Sarah-Jane Brown May Blog
A lot seems to have happened since our last blog and we have made some huge progression particularly with Fliss. Ellie in fact had a minor setback and a few weeks off and had her first competition yesterday when she was 2nd in a Discovery at Scorrier and Chacewater show. The show is just up the road and with a £15 gain on our entry fees it may be the first time for a long time I can truly say we came home in profit!
Looking forward to getting her fully back up to speed over the next month. Fliss meanwhile has had an awesome few weeks. We started the BE season at Bovington, the event was rather overshadowed as the night before on arrival at stabling we lost our recently homed rescue dog Rosie. She managed to escape from the lorry and run to the woods where despite many sightings we were unable to recapture her. The Dorset community and Dog Lost organisations were fabulous but it was actually 5 days before we managed to recapture her and honestly I think we were very lucky we got her back. You will see in the picture she now wears a GPS tracker. We did manage a run at Bovington and had a fairly uninspiring double clear with minds very much elsewhere.
A week later with Rosie very firmly secured, we went to a boiling Bicton horse trials for Fliss’s second BE100 event over a much more testing track. A 31.5 dressage score, despite a rider error, was then complimented by another double clear for a very pleasing 4th place.
The lovely thing with Fliss is we can enjoy both show jumping and eventing. So the next competition was a trip to Dorset show ground for some jumping.
On day 1 I actually wimped out of jumping on grass as Fliss was very fresh and I wanted to start on the surface (what sort of eventer am I?) I was keen to try and be a bit more competitive at this show as I felt she had progressed enough to ask a little more in the jump off. In the Newcomers I did have a go in the jump off but rather flattened her round a corner meaning we had a pole down.
I was a little disappointed with the pole but then made a very brave decision and entered the Foxhunter. This would be the biggest class I have jumped for five years. I was attracted by the fact it was A7 and therefore had a separate jump off meaning that the first round wouldn't be too huge, I hoped. I walked it and it was a proper Foxhunter track, definitely one that it was better not to get too close to some of the fences. Fliss was amazing, a bit too good, and made it feel easy jumping a super easy clear round. I had quietly hoped for an unlucky four faults and not have to go into an increased height jump off!
The best thing for me was not to watch the jump off being put up but by this time the course would be a good 1.25 / 1.30. I wasn't getting any ideas of going for a fast jump off and was delighted despite Fliss tiring slightly to jump another clear round. A big bonus was second place, in a small class, and the Foxhunter frilly for the best Foxhunter horse in the class.
On the second day I was determined to do at least one class on the grass. I couldn't decide whether to be bold and jump the 1.15 on the grass first or take an easier option and jump the 1.05 later in the day. I walked the 1.15 which was single phase meaning some of the second half was 1.20 / 1.25. I have to say it looked big and the ring although large was fairly undulating adding to difficulty. In normal circumstances I may have had better sense however considering just how well she had jumped the day before I entered. A good warm up and with instructions ringing in my ear to keep the canter going forward and up I went in. I needn't have worried she made the course feel very easy. I remember approaching the first fence thinking it was a big track and then trying to change my thought to how lucky I was to ride her.
With the double clear we finished 4th in the class only 0.5 second off the prize money. I didn't want to keep pushing my luck and finished the day jumping the Newcomers on the arena. The track seemed relatively small after the previous two classes. I did decide that it would be a good opportunity to have another go at a quick jump off and this time it came off! In a class of open horses and Newcomers horses we were 2nd overall and won the best Newcomers frilly!
The icing on the cake came with another what I felt was brave decision and after only four BE events (1x80, 1x90, 2x100) we entered our first Novice BE at Howick.
Dressage was 8.12 but to be honest I like to get it over with sooner rather than later. The dressage test was probably the phase that worried me most as perhaps it lacked some attention in the build-up. Warming up with the who's who of eventing is always fun and I had to make sure I didn't crash into any of them whilst name spotting! We focused on our own warm up and I don't think Fliss was too overawed anyway. We followed two professional into the arena but Fliss really pulled the stops out and did a great test for her stage of education. Yes the leg yields were slightly unbalanced, she needed more stretch and length in her neck but there were no major mistakes. The judge reflected this with mainly 6's throughout for a 36.3.%.
Show jumping turned out to be the most influential phase of the day. The course was up to height and on quite a sloping arena, the most influential fence was a treble built going up the hill off a corner and although the distances walked true in retrospect it was built a little on the long side.
