01 Aug 2014

Camphire - still a craic

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Friday, August 01, 2014

As England and indeed Scotland, have been gripped by Comonwealth Games fever, I got into the spirit of it all by buggering off to Ireland. I had been looking forward to returning to Camphire, near Cork in Ireland after competing there last year. It was such a fun and friendly event, with a beautiful track and a great bar, what was there not to like?

So it was with great excitement that we set off. The truck was brimming with Marks & Spencer's food. For those of you unacquainted with M&S, it is a supermarket store that does great bras & undies; but even better food. I could write a whole blog in tribute to their Flapjacks and their microwave meals are better than any meal I could prepare and they are largely responsible for the increasingly snug fit of my breeches. Aside from the food we had also packed the lovely Mumbo Jumbo who was stepping up to do his first 3*, Digby dog who making his first trip to Ireland, Ratbag hadn't organised her passport in time (typical), Sophie Evans who had miraculously cleared her working week to join us and of course the best blog photographer and filmer you could ask for, Derek. We also had a couple of late additions, the lovely Laura Wallace and her beautiful horse Imperialist or Barney as he is better known. 

Before we knew it we were crossing the bridge in to Wales taking the obligatory bridge photos:


And then we spent the next hour trying to pronounce Welsh names.....before getting the ponies off for a pitstop before the ferry.

Once fed, watered, pitted and stopped we continued onto the coast to catch our ferry. Unlike last year, where we had no idea of what to expect and what to do, we felt like old hands at the travelling horses on a ferry thing. We had the back down, windows up and water buckets out in nano-seconds, well Soph, Laura and Derek did. I'm still not entirely comfortable leaving ponies and on this occasion Digby dog, deep in the gunnels of a very old ex-Scandanavian ferry, but one was satiated with hay bags and the other a bone and I was quickly distracted by chocolate.


A few hours later, Mumbo & Barney had emptied their hay nets, Digby had retired to the passenger seat and we were in Ireland. 


After a few more hours we were in Cappoquin and very disappointed that Camphire Horsetrials had decided to splash out on signage this year. Last year after a bit of zen navigation, a few post-it sized signs and telephone call that helpfully informed us: "There's a blue bridge, you don't want to be going over that" we finally made it. This year all the fun had been removed by well placed and highly visible signs. 

Fortunately, not much else had changed and Camphire was just a beautiful as we remembered and the people just as friendly. 

We woke up to a beautiful morning all set for a good day's competition. Well some of us woke up earlier than others....

In all fairness my dressage wasn't until the following day, so a bit of lolling around in bed after the long drive was in order and Digby thought it would be rude not to keep me company. So it was just Laura competing that day and she did a good test, she just had a bit of a sat nav malfunction. She was riding the new 2* B test; but unfortunately the sat nav had rejected the update. I have to confess the symmetry freak in me cannot cope with the new 2* B test - it is not symmetrical, who would design such a test, what sort of sadist are they???? 

Next up came Mumbo's test. Now we have been working on his flying changes for a few months and he has discarded a few of the less favourable responses to the change aids. The llama impression has for the most part been done away with. As has the bolt out of the arena response. However, to say that his changes were established would be as plausible as believing what's her chops Kardashian's first marriage wasn't a media sham. 

So it was with great confidence that we entered the arena, thanks to super-groom, Sophie Evans we certainly looked the part. The little brown pony did a great job. He could have been a bit more expressive in his canter. Unfortunately we jogged a step at the end of a great walk, and we did what can best be described as flying stumbles, (even in slow-mo replaying the video I still can't work out what he did with his legs); but we ended up with a respectable 62.4% or 56.4 penalties. 

The horse-hopping wasn't until the next day, so it was time to walk the course, soak up the atmosphere and go to the Camphire drinks party, which Mum and Dad had arrived just in the nick of time for. 


The next day was Show-jumping. I have to confess the format of one phase on each day was very relaxing, especially with just one horse. The two other Australians there Lucinda Fredericks and Kevin McNab, were being far more industrious, riding 19 million horses each. However, the relaxed nature of my timetable - show jumping wasn't until 5.30pm on Saturday, gave us ample opportunity to go for a walk and see the famed blue bridge.


Despite being happily ensconced at the venue, Derek was still keen not to let us cross it. 

We also had time to indulge in our other new found favourite pastime. Parked next to us was the lovely irish eventer Joseph Murphy and his wife, with their fleet of Jack Russell's. These dogs liked to hang out at the front of Joseph's truck, in particular the dashboard. From here they could bark and growl at the world in general. Everyone once in a while the "Dashboard gang" would have an emergency which would require them to put on the indicators, sometime these emergencies could last a whole night. Anyway, winding up the dashboard gang had now become a new favourite activity for everyone except Digby, who was terrified of them.


Sorry I digress, showjumping. Laura and Barney came away with a respectable 4 faults. 

And then it was time for Mumbo. While I had been busy walking the course, Mumbo had been adding to his fan club. It's hard to know who is at the top, Derek, Soph and I often jostle for position.

He was pretty relaxed when I got on to warm him up. I think I was 5th out. First up was Lucinda on Flying Finish, who rode a very accomplished clear round.

The next few out went clear too, so when I entered the ring I was hoping that I wouldn't be the first muppet to take a rail....and I wasn't, Mumbo was a legend. For those interested there is a video to follow.


It was a wonderful moment, made even more special by sharing it with Mum and Dad. You can see Dad in the background videoing above and Mum looking at the next fence and Digby facing the wrong way. So it was back to the truck for cuddles and polos for Mumbo. 


So all that remained was cross-country. I was incredibly spoilt to have the lovely Lucinda Fredericks to walk the course with and she was so fantastically helpful that I started to feel increasingly more confident as I walked around. The CIC*** at Camphire is designed by Mike Etherington-Smith and we bumped into him and his wife Sue and after a while the fear of jump 11 started to lessen. 




Let me explain: jump 11 was a sizeable ditch with an even more sizeable skinny brush set in it at an off set angle. Hang on this might better explain it:

Anyway, with the course walked and Digby happily acquainted with every inch of the water jumps, it was time to set off. 


Mumbo felt great, we were nailing distances and making big jumps feel small. He cruised around the first 10 jumps like a pro; but despite the advice and the help I didn't do the best job on my line at number 11 and Mumbo took off but at the last minute veered away from the skinny and across the ditch. The second attempt was similar in outcome and on that note while we were both safe and unhurt I retired. 

Despite the score board it had once again be a wonderful event. We had been welcomed back with open arms by the event committee, I had been interviewed by Irish TV, I had been introduced to the Event President who promptly stuck his tongue out at me: 

And we had caught up with our friends from Bucas, Douglas, Eleanor and Clare. 

As everyone was packing up to go home I walked with Mum and Dad back over to "that fence" to see how I could have done it differently. I was still pretty happy with Mumbo, as Dad said, "You can't be angry with inexperience" either his of mine. After all, as he pointed out, "That's the point of you being over here, to get more experience." When he's not winding up the dashboard gang, he is a wise man my Dad. 

So tired and full of thoughts on how to improve we started the long journey home. As I pulled into Burto's yard some 12 hours later I concluded: eventing is a good leveller and an incredible ride of highs a lows; but for as long as I'm supported by my wonderful parents and fantastic husband, and surrounded by such wonderful creatures, working with lovely super grooms, I'm booking a one way ticket on the eventing express. Although, having said that I wouldn't mind one more return ticket to Camphire. 

12 Jul 2014

Back Again

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Saturday, July 12, 2014

So once again, I am lucky enough to find myself over the other side of the pond "nagging about" as my father would describe it. Only one of my ponies returned with me, Mumbo Jumbo, who has steadily been accruing frequent flyer points, (if only we acquired FEI ones that quickly). Mumbo is of the happy disposition that as long as hay bag is involved he is generally speaking quite happy anywhere, including the gunnels of a plane. As such he rarely loses weight or sleep on a flight and often arrives slightly fatter than when he left. He was accompanied on the plane by Hannah Walls and her horse Quebec NZPH otherwise known as Rex. Mumbo, Hannah and Rex arrived in England mid-May while I was still gearing up for Melbourne, consequently when I touched down in the UK Mumbo was happily acclimatised and ready to go.

