So guys , following my last blog I got quite a few messages asking more about the horses I talked about…
So I thought I’d write a blog about them! Some of you might find it boring and I won’t be offended if you don’t read this blog as it’s a long one!! I’ve written about a few of the horses I feel have shaped , changed and made me the rider and person I am today..
Some of the horses I write about you will of heard me talk about before , some you won’t!!
I am sure you are all very aware about just how much I love my horses and how passionate I am about them , although deep down that has always been the case I have (if I’m honest) lost my way with them from time to time.. Once almost to the point were I really thought I’d walk away from riding and working with horses altogether , but there has always been some horse that finds it’s way in my life at just the right moment and boom!! I’m back on track..
Twice Bitten (Benji)
Benji was the first horse I ever evented – he was a small (15.1hh) and a very average looking and moving half brother to the wonderful coloured horse Bits & Pieces..
But what Benji had in spades and that I was to learn is something you can’t give a horse is a will to win and please.
I got the ride on him when I was a very keen but green 14year old , Benji was 5years old!!
From day one he was so straight forward , I rode him thou his time with me in just a loose ring snaffle and a cavasson noseband.. He didn’t even where a martingale , although I remember putting a flash on him at one point as I thought it suited him!! I never had the noseband tight thou..
He was so uncomplicated and we racked up some impressive results up to intermediate level because he was such a trier.. Looking back I can now see he actually wasn’t a very talented horse but he wanted to win and jump clear rounds as much if not more than me!! And that’s saying something!!! He was a fantastic first horse as you could totally leave him alone and just keep kicking and he did it all for himself.. He taught me not to interfere , because frankly I never had or needed too..
I would say that I would now be known as one of the fastest but safest cross country riders in the country and I credit that to Benji.
Because he never pulled I naturally just galloped as close to a fence as I dared then did the smallest set up and Benji always came back to me.. As soon as we had landed after a fence he would be off!! Again he taught me to be thinking go before you have even landed over a fence..
I did juniors with him but sadly he struggled with a very odd soundness problem behind and he went to a wonderful pony club home after me.. A dear horse with a heart of gold..
The one and only (Fluffy)
Fluffy was a advanced horse owned by Val Gingell , he was the first horse I rode for Val and I have him to thank for starting my wonderful partnership with her.
Now Fluffy was the total opposite of Benji in every way! He was a massive horse in every sense , he stood at about 17.1hh and was a very keen forward going type.. He had been ridden to produced to advanced & CCI3* level by a very tall and experienced male British rider who had ridden on senior british teams including the 1996 Olympics..
He picked up a tendon injury and was just re starting work when Val asked if I could do his road work etc.. It didn’t cross my mind I would be given the ride on him as he was very clearly a mans ride , anyway after doing the trotting and cantering work Val kindly asked if I’d like to do some SJ’ing with him.
Of course I jumped at the chance and my god what a jumper he was , but also what a massive shock I had after coming off of the wonderful pony like Benji..
Fluffy was a proper horse , a serious jumper and it suddenly hit me just how unscopey but genuine Benji had been.
I knew there was little point in me trying to fight with Fluffy as he was far to big and powerful , he also had the longest strongest neck in the world!!
Because of him I learnt the art of sitting and suffering!! I learnt interfering only gets you in to trouble and that experienced horses more often than not know best so best just leave them be , also he taught me the more you pull with a keen one the more they pull back.. He took me round my first advanced and CCI2* with a fast double clear finishing in the top 15.. Sadly he picked up another injury after a couple of seasons with me that ended his eventing days but I still have a massive soft spot for him..
The Busker (Ginger)
As we found out Fluffy had picked up a injury that would end his eventing days , Val bumped in to Gingers owner at some unaff dressage and she had told Val that Ginger was back from a long lay off with a injury and she wasn’t sure what to do with him..
Long story cut short Val was given Ginger and she told me I could have the ride and if we could keep him sound we would aim him at young riders.. Ginger had been off for 2 years with tendon injuries but previous to that he had been 2nd at Bramham and 8th at Burghley..
So for me this was a chance in a life time..
I give all the credit for keeping Ginger sound to Val , she did weeks and bloody weeks of walking and trotting on the road then I was steady away with his canter work etc..
We did a couple of events very quietly in the back end of 2004 , never in a rush.. We could have pushed him we and had him ready for young riders that year but Val said we needed patience and I whole heartedly agreed..
It was all about 2005 ..
My god what a 2005 it was too..
We started the year with a easy win first time out and then a great 4th at Belton advanced with a very good dressage & great double clear but a steady round XC as I wasn’t totally happy with the ground.. The whole plan was the CCI3* at Bramham and where he had previously finished 2nd of course!
What people forget was just how unexperienced I was , I had only done a couple of CCI2*’s and one advanced..
As a rider I was barely qualified to go to Bramham but as I always am on a horse – I was full of confidence , Fluffy & Benji had given me so much self confidence..
I was far from cocky or arrogant but I was happy I was a good passenger and to be honest Ginger barely needed a passenger let alone a good one!! I stand by the fact that at the time he was the horse most riders , seniors included wanted to ride.. He had it all.. He was like a Bentley to ride..
