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Olivia Wilmot
Olivia Wilmot

Olivia's career began with the amazing and tiny cob Patris Filius, who she competed from Pony Club to Badminton '08. She has since been successful at 4* level with double clears at Badminton and Burghley on Axil!

26 September 2016

Why we love horses...?!

The last few weeks were a bit crazy and full of ups and downs but that's why we love horses, right?! We arrived at Burghley and got the boys settled in, then got our camp set up for the week. I sometimes seem to forget how far north we live and that it takes us longer than I expect to get places particularly in the lorry. I can't cut time off the sat nav like you do in the car (obviously, I don't speed but); you know what I mean, sat nav usually overestimates the journey time when you're in the car; however, you can add at least an hour when you're in the lorry!!!

Trotting up Axil at Burghley

Kerin, who groomed for me at Badminton, came to Burghley which was really nice as she knows me and the horses and it means the home set-up doesn't need altering if I don't take staff with me. I had Zebedee on the truck, as well as Axil, so I could keep him fit and get some help from Ian before going on to Blenheim; I think people feel a bit sorry for Kerin when they see 2 grey horses arriving!

Olivia anad Axil after the trot-up

Axil was feeling good, quite perky to start with at Burghley but I wouldn't want him feeling less than great at the start of the week though it was a little testing at times! Burghley is beautiful estate and we had some lovely hacks there. Because I had Zebedee my mum came out on him so she had a great time too, she thinks I should take two horses to all the big events so she can ride in the beautiful settings!

Axil tries his hardest in the dressage!

Axil had a late draw, so I knew my dressage would be on Friday afternoon. On the Wednesday, he passed the trot up and I had my first walk around the cross country which is always a little daunting but Saturday still felt far enough away, so I wasn't too worried! I had a couple of lessons with Ian and Axil got better and better after he gave me his trade-mark 'talking to'. I sometimes seem to forget how to ride simple things like corners and counter canter. It's not that I feel nervous, it's more I focus so much on something, for example, making sure I'm sitting straight and Axil is even in the contact, that I seem to forget I can also still ride!

Going great guns, just before the ducking!

He worked in well for his test and I felt he tried really hard in the arena, especially as it was Friday afternoon and the stands were busy. He even scored his first ever 9s - what a time and place to do it! Unfortunately, I didn't ride the counter canter into the flying changes so well, so we lost some marks there but he scored 52 which is he best mark at 4 star. After his dressage I like to give him a wee jump. And walk the cross country course again having been round with Ian and discussed lines, he's very good at settling my nerves and giving me confidence.

....but he loses his footing and it's game-over on the cross country!

Being a late draw, meant Saturday was a long day to wait, but luckily I had Zebedee there so I could keep myself busy, including working him until it was time to get ready and go down to the warm-up. Axil felt great once we set off around the course. The harder and tougher it got the better he went. I do find shouting at him seems to make him go better! It's definitely not something I do on Zebedee as he gets a bit scared! Axil was really flying and we were taking all the straight routes! I was so delighted we jumped straight at the Diary Mound, in particular and we were only 20 seconds down on the clock which for me is very fast!

Zeb at Blenheim

We came to the Trout Hatchery and he jumped in well, took a stride and then seemed to trip and start going down, definitely not something Axil has ever done before. I tried to stay on but sadly I eventually slipped off the side luckily onto dry land, so I didn't get soaked but that was it - game over, a fall and out. I was gutted! Axil was flying and didn't deserve it, neither did the whole team who had helped us get there. It was so frustrating but, unfortunately, these things happen. Axil had a graze on his knees and nostril but was ok, I think he was a bit confused though. So near yet so far. I've gone over it in my head and watched the video and the photos but I just have to learn from it and move forwards - it happens and I must get over it! It's very frustrating having to wait until next season to give it a go again but next year will be our year – I feel it in my bones!

Axil gets a kiss from Hamish in the stables

Luckily I managed to get a friend to take Axil home from Burghley so I could straight on to Blenheim with Zebedee. It did mean we were the first ones to arrive an Blenheim and there a day early but that was better than driving all the way home to do a quick turn around. John and Hamish arrived at Burghley after the cross country and came on to Blenheim, so it was good to have a few quieter days.

The trot-up at Blenheim

It was very hot to start at Blenheim, I am really not used riding or staying in the lorry in the heat – we are far more used to the cold! Zebedee had an early draw which was good, as we were there so early. Zebedee was working really well and I had Ian's voice in my head. He worked in well for his test but I felt he was a little tight once we were in the arena. He did some really nice trot-work but frustratingly in the canter there were a couple of mistakes. So I was disappointed, I feel I need to up my own game in the arena over the winter.