We were 3rd to jump and this worked in our favour as I didn't realise the carnage the course would cause particularly early in the day. Considering the amount of show jumping Fliss has done she felt a bit green in the ring and if you look at the video you will see how honest she was at the treble. She backed off slightly going in and then struggled for the distances and really could have stopped at the last element instead she used her wings to fly. She coped well otherwise and finished the course well. Looking at the stats particularly considering the standard of riders competing there were only 35% clear in the show jumping and very proud Fliss was one of them.
So the hour to wait for cross country seemed to drag! The course was pretty nice nothing seemed too huge but there were some real technical questions that I was worried whether she would lock on in time. The ground was firm but with last week’s rain and the grass covering it was pretty acceptable for me who is rather fussy. It was finally time to get on and head for the start, we were 3rd to go again and with a good warm up we were ready to roll.
We set out over the first three in a nice rhythm, I wasn't intending aiming for the time but equally wanted a good forward round and not get too defensive. The first combination came at fence 4 with some offset houses which she just tried to get a bit straight for but still popped through really nicely. Then came the fences that worried me most a decent spread with five or six strides to an upright rail and turn by the hedge to a triple brush. She jumped the spread well and we sat back and popped the rails, I then made room moving away from the triple to get a good line and plenty of set up room, once locked on we moved forward and over. Some simple fences followed including a lovely jump over a big hay cart before we had a combination with a narrow brush through a gateway, she flew this before arriving at my next concern. A big box brush on six curving strides to a decent corner, saw a lovely stride to the first and remembered Caroline Moore’s advice of using the eye to find the line and we had a lovely forward stride to the corner. We then flew down the hill to the ditch palisade and here she really backed off and had to have a reminder on take-off not sure what monsters she saw in the ditch but it wouldn't usually bother her. We then came to the water with a fence a stride back, we got there and she suddenly saw the water and backed right off rather clambering over the first element, she landed and went in ok and out over the c element. Clearly we still have some hesitancy over water that needs work before she is asked bigger questions. She finished the course really well so obviously no confidence lost.
We were only 18 seconds over the time and finished on a very respectable 43.1 which I was delighted with. I certainly think we can see that Fliss is very capable at this level and very exciting to plan for the future.
So looking ahead we have entered the Novice at West Wilts. It is a case of balancing both girls needs with funds for training and competition, sadly what I would like to do and what I can realistically do is slightly different!
Allana Clutterbuck Takes the Suregrow Grand Prix at Royal Windsor
Essex-based Allana Clutterbuck secured the Suregrow Grand Prix at the Royal Windsor Horse Show after a superb effort riding Vykinbay.
The 10-year-old Vykinbay and Allana took the title with an impressive clear round in a time of 36.69 seconds.
Allana has been riding Vykinbay for a year and they have quickly formed a great partnership.
The dark bay gelding, is currently on top form with a string of wins on the circuit including winning the Team Junior Nations Cup in Opglabbeek, Sentower Park, Belgique.
Said Allana: “It was unbelievable to win, the atmosphere was amazing. It is the first time I have ridden at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, it felt such a privilege to head the class.”
The Grand Prix Senior 1.35 class sponsored by Suregrow Fertiliser was an exciting event drawing a great line-up riders fighting it out for the top places.
Jonathan Cox of Suregrow said: “We were delighted to sponsor the Suregrow Fertiliser Grand Prix Senior 1.35 class. Well done to Allana and Vykinbay, it was a fantastic result.”
Specialising in the care of grassland for horses and ponies Suregrow has a range of products including fertilisers and grass seeds specifically selected for horse and pony paddocks.
Oliver Townend Wins Kentucky Three-Day Event
Huge congratulation to Suregrow Fertiliser sponsored rider Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class who defended their title at Kentucky Three-Day Event. The pair finished on an impressive score of 25.3.
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold Championship
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold Championship Dannie Morgan and Jonathan Cox from Suregrow Fertiliser.
Suregrow Elementary Freestyle Gold Championship
With ten horses entered during the week that were born at Headmore Stud, it was likely they’d feature well in the placings but in the SureGrow UK Elementary Freestyle Gold, it was a case of domination.
First of the Headmore trio was the six-year-old Florencio-sired Headmore Figaro, owned by Sarah Oppenheimer with Dannie Morgan in the saddle. Due to a withdrawal, they were also the first of the class and what a start to make! A captivating floorplan with as much technicality as the level allows to music which was so apt for the cheerful chestnut. A massive score of 78.78% was announced…gauntlet firmly laid down.
Next was the Belissimo M mare Headmore Bella Ruby with Alice Oppenheimer. This duo were still flying high from their Equi-Trek Elementary Gold and they looked pretty spot on. Again excellent music with a flat plan packed with difficulty greeted the judges who duly obliged with a score of 77.37% to put Alice second.
