apart from one blip – where I forgot a movement (so that’s two extra penalties, just because the pilot can’t remember the route!) – the test went very nicely.

The first canter was a little tense but that’s because one never knows whether he’s going to go down on the bit and bit a dressage star or decide he’s going to be an Evil Git and flip up to racehorse speed.

Fortunately, after a little shake-off of the bridle to discourage the hold he started to take, Vin decide it wasn’t worth the effort and we completed a calm, consistent test.

I was chuffed to bits; it felt like the best Eventing dressage test we’ve produced all season.

We scored 39.5 penalties which was a massive improvement on his first Eventing dressage test at the start of the season when we notched up 50 penalties.

The leader after the dressage scored 29.5 penalties so it gives us a real goal to aim at.

Back at the lorry – after a cuppa – I switched tack from dressage to show jumping, mounted and made our way over to the show jumping arena.

This is where things started going wrong.

Vin was inconsistent from the outset.

He bolted at some fences, hurdling them at a pace that barely gave me time or space to get him around the corner before we got to the end of the working-in arena, or he planted his feet and stopped where he should have taken off.

And that was the pattern.

He either bolted at them or he stopped.

I recognised that without rythm we didn’t stand a hope in hell’s chance of completing the show jumping and as I’m not in the business of collecting ‘E’ (for ‘Eliminated’) on Vin’s eventing record, I had a word with the steward and we withdrew.

Something’s not right.

I’ve arranged for him to see the back specialist.

If Vin has a muscle problem it could allow him to give up some quality flatwork but make jumping so uncomfortable for him that he’s afraid (and therefore bolts at the fences or doesn’t jump them).

In the words of my show jumping coach, “It’s the rider’s job to get the horse to a fence right; it’s the horse’s job to jump”.

And to round that thought off in my own words: “And if the horse doesn’t jump there is a problem”.

Whether it’s body, brain or Brennig I don’t know, but the first thing we have to do is start looking at all of the possibilities.

So yes, I’m a bit disappointed (if not for Soph – who came with me for the day – and her mum and dad, who came to watch, but for the promise of what could have been), but the dressage test continued the trend of improvement and there will be other Events on other days when everything does go our way.

Yesterday wasn’t our day, that’s all.



Saturday evening already.


I’m off to bed – that doesn’t make me a lightweight at 21.30, it means I have to be up at 04.30 because I need to leave the yard by 06.00 with Vin in the lorry and everything neatly packed for a one day event at Stafford.

We drove up and walked the track this afternoon, it looks absolutely brilliant.

Apart from two changes of rein the show jumping is very well set out. The cross country looks just a little short of absolutely bloody perfect.

Let’s hope Vin and I remember to ride as we rode for Mandy last Sunday!

Before we drove up I took the lorry down to the filling station and tanked up ready for the trip to Stafford and back.

On the way back to the yard I got involved in a head-on collision – I wasn’t involved in the crash, it happened just in front of me. But there’s a story to be told there.

Perhaps I’ll blog it during the week, perhaps I’ll mention it on the podcast.

And on that front, the podcast will be late I’m afraid. There aren’t enough hours in the day today.

Back at the yard I schooled Vin and then cleaned tack and then picked up Soph and drove to Stafford.

Bit of a trip but as I’ve mentioned we have to leave the yard at 06.00 tomorrow just to be there in time to check in and start warming up for our dressage.

If I wanted to walk the course tomorrow we’d have to leave around 05.40 – and that’s just stupid.

Hence the trip to Stafford today.

Love the cross country fences!

They’re up to maximum height but properly designed, seriously well built and they look an absolute joy to jump.

The going is just slightly on the firm side of soft which, for Vin, is again close to absolute perfection.

We stopped for a meal on the way back and once home I showered, got things ready for the morning and we ahem, spent a couple of hours enjoying each others company.

And now it’s bedtime – because of that bloody early start.

Normal internet service will be resumed tomorrow afternoon, once we’re all back from Stafford Horse Trials, safe and sound.


16 hands between my legs

Gather yourselves closer, my little droogies, and I shall tell you a tale of progress and goodness and speed and balance and such excitement that it made my nipples stick right out with excitement.

OK, I know that’s two excitements in one sentence, but that’s how it was.

And is.

The nipple perkiness is still with me.

(Cue Darth Vader-like voice and much heavy breathing – but in a good way – saying: ‘The nipples are strong with this one’)

If you have listened to this week’s podcast you will know that things did not go well for us at Eland Lodge Horse Trials last week.

And if you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast, why not? It’s excellent. And the music will rock your underpants off you and right out the door.

Anyway, I digress.