Zeb in the dressage

The cross country seemed to be have been beefed-up a bit from last year but I believe in Zebedee and knew he was more than capable. Having the 'day off' the following day (which was the second day of dressage) meant I could hack and jump Zebedee but I also went around some trade stands (not many)! Hamish is loving playing golf so he had his golf clubs with, and we found a quiet area away from lorries and horses for him. Our lorry may have had a couple of balls hit the side! Whoops, I won't mention it to my parents!

Flying across country in the rain!

Both Burghley and Blenheim cross country days were wet! Zebedee was out early so I didn't get a chance to watch anyone, not that I like to watch but the occasional good one (as long as you pick out a good round) can be helpful. Zebedee warmed up well and was feeling great. He started out over the first few fences fantastically. Fence 5 was a big ditch brush which he had jumped at Blenheim previously but both times, near the end of the course. I was ready for him to do one of his slightly spooky jumps as it was early on which he did but then he settled down and jumped better and better the further we went.

We made a turn to a hanging rail under the trees, I made sure I steadied him in case he slipped but he was fine. However, about 2 strides out he seemed to lose his footing behind and slip and skidded into the fence. It was really unlike him. I circled and he popped it but the next fence was the big main water I could feel he wasn't happy. I tried to keep him going but he wasn't feeling up for it, so I decided to retire. Again, absolutely gutted but he wasn't happy so I wasn't going to keep going and risk things going wrong. When I got back I notice he had cut his knee and his lip so I think that just knocked his confidence. He's a sensitive boy. So, at least, I'm hoping I now have all the bad runs out of the way now. Not quite the end of the season I had hoped for but onwards and upwards. It's particularly disappointing when you have a good support team - I had some many friends and supporters who come to Burghley and Blenheim and it's such a team effort. So it's now time to reflect on the good and bad from this year, what worked and what didn't and how to be better next season.

Annie Joppe
Annie Joppe

Annie started out as an eventer and after the birth of her son switched to endurance. She represented GB at the European Champs' in Assisi 2009 and is aiming at selection for WEG in France, 2014.

24 September 2016

Another good result!

This time it was Chiara’s turn. Whilst concentrating on Dilmun last month, Chiara’s training was perhaps less than I would have liked. Although fitness work was complete, there was insufficient time to pay detailed attention to all the other things Chiara needed to perfect. During fitness training, I found that it was quite simply impossible to slow her down when cantering using her hanging snaffle. This was whilst working on our own so I dreaded to think how it would be when riding in a group. So rather reluctantly, I reverted to a Dutch gag with the reins on the middle ring. I truly hate using a severe bit but accept that sometimes it is necessary and when it is used responsibly, minimal pressure is needed for the desired result.

Chi and Annie at Barbury Castle, in Chi's first 80K

OK, so now I had the essential brakes BUT drinking en route is also essential and Chiara was still having some difficulty drinking with a bit in her mouth. Of course it would, in theory, be possible on a relatively slow ride to periodically jump off, unclip the bit and let her drink but it is far from ideal and when we move onto race riding next year it would be impossible. The issue is not getting her to drink but either giving her the confidence to try with a bit, or to provide something so delicious that she will persist in trying to drink until she has cracked it. With that in mind, I have changed the sugar beet I use to the molassed type in her sugar beet tea and this has definitely increased her desire if not necessarily her ability yet.

It is also necessary to eat regularly throughout a longer distance ride. Horses are ‘grazers’ and are designed to munch away for many hours a day. We humans disrupt this in endurance by asking them to cover large distances over a long period of time. Therefore, we must ensure that they eat as often as possible. Now Chiara is better at eating with a bit in her mouth than drinking but, unlike most horses I know, she doesn’t automatically try to graze or pick at hedges, once we have stopped. Again encouragement is needed in the form of particularly tasty morsels to temp her appetite. This has worked to a degree but horse cannot live on apples alone and more work needs to be done here!

Dil scrumping!

Another thing that really needed practice was loading and travelling. Unfortunately, there was no time to practice this before our next competition so it was on a 'wing and a prayer' that Chiara was loaded to travel to Barbury Castle in Wiltshire for her first 80 kms competition. Luckily, she took just 5 minutes to load and travelled the 5 hours to Barbury pretty well even taking some water (with apples!) on board when we refuelled.