So it was straight back into the swing of English nagging about. Burto and Bek have once again very generously agreed to put us up. Not too much had changed since I left. Burto has a few more nice ponies to add to his string. Rachel has some great pics of her Christmas trip to Kenya - in particular one of her wearing her Wallaby Hill shirt while feeding giraffes. Glen is still pretending he didn't miss me and Jade is as lovely as ever and now has her pony Echo on the yard. And Tabitha the pig is still a source of much angst to Mumbo:

Having said that there have been a few new additions to the yard aside from the temporary addition of Hannah and Rex. When I first arrive Seamus Marwood and Wild Oats were here, Seamus has subsequently headed home with Wild Oats not far behind him. Murray Lampered and Under the Clocks are also based temporarily at Grubbins Farm. We also have the lovely mad Belgian, Sybille de Liedekerke based in our side of the barn with her lovely labrador Joy and her ponies. But most importantly we have Bommer or Bomber or BomBA as Sybille likes to call him. 

On a horse buying expedition Bek and Burto came across this 6 year old warmblood jumper. They immediately thought of me when they tried him, probably because he is bay with a white blaze and socks. Anyway, Mum went to see him and liked what she saw, she has a great eye for a nice pony and back to Grubbins Farm he came. Hannah had pre-warned me about his lack of ground manners, i.e. he is pretty spoilt and tries to eat everything, "sounds like me I thought" so we should get on famously. 

Hannah had thoughtfully decorated Bommer's stable for my arrival and tied a pink bow in his hair. By the time I got down to the yard Bommer had eaten most of the decorations; but unfortunately the pink bow remained.

So armed with 2 ponies, it was time to get back into my lovely Equicruiser truck and head off to some competitions, ably assisted by Digby Dog and Ratbag (Mum and Dad's labradors) and properly helpfully assisted by Sophie Evans. 

Since my arrival and writing this blog I have been to 5 comps. I have been trying to work out why I have been so slack at writing anything sooner and have come up with a variety of reasons ranging from: I didn't anticipate how many people would be interested in reading last years ramblings and so may have felt a little pressure this year. The internet connection in Surrey has been come even more useless than last year, until recently I only got a connection in one part of my parents kitchen as long as I stood on one leg, wore a tea cosy on my head and the day was a lunar Tuesday, so after going through the painful process of trying to pay bills on line, I didn't have enough hours left in the day to post a blog. Hannah has come with me to most of the events and being younger, prettier and more capable with technology, she has generally posted a pretty good account of the proceedings before we have managed to leave the event, (mainly because I often spend a good 10 minutes trying to remember where I safely stashed the truck keys). For all these reasons and more I have been, as Burto terms it, a bit blog-blocked.

So here is a quick recap of the events so far.

Salperton, set in the heart of the Cotswolds - if that doesn't mean anything to you think of pretty stone houses on the front of chocolate box covers, narrow country lanes, and bad sign posting that ensured we got temporarily lost. This resulted in flinging the ponies at an ever punctual Sophie Evans, bolting around the cross-country course, which was as beautiful as ever.

This year I had entered the Advanced/Intermediate AI class, (Advanced dressage test, Advanced show-jumping, Intermediate cross country). All done in a space of 2.5 hours, dressage starting at 4pm and all done cross-country by 6.30pm. Still find that hard to get used to. An reasonable dressage, followed by a few rails SJ and steady but clear CC was a more solid start than last year. 



Mum got the shot of the day on the last fence CC.

The next day was Bommer and my first outing together at Rackham in the BE100 (Pre-Novice). Prior to this Bommer had done 3 events with Burto, who probably gave him a far more accurate idea of what eventing was about. A quick recap of the test was required, as most British Eventing tests take place in a 20x40m arena, it feels like you are doing endless circles. Feeling like noddy with my back number on, off I set. It turned out I rode like noddy too, I made a sat nav error; but despite that we still came away with a good score. Moving onto the SJ with a couple of rails courtesy of me not getting the hang of his changes I was still feeling quite positive.


Standing in the cross country start box, the starter commented on how quiet Bommer was, when we were still standing there well after she had said,"3, 2, 1, Go" I realised it wasn't a good omen. I scrubbed, kicked, flapped, chicken winged and generally pony clubbed round the course till somewhere in the vicinity of fence 7, a sunken road, here Bommer chucked in the towel, he wasn't taking one more stride in the opposite direction of home. Getting a yellow card for over use of the go-stick wasn't high on my list of priorities, so off we slunk. 

The next week was spent with Burto helping develop our go button ready for our next weekend's outing at Eridge in Kent. Saturday Bommer and I were accompanied by Sybille and her pony Castella. When, 10 minutes before getting on the truck, Sybille still hadn't plaited her pony, Hannah and I stepped in. The day continued with that sort of theme, we had to bolt round the CC course, Sybille got lost walking it, so naturally did the same riding it. But we had a great day and, as I suspected eventing with Sybille was not dull, or for that matter organised. Bommer performed better in the dressage again, I remembered where we were going, we scored 26.7 which equates to 73.3%, we went clear SJ left us with just the CC to contend with. While running the course I noted how none of it was on flat ground and while panting about, I also noted how some of the fences looked a little trappy, especially a palisade, ditch, skinny combo and had set my bench mark at getting my go button working and finishing. We had a green stop at the ditch, he then leapt it which led to wet reins slipping through fingers and a malco-ordinated attempt at steering which meant the skinny was cantered passed, but happily jumped when actually presented at. The rest he cantered round well and so my not very high bench mark was achieved. 


The next day Hannah and I returned to Eridge with big guns, Mumbo and Rex to use it as a combined training exercise. The day was subsequently more organised and at a little slower pace. We managed to catch up with some old friends. Laura Wallace was in fine form and helped me deal with a squeaky Mumbo, who was having abandonment issues when Hannah went to warm Rex up. We also caught up with the lovely Stevie Webb and her friend Laura Milne. Some years ago Stevie worked with Hannah and I at Wallaby Hill and it was fab to see her looking to so well. Hannah who has been instructing me on the modern art of the Facebook selfie pout, got some good ones in:


We also got a bit of time to see the way to go watch eventing English style. Necessary items, a chair, a cheeky-butcher's hat and a dog.

Next event off the rank was Barbury Horsetrials. A quick recap of Mumbo and my performance, dressage a respectable 63%, show-jumping (in a very spooky arena) a very unusual and unwelcome 4 rails and CC a very naughty run out at number 18 an apex (he had already jumped 3) which resulted in an attitude re-adjustment which then saw him go on to jump it easily - bugger, bugger and bugger. To say I was disappointed with our performance would be an understatement. 

But not to dwell on the bad points, the good parts were, Derek arrived just in time for Barbury and once again begun his quest for a decent coffee in England. A few years back Carrie, Simon Derek and I went to the US to WEG. Landing in New York and driving down through Washington to Lexington the noble quest for drinkable coffee began. After countless tastings and discards it turns out someone has now developed an App called Bean Hunter which locates the closest good coffee to you. However, undeterred by modern technology, Derek valiantly continues his quest, currently single handedly (until Caz's arrival next month). Despite the cute array of coffee vans, the coffee remains mostly undrinkable and along with my poorest performance to date, Barbury also holds the award for most undrinkable coffee.

But back to the good parts, Sophie Evans was able to join us again. Hannah's Dad, Tony Walls got to join he officials TD-ing the CIC classes, the place looked amazing as always and Burto won the CIC ** on Mum's horse Nobilis and came second on his other horse - bloody show-off!





Of course a recap of Barbury wouldn't be complete without a comment on how far you had to hack to the dressage arenas. Below is Mumbo half way back to the stables after his test, the grey roofing in the distance is the stables; but then again the view is still spectacular. And of course it wouldn't be complete without the selfie pout.