The combinations gave their all including Dannie with his second ride, Nicola Callam’s High Hoes Florizel, but they couldn’t come close.
Then the penultimate to go was Alice with her second ride, Headmore Dionysus, a half brother to Bella Ruby in sharing the same dam, Headmore’s legendary Rubinsteena but this time with Dimaggio as the sire. ‘Dillon’ was bridesmaid on Thursday in the straight class but being a year older, today he showed that extra strength and was a picture in the arena. Again, perfectly selected music by Sara Green accompanied well thought out movements. They halted and saluted knowing it was going to be a good score. The commentator started…78…point…20%. Dannie and ‘Jack’ were champions.
“I’m really pleased with him,” exclaimed Dannie. “I broke him in as a three year old and produced him along the way. He was fourth here last year and then second at the Nationals at Novice so it’s great to come here and get the win.
“He’s got a great walk and he’s very secure in the medium canter plus he can do the simple changes so I’ve really worked on a technical floor plan. I didn’t mind going first, I just went in and gave the judges something to sit up and watch!” he continued.
Alice was emotional afterwards. “It’s been an incredible week for Headmore. Six wins so far and three seconds, just amazing. Dannie and I have had some banter; ‘my walk is better, but no my music is’ – it’s been fun and in the end, it didn’t matter who won. Bella Ruby felt a bit tired today, she’s not a physically developed as Dillan but for all three to get those scores and be so far ahead of the other is great, they’re so clever! That was definitely the coolest prize giving I’ve ever done!
“I have to thank Sara Green for her amazing skill in putting my music together. The detail she puts into every one and captures the horse’s personality is amazing. She’ll certainly be part of our celebrations.
“It’s been a big build up for all the horses and I can’t fault any of them this week. It’s been very emotional and I’ve had the full range of ups and downs!” said Alice.
Jonathan Cox of Suregrow said: “Congratulations to Dannie and Headmore Figaro on winning the championship with a fantastic result.
“Dannie Morgan's score of 78.782% was the highest score of the entire championships, an amazing achievement! We are pleased to support such a prestigious dressage series.”
Sarah-Jane Brown March Blog
Well I am pleased to say March was a busy month after the injury in February and short blog. I will break it down into some of the highlights.
Horsequest Arena Eventing Championships
A seven hour trip to Aston where we represented the Threewaters Riding Club at the Championships. I had qualified both girls individually after winning the qualifiers at Bicton Arena.
There were good bits and bad bits from the weekend. The weather whilst in early March can never be expected to be perfect was pretty far from it! It was bitterly cold, very windy and at times wet (we even had snow), staying in the lorry or even venturing out to watch wasn't that much fun. On the plus side there was great camaraderie from the Threewaters team (the 80 team had qualified as well).
So onto the important bit the competition, I was quietly hopeful that both girls had the potential to be competitive but sadly it was not to be although both learnt loads. The competition at Aston used three arenas, starting in one arena by the stables and lorries moving out through some gates and into the next arena via the water jump to the cross country space. I didn't really anticipate how green both my girls would feel having not done a competition like this where you move arenas.
Fliss was on first and the 90 course was lovely the only concern I had for Fliss was leaving the first arena and going straight into water. It didn't help that the water at this time had small waves as the worst of the gale force winds were buffeting the event, She jumped a nice clear show jumping round and was confident over the first cross country fence, she was surprised to leave the arena with purpose and then taken aback to see the water, she stopped half spun and then with leg on worked it out and trotted in. Sadly though a disobedience as far as the competition was concerned and 20 penalties. She proceeded to be a bit green in the arena but actually very genuine and jumped nicely round the rest of the course this included another water question which she did without hesitation.
Video of the 90 round. The pink colours are not my new colours for the 2019 season but team colours sponsored by Woof Wear.
Even without our 20 penalties we would have been slightly slow to have been placed. Really good education for her though.
Ellie was doing the 100 course and I thought this asked some questions, fence 3 was a decent brush ditch, fence 5 had a couple of decent steps to a palisade and fence 7 was a big skinny. I didn't ride the show jumping very well I was a bit backward and that caused a pole to roll at the double. She too I could feel was slightly green leaving the arena but her greater experience came into play and she worked it out, she jumped a super round and cleared the joker which was strategically placed at the bottom of the slope. Although the pole would have been influential disappointingly the biggest influence was the time. Considering the time should have been quicker than Fliss's class we were 20 seconds inside the time despite not pushing it, in fact the majority of the class were inside the time. When I walked the course the day before there had been an additional couple of fences in the course and these were removed on the day I wonder if they hadn't adjusted the time accordingly! Anyway it is irrelevant and with a pole down we were never going to be in the top few anyway.
