Volunteers needed

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of June 2010 sees the first of the Ascott-under-Wychwood British Eventing One-Day Event of the season.

The classes being run are:

BE 90 (Open), a special class for retrained racehorses
BE 90
BE 100
BE 100 (Open)

BE 90
BE 80
BE 100

It will be a busy weekend, entries have already been received for 589 horse and rider combinations, and although some sections are now closed, other sections are still taking entries.

The organisers of Ascott-under-Wychwood One Day Event are seeking volunteers to help run the Event.

Dressage writers, cross-country fence judges, show-jumping arena party, marshals and stewards are the backbone of any competition like this.

And more are always needed.

For equestrian types, any volunteer will receive one free cross-country schooling session on the Ascott-under-Wychwood cross-country course worth £20.

All volunteers will get free food and drink (and a bottle of wine) – whether they’re equestrian types or not! – and the opportunity to watch a bunch of clever horses do smart things.

I will be spending several hours on Sunday, sitting in a car helping to judge dressage.

If you’re interested in helping out, let me know and I’ll pass your interest on.

Exclusive! Daily Mail staff in sex horror!

So I was just in the kitchen cooking one of my speciality snacks (you will notice I didn’t say ‘meals’), when I started wondering about cheese-graters.

If someone could please invent a cheese-grater that didn’t remove the skin from my fingertips, I’d buy it.


We were show-jumping this evening, a session with Owen.  At one stage Owen said, ‘What are you feeding Tom, Bren?’

Rocket fuel, obv.

Tom showed no sign that he had been out on Saturday (you’ve read the result, already, yes?) as he towed me all over the show-jumping course.

I honestly expected him to be a little laid back.


I was back in control for our second lap and after the third, faultless journey over the course, we called it a day.

Owen had a good time at Broadway this weekend; 2nd, 7th and 8th, but even these results must be no consolation for his Badminton disappointment, one of his four-star horses being unwell, whilst the other didn’t make it off the wait list.

Meanwhile, in other news…

I’m at home tomorrow, but on Wednesday I’m off up to Worcester. It’s a work thing, not a pleasure thing. I have decided to be radical and let the train take the strain; Charlbury to Worcester Foregate Street and return. I’ve got a four-minute walk from the station in Worcester.

I had a really bad night’s sleep last night; less than two hours, and then I was up for five hours, then back to sleep for three more.

It’s safe to describe my state right now as ‘knackered’.

I’m going to use tomorrow to have a burst of activity on ‘Shelved’. I have done no work on the Sitcom for a couple of weeks, but I have done a massive amount of thinking about it.

The bottom line is that I want to rethink the first and last episodes. I think there is a way to make a visual gag in episode one, dovetail in to the last episode of season one, in such a way that the comedy ending of the season becomes lastingly bitter-sweet.

And the headline above?

Well, can you imagine having sex with Jan Moir?


Broadway result

Big write-up follows in due course, but there’s only 24 hours in a day so here’s the headlines:

Dressage penalties:


Show-jumping penalties:


Cross-country jumping penalties:


Cross-country time penalties:


Total penalties:


Overall position:


Dressage video: (check out the first give-and-retake of the rein, Tom got a ‘9’ for that!)

Show-jumping video:

Cross-country video part 1:

Cross-country video part 2:

Only when I larf…

It is 8.30am Sunday and we seem to be watching Episodes 2, 3 and 4 of the new Doctor Who (or is it Dr Who?).

I’ve read and heard some utter shite spouted about this iteration, but the blindingly obvious truth is that the new Doctor Who is a return to form for this classic piece of British SciFi.

I love the ‘in’ jokes, the nods towards Star Wars, Independence Day and a massive genuflection towards ‘The Father of Robotics’, Professor Isaac Asimov.

The weather is vile, it’s hammering down.

We’re going to have a lazy day, except that Sophie is tackling the mountain of ironing, and I am backing up many websites and databases.

I think we’re meeting a friend in Witney for coffee; I hope that Costa isn’t the crèche that it sometimes becomes.