Hot off the heels of Barbury came Tweseldown. We managed to squeeze in some CC training of ditches and drops and were off. Again Bommer performed a decent test marred only by a sat-nav error again from me. Even with a rail in the SJ we were still sitting up in the ribbons. There was a tough toothbrush skinny coming out of the water which had an option as it was a big ask; but Bommer felt great and I got ambitious. It didn't pay off and we had to do the option; but he was pretty fab over the rest of the course and we are in real danger of posting a clear round CC soon. 


So it was home in time for tea and scones. Actually, Derek headed off that afternoon to do the theory part of his truck license and I spent the afternoon cleaning dog hair out of the truck.

So I hope this goes someway to making up for blogger's block. To those of you holding the fort back home, Geoffois, Michelle, Will, Blink and John - thank you for looking after the place.

For those of you who saw/heard the story of Sammy the labrador going over the edge of the escarpment, you'll be pleased to know he is now fitted with a hefty tracking and training collar and while he is still short on spacial awareness skills, he is long on radio communication skills, well for as long as Smudge doesn't eat the aerials. 

Keeling, I hear that your show was a huge hit, with talent like yours it was never not going to be. I'm sorry I missed it. I hope you are enjoying New York and not knackering yourself out - we're not getting any younger you know. XX

Lauren, good work at Tamworth, I'm with you on the frustrations of ponies, but I'm not sure we would be so hooked if they were more predictable creatures. XX

Michelle and Carrie good luck at SIEC. Michelle, I hope Capone is a good boy and Yogi behaves himself. Caz, can't wait to see you in August until then - GO KODA, GO! XXXX

To the rest of you reading this, thanks for still being interested, sorry it took so long to write, miss you all. 

Next stop, Ireland - I'll keep you posted.....hopefully.

03 Sep 2013

For you

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Recently my closest friend lost her mother. Her mother had been living on borrowed time for some years; but it didn't mean that when time finally failed her it was any less painful or less awful for those left behind. It's in moments like these that I miss home. I'm not sure how helpful I would be to her if I were on Australian shores; but I feel pretty useless over here. So I dedicate this blog to you, my dear friend. May my inane writing about horsing about in Britain afford you a few moments of silly diversion.

So you would have enjoyed driving in the gates of Firle Place. It is an impossibly grand estate, with ridiculously small entrance gates, obviously built by posh pixies. It does however, mean that getting 400 big horse trucks or lorries causes a bit of queue; but then there is nothing that the Brits love more than a good queue. 

Brits queuing for the toilet

We wedged ourselves through the gates though in plenty of time for me to walk my cross country course, have a quick ride on Legs and then get on Mumbo in time for his dressage. I make this sound easy, but Mumbo who has become needier than a teenager in love is incapable of standing either at or in the truck without being accompanied by Legs, so poor Soph had to spend the entire weekend being dragged around by Mumbo, who in between hauling her about and foraging for grass, squealed loudly in her ear. 

Anyway I have of course got sidetracked and lost the point to my sentence. Ah yes the cross country course. Set on relatively flat parkland the 1* Cross Country looked relatively straightforward. Some nice big galloping fences and not too many tricky combinations, which was lucky as Mumbo and I have been having a fairly mixed run of it. We took on our CC walk Digby, Mum and Dad's labrador. We haven't been allowed to look after Ratbag as well as Digby, while there are away, as, well as Mum and Dad have rightly assumed any form of discipline they may have instilled in the puppy would have evaporated by the time they got home. Bearing in mind that I'm writing this in bed and Digby is currently lying on the bottom of it - sorry Mum and Dad if you're reading this.

Anyway, walking CC courses in England always makes you feel like you are back at school doing orienteering. A map of the cross country course is a rarity. 

The closest we got to a cross country map

As for the distance on the course or the optimum time, this is a closely guarded secret that only be discovered after some ferreting about it the secretary's tent. Thank goodness for the Cross Country App and for its erase button function. Anyway with most of the course walk successfully navigated it was time to teach Digby the art of dive bombing.


Mission accomplished

So a quick ride on Legs while Mumbo tried to rupture Soph's eardrum and we were all set for Mumbo's dressage. It was set in the most picturesque and serene spot at the bottom of the garden in front of Firle Place, through the bushes, you could spy the local cricket team.


Instead of focusing on the serenity and tranquility of the area, Mumbo chose to focus on the strange lady sitting on the wall by the arena. Subsequently our test had some seriously tense moments; but the lady on the wall was oblivious to her effect and gaily clapped us as I slumped out of the ring.

We packed off and headed off down some narrow lanes and under some low bridges to stay with Laura Wallace at the yard she is now based at in West Sussex that is owned by Francis Whittington. We drank a few bubbles in memory of Tom Gadbsy and generally caught up on Antipodean life. It was very civilised and sedate, in bed early and up early for the next day - I think I maybe getting old!

The next day we were back bright and early at Firle, which was lucky as Sunday was not only the continuation of the horsetrials but also a dog show and it seemed the entire human and canine population of the South England was there. 

So show-jumping first for Mumbo and he was a delight, which was timely as Mouse, his previous owner was there watching. So with no more penalties we moved onto the CC and he was great again - so we finally finished on our dressage score. I think we may have even acquired a few BE points for our double clear, plus some money and nice glass cup about the right size for a good G&T. 

By now the dog show was in full swing. The tranquility of the day's previous dressage had been replaced by the Ring 2 for the dog show. Unfortunately the commentator who was on a very squeaky microphone had a bad speech impediment, her frantic cries of "Could all the rhippets come to wing thwree" was only out done on comic value watching amateur dog agility.

Anyway, back to the horses and it was time for Legsey debut at BE 100. So with Mumbo squealing in the bushes, Legs tootled around the 40 x 20m dressage arena with me once again dressed up like noddy with my back number on. She was very soft an obedient and still lower in the poll than I would like; but then her withers have only just come level with bum; but she did a PB for 31. something. I have no idea what that equates to in a percentage as BE tests are calculated on a dressage formula on 5th generation scorers know. But the leaders were on 28. something, I think. 

Onto the show-jumping and a couple of green rails later, and Sophie well and truly deaf in one ear it was onto the cross-country. When I say it was onto cross-country it was about 5.13pm by the time we set off. By then the "Rippets in wing thwree" had well and truly gone home and I think there were a few hounds a few kilos heavier.

While walking Legs's course it occurred to me that our arrowhead training to date had been minimal to none existent, but it turns out that on course training is just as good. She was fantastic and happily cantered round like an old pro. 

So it turned out to be a very contented crew that packed up and headed home. Mumbo was reunited with his beloved Legs, Legs was reunited with her hay bag, Soph was reunited with a semi-working eardrum. 

So as we drove in the gate to Burto's yard and the sun had set red across the sky, my thoughts turned back to you waking up on the other side of the world. I hope you know I'm thinking of you and I can only hope that the grief will soon give way to happy memories. Take care and see you soon, Al

29 Aug 2013

Vive la France

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Thursday, August 29, 2013

So the radio silence on my behalf has come, not because I blew up the UK's world wide inter-web; but instead I blew up my computer. Luckily for me Derek was able to take it back to Australia with him to get it it fixed and I can now happily report that both Derek and the computer are back with me in fine working order. 

In the meantime I missed blogging about Hartpury. In short Hartpury was huge and terrifying. Charlie did quite a good test; but was out early and didn't score so well. I watched a few tests and walked away thinking that the best thing I could do to improve my dressage was change my name.... Alex Klimke maybe?

I rode an awful SJ round and had more rails than I care to remember. 

And had a stop at a big rolltop set on the edge of the water that had water cascading off it, a waterfall jump so to speak. Both Charlie and Pie took some convincing that it was there to be jumped.


Other than that we made it round. 

Pie held it together in the indoor for the dressage - just; but was still pretty tense. The large snorting noise echoing around the indoor was a bit of a give away.


She was fantastic show-jumping with only a rail.


Cross country we had a stop at the same fence as Charlie and continued on okay until she pulled off both front shoes and nearly fell over a fence, we carried on for couple more fences, including jumping the widest one on course until, feeling like I was riding a duck on ice, I retired. 


