Sarah-Jane Brown New Year Blog

I was trying to decide if 2019 has been a good year and yes in general it has. It has thrown a few spanners in at the end (technical issues for the lorry and the death of my car) but hopefully that will be left behind for us and we can make the most of a new year. 365 new opportunities to get things done.

We have reached the end of a decade, one in the beginning which eventing wise I was competing at Intermediate and Advanced with Sarnie and then had to rebuild after her retirement. Pip reached Intermediate before injuries caught up with me and she had to be sold but I was delighted that she went on for her new owner and successfully competed advanced. Ultimately mixed in with the fabulous horses there will be a few lemons and some less fun times. Breaking my hip was a big setback both mentally and physically and probably contributed to my total loss of confidence a couple of years ago. Certainly there have been ups and downs.

So 2019 hasn't been bad, I continued to rebuild confidence and instrumental in the fun and confidence was Ellie my project pony of coming up to 4 years. I did have a serious attempt to sell her but nothing came of it and I couldn't help being quietly pleased. However I suspect 2020 will have to be the year she goes on to teach someone else the ropes. She continued to progress in 2019 and was placed in her 2 BE runs with double clears as well as having some good placings British Show Jumping including in some meaty 1.20 classes.

Fliss meanwhile has continued to fulfil her potential, 6 runs BE and 6 double clears including 4 at Novice level and a placing at Launceston. She has won some good classes British Show Jumping and eased round some 1.20 tracks. She remains the most lovely person and a pleasure to produce. A really good solid foundation to push on in 2020.

I have had some super support from mum, Nick and Jane Perry (no.1 Shoestring fans), friends and my fabulous sponsors. I have had some great training on the flat with Stef Eardley and jumping with Owen Moore and Caroline Moore.

For me I still struggle with the 'not good enough demons' but I am learning to control these and accept that I do a pretty decent job but I'm not a professional and therefore not be constantly comparing myself unfavourably.

So looking ahead to 2020 my youngster Kensa is coming 4, my first and only homebred. She is still quite immature but hopefully she will be backed and ridden on lightly. Realistically Ellie needs to move on and find a child to teach the ropes or become an FEI pony, however much I would love to keep her financially it is getting more and more difficult.

Fliss I have big dreams for this year and hope she has her first busy event season initially establishing herself at novice then doing some 2* events and finishing the season at Intermediate. I really am very excited for her future. watch this space and keep up to date at Shoestring Eventing website and social media.

February 6, 2020  |   Share:

Your 2020 Paddock Maintenance Calendar

Grass is the most natural and lowest cost feed for your horse. Here are some handy tips to make the most of your grazing all year round and provide your horse with a quality natural diet.


These are the worst of the winter months, the important thing at this time of year is to minimise the damage to your paddocks. Try to reduce the amount of poaching (wearing out of the grass) by not leaving your horse out too long. Keep poo picking your paddocks as poo left on the ground does restrict grass growth.


It is beneficial to harrow your paddock(s). Harrowing has the benefit of removing any dead grass and moss, aerating the grass and dispersing any poo heaps and mole hills. When the temperature starts to rise a quality fertiliser such as Suregrow Fertiliser should be applied. Fertilising replenishes the nutrients lost over winter and gives the grass the nutrients it requires to stimulate good growth. When there is no risk of frost paddocks can be rolled, there is little benefit to the grass, but rolling does make the paddock look better and it can flatten out divots and ruts. You don't want to roll if the ground is too dry.

This is the time of year to repair or reseed your paddocks, the Suregrow range of grass seed mixes are blended specially for horse and pony paddocks. We have products to meet different situations such as reseeding, repairing heavily trafficked areas like as gateways and feeding areas, and a specialist Laminitic mix which produces lower soluble carbohydrate and sugar content grass.


Grass growth is at its greatest during May and June but be careful not to give your horse(s) too much fresh grass to avoid the risk of laminitis, if necessary strip grazing can be used. The benefit of Suregrow Fertiliser is that the slow release nitrogen produces a more sustained grass growth without the flush associated with traditional fertilisers. Weed growth will be strong at this time of year so it is the ideal time to carry out weed control which is usually done by spraying, be sure to follow all the instructions on any weed killers used.


These are the true summer months for all to enjoy, in periods of drought try not to overgraze your paddock(s). In very hot weather it is good practise to keep your horse inside during the hottest part of the day and turn out overnight. Poo picking is especially important as it will reduce the grass growing area, risk scorching the grass and will attract flies. Topping any excessive growth or seeded grass should be carried out, this can help stimulate growth.


This is the end of summer the days get cooler and there is usually an autumn flush of grass growth, giving your paddock(s) a top dressing of fertiliser will encourage this growth. The benefit of grass growth at this time of year is that the thicker and denser the grass is going into winter the better it will be protected over the winter. Reseeding and patching of bare patches can be carried out at this time.


This is the start of winter, try and protect your grassland as much as possible by not over grazing your paddock(s) and keep any poaching to a minimum. As always keep poo picking whatever the weather .