There needs to be a quick trip up to the yard to give Tom hugs and carrots.

This evening we’re off to the cinema; Iron Man 2 beckons.

And in-between these bouts of frenetic activity, there will be Badminton Horse Trials, because the BBC are showing uninterrupted coverage of cross-country on the red button.


Hot, horsey and lazy

On Saturday I drove Tom to Aston-le-Walls which is in Northants (but only just, it’s a few miles from Banbury), to take part in an Intro level one-day Event.

This was Tom’s first competitive run with Sammi onboard – Sammi has been schooling Tom all week, trying to get things straightened out – and we wanted to see how he would go in a competitive environment.

As well as the schooling, we have also had a tack change. We have decided to stick with the snaffle Bit for flatwork, and use the Cheltenham Gag Bit for both jumping phases.

We have augmented these changes by abandoning the Grackle noseband and, instead, using a Flash noseband for all three phases (dressage, show-jumping and cross-country).

I realise this is esoteric stuff to non-equestrians, but believe me, these pieces of fine-tuning are critical to the horse’s comfort and well-being because, just as you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, you can’t make a horse perform well if it is unhappy with its tack.

Tom’s dressage continues to improve (fortunately it was the same test as his last two Events), and he scored only 36.5 penalties which is brilliant. I think his true dressage potential is around the 32-34 penalty zone, but it’ll take a bit more effort to get down there.

In the show-jumping Tom had a fence down which, as the video shows, occurred because he was too keen in to the corner, and he was unbalanced and rushing out of the turn.

In the cross-country phase Tom showed everyone what it was all about.

He came out of the start box at a fair pace (keen to travel sidways at one point), and maintained that speed for most of the course.

Sammi allowed him to open the throttle a little on the final 3rd of the track.

Tom’s dressage video is below. If you think discussions about nosebands, Bits and other pieces of tack is esoteric, stay away from dressage videos!

A bit pacier and racier than the dressage, this is Tom’s show-jumping round:

This is the start of Tom’s cross-country:

And this is the last 2/3rds of the cross-country, and the point where Tom is allowed to get a shift on:

The bottom line for Tom’s day is that despite rolling a pole in the show-jumping, clever Tom finished 12th out of 34 finishers. He completed the cross-country in 3m 50s against an optimum time of 3m 55s, which is brilliant.

I got caught by the sun and Sammi and Jess (who groomed for Sammi) spent far too much time taking the pee out of me.

After Tom had finished, and during a moment of mental inattention, Jess allowed Tom to tread on her foot.

As Tom is a) very big, b) very heavy and was c) wearing studs in his shoes, I was desperately concerned for her wellbeing.

However she reassured me that he hadn’t caught her foot and had just trodden on the side of her wellie.

Several hours later I had a text from Sammi to say that Jess was in hospital having a piece of her toe removed.

I felt – and still feel – very bad about this.

Everyone had the day off. Well, when I say everyone, I mean Sophie, Tom and I had the day off. Poor Sammi had to work at the yard (and she’d competed three horses at Aston-le-Walls on the previous day!).

We got up in the afternoon, we got showered and dressed in the early evening and we got back in to bed not many hours later.

During the course of the afternoon/evening I did a huge load of admin and, as a direct result, spent several hours feeling very smug.

And that, my friends, was my weekend; hot, horsey and lazy – as promised.

How was yours?

A little Tom update

We had a mini-meeting after the cross-country schooling on Monday, brought on by the discovery that Tom had bitten his tongue at some stage while on the course.

Nothing serious, and only noticeable by a few flecks of dried blood on his Bit.

But this is an interesting development, we think it means that the big brown jumping pony curls his tongue back as a kind of stress-thing.

If this is true we could be on to a solution to the problem; this afternoon we’re going cross-country schooling at a venue he’s never been to before. We shall made adjustments to his bridle to try and stop the tongue thing.

This could be a reason why he turns in to a total twat when we compete ‘for real’ rather than jump for schooling-in.


You are what you read?

This posts comes courtesy of a couple of gentle digs about a newspaper I tweeted I was reading…

I think it is important to begin by saying that I do not buy a daily newspaper. But I do read the online content of elements of the British press, on a daily basis.