Pie jumping the widest jump on course without her Jimmy Choos. 

In short that was Hartpury.

So dusting myself off it was onwards and upwards.  I had intended to do a local one day event; but in true me style changed my mind last minute. Feeling like I was at school again, I got my Mum to ring up in her perfect french and ask the Event Director of Haras Du Pin whether I could have 2 very late entries in the 3 star. "Mais oui bien sur" - was the answer and all of a sudden it was off to France. 

I make this sound a little easier than it was. Soph, who had only just got back to Manchester and her ponies, very obligingly agreed to pretty much abandon it all and come to France for the week. Exports licenses and ferry tickets had to be bought. Then I discovered Shane was going and new export licenses for Virgil had to be booked. 

But perhaps most importantly the new truck had to be packed, it arrived the day before we left. I had wanted to gloss over the fact that I am unbelievably spoilt; but with pics of the new wheels already on Facebook, I have to confess to being the most spoilt individual on the planet and having the most unbelievably generous and supportive parents. The truck in question is a 4 horse Equicruiser and is incredibly well built and well designed and well - I can't believe it is mine! How very lucky am I. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mum and Dad.

So with Derek, Soph, Michelle, Pie, Charlie and Virgil all packed and with absolutely no idea how anything worked in the truck we set off to France. 


As we left the white cliffs of Dover behind, I remembered that Burto had said that if I ever got the opportunity to compete in France to take it. I hoped he was right.

Driving over the umpteenth high bridge, it occurred to me that this is how we would drive to WEG when we come over to watch next year. With us will be Carrie, who has in the past has be mistaken for my lesbian partner and sister. Carrie suffers badly from vertigo, driving over the Brooklyn bridge back home in the truck with her, means moving into the fast lane away from the edge, just in case a freak gust of wind blows all 14 or so tonnes of us over the edge. The trip to WEG maybe a bridge too far. Caz, we took these just for you.


The ponies seemed relatively unconcerned to discover themselves in France when we got them off at a truck stop somewhere north of Rouen. My high-schoold French was enough to get us all cheese and ham baguettes and then we loaded up and were off again. 



The motorway temporarily disappeared near Rouen, which meant some navigating through a smallish town. Just doesn't feel right driving on the right!


Anyway we finally made it to the incredibly beautiful Haras du Pin.


The place is truly beautiful and much like the new truck I had know idea what anything was but it all looked great. There were plenty of tracks and places you could take the horses for a ride, so I took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring on horse back.


Meanwhile Derek, Michelle and Soph did some exploring of another of their own.


So with beautiful weather the competition began in earnest. First out was Pie. Who was predictable if nothing else, however she did look incredibly smart with some new quarter markers; but unfortunately this didn't get us any higher marks.


This pic taken by Debbie from An Eventful Life and shows Pie's best side.

Charlie was later in the day, and after some relaxed hacking about and some helpful tips from Shane in the warm-up,  


he pulled out a cracker of test to put us on 45 and in 5th place - Good boy Charlie!!! Good timing too as Clayton was watching.

Early Saturday morning was the Show-jumping, and I thought we could put the horror of the dressage arena behind Pie and I; but it was not to be and an uncharacteristic 2 stops on Pie sealed the end of Pie and my French eventing extravaganza. Back to the drawing board there. Charlie and I were a little deep to number 5 which just needed to be breathed on to come down and I completely missed him to the triple bar, for 8 faults. Still a big improvement of Hartpury. With the show-jumping all over by 11 o'clock on Saturday morning and the Cross Country not until Sunday afternoon. It was time to walk the course. By this time Stuart Tinney had joined us, brandishing baguettes, frommage et tomates.



So off we set round the course. The fences were quite big and some of the lines were quite tough. Shane helpfully suggested at some fences that I just "canter down and jump it". Meanwhile Stuart helped me walk through some of the options. After that there was little left to do other than sit back and watch some pony cross-country and possibly go to the bar.


It was here that Stuart and Olivia found their golden saddles.

Feeling cautiously optimistic I could get round the CC I headed for bed. By now we had got to grips with the truck. We had set up the satellite internet connection, got the TV working, had hot showers and cooked meals. The only noticeable downside was that Derek had become transfixed alternatively by the God channel and the Islam channel, and had taken to quoting from both. Definitely time for bed.


The spacious new sleeping arrangements in the truck.

By the time Sunday afternoon came round the rain had arrived. First out on course was Mark Todd who made it look easy to go clear; but nearly impossible to make the time. The next 4 riders all fell before fence 8. No one was making time. Suddenly I felt the tension level in my stomach reach new highs. It seemed to be carnage. The rain got heavier and the wait till my 4.40pm cross country time seemed to take forever. 

Shane came back from his clear round on Virgil buzzed and told me to take the option in the second water as the distance was really hard to get. So optioned up I set off. Charlie was fantastic and helped me out so that we came home clear, just very slow. Time to take the handbreak off I think. Anyway, I was stoked with the boy, just wish I went faster as going into CC I was lying 8th and we fell nearly 20 places. But on the up we came home, clear, safe, sound and ready to run another day and I loved the event.

So until till next time - here it is - Vive la France

29 Jul 2013

Camphire - what a craic!

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Monday, July 29, 2013

Without wanting to sound like I have just removed the silver spoon from my mouth and other orifices, if you ever find yourself in Ireland within grabbing distance of a pony, donkey or oversized basset hound and the opportunity presents, go eventing in ireland, it is a craic!

But that is getting ahead of myself. Since I last blogged, England has been suffering a heat wave, the amount of radio active white flesh that has now been fried red is truly terrifying. For a notoriously prudish nation they certainly aren't shy about stripping off when the mercury rises. The recent addition to the Townsend household, known both affectionately and literally as "Ratbag" has spent most of the last few weeks doing this: 


Another thing that has been thawed by the heat is the cold war stand off between her and Digby. Ever tolerant Digby now spends a large amount of his time either wearing Ratbag on his head or has her hanging off his ear.



In other news, Pie has made a return to work after sustaining a series of niggling yet not serious problems. In fact she made it up the gallops twice without keeling over with exhaustion so there is an outside chance she may even return home fit. She did however have the lovely Kat riding her, so was was carrying at least 20kg less than normal. 


And yes that is Derek in the background on the trusty Mumbo, he would like me to mention that shortly after this was taken he "went for the gap" and overtook Pie......not exactly like overtaking Black Caviar!

So we packed up Pie, Mumbo and Charlie and in the trusty blue truck, Soph, Derek and I headed to Ireland. We first had to cross over the bridge into Wales, where we had to pay to get in????? Surely you could charge more to let people out?



Here we had a minor detour and caught up with a very old friend who I think thought we heading to Ireland to do a Gymkhana with a couple of donkeys. Subsequently when we turned up in the truck, with 3 bay horses primped and primed in blue Bucas rugs and bandages, all gleaming and a bit wired, I noticed him do a mental recalculation that now has me off the stratosphere on the barking-mad metre. 

Next morning it was time for a quick hack round the quiet Pembrokeshire lanes before getting on the ferry. As relaxing as this sounded this mainly involved swatting horse flies. A quick drive to Pembroke Dock and before we knew it we queueing in the freight lines like seasoned ferry travellers.

It's quite an eery feeling driving your most beloved creatures into the gunnels of a ferry. 


And then after opening up the back and checking they have enough hay and water, leaving them to it while you head up to the restaurant. This isn't because we were greedy, it is because you aren't allowed to stay with them.

4 hours later we were disembarking on the Emerald Isle and it was raining. 3 hours later we had followed the instructions on the Campfire website and still weren't quite there, so after a bit of following our noses Derek rang the organisers to find out exactly where we were to go next, to which he was told: "There's a blue bridge, you don't want to be going over that," in a thick Irish accent. Remarkably, on the strength of that incisive piece of direction, we made it.