January 23, 2020  |   Share:

British riders tie in the Five Fence Challenge

Five riders made it through to the final round of the Five Fence Challenge at Horse of the Year Show and it was a British tie for Robert Whitaker and Emma Stoker as the only two riders to keep all five fences standing. With the Abbey Road fence at number three catching out the other challengers, it left just Robert and Emma to tackle the final vertical which stood at 1.85m. 
Emma Stoker rode a spectacular round with Kontador VDM owned by Lisa Bruggeman and Walter Lelie as the first rider clear in round five. Originally from Durham, Emma has recently made the move to Belgium to ride with Axel Verlooy. Having only been riding the nine-year-old bay gelding for six weeks, it is just the start of things to come from this superstar combination. “He’s been fantastic all week; he was second in the Grandstand Welcome Stakes on Friday and just had a fence down last night in the Accumulator. I’ve never jumped a course that big before in my life and he just couldn’t wait to jump it. He’s only nine but he always tried his best; he is definitely in the right job.”
Yesterday’s winner of the Accumulator and the renowned Puissance class, Robert Whitaker, was last to go. Shrugging off the pressure, Robert took his third win of the week riding 12-year-old gelding Cash Sent, owned by Elaine Wood. A man who knows how to ride the big tracks, Robert set the horse up perfectly to each jump making little fuss of the towering fences. “He performed really well. The first round was a bit touch and go but he got better each round. He’s used to jumping Grand Prix classes, so this was a bit different for him. I’ve been riding him for a while now, so I know him well and he is good at the bigger fences. I’m having a great week; usually at these shows you hope to have at least one horse going well, so to have all three in good form is fantastic.” 
Image by 1st Class Images.
Five Fence Challenge C 1st Class Images.jpg

October 8, 2019  |   Share:

Williams and Whitaker share the win in the Ripon Select Foods Puissance

The Ripon Select Foods Puissance, the class everyone had been waiting to see at Horse of the Year Show, was finally here. Showcasing an impressive line-up of international riders, including last year’s joint winners, Alfie Bradstock and Guy Williams, as well as Geoff Billington and Robert Whitaker who have both won multiple Puissance classes in their careers. 
The riders did not disappoint, performing some breath-taking rounds to entertain the packed-out crowd on Saturday night at Horse of the Year Show. By round five, the 12 starters were whittled down to four to tackle the big red wall, set at an impressive height of 7ft2” (2.20m). 
Robert Whitaker was up first riding Major Delacour who had never jumped a Puissance wall before tonight’s class. The 11-year-old chestnut gelding brushed off the pressure clearing the wall in remarkable style. The win was just out of reach for Simon Buckley and Nano Healy who had each shown great courage to make it through the earlier rounds. It was all down to Guy Williams to see if he could match last year’s win. A wave of suspense spread around the Andrews Bowen International Arena as he approached the wall riding last year’s winning horse, Mr Blue Sky UK. With experience on his side, the fearless grey gelding took off stride-perfect to take a joint win alongside Robert Whitaker. An exciting end to a crowd favourite at Horse of the Year Show. 
Guy Williams has won four out of the four Puissance classes he has done with the striking Mr Blue Sky UK, who is owned by Caroline Phillips. Guy comments: “He’s a really good horse and he just takes you to the fence. It’s almost like the bigger it gets, the better he jumps. He hasn’t done a Puissance since Olympia last year, it’s not something you want to do too often. In a Puissance it is really tempting to attack the fence early on, but I try and hold them until the last round. It’s a fun class to ride in and the audience really enjoy it which makes you want to win. My kids beg me to do this class every year, they just love it. I used to come and watch at HOYS with my mum and dad so it’s great to now be here with my children.”
Robert was delighted that Major Delacour, owned by Clare Whitaker and Elaine Wood, had won his first ever Puissance: “I just knew he’d be a good Puissance horse. I’ve been riding him now for about a year and he is a very brave jumper. I couldn’t have asked any more of him tonight, he felt better and better each round, I even think he could have kept going. There’s always a good crowd here on a Saturday night and it’s a good one for them to get behind. I’ll probably do the Puissance at Olympia and see if we can win there too.”
Ripon Select Foods are food ingredient manufacturers based in North Yorkshire. Headed up by Martin Wood, the Wood family have supported Horse of the Year Show for several years through their sponsorship of both the Supreme Horse of the Year and Children’s Riding Pony of the Year. As a company, and a family, they are delighted to extend their sponsorship to cover the ever-popular Puissance class for the first time in 2019. 
Image by 1st Class Images 
HOYS 2019 Puissance.jpg

October 8, 2019  |   Share:

Robert Whitaker secures his win in the Accumulator

Robert Whitaker, the British-ranked number six rider, blew away the opposition in the first international showjumping class of the day at Saturday’s Horse of the Year Show. The Accumulator sees riders collect points for each fence jumped, with a maximum score of 65. Any combinations finishing on that figure are separated on time. Robert was one of seven riders to jump clear and showed great precision and speed right from the off. 
Having to settle for second place last night in the Take Your Own Line class, Robert knew he had to up his game for today’s competition. Setting a tough time to beat of 47.63 seconds aboard Dekato, fellow competitor and winner of yesterday’s Grandstand Welcome Stakes, Anthony Condon, was hot on Robert’s heels. Riding Zira VH Kapelhof Z, Anthony produced an impressively quick round but came home less than a tenth of a second slower, allowing Robert Whitaker to take the spoils. 
A new ride for Robert, 11-year-old Dekato is owned by Jessie Drea. Robert commented: “I’ve only been riding him a week and it was the first time jumping him in the ring yesterday. He’s very quick and ultra-careful, always looking for the next fence.  I think he’s got a big future ahead of him.” 
It’s been an exciting start to the International showjumping classes at Horse of the Year Show, and with plenty more classes to come, including tonight’s Puissance and tomorrow’s Grand Prix, the jury’s out on who will take these illustrious titles. 
Image by 1st Class Photography 
The Accumulator, Robert Whitaker riding Dekato C 1st Class Images.JPG

October 8, 2019  |   Share:

Allerton Park Horse Trials 2019

We were pleased to be involved as a Key Sponsor at this years Allerton Park Horse Trials. This local event is one we have been involved with for many years. 

We were the official sponsor of the Open Intermediate, Section L where Yorkshire based event rider James Sommerville took first place on Altaskin Jack. This is the duo's second win in a row at Allerton.

Final OI - Section L Results

1) James Sommerville on Altaskin Jack, 36.6

2) Holly Richardson on Caraghs Buffet, 42.7

3) Martha Todd on Dancing Revolution, 45.7


September 24, 2019  |   Share:

SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials CCI4*-L Results

Well done to Britain's Piggy French who jumped two clear rounds to finish first and third in the CCI4*-L class at SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials on Brookfield Inocent and Castletown Clover 

Piggy last won Blenheim in 2011. Earlier this season she won Badminton and recently finished second at Burghley and was part of Britain's silver medal-winning team at the European Championships.

 Final CCI4*-L Results

1) Piggy French on Brookfield Inocent, 25.4

2) Kazuma Tomoto on Brookpark Vikenti, 25.6

3) Piggy French on Castletown Clover, 28.6

4) Samantha Birch on Direct Tullyoran Cruise, 30.4

5) Andrew Nicholson on As Is, 32.1

6) Pippa Funnell on Billy Walk On, 32.2

7) Sam Ecroyd Eventing on Davinci III, 32.2

8) Cathal Daniels on LEB Lias Jewel, 32.4



September 23, 2019  |   Share:

Autumn Paddock Maintenance

By planning the maintenance of your paddocks in September/October you can help provide the best use of the grazing land you have. This will not only ensure the health and wellbeing of your horse, but will also be more aesthetically pleasing when compared to the usual churned up mud pits seen throughout the winter.

FERTILISING - Like any plan, grass requires nutrients to grow. Autumn is often seen as a time where you will again be applying fertiliser to your fields.  The aim is to produce a tightly knitted grass sward with not too much top growth. This will help areas against poaching. This is what Suregrow will produce for you.

WEED CONTROL - While it is more beneficial to control weeds during the spring months, it is also possible to control them as we get to the end of the summer. 

If you still have weeds to control we would advise waiting for the autumn flush which is when new weeds start to germinate due to the increased soil moisture. Where possible we would advise you consider cultural or mechanical methods of controlling weeds. Mowing & harrowing can help reduce weed populations.

Ragwort should be dug out & burnt. Do not leave any roots. Never cut or top. Ragwort when dry is poisonous to horses. Talk to Paddock Agronomist Advisors about what spray to use to kill your different weeds.

Other things to consider when spraying weeds are spray enhancers such as dye-markers & adjuvant oils. Blue dye marker can be mixed with the weed killer to temporarily stain the sprayed area blue. This will help you avoid over-spraying the same area twice, or missing patches. An adjuvant oil can be mixed with the weed killer & can help penetrate waxy or hairy leaves enhancing its affect by up to 30%.

DRAINAGE & COMPACTION OF PADDOCKS - Land that gets very wet is susceptible to poaching; & poached fields can encourage problems with your horse’s health such as foot problems; mud fever or thrush. If your field has poor drainage & you are unable to do any permanent fixes, a temporary measure could be a mole plough or deep tine aerate. Most local contractors or farmers should be able to help you with this. This will also help grass be able to root deeper & in  turn withstand damage to frost, drought & grazing better.

Horse owners will usually know the ones who are more likely to destroy fields & where possible these could be catered for by putting in fields which have better drainage or are on lighter land. If you are able to do so, we would recommend that 1 horse should be grazed on a minimum of 1 acre, although we fully understand not everyone has this luxury.

GRAZING GOLDEN RULE - Keep grass at least 3 inches tall. Grass below 3 inches stresses the plant by reducing the leaf surface which grasses use to make their own food. Eventually the grass depletes its stored reserves & dies leaving bare spots in your paddocks. Suregrow will keep grass 3 inches tall.

Photograph taken at Davison Equestrian

September 23, 2019  |   Share:

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