Right at the very start of the 2005 season I was asked in a training session with a senior coach where we were aiming for , I said Bramham.. He replied with – You best win it…
Did I feel any pressure? Not a bit , I’m so laid back about things like that and I am blessed I never suffer with nerves.. I knew Ginger would win Bramham.. He was that class , I quietly never doubted the fact that if we got there Ginger would win..
On to Bramham we went and he did a great test to lay second after dressage , I picked up time penalties on the XC as we were held for nearly 30mins and it’s nearly impossible to get going again after a hold like that , we stayed in second thou.. But I was secretly annoyed for Ginger as if we hadn’t of got held I’m sure we would have been inside the time and in to the lead after XC.. No matter thou , Ginger jumped a fantastic clear when needing to on the last day to win.. Job done..
I sat on him that week , I would maybe even go as far as stay I steered him but Ginger won.. We almost fell going in to the water , then I missed at the step coming out the water – which was followed by a bounce to a skinny barrel.. Please believe me when I say the barrel coming out of the water wasn’t on at all but I throw my reins at Ginger and just kicked trying to help keep him going forwards , knowing he’d do his upmost to get between the flags if I kept him running forwards.. He some how twisted his body so his shoulders went thou the flags..
That was him thou and thou , he just wanted to jump between the flags more than anything..
We also won a gold medal and were best Brits at the Europeans that year..
I went in to 2006 as the new golden girl , I was all entered for my first CCI4* – Badminton and we and Ginger were only a 25-1 shot to win it in the Horse And Hound Badminton preview..
As amazing as 2005 had started 2006 started equally as badly!! I honestly couldn’t have won a raffle even if had been the only person who bought a ticket!!
Still on to Badminton we went , Ginger blew up in the dressage and did a terrible test.. And I pulled him up 4 from home when he suddenly walked thou the shooting butt and went very lame on the landing side , I knew in my heart he’d broken down.. I got off and untacked him and just waited for the horse ambulance to arrive..
No tears thou , I just felt blessed to have ridden him and just wanted him back at the stables and looked after.. I carried my tack back thou the crowds musing over how sometimes your luck just isn’t in..
When I got back to the stables I was told Ginger had pulled both his front shoes off but they had been put back on and he was bandaged up and comfortable..
Later that evening with a heavy heart I took his bandages off to see what his legs looked like and to my amazement his legs felt great , so we trotted him up and guess what? Yep he was as sound as a pound and as fresh as a daisy!!!!
He had terrible feet and looking at photos we could clearly see he had pulled his shoes off very early on , but he went as far as he could bare footed but in the end his terrible flat white feet gave out on him.. Not that I cared!! Ginger was ok and that was all that mattered to me..
So we re grouped and aimed for Burghley , still on the run up to Burghley my luck was out.. Nothing major but I just couldn’t hit the target , but I never changed anything..
We were doing nothing different to what we did in 2005 when we were on fire and I am a great believer in riding stuff like that out , no panicking.. If it worked once why change it? It’ll come good again..
And it did..
At Burghley , Ginger was on fire all week doing a fantastic test , jumping fantastically but sadly he just didn’t truly stay the distance on the XC and picked up a few time penalties but he was still 16th giving me a amazing ride XC , Ginger was only 3/4 bred so at 4* he got found out but still I was over the moon!! Any other year his finishing score would have been good enough for a top ten finish..
At Burghley I didn’t walk a single long route on the XC simply because I had that much confidence in Ginger..
That’s what Ginger installed in me – total and utter confidence in my XC riding..
I kept kicking and Ginger keep jumping between the flags , he inspired me to be brave and take chances because they always came off..
He was the most handsome and noble horse I have ever and will ever meet , he knew he was special and loved his life because of it..
Sadly the next spring 3 strides after jumping the last fence at his first event back on perfect ground he broke down so badly he sadly could never jump again.. But I wasn’t sad for me , for him yes… He loved competing but he gave me the most wonderful two and half seasons and he is still alive and kicking and loving retirement at Vals at the grand old age of 24..
Little Tiger (Frosty)
I need not tell you all anything of the amazing things Frosty achieved , everyone knows about the Wonder Pony , god knows I harp on about her enough even to this day!!
I just wish more people had actually stood next to her , she really was just 14.3hh and tiny with it.. Just a very average moving pony to look at and watch.. At home she showed you nothing , she could hang terribly left handed and we never jumped her much above 3ft 6in at home as it was scary jumping her any bigger!!!!
The real reason I stuck by frosty in the beginning was because I was a stubborn teenager that refused to be beaten by some naughty pony with a dirty stop!!
I care to forget how many times I fell off her the in the first year I rode her because of her naughty stop but I stuck on in there ..
At no point did I think she was going to be a super star.. But who in there right mind would think a 14.3hh pony would be!?!