Campfire is one of 3 international events (I think) in Ireland and by all accounts generally regarded as one of the most fun. It is set on a beautiful old property on the edge of what looks like a river but is in fact a tidal estuary. It was owned until recently by a lady who was by all accounts as eccentric as a badger; but very keen on horses and set up the horse trials. When she passed away suddenly no-one had a clue what she had done with her estate planning and I think most of her family assumed some donkey sanctuary would inherit the lot. Instead she bequeathed it to one of her grandsons, who along with his father have set about making Campfire an event that holds its own on the world stage and I'm sure they are making the old girl proud.

Mike Etherington-Smith designs the three star course on the tracks are beautiful both to look at and ride. The atmosphere in unbelievably relaxed and friendly and the crowds are huge; but before I get ahead of myself; back to the competition. Mumbo and I were running in the CIC1* to get us back on track, Pie in the CIC2* to give her an easy run back into it and Charlie in the CCI2*, needed to qualify for Blenheim as part of our endless quest for MERs. 

So first up was Charlie's trot up.

As Soph had turned him out so beautifully I decided it was only fitting to get into a dress. It was only after the second trot up where I turned up in wellies and a big waterproof jacket as it was raining that I discovered prizes for best dressed were only awarded for outfits at the second trot up.....peaking to early as usual.


Onto the dressage. Charlie had been working really well up till the morning of his test. As we were warming up they turned on the loudspeakers and out blared Puccini, it turns out Charlie isn't much of an opera fan. He was still rideable but not as soft as he has been and scored 46.8 - 68.8% which had him in a the lead quite comfortably all day until a well known UK rider came into the arena. I was watching the test from afar and it was beautiful until the last simple change when the horse stopped and spat it. Some 30 seconds passed and the horse was still prating about and the judges horn sounded and out they got to eliminate the rider, for what I assumed was a continued disobedience. Some fierce discussion went on, the stayed in the ring all the while schooling the simple change, after a while I stopped watching wondering whether just being in Ireland was enough to acquire the luck of the Irish. It turns out the answer is no. I later found out the judges wanted to eliminate the combination not for continued disobedience; but because the horse's hind legs had left the arena. The rider refused to leave the arena and so the judges just got back in their cars and the rider continued on with the test and beat Charlie by .2. I'm still not sure what to make of that; but know what everyone else in the class thought. I may have been a tad cranky on picking up tests to see in the collectives that horse still scored a 7 for submission from one of the judges; but that just reaffirms one of my many reasons to never become a straight dressage rider.

Mumbo was next and was a super star - he rocked out a 45 - 69% and was on fire. That had him running 10th in a cast of thousands. Pie was also surprisingly rideable, there were still plenty of mistakes for a 56.6 - 62.3%; but overall it was a good day at the dressage.

Next day came along with sunshine and showers and the 2** cross country. The aim on Charlie was to get round clear and speed things up a bit; but still try and save his legs given how much running he has yet to do. The aim on Pie was to get round clear, take it easy bearing in mind that she has only been back in work a short time and try and get rid of some of her "fat bits" as Soph calls them. Mission accomplished. Both horses were fantastic, Charlie came in with 8.8 time which dropped us to 6th place; but he pulled up really well and Pie, despite losing a shoe in the warm-up and sounding like an emphysema patient felt fantastic. 

The start fence



One of Mumbo's fence's


Charlie's owl hole with a drop on landing, that is me trying to peer over the top

Mumbo's fence which had a really pretty water splash behind 


The drop to the skinnies that saw some hairy riding


The water that had the drop in (to the left of the photo) and then a bank out with a very short bounce to a skinny, which saw even hairier riding

The apexes that reminded me of the ones we have back at WHF


Charlie splashing around after cross country, given half a chance he would have got in

So it was a good day cross country and in true eventing form it was time for a drinks party. Being the big party goers that we are we stayed for a few minutes and headed back to the truck to watch Little Miss Sunshine and have an M&S microwave meal, which Soph and I have become particularly partial too, never mind your G&T darling!


Soph & Derek doing drinks


Derek and I in a particularly cordial moment, just moments before his Charles Saatchi impression

Sunday dawned and more rain. First up was Mumbo's show-jumping and continuing on a in legendary form and armed with a set of back boots he produced a lovely clear round to move him up to 6th.

Charlie, was also on song and apart from pushing him at a vertical which he subsequently had down he jumped beautifully to remain in 6th.


Pie, took a leaf out of Mumbo's book to jump clear. She unlike the other two has never experienced boggy or mud conditions and she is permanently losing shoes shoes in them, this round was no different and she lost a shoe coming into this fence.


Not that you would know from the photos; but she does feel like a very different horse in the mud, no where near as forward and quite hesitant. She added a stride in the treble which she hasn't done for ages. I was talking to Kevin McNab, who along with Emma Dougall were at the event having a very successful time in the 3 star, who said that it took one of his 6 months for one of his horses to get used to it. We'll be home by then!

Kevin McNab, sporting his green and gold shirt

Then it was time for Mumbo's Cross Country and he was magic, he flew out of the start and felt like he was on rails. Half way round the course coming into the shadows was a set of 3 bounce steps, ABC, and being the muppet I am I didn't set him up well enough and got hime wrong to the first which he fell up and as he was kneeling on the ground I gently got off him cursing myself for being such an idiot while he was being such a legend. As we left the course the commentator called out to check we were alright, and as I gave Mumbo a pat and signalled we were okay, he reminded me, "Come back next year, you hear, you have unfinished business here, by the way I love your horse." - So do I, I thought and now I have just rewarded him with a fat knee. So I set about finding the vet to make sure it was all okay and he would be comfortable for the long trip home and Soph stocked up on ice so she could ice him on the way.

With that it was time to leave the crowds and our new friends and head home. Bucas, who make the rugs The Animal Company imports, sponsored Campfire and had a trade stand at the event. Finally after all these years I got to meet the gang after dealing with them for so long, even if until recently they had thought I was a boy.

Douglas Venn from Bucas - part of the family now


Apart from the horses, Campfire held a dog show, and all weekend while meeting the most friendly people you had ever hoped to meet, we had also been meeting their canine competitors. While we were a massive fans of Dudley the  Golden Retriever cross Poodle


It was Tucker the Basset cross Jack Russel that won the day


So with tired ponies and a long journey we ahead we set off. As we turned out the gate to head for home we saw the blue bridge, and were reminded of all the quirky irish expressions we had heard all weekend and how I had unfinished business here and should return next year - now that would be grand to be sure, to be sure!

17 Jul 2013

Brightling - beautiful and bonkers

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Wednesday, July 17, 2013

With Soph doing an excellent job map reading, I drove through the beautiful country of the South of England musing about how the upcoming Brightling International Horse Trials would rate against the incredible experience of Barbury. In between telling me to take the A24 heading South, Soph agreed that of our English eventing adventures to date Barbury would be a hard act to follow. So it was with slightly muted expectations that I continued heading towards the tiny village of Brightling.

On the plus side, the weather was good and supposed to stay that way.

On arrival after navigating an impossibly small gateway, we were met by a friendly man in a Landrover who happily informed us we had parked in the wrong paddock/field and to follow him as he would take us to where those staying overnight were parked. Through the tiny - (4 houses, a church and village hall) but incredibly picturesque village of Brightling we followed him to an even smaller gateway. After smashing the indicator and nearly breaking a fence post, it was suggested I approach from the other angle which meant turning around in the dressage paddock down the road.

 The entrance into the dressage paddock, positively enormous.


It was only when safely parked and unloading, did I take a moment to look around and see just how beautiful it was.

Legs unloading and admiring the view - the blue on the horizon is the sea.

The lovely Landrover man, I never did find out his name, then helped us find out stables. On the way he told us that it was the only course in England you could see the sea from, I have yet to substantiate his claim. However, it probably the only cross country course that went through the stable block.

This is the 2* fence 21a - in the very stylish Wallaby Hill pink shirt is Sophie standing next to Legs, Charlie and Mumbo respectively and in the background is Brightling House. Both bemused and enchanted by this concept, Derek chose this moment to predict that I would have a stop at fence 21b which required jumping another wall out of the garden/stable block, to which I retorted "I'm riding eventers, not homing pigeons", words I later rued.