Barbury Castle was to be Chiara’s first 'sleepover' too; and the first time in an electrified corral.... and she 'aced' it! She was relaxed and happy alternately grazing and looking around her at all the other horses in their corrals. After she had chilled out a bit I took her for a good walk to look round the vetting area, the hold area and the really scary cross country jumps near the start and the finish.

The following morning after a leisurely start, Chiara and I went off to the pre-ride vetting. I was hopeful she would be chilled (after our last experience at the Boconnoc ride) but alas it was not to be. I had arranged to ride with a friend and her horse who was at the same competitive stage as Chiara so we went to the vetting together - big mistake! Chiara saw ‘Norman’ doing his trot up whilst having her heart rate taken and she flipped. As it was a pre-ride vetting the vet kindly allowed us to wait until Chiara’s heart rate went back to normal, then we did the trot-up which felt like flying beside a winged Pegasus!

Within half an hour we were tacked up, mounted, warmed up and ready to start and it was an exciting start negotiating the dreaded cross country obstacles (even though no jumping was involved!) and attempting to stay cool and calm across the open grassland at the beginning of the course with other horses disappearing ahead into the distance.

Chiara and Norman soon settled down into a good rhythm and speed and the first loop passed fairly uneventfully, with Chiara even managing a little sugar beet tea. So we got untacked, washed and headed off to Chiara’s first vetgate. I had decided in advance that this was all about a good experience for her and not how quickly we could present to the vet at the correct heart rate. It was a very warm day but we had anticipated this and had plenty of ice with us to cool Chiara down (which was necessary to get her pulse down to below 65 bpm). She drank a good quantity of water before going to the vet, once her bit was removed, but was pretty fidgety whilst being cooled so we waited almost 10 minutes to get her heart rate down and present which, of course, added to our ride time as the clock doesn't stop until you get to the vetting. Unfortunately, Norman managed to strike into himself during his trot-up and was temporarily lame so was not allowed to go out onto the next loop. His ride was over!

After eating rather sparingly, we tacked her up again and set out on the second and final 40 kms on our own. Chiara was a little star leaving all the other horses and cantering off past all those scarey jumps again. We overtook several riders, opened and closed gates and maintained a steady pace, eventually catching up with 2 other riders in our class and proceeded steadily to the finish line.

The final vetting was similar to the halfway one with Chiara being fidgety and not really settling; and the trot up was again on the fast side for my 80 kms legs! However, she passed the vetting and completed her first 80 kms competition at a good speed and still keen. Chiara then had two weeks’ rest which was followed by some gentle schooling. We now have access to some large fields close to home where the crops are off and can do some canter work. The next competition planned is Chiara’s second 80 kms (in order to gain her Advanced qualification), this time in Wales so hill preparation will be a must.

Meanwhile Wizard has had his shoes put back on and to say he was delighted would be an understatement; he was ecstatic! Although he is now 21 he loves to work (not too hard) and, although he won’t be fit enough to do another competitive ride this season, he will do some light hacking and a little dressage.

Dilmun is currently on holiday with Fantom and will have his shoes off in the next week or so and has access to much more grass where both he and Fantom can develop rather fat tummies. Both boys are lucky to be in the orchard and have access not only to great grass, but to as many apples as they can steal over the electric fence!

Karen Morris
Karen Morris

Karen started as a professional show jumper but has since turned to scurry driving. She won the Scurry Driving Points Champs '07 with Suited & Booted and was third in the European Championships in 2010.

21 September 2016


The vet came three weeks ago to do some annual injections so I got him to check Shirley again. All of the swelling had gone down and there was no pain anywhere. Her lip is still a bit floppy where the facial nerve has been damaged but the vet said that it is not bothering her at all and gave us the go ahead to start working her again.

View from the box seat!

We lunged her for a couple of days and you would not have thought that she had even had a day off, still as sparky as ever! That weekend we drove her in the paddock and there was no difference at all in the way she went and she was totally happy in her mouth. It helps that she is a really easy pony to drive. She was actually really glad to be back in the vehicle.

Over the following couple of weeks, we drove and lunged her to get her fitness up and practiced a couple of boxes and soon decided that she was totally fine to do the Thame show and the National Championships at Newbury. The other ponies have been going really well and Kes and Comet have ticked along nicley at home. They have had plenty of canter work in preparation for the finals and were feeling good. I bought a cheap pair of clippers after mine were stolen and gave the paly’s a neck and belly clip. Thankfully, the others' coats will just about last for the last two shows.

Chalk and Cheese, runner-up National Champions!