But the overriding memory I have is that she never once struggled , now that doesn’t mean Frosty ever gave me a wow feeling because she didn’t.. But she just kept finding enough jump , she could however make terrible mistakes at fences that were small or straight forward.. The amount of serious near misses we had because Frosty just decided to walk thou a fence (even at 4*!!) still scares me..
But what was amazing about her was she could hit a massive XC fence all arse ends up and gallop away from the fence cross like it was some how my fault!!
She was as brave and as hard a horse/pony as I will ever ride , although small her engine was bigger than anything horse/pony I’ve ridden.. The first CCI3* she did was at Bramham and from about 7/8 to 3 out you had to run up hill.. Frosty was tired , but she got to 3 out on the flat and filled her lungs and she was off again..
Same at Burghley one year , the ground was bottomless and we were very late to go in the day and got the worst of the ground..
Running up hill to the arena fences after the dreaded mushroom fences 4/5 from home she was spent , out on her feet..
I got hold of her head and nursed her thou the arena , then you run ever so slightly down hill coming out the arena to 3 from home were it flattens out..
By 3 out I was struggling to hold her again , she ran on right to the line..
When we finished and I got off she was so so tired , but that was Frosty.. She lived to gallop and jump and would have rather her heart burst then give in..
Such was her scope she could take strides out at CCI4* and it would feel like it hadn’t happened…
I loved her , loved there were no airs or graces about her , nothing flash.. But she had total and utter self belief and I still am in awe that she jumped fence after fence that were bigger than her and more often than not that she couldn’t even see over like it was the totally normal thing to do..
I hunted , team chased and did hunt rides with Frosty in her retirement and she unreal..
But I will never forget us having a crashing fall at Burghley when flying around and 17seconds up on the time – it was the type of fall your lucky to walk away from.. Before she had hit the ground frosty was getting up , I tried to follow suit but unlike the toughie that was Frosty I needed a little lay down to get my breath back!! She then pulled my arms out when I lead her back to the stables and came out 2 weeks later and flew round a strong advanced like nothing had happened..
She taught me to grit my teeth and just get on with it like nothing has happened even when it has..
Flash Gordon (Gordon)
So onto the horse that nearly beat me!! Gordon was a funny little white legged thing that I bought as pretty much a unridable/unbroken 7 year old.. He was ment to be a quick and easy turn around and sell on job..
When I finally managed to get a saddle on him he rodeoed so wildly he hit a wall and fell over backwards.. Wonderful I thought!!!
After a couple of days of the same carry ons I decided to leave him on the walker all day with his tack on , after about 6 hours I got him off and he was like a lamb.. Sorted I thought… How every wrong I was!!! The next day he was worse , but after hours on the walker I managed to ride him very quietly away.. Anyways after having his teeth , back etc checked I decided if he couldn’t jump I’d take him to the hunt kennels as he was so bad he was going to kill himself , me or both of us..
So the lovely girl Sarah I had helping me at the time put a fence up , which I trotted very gingerly too.. And boom… Gordon came off the ground like no horse I’d ever seen or felt.. I knew he was a star from that second…
That was in February , I decided to get him out doing stuff straight away and told everyone that would listen that I had the next big thing..
Gordon was in fact a dear horse that was scared of the tack but he had learnt some great tricks in how to get people off.. There was no point in taking him on , he was scared and a expert at getting rid of people..
I was only going to lose.. So I set about working around his ‘issues’
He loved his jumping , he was awesome at it and grew in confidence in me thou it , you see I felt because he’d been knocked around and roughed up over the fact he was genuinely scared of the saddle he needed to get his faith in humans back.. When he was scared or nervous he just rodeoed out of fear..
But when he jumped he stopped thinking about the saddle and being scared and in turn I stopped thinking about the fact that one false move and I’d get nailed by him and started thinking about how bloody amazing he was and passed that feeling and vibe on to him and not the feeling and vibe of that I didn’t trust him and and was slightly terrified!!
His first few events I couldn’t get him to canter in the test without him rodeoing , no worries I thought.. I didn’t even try until he almost offered to , that way it was never a issue , we never had a fight and he never won or got me off..
By the end of that season he had jumped double clear round 3 novices and I knew he was my team horse..
Anyways , he turned out to be the most unbelievable horse.. I won’t ever sit on a better jumper in my life time.. He was fantastic over a fence.. Almost unreal and he loved deep ground , the more he had to try the more he did.. I remember winning with him at Highclere in bottomless ground and galloping around asking him to go longer and try harder at each fence.. He cruised round ears pricked coming up every time like he was jumping off a spring board..
When I got him to advanced I made the heart breaking decision to sell him.. Do I regret it? No.. Never look back and never think what if…
He is however the horse that got away , but he taught me some times you just gotta work around things and quirks don’t always qual ungenuineness..
So I think thats quite enough boring chat about horses for tonight…
I hope I haven’t board you all to much , I could talk about 4/5 more horses but maybe I’ll save them for another night!!
The above horses showed me that so called top eventers come in every shape and form and there size , colour , shape , way or going or breeding mean nothing…
It’s all about the will to win and please..
Its the riders job to work with the horses strengthens to get the best out of them and not expect the horse to work to the riders strengthens…