But back to the stables. Freshly painted, so fresh that some horses had to swap stables as the paint was still wet, and 100s of years old, these wonderful brick stables at the bottom of the garden were a wonderful respite from heat. The fact that in the aging rafters above them appeared to be the remains of a bed frame, croquet set and a couple deck chairs poised to fall on the horses at any moment, just added to the charm.



This was certainly a place fiercely dedicated to the running of the horse trials. The warmup to the CIC** dressage was on the front lawn.

While the croquet lawn had been appropriated as a dressage arena.

Indeed it was as one of our stable neighbours was washing black paint stable paint off her horse I took a closer look at the Brightling House, in whose gardens my horses were stabled.

A very old and beautiful house, it looked like it had weathered many a horsetrials, and could possibly do with a lick of paint and maybe the odd window pane or two; but after the stables of course. I think I met one of the owners a smallish lady, obscured by folders and other judging essentials, who was concerned that we had settled in okay. I felt like I should be offering her a hand, not that I can mend windows or do even basic carpentry. English eccentricity at its finest.

Happily ensconsed I took a moment to walk the Prelim course, or BE90 as it is called, after all this was Leg's English debut and she was about to do it all in one day, in the space of 3 hours. I had hoped to take her to do a BE80 (Intro) having only done one intro on her at home; but Derek's plans to refer to her as an International Intro horse had been thwarted by not being able to find a B80 within 3 hours. So taking a leaf out of my last blog, I decided to swallow the cement.  

In the afternoon sunshine the place looked magical.


Complete with an original folley - something we won't be adopting at Wallaby Hill.

Saturday morning and the place was still bathed in glorious sunshine. Legs and I hacked through the village to the dressage, yes Caz, I did wear my back number and feel like Noddy. To further enhance the experience I was competing in a 20x40m arena and to add a nice comedy element the zipper on my breeches refused to stay done up for more than 5 minutes. But a beep from the judge's horn, a quick zip up of my flies and 5 minutes later Leg's first phase was over. Off to the show-jumping which was on quite a healthy slope. A green stop at the last double, but otherwise clear round and phase 2 was complete. Last but not least was the Cross Country which started with a long run down hill. For those who don't know Legs akka WHF Eclipse, she is a 4 year old who is still growing and subsequently feels like you are riding downhill without the slope. A green stop at the start, and number 4 and then she was away on and on fire, getting braver and better with every jump. Even the commentator, who happily pointed out Leg's green-ness at the start was complimentary about the change in her by the finish. Let's hope she'll remember it for this weekend.

Then it was off to the front lawn for the big boys. Mumbo's test was spoiled by a tense canter which I finally got around to fixing to late in the day for a 63% and Charlie noticed the crowd, assumed they were there for him and strutted his stuff for a 70% which had us in 4th place. It turned out the crowd were there for Zara Phillips who is now officially pregnant, as opposed to unofficially pregnant and probably sending many a mothers group into apoplexy by still competing, go Zara!

The papparrazi are behind me - taking a pic of Zara and my arse!

Meanwhile, back at the stable temps had begun to soar and Soph, stripped down - 

To a boob-tube and shorts


This pic is taken in the tunnel they have created in the woods to link paddocks and was the coolest place to be in all weekend.

Saturday night and we ventured through the village to the Brightling bar for a warm glass of wine and a tepid pint - refridgerators are on the list after window panes.

On a our way back we noticed that in the grave yard where there was a pyramid.

Why we don't know; but we enjoyed the thought of this guy's family reading the will that stipulated the deceased wished to be buried in a pyramid, otherwise the property was going to a cats home - God bless the English.

We also got over taken by Italians on pink vespas who had, along with their stylish mopeds brought horses here to compete.

Onto Sunday morning, another beautiful day is this slightly surreal paradise. With not much to do until midday I took Soph and Derek to walk the 2 star course, with strict instructions not comment on the size of the water jump and generally make only encouraging remarks.

Unbeknownst to me, Derek and Soph had been drinking the Brightling kool-aid and took it upon themselves pose their way around the course. 


Hidden at the back of the property was a beautiful and incredibly well kept cricket pitch complete with wicket and cricket themed arrow heads.


And a scoring board - which Derek kindly pointed out had Leg's final score on it (not).


The order of priorities was becoming evident, horsetrials, cricket, stable painting and somewhere at the bottom, home insulation.

Shortly after this was the 3rd water jump for the 2 star - the one I had warned Derek ad Soph to say only encouraging things about. As we arrived we came across a fellow competitor shaking her head. "Have you ridden this course before" she asked, to which I shook my head. "Jesus, I thought it was going to be an easy qualifier; but it's huge and then there is this, it's terrifying". She probably didn't expect Soph and Derek to respond with stifled giggles. She stalked off and Soph and Derek fell about laughing. In essence the fence was a big log, 2 strides to a fairly hefty drop, followed by a bounce off an even heftier drop into the lake, through the lake to an angled log.



More cement needed.

Onto show-jumping. Mumbo had fence 2,3 and 4 down behind, for reasons I have yet to discern other than he didn't lift his legs high enough; but on the positive side the rest of his round was great and his back boots are on order. Charlie, still believing the audience was there for him, was fab in the show-jumping producing a great clear round.


Last but not least ... the cross country. Horses galloping through the stable block elicited different responses from the boys.




Anyway, needing this run on both boys as a qualifier for the CCI** in Ireland at the end of the month, I set off on Mumbo. Sadly I let him run out at some off-set arrowhead logs that were proving quite influential and decided to retire as it was no longer a qualifying run. On the long walk home I surmised that maybe I shouldn't push him so hard and decided to get a few good novice runs under our belt. A little deflating; but that's horses. On a good note we had an awesome jump lesson with Burto today.

I forgot to mention that my wonderful support team Mum and Dad had come to watch as they do at most events - (Dad even watched the dressage at Barbury); but this Sunday they were joined by very old family friends and my godfather and his wife and Charlie fired up by what he assumed was his ever growing fan club, was a star, giving me a fantastic ride. As I was galloping up the hill towards the stable jump I could be heard patting him and telling him "I love you horse" like some drunk outside a nightclub at closing time. As we jumped in to the stable complex and I turned to jump out, my eventer turned into homing pigeon and fell into trot and started slowing up. Out came the chicken wings and the bat and we got over 21B just and went on to finish clear.

It was a great high to finish on at this enchanting and eccentric event. Not one of the 45 riders in the 2** finished within the time. I think the person measuring the course stopped at the stables too. My plan was always to run slow, while I'm amassing the appropriate qualifiers so with my time penalties I managed to finish 12th; but importantly I got some Eventing points for my double clear. To the 542 points Charlie came with I have added a whole 4 more.

Ireland here we come!

29 Jun 2013

Beautiful Barbury

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Saturday, June 29, 2013

Well it's been a while since my last blog, mainly because internet access here in the heart of Surrey a good 50 minutes from London is as rare as the truth in politics.

Since I last spouted forth on the world wide web many things have happened. Burto won Aachen, the closest I got to that was watching it on FEI TV in his tack room along with the rest of the Grubbins Farm gang and of course Harvey the dog. What an incredible moment that was!

Talking of dogs, Mum and Dad got a new puppy - a black labrador or course. As with all small 4 legged things I, along with the rest of the family am completely smitten. The one person who is holding out is Digby, the existing black labrador - he's not feeling the love and a large and long hurrumph has ensued, it makes the cold war look positively like amateur hour.

So fishing the tweed coat out of the cupboard and armed with requisite accessories for eventing - 2 labradors it was off to Barbury!

Wow - Barbury is something else. I can now see why people clamour to get in and the ballot date is awaited with more anticipation than Birthdays. Set in the glorious Wiltshire country side, complete with rolling green hills and chocolate box villages, Barbury exceeds every expectation.



Tweeds and a labrador - Oh rather!