Austin O’Connor Boot Camp
Without doubt the highlight of our time away. I had been feeling a bit demotivated and this was just the kick in the right direction I needed! We travelled from Aston directly to Austin who was only an hour away.
Last year our few days with Austin really kick started our year and helped pull me out of the doldrums and it was great to come back to be pushed to the next stage. For anyone that doesn't know Austin is based at the fabulous Attington one of the premier training facilities in the area. An indoor school, huge outdoor arena is complimented by the most fabulous all weather cross country schooling facility.
I think the yard we are housed in probably has housed stallions in the past with big solid high doors which Ellie in particular has to stand on tip toe to see over. We were lucky that Monday was beautiful weather and having met Austin in the school and discussed what we wanted from our few days training we decided to make the most of the weather and use the cross country arena.
Fliss was first up and I said we were aiming to start the season at BE100 and hoped to move up to Novice later in the season. We schooled with this aim in mind. He asked me to just pop a few fences to get a feel of how we were going. Once we had popped a few simple ones he asked me to ride a little more quietly and allow the fence to come to us and for Fliss to work out what was needed, he was happier at this stage for us to pop extra strides in and very much ride to our eye. We walked off some simple steps and trotted through the water (no hesitation). We gradually increased the difficulty of the exercises until we jumped some decent fences both into water and over some big ditch combinations. The video shows the progression through the session.
Ellie also made use of the cross country and we spoke about the plans to take her Novice this season. Austin was very complimentary about Ellie and how well she was going. She did a few more advanced lines and fences than Fliss and enjoyed the challenge again finding easy answers for the questions asked. I couldn't be more delighted how well she went.
So day two was less kind and the weather turned we were lucky with Fliss and generally got away with it, yes it was windy but it only spat with rain, by the time it was Ellie's turn the heavens had opened!
In a lot of ways both horses worked on similar things in both flat and jump elements. On the flat it was very much a case of getting the horses forward into a soft contact, a slightly longer rein and working on the nose out and forward particularly with Fliss. Focusing on them carrying themselves and balancing themselves and not sitting on the hand. Using the gears in trot and canter and the medium paces to open them out and then using the seat and body to collect them back up again. You can see in the video how this has really helped Fliss's trot.
Jumping wise we did a number of athletic exercises. We focused on a couple of fences on a turn that walked four strides but with Fliss we did it in five thinking all the time quietly. The video shows how we progressed the exercise. Austin was very keen I didn't do too much for the horses and let them make their own mistakes. With Fliss he felt the odd canter pole, v rail or other things to focus the jump would be useful. Whilst she has a good jump she has enough scope that she doesn't always need to use it and therefore we need to focus her far more to help her develop and strengthen.
Sadly as I said Ellie's session was not recorded as the rain was horizontal by this point! This is disappointing for a couple of reasons, mainly it is lovely for me to look back and recall what we have done and hear Austin's wise words, equally it is nice to show off when they have done something spectacular. In this case the medium trot Ellie found was amazing and the fact she jumped an upright of 1.30 was jaw dropping. I will admit we did tip it a couple of times but once her eye adjusted she soared over it.
We worked on the same exercises as Fliss with similar requirements to ride quietly and let Ellie make her own mistakes. Overall I was delighted as Austin was very complimentary on how well both had been produced to date and felt rather than repair any problems he was helping us move onto the next level and have confidence in our progression. I am desperate if possible to try and make time and finance for another trip to see Austin this year as a further push forward.
Chard and Pontispool Weekend
So a very productive few days away at Chard with some XC schooling added on for Fliss. Sadly Ellie isn't quite right at the moment and we are working to get to the bottom of the problem. Whilst I am quite happy to be very honest about this, at the moment I don't know what the precise nature of the problem and I don't want to speculate or do anything that may prejudice any likely insurance claim. Sadly though I think any plans in the next few months may be on hold. I promise I will update when I can but suffice to say Ellie is feeling very well in herself and mightily upset at being left at home while Fliss has had all the fun! I was quite tearful when driving away with Fliss whilst Ellie was whinnying at the gate!
Chard has to be one of the nicest show jumping venues and it is always exciting to see new developments on each visit. Very excited that another new arena will be in action later in the year. The courses at Chard are always top end for the level and I was delighted how well Fliss is coping and making the levels feel comfortable. Sadly whilst jumping clear rounds seems achievable I am struggling to be fast enough for the frilly's at the bigger levels. We only had one pole in four classes jumping the 1.05 and Newcomers tracks.