So on a gloriously warm and sunny day when I tweeted, ‘Roadside cafe – fried egg sandwich, mug of tea, borrowed copy of The Sun. Bliss :)’, I got a little bit of stick because I was reading the tabloid The Sun.

But it was, sadly, the only newspaper that the aforementioned roadside cafe had on offer. So what is one to do?

Anyway, the two bits of criticism gave me a little mental prod and I’ve spent some time since then reviewing what newspapers (and/or their online content) I read. And here’s the list of daily visits:

  • The Daily Mail
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • The Guardian
  • The Independent
  • The Times

So no The Sun. Also, you’ll notice, no Mirror or Express. Except, of course, if I have stopped at a roadside cafe and they’re all that’s available to me.

But if you are what you read, I can’t help wondering what that list makes me?

Anyway, in other news, here’s a very short video of Tom being schooled yesterday:

And here’s another:

Man, I am so tired and I almost wrecked the lorry yesterday…

A mere two-and-a-half hours sleep last night, on top of the general stress, activity and rushing around of the weekend, all compound together to make me extremely worn out today

Yesterday’s one-day event at Larkhill was a bust.

Despite symptoms of misbehaviour going on underneath me, we somehow achieved a vastly improved dressage score of 39.5 penalties.

As we hacked back to the lorry to change the saddle and bridle I was starting to get very optimistic about the show-jumping.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a balls-up when a critical part of Tom’s jumping tack – the Cheltenham Gag Bit – fell apart in the groom’s hands. So to retaliate she dismantled Tom’s flatwork bridle.

Erm, umm. I may have been a little short – but I maintain that I didn’t shout at anyone or anything – and, anyway, I did manage to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat by finding the two, tiny, popper-like fastenings in the lorry, and the buckle that was hidden on the grass outside the door to the lorry living.

Anyway, with tack duly changed we hacked down to the show-jumping working-in.

Jess – my groom for the day – did a grand job. She set practice fences that were, to start, generous and welcoming, but within ten minutes we were coming in to obstacles that were slightly over-height and over-spread for our class.

But it was all good. Tom and I felt joined. We were together, we were calm, I sat quietly and waited for the fence to come to us and kept my hands down and relaxed (my failing is not doing these things!) and *gave* him stretch room as he basculed through the air.

We were good to go.

Or so I thought.

We cantered in to the main ring and although I rode him forward and kept off his mouth Tom stopped at fence 1.

I re-presented and he flew over it, and two, three, four and five.

At fence six we had issues and another stop and after that everything fell apart (almost literally) because we started hitting them down.

So we were eliminated from the one-day event in the show-jumping phase, because we were over the limit of jumping penalties.

A hack back to the lorry and a feeling of gloom, doom, despondency, disappointment and (even more) despondency invaded my head for the rest of the day.

Not even hot chocolate and home-made brownies managed to lift my spirits.

On the way home we had a horrendous moment as we were driving down the hill in to Marlborough.

A Honda Civic whipped out of a side-road in front of me and then just stopped in the road and indicated to turn across the opposite carriageway – but it couldn’t turn because there was oncoming traffic.

The trouble is, because the driver had just whipped out and, with no warning, come to a halt in front of me, we had to apply the brakes *very* fiercely and a) in a 10-ton lorry and b) carrying two horses, our stopping distance is nothing like that of a car!

Although we were slowing fast, the distance was closing too quickly so I had a choice: smack the Honda Civic up the arse fairly hard or aim for the gap between it and the hedge.

I chose the latter. Although it was very tight, it gave me the 12-feet I needed to stop the lorry.

We were actually three-quarters off the road, the hedge was overgrown and untended and the nearside of the cab was in it.

I signalled to the driver of the Civic to pull forward to a layby and, very carefully drove the lorry out of the hedge and went to join him.

We got out and looked at the car and the lorry.

The car was untouched. You wouldn’t have been able to pass a sheet of paper between the side of the lorry and the side of the civic, but somehow I’d managed to avoid making contact.