The truck park at Barbury was mind boggling - only spotted one float belonging to none other than England's own Lucinda Green. Most people trucks defied imagination. One European rider, sponsored by some sort of drinks company has a truck emblazoned with so much signage that it looks like a mobile drinks dispenser. One pop out is passe. People had 8 piece teak garden furniture sets complete with umbrellas. Tack boxes were turned into mobile booze cabinets. Felt pretty stupid using my truck to carry horses.


As for the portable stables - there were hundreds of them, full of hundreds of horses who were all in my class - God knows how they got to Barbury.


Anyway, getting on to how I went. Dressage for me was on Thursday, in an arena that appeared to be in a different county! Needless to say both boys were really good. At the end of day one of the CIC** dressage Charlie was 4th and Mumbo was 18th  - by the end of dressage the next day when the remaining 1 million 2 star riders had finished Charlie was 6th and Mumbo 36th - they were about 9 penalties apart.

I spent my Friday having a day off which involved a bit of a run around on the Barbury gallops:

And hacking back over to the CIC ** dressage arenas to see how many more quality horses were in the warm up.


I also spent the time walking the course.

Barbury 2** course


The incredible thing about the course is that it is all set in a valley and up one side of a hill so you can see the entire course. The other thing I noticed apart from the presentation of the fences, the beautiful setting, the extraordinary colour of the Barbury water jump, was how well set up the jump judges were. I have only been to a few events now; but have noticed there is a strong community of jump-judges that travel from event to event a bit like up market gypsies. Their cars are like tardises, they bring out all manner garden furniture, picnic items and dogs. I can only imagine that they are 2nd or 3rd generation jump-judges who have inherited both their cars and its contents from generation past. The dogs on the other hand are insane. I walked the course on Friday as the last novice horse was going round and once the biker boys had collected the score sheets, it was time to release the hounds! Dogs of every shape and description ran wild across the course making a bee line for the water, followed by futile cries of "Bonzo, heal Bonzo" and other such plaintive calls, all of which were ignored.

A few other fences.....


Anyway, after much discussion from the English riders about how hard the ground was and whether they should run...hahahahah, it was time for the SJ and CC.

The show jumping was remarkably small, consequently I made a small horlicks of it having 2 rails on Charlie and 3 on Mumbo..........muppet!


So well out the placings a clear cross country that saved their legs was in order. The course was proving to unseat a few riders and see quite a few more walk home. So after being a pork chop in the start box Charlie and I headed out, with me feeling a little more nervous than usual. With a few arguments about who was in control and subsequently a few dodgy distances, we came home clear and full of running and confidence.


Then it was time for Mumbo - feeling more confident, I set out on a bit of a mission; but sadly it was not to be, I let him drift fractionally left on the second in a line of apexes and thus incurred a 20 - more muppertry; but aside from that he was fantastic and I loved every minute of it.


So in a nutshell that was Barbury - not necessarily the best run; but an awesome experience and some good miles under the belt,  after all that is what I'm here for.

Video from Nunney

Video from Saleperton


24 Jun 2013

A stiff upper lip and a tea spoon full of cement

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Monday, June 24, 2013

So on my last blog I returned from cross-country sodden from head to toe and spirits equally dampened. However, now one is in England, it is time for a stiff upper lip and to soldier on like a jolly good fellow. I did manage to slip in time for a quick G&T and pause to reflect on the positive side of Nunney...... the show-jumping:

Charlie & Pie


And a few good photos that don't tell the same story as the score board.

Pie making easy work of the apexes that I made a meal of on Mumbo:


So with riding boots fully dried out and a stiff upper lip I applied myself to the task of getting better at this Eventing in England caper. Some more cross country training was in order in particular, so we went in search of a venue with big apexes. The venue we chose will out of courtesy remain nameless and there are no accompanying pictures mainly because as Derek remarked "it was interesting that someone should decide to recreate Macarthur under a flight path in England!" Before the protests come in, I have very fond memories of Macarthur. In my tack room hangs a yellow ribbon I won in a 1* there, mainly because they were kind enough to run a 1* with only 3 in it and still hand out ribbons.

Further more, I went for trip down memory lane and had a riding lesson with my instructor who last taught me when I was 16. I'm not sure she thought my riding had improved much; but fairly certain she liked my horses more. It was a bizarre feeling rolling up the drive of a place I had spent so much of my teenage years, either I was a midget then or the place has shrunk.

Last in the preparations, we managed to squeeze in a few jump lessons from Burto. We would have been set if we could have removed Harvey the bridle bag.

Given that the next event, Salperton, was a true one day event - 3 ponies, 3 phases all on the same day, I opted to stable the ponies nearby the night before as a 3 hour drive each way on top of it all seemed to make the stiff upper lip wobble just a fraction. We stayed literally just opposite the venue with some great people who were rather bemused at my great English adventure; but wished me luck all the same.

The ponies stabled and basking in the evening sun with Mumbo looking distinctly cheeky, that should have been a heads up.

So Salperton..... Mumbo was the first pony off the truck. To say he was full of himself would have been an understatement. Who knows, was it the wind, the rain, too much feed, maybe it was just because it was Saturday; but Mumbo was feeling naughtily good. A snorting pony came near us in the warm up and Mumbo left off a series of squeals and bucks that left me nearly T-boning Mary King. He proceeded to squeal at the judges, spook at the letters, canter left when I asked for canter right and canter right when I asked for canter left, trot when I wanted walk, rein back when I wanted halt and then squeal his whole way back to the truck. Show-jumping wasn't much better, neither of us definitively won the battle over which spot we were going to take off from and the score board reflected it. More squealing in cross-country start box, followed by a quick rear and spin meant instead of starting my watch I smacked myself in the eye before careering out of the start box. However, we did manage to finally get our act together and post a slow but clear round and he got better and better as the round went on and all was forgiven by the end of the course.

Here he is jumping what on approach seems like a small rail out of the woods, when in fact it is a trakehner with a decent drop on it 4 steady strides to a very tall and skinny triple brush arrowhead.

Sorry, I should have mentioned earlier, Salperton is a beautiful event, set on a beautiful estate in the Cotswolds in England, owned by a man who by all accounts prefers shooting things; but once a year allows his beautiful estate to be invaded by hundreds of horses, trucks and horsey people all completely unarmed. Although, I should mention that the parking is done with military precision:

The course is also truly beautiful, not only is it set in picturesque rolling green hills; but each jump is beautifully presented, so it should come as no surprise to discover that the course is built by Mike Etherington-Smith. If memory serves right Charles Etherington-Smith was event director, so it seems like it was very much an Etherington-Smith family event.


A course complete with its very own meercats.....Wallaby Hill will have to step up.


I've digressed, to those who know me well this will come as know surprise.

After my pony club efforts in the dressage on Mumbo, I was determined to do better on Charlie. I managed to not ram anyone famous in the warm-up which was more difficult than you might imagine and Charlie sensed that we had something to prove, so he happily obliged me and put in a stellar effort to score 29.1. He did a great effort in the Show-Jumping, considering the hilly terrain, muddy conditions and forward distances, we came out with just a rail.


Onto cross-country. We had a large hold on course while I was in the warm-up. It turned out I was the least of Mary King's problems. 2 fences from home her horse left a leg and fell on landing, sending Mary flying, I think breaking her nose, her wrist and probably a few other things. Even with the hold, I managed to get my start sorted so that Charlie had minimal time to be a pork-chop, and we were off. Charlie was fantastic, we had breaks and steering and if I hadn't pulled him so tightly onto a line that he lost a bit of footing causing him to stumble into the fence instead of over it, he would have easily gone clear....aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!


So last but not least was Pie. With the delays in the day, it meant that Pie's dressage, scheduled at 5.00pm had come upon me a little quicker than I has hoped. She had been lunged a bit during gaps; but both Sophie and Phoebe were working like Trojans all day, and long gaps were difficult to find. Let's just say the 15 minutes I had to warm up were probably reflected in her dressage score. On the moderately positive side, her score was better than last week's and she didn't blow up, instead she kept an even level tension the entire way through the test. With a small stud hole issue that meant we couldn't stud her front shoes, we headed into show-jumping slightly unsure footed. This culminated in losing a shoe mid-round at which point retirement beckoned. It was 6.30pm and I was due to go cross-country at 6.50pm; but the farrier and half the truck park had gone home and so I decided to join them.