So I kindly gave Fliss the 3rd day off show jumping! Instead we headed to Pontispool for the first XC schooling of the season on grass. Can't believe how much she has come on. We jumped a variety of 100 and Novice fences and had her jumping confidently into water. We had a green moment when she didn't lock onto a triple brush (see video) but jumped genuinely on a represent. Good reminder to me she still lacks a lot of mileage cross country.
Very proud of how Fliss is progressing.
We are now looking forward to our first BE events in April with entries in the 100 classes at Bovington and Bicton.
Also wanted to say a big thank you to Suregrows support again this year. My fields are looking fabulous and part of the reason my horses are in such good condition is the nutrition gained from the grazing which has survived the winter well. I have just received some CSM and fertiliser which I will be adding this month.
Suregrow Elementry Freestyle Silver Championship
In Suregrow’s first year of Elementary Freestyle Silver sponsorship, the UK’s leading fertiliser company were treated to a class of outstanding quality. Stealing the win by a comfortable margin was Wendy Hudson with her own 10 year old mare, Hawtins Chanel (by Curator). The duo scored 72.24% to top the podium ahead of Florence Human and Lynn Perry who completed the top three.
Victory smelled sweet for Wendy whose debut NAF Five Star Winter Championships was without a success, despite a challenging build up: “She had a week off just before we were supposed to be here, it was touch and go whether we would make it but we did and that’s the main thing! She’s not been the easiest but her personality and ability at shows is fantastic. She settles and behaves – bringing her to an occasion like this is great. She can be a bit of an introvert but she’s a very good girl.”
“I was really pleased with how in tune we were with the music today, everything happened when it should and where it should,” Wendy added about her test, “Let’s call it a safe and accurate round, but I just loved the atmosphere in there. I came out and said to my friends I don’t care what the score is, whatever happens I had the best time ever and all I want to do is go back in there and ride again!”
Finance Director and volunteer Treasurer for Newbury RDA Wendy will aim Chanel for the Petplan Equine Medium Area Festivals this season with the ultimate goal of riding in a top hat and tails o board her talented British bred mare bought from Judith Davis as a young horse.
Commendations go to Sophie Watkins, who was unfortunately interrupted by a fire alarm mid-way through her test. On board her lovely mare Inca Spirit Sophie restarted her test to score 68.33%, well done Sophie.
Chloe Milne Wins Suregrow Elementary Silver Freestyle at Morris Equestrian Centre
Dressage rider Chloe Milne, has qualified for the prestigious British Dressage Winter Championships.
24-year-old Chloe and Cremmdalla Crem took the Suregrow Fertiliser Winter Elementary Freestyle Regional Silver Champion title on a well-deserved score of almost 72% at Morris Equestrian Centre.
Cremmdalla Crem known as Dory at home, is a 16.3hh rising 9-year-old bright bay Holsteiner. Chloe bought her as a just backed, very sharp green 4-year-old project pony with the intention to bring on and sell.
It took Chloe a year just to be able to stay on Dory’s back without her going through her manners, a lot of hard work and patience has gone into their partnership. Five years down the line and Chloe still has her project pony and wouldn’t sell her for the world.
Chloe said: “Dory’s party trick is seeing how long she can stay on her two hind legs, she usually likes to show everyone when we are warming up for competitions!”
The duo have had many wins over the past couple of years, from BRC National Novice Champions 2017, Scottish Elementary Bronze Champion 2017, being part of the winning team at Byrd’s home International 2017 and being part of the winning team at Sheepgate Under 25 Championships in 2017 to list a few.
The pair were placed fifth at the Nationals Elementary Bronze, Elementary Open Freestyle Champion at Sheepgate 2018 and most recently double Regional Champion at Morris Equestrian Centre winning both Freestyle and the Elementary Straight class.
Based in Bonnybridge central Scotland Chloe lives on her yard, Woodchip Stables.
Chloe has been riding since she was six-years-old and first starting competing at British Dressage when she was 18-years-old.
Chloe said: “It was the best feeling ever finding out I had won with an overall score of almost 72% with one judge awarding us an amazing 76%.
“I had never competed at regional finals before so to win both the classes is overwhelmingly fantastic. I’m so proud of how my girl went, she is not the easiest horse to train and compete but she took everything in her stride and was on her best behaviour.
“I cannot wait for Harpury.”
Said Jonathan Cox of Suregrow Fertiliser: “A very well done to Chloe and Cremdalla Crem, a brilliant result.”
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