The lorry had a few paint scrapes down the side from the branches of the hedge, but other than that was similarly unscathed.

A very lucky escape for both of us, but I wonder if the driver of the Civic understands things like braking distances of *other* types of vehicles? Don’t they set questions on that in the driving test these days?

By the time I made it back to the yard, unloaded Tom, groomed him, rugged him up, fed him, unloaded all of the tack, put things away, tidied the lorry, put that away, switched off the lights and had driven home it was very late.

I don’t know how late because I was too worn out to care. And in the night, as I’ve said, I had far too little sleep.

Oh well, maybe I’ll catch up tonight/tomorrow.


The plan for the week is that Tom is going to have his big brown bottom jumped off him until he’s being straightforward and honest once again.

He’s entered in an unaffiliated one-day event next Saturday, but Sammi is going to take him around because she’s more, ahem, more assertive.

And maybe I could pick up some sleep, here and there?

In other news, I see from our Google Feedburner stats that the podcast has picked up 480 new listeners in the last two days.

*big smile*

Nerves, nerves, nerves

pre-competition nerves starting to hit right now

We plan on leaving the yard at 11.30 tomorrow morning. Our times are:

  • Dressage = 15.16
  • Show-jumping = 16.30
  • Cross-country = 17.10

I went down there this afternoon to walk the cross-country and have a good look around at the layout.

I’m starting to wind myself up over the show-jumping, I don’t know why it’s so critical in my head, but the show-jumping is scarier than the cross-country.

The cross-country course is nice, it flows evenly from start to finish, the fences are well-built, the track follows a simple outwards/homewards pattern and the going underfoot is just perfect.

I reckon that the optimum time is going to be somewhere in the 5m 10s – 5m 20s range; it is quite a long course, we might have to push and really motor around to get close to that.

I’ve taken photos of every fence. Where there are big spreads, drops and ditches, I have taken side-views too. This helps me to remember the route, the overall compass of the track (where it twists, turns and doubles back) and also, to help me remember which fences I might need to ask Tom for a little more effort.

There were several falls while I was walking the cross-country today. If we return home smiling and unscathed tomorrow I’ll reduce the size of the photographs of the fences, and post them online.

I’ve spent ages this evening revisiting the route down to Larkhill. Eventually, and after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to reject the route that Google Maps wanted me to drive.

If I was in a car, sure, I’d go their way.

But would I attempt those twisty roads in a 10-T lorry with two horses onboard?

No way.

It’s a bit of a yard outing tomorrow. Laura, Camille and I are taking one horse each round. Owen is competing three – maybe four.

Time for bed. Hope I sleep.

In the studio/out and about

This Reality Podcast show #110 – which includes a live phone call with singer/songwriter Jessie Grace, a pre-recorded interview with singer/songwriter Ben Walker, four tracks of musical goodness and a bit of rabbiting about any old thing – hit the world last night.

It’s funny how everything seems so fast and frenetic (and just a little bit frantic?) in the studio, yet suddenly, a whole hour has gone by. Weird.

Anyway, it’s 7.30am Saturday, the sky is blue and clear, the sun has been doing its best to warm the planet for an hour.

This afternoon I’ll drive down to Larkhill, on Salisbury Plain, to walk the cross-country course (twice!) for tomorrow’s BE one-day Event.

And drink hot chocolate. And eat a home-made chocolate brownie.

I believe that walking the cross-country course twice is more than equal to a hot chocolate and a home-made chocolate brownie.

They must, surely, balance each other out?

Before I head southwards I’ll ride Tom this morning. I also need to check the lorry over, make sure that everything I need is stored away in its proper place, and rinse out and refill the water containers

I’m taking a proper groom with me tomorrow. This will be the first time I’ve ever used help in this way.

This could be an interesting experience, having professional help, but I hope that having someone there – to do the grooming, tacking-up, studding-up, lunging, tack-changing between the phases and wash-down afterwards – will reduce my stress levels and allow me to concentrate on the riding.

I just hope that Tom concentrates as much as I will!