As I drove out I felt I had made a good decision, my horses were safe and sound and we had made progress. Later on I found out that Mary King was seen driving herself home and has every intention of competing at Aachen next week. Maybe this week for breakfast I'll be eating cement instead of porridge if I'm going to get anywhere in this caper!


17 Jun 2013

Wet and then really wet

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Monday, June 17, 2013

So much has happened since I last blogged....if that is the right terminology.

Chris, very kindly offered to take me out in my truck to see how it all worked etc and give me a glimmer of what life would be life if I ever survived my truck course. Bizarrely enough in the UK while it may take precision driving worthy of Michael Schumacher to pass your test, once passed you can cram the whole family in the back.


In this case I borrowed Bek Thomson's family and Jack & Kat who are entirely indifferent to my photographing efforts. We took our horses to a place nearby that has a course of SJ jumps permanently set up, numerous cross country jumps available for practice and beautiful gallops - in my case for photographing.

For a few days more the weather remained beautiful and around my truck course I managed in the remaining daylight hours to do a bit of hacking out around the beautiful and totally misnamed Grubbins Farm.



While I have found these hacks out a particularly useful stress release after a day at the wheel, Mumbo has taken exception to Tabitha the pig and as such found these hacks to be the exact opposite:

But on the whole he like the rest of us have been made to feel very at home by Bek and Burto and their fab set up.


Mumbo in very spacious stable.

Legs kicking up her heels in her paddock - or is that field now?

Anyway with the first event looming Mum, Dad and Digby (their labrador) set about sorting out the truck.


With the truck all set, all the remained was for me to be able to drive it. Just in the nick of time I passed my test and then that was it, we were off to our first event Nunney CIC** for Mumbo Pie and Charlie, while Legs got to stay at home.

Nunney is in the South of England in a county called Sommerset, home to Stonehenge and very friendly people with comedy accents.

That is Stonehenge out of the window - if you use my nose as a gauge you'll quickly establish that those are some big mother stones!

So we arrived at Nunney on Friday afternoon - the we being my ponies, Sophie, Derek and I, in time to do some dressage, though nothing anything my ponies did that day resembled good dressage. Before you ask, no I didn't leave my ponies on the truck:

Much to the consternation of the parking steward. In the way of an explanation I said I was Australian, that didn't help much, especially when Charlie set about digging a hole home. Everyone else was far better behaved....

I'm not sure how they do it. As far as I can ascertain the oc, health & safety guy must be flat out rescuing people who have been skewered while trying to stud a horse in the fifth bay of the "lorry"! There is both an oc, health & safety guy and horses being studded in "lorries"!

Nor did I wear a back number for the dressage - Sorry Caz! Apparently bridle numbers are okay for CIC classes. Anyway, Pie was first out and after getting many admiring comments in warm-up, she proceeded to express her opinion about dressage during the test and give English dressage a right royal two hooves up! Mumbo was marginally better behaved but exceptionally tense. It was a windy day and efforts to keep my hat on, resulted in him over reacting as if he were a regularly beaten pony! Last was Charlie, our dressage test was on one side of a beautiful tall english hedge, all the other classes were dressaging on the other side. Charlie was predictably far more interested in seeing how their tests were going then paying attention to his own. That was Friday over. 

Saturday was a day off, so I decided after having walked the course to go and do a bit of cross country training at the nearby Rosamund Green. For any eventer this is like being a kid in a lolly shop.

This place was seriously cool..... literally as well. The English summer had turned and it blew rain storms and bit of hail at us. But with so many jumps to choose from who cared! Probably Soph and Derek.....

Just a we were leaving Mum rang to remind me of the narrowness of the roads in the area. 


But by now I had got the hang of it - just sit in the middle!

Anyway Sunday was back to Nunney and more rain.


The trade stand turnout was the usual mix of horsey stuff and locally made fudge and cheese. Luckily for me there was quite a good collection of studs. Considering my stud collection amounts to studs for hard ground and studs for hard and slippy ground, I had to get the hang of the difference in terminology. After some serious heavy rain and the tracks of the classes running on Saturday capable of being seen by NASA satellites, the general feel was that the ground while a "little slippy on top was still pretty hard" much could have been said. Instead I found myself heading out wearing studs that could have skewered a whole pig on a spit. It paid off and between the three horses I only had one rail.

On to cross had now started to really rain. Pie and I set off and aside from a run off at the B part of 6A:large drop B:3 short strides to a skinny brush C: 3 long strides to key hole all on an offset line, which had been causing problems all day, I was pretty happy with her performance.

The keyhole:

Mumbo despite an extensive apex schooling session the day before, dug his recalcitrant toes in at some seriously tall and skinny brush apexes - the other big problem area of the day. Then Charlie headed out and with a new ABS breaking system on board we were flying, we cruised through the ABC line with the key hole and blitzed the apexes and sailed on to the turtle at the first water, where for reasons best known to Charlie he hung a leg and spat me out into the drink. Still spluttering water out of my mouth, a friendly bystander piped up, complete with comedy accent, "Unlucky! Nothfink you could ave done to sit that, unless you ad a lot of sticky tape".... it didn't sound so comedy.

So very wet and somewhat disheartened I squelched back to my truck and we packed up and headed home. But in true eventer style it didn't take long to start planning the next event.

Anyway, there is a bright side, as Derek helpfully pointed out, air canisters are a lot cheaper over here!




01 Jun 2013

England - part 1

posted by Info Wallaby Hill Farm at Saturday, June 01, 2013

England part 1

While Mr Burton has been throwing out his brass cleaning kit, I have not so stealthily been moving into his yard. When I say I, I mean my horses of course, Parodie, WHF Eclipse, Mumbo Jumbo and Bendigo, the last two requested IRT frequent flyer upgrades; but were unsuccessful in their request.

They all arrived at Heathrow on Thursday 30th at 7.30pm English time. Jack Hayden flew with them and said they traveled really well and the flight was pretty uneventful apart from some dodgy homous he ate in Dubai. He has now recovered!

Chris very kindly offered to pick them up so we met Jack at the airport, after paying the emissions charge for the truck to enter Greater London, which was nearly as much as the cost of the flight itself. It was relatively painless picking up the ponies and they and Jack seemed in good spirits.

Not quite first class......


So Friday was a relaxing day. Most of the stuff on the yard had already been sorted. Mum and Dad have been fantastically supportive and helpful. They had already organised the tackroom and washbays to be sorted - thank you Pat. Furthermore, the place got a lick of paint, thank you Jeremy all in anticipation of the arrival of my "spoilt Australian nags" as Dad likes to refer to them.

At one point Chris and Dad were involved in a drill off putting up saddle racks and bridle hooks in the tackroom. Chris may have had the edge on the flashier drill complete with spot light (hardly a surprise given the state of his brow bands); but Dad may have pipped him on the precision front.

So with gear unpacked and ponies out in their paddocks it was time to go for a hack. 



After that they were shattered and it was time for a lie down.....

So far life is good. All I need to do now is get my UK truck license; but given the hoops you have to jump through to get it, I'm beginning to believe it would be easier to take the entry exam into Mossad!

Today's adventures involve finding Jack a pair of breeches with pleats - thanks Hamish. A small hack out for the ponies followed by a physio appointment for them and some cramming for the second part of the theory test for my trick license. Some where in there we might sneak in a quick pub visit.

Meanwhile life continues at Wallaby Hill with Bols and Hamish doing a SJ & CC Clinic on the Sunday of the June long weekend and Sam Lyle doing a CC clinic there on Wednesday 12th June. Hayley Beresford will be back in August and Geoff is manning the fort.......

As for Eventing in the UK, which seems a far off prospect, it begins in earnest in a couple of weeks with our first event Nunney CIC ** in Sommerset, a couple of hours from here. That's if I can drive us there. Of course I could be doing covert work for Mossad in the Middle East by then.