So in a desperate bid to put our level of work (our being Big Vin and I) back to where it:
a) was before Eland Lodge and
b) where it should rightfully be…

We Have Been Schooling.

A lot.

Flatwork schooling; to recapture the balance and rhythm we had before things went (to use the technical equestrianist phrase) completely fucking tits up.

In a nutshell we’ve just been working on our canter; transition up to the pace, transition down from the pace and much, much, much work on the pace itself. Because the canter is where it all went wrong in the show jumping at Eland Lodge.

Infuriatingly every single moment of our schooling, each and every footfall has been perfect. None of the issues that plagued us last weekend have reappeared.

So today I took things one step further, set up two fences in the arena, tacked Vin up in jumping kit and…

Schooled flatwork.

Despite the two fences standing in the arena he remained as perfect as he has been.

So on one movement, completely satisfied with our flatwork schooling, I turned a half circle to the first fence, sat quietly and he popped over it in a beautiful bascule – without changing his stride or pace, and without wrenching my arms out of my sockets.

And we landed in balance and harmony and turned a canter half-circle away.

Text book.

We worked for half an hour over the two fences – individually as a pair and using rein-changes, as a course.

He didn’t tank off once.

He didn’t flatten and hurdle them as he did last weekend.

We stayed in balance, we remained a partnership – a team of jumping ability focussed on the task in hand and nothing else.

And also…

Not once did we hit a fence down (much unlike last weekend!).

Sue, from the sidelines, said the problem might be with me; competition nerves.

Maybe, she said, I’m tensing him, I’m over-riding him, I’m being too firm with my ‘come on’ aids and that is what has turned him in to a racehorse (once again).


She might be right.

Competition nerves.

Actually, I’m now – having thought about it for the last hour or so – totally convinced she’s right.

So that’s the problem identified.

Next step in the plan is to fix it.

Watch this space.

Well no, not literally dude.

If you just sit there until the world stops spinning, staring at the screen, you’ll go a little gaga.

Or a lot gaga.

I’ll keep you in touch.




Not asleep yet

Aren’t they peculiar, those strange things that wriggle in to one’s consciousness to press the worry button, just as sleep starts to come?

And with the worry button fully engaged, sleep vanishes quicker than a pair of your girlfriend’s knickers being pulled up, dangerously close to cutting off more than your wrist circulation, with the sound of her mother walking in through the front door an hour sooner than expected.

The heartbeat quickens and consciousness zaps right back in there at a hundred miles an hour with a massive bang!

And so it was just a few short moments ago.

I was dozing off, drifting gently in to the state of total unconsciousness that, in my world, passes for sleep.

When the worry worm wriggled in and did the button pushing trick.

And what was the thing of global importance that had been slumbering beneath the worry button before that tendril of consciousness pushed The Big Red Worry Switch?


Yeah, I should explain.

Vin and I are out competing on Sunday, it’s not Eventing, just a low-level bit of Riding Club stuff.

We’re in a Mercian Teams Combined Training competition.

Combined Training is eventing but with all of the stress and none of the fun.

Sorry, I mean: you get to participate in a dressage test and a round of show jumping and then go home.

It’s still serious stuff and – being me – I’ll still be out there to perform the best we can.

But there’s none of the cross country thrills.

Nevertheless, Combined Training is a very good preparatory exercise for The Real Thing.

Did I mention that Vin and I are out eventing – doing The Real Thing – at Eland Lodge Horse Trials on 28th June 2008?

Anyway, back to the Combined Training thing that’s coming up this Sunday.

As I mentioned, Combined Training comprises dressage and show jumping, right?

And there’s a gazillion different dressage tests, right?


I have a horrible thought in my head that I may have learned the wrong one for Sunday.

Yeah I know.

What a twat.

Oh sure, I could learn the right one.

That’s really easy for you to say.

But, knowing me, I’d be halfway through the right one when I’d suddenly, and for no reason at all, slip in to one of the other dressage tests floating about in my head.

And then Vin would get confused, and I’d get confused and the judge would get confused and beep her horn at me and tell me where I’d gone wrong and how I should pick up the right test again but in my head I’d be floating from Prelim 14 to Prelim 18 to BE 102 then BE 100 to Prelim 10 and I wouldn’t be able to remember where I’m supposed to be or in which direction we’re supposed to be going or at what pace or speed or anything and I would become catatonic with nerves and stage fright and be unable to carry on and everyone would point their fingers and laugh at me and I’d slouch out of the arena and burst in to tears and…

Oh boy.

As Sam – in the 1980s television series Quantum Leap – would say (in that ‘boy am I in deep doo-doo’ kind of way).