So last Wednesday we loaded up and set off to Thame with 8 ponies. A lot of traffic and not a totally smooth run but we got there quite early in the evening to set up and settle in. The first class had quite a few entries and Tom and Shirley (Chalk and Cheese) flew round with a great clear to come 2nd. Dad did a lovely round with Rats and Gucci (Posh and Becks) but just missed out on the Championship and came 7th. M and M’s (Flora and Jerry) did a super clear in the first round too, to come 5th. It was a lovely smooth course as the course builder knew we all were going straight onto Newbury and the weather was very hot that day.

Suited and Booted, National Champions for the third time!

Kes and Comet (Suited and Booted) went into the ring for their class and as soon as the bell went, they were off and produced an absolutely perfect round to win the class! Tim Stockdale presented us with our prizes and had a ride on the back for the lap of honour. Lucy Scott was beside herself ,as he is one of her idols and got a selfie with him - she had the biggest smile on her face! With the win, I am sure that I now have nailed the points league Championship but the powers that be won’t confirm it yet and wants to keep me waiting!

The Championship was extremely fast and very close. Trevor went first as he took a ball in the first round and put an amazing time on the board that no-one thought we could catch. Chalk and Cheese did a blast of a round to come 4th and M and M’s had a ball but galloped through the last 4 cones to get a great time. Eight other drivers went but Trevor was still in the lead. I was last to go with Suited and Booted and they were foot perfect again, continuing their amazing form, to beat Trevor’s time and win the Championship. The excitement was brewing for Newbury, as there are so many ponies in the mix to win.

Cup and ribbons at Newbury!

We stayed another night at Thame as we were going to Newbury the next day but woke to torrential rain and got soaked taking the stables down. We had a lovely trip across to Newbury on Friday and the rain had gone by the time we got there and set up. We exercised the ponies gently and started cleaning everything as we had a ride out on the Tristar coach the next day and wanted to get it all done before. So we got up, fed the ponies and mucked out and then got scrubbed up and turned ourselves out in dresses and hats, for a change! The wind was a bit cold but we were also part of a showing class so we had to grin and bear it. The champagne helped on our pit stop! The team of horses were amazing and did a great show to finish 3rd. We rushed back to the box to get some warm clothes on and make a hot chocolate but it was great fun. The evening was a quiet one with roast lamb and all the trimmings and a glass of wine, then an early night.

The following day, we were up at 6am to get everything plaited and ready for the warm up classes that started at 10am. Chalk and Cheese went like little rockets and missed winning by 0.3 seconds. Dad had a ball though Posh and Becks went well. Suited and Booted did a great round in the warm up and came 2nd. These classes also set the running order for the National final in the afternoon.

So we had an hour to psyche ourselves up and let the ponies have a drink and calm down. Dad was 4th to go and did a much better round than in the morning and a lot faster, but again he clipped a ball. I was next to go with M and M’s. As I had galloped them at Thame, Flora was excited but showed her greenness with some steering problems and we took 3 balls. She has come on leaps and bounds this year (her first season) and will just get better. Chalk and Cheese were a bit later to go and I could not believe the time and the power they put in and went into the lead. There were a few acute angles on some of the cones and it was definitely a Championship course. We came out of the ring and as we were walking, poor Tom tripped and fell over in the carriage. He is a really lazy walker and caught a bit of bumpy turf and tripped but couldn’t get his balance back. Shirley was amazing and stood waiting for us to get Tom out - there was not a scratch or mark on him thankfully. It did however, frighten us to death. We walked them away and I checked they were fine. The girls walked them around to calm them down and I then had to jump on the paly’s for their round.

After the drama of this year, there had to be one more thing and Tom was it, but as I was next to go so I had to take a deep breath and concentrate. We barely passed the commentator’s box and Kes pulled my arms out, raring to go. As soon as I was round the corner towards number one, I let them go. They absolutely flew. There was a cone on the corner that I nearly overshot and didn’t think I would get through but we did and it was still up. I could hear Nick Brookes-Ward getting the crowd going and they were really cheering as I came to the last. I looked up and saw that Suited and Booted had won their 3rd National Scurry Driving Championship in style and Chalk and Cheese got Reserve Champion. After the worry with Tom (when I wasn't sure he would survive last winter) and then winning with the Paly's after they have been almost unbeaten this year, and getting second as well, most of my friends burst into tears as emotions had built up. What an amazing end to a challenging season with the best, most loyal bunch of ponies and helpers anyone could ever have!

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