Saturday, 28 February 2009

What woeful Rugby - Just watched Ireland v England. 'Twas not good. Neither side played particularly well but Ireland deserved the win (14-13 to Ireland) - when England had a chance of winning in the last seconds I was willing them to make a mistake as they had played like girls the rest of the time. Two yellow cards for England again. Johnson must be tearing his hair out, just stupid, schoolboy mistakes. I thought it summed England up when seconds before half time they had possession, were running the ball, were just on the half way line but Flood did a soft kick into touch so that they could go back to their changing room. Time for a cup of tea! Oh dear, the Southern Hemisphere lot must be delighted as the Scots v Italian game wasn't much better.

Rest day for the horses apart for Dove who went trotting on the road again - 7 miles and got her heart rate up to 194 bpm. More through anxiety than anything as she doesn't like setting off on her own, but it all helps.

We have been really busy lately emptying some old pig-sties that were full of junk as we are going to convert them into five extra stables. The emptying took 3 solid days and today they were pressure washed. Doug is going to finish rendering the walls tomorrow.

I am tired and am going to bed!

Friday, 27 February 2009

At last - Spring (sort of)

Just watched a great game of Rugby between France and Wales - France won by 5 points - It was a ferocious game with both sides putting their bodies on the line and although France deserved to win, Wales were unlucky not to score a try in the last few minutes.
It was such a lovely spring like day today. About time we saw the sun. Everything has started to grow and dry out. We have made rather a mess of the paddocks during the wet winter so Doug was out there on his quad, fertilising, re-seeding and harrowing. I thought I would get in first before he is too busy doing other people's paddocks..
We took Red, Frog and Dove to the uphill gallop this morning. Dove went up first time full of enthusiasm but then decided she didn't want to go up again. Ben Case's lot were milling around the bottom of the gallop and she got a bit worked up, although that is no excuse and I think she is just taking the mickey now. She went up eventually, catching the Case string up, but it just adds more pressure on us now for the start of a race as she cannot afford to do that then. Very disappointing as we thought we had sorted that problem out. I am still reluctant to get really hard on her as we have tried that before and it didn't work. Having said that, maybe she thinks I'm a soft touch and Doug should get back on with spurs. Red went really well and isn't lame at all now. However, her recovery rate was still not good (110 bpm) so it will be a couple of weeks before she will be ready to race. Frog, went really well, and although she had a high of 190 bpm her recovery rate is coming down nicely (94 bpm)
Because Dove had mis-behaved she went out again with Dream on a hack. We started to trot and Georgia was concerned about how high Dream's HR was. We gave her time to recover and then trotted again and it shot up to over 200 bpm. This was in comparison to Dove's that was 46 bpm. She is obviously still very unwell and although she felt fine to ride and is eating really well her virus is obviously kicking in. Dream and Georgia went back as it wasn't worth the risk and I took Dove for a really long hack making her trot the whole way - it was her punishment as she hates trotting. We would have entered Dream for racing next weekend but will leave it a couple of weeks now until we know she is right. Annoyingly, we didn't put a HR monitor on Dream the day before she raced because we only have three monitors and four horses went out, as Dream was only doing light work we didn't think it was necessary but it would have been very interesting to see what her readings were and it would probably have saved us the journey down to Whitwick Manor and a P (pulled up) besides her name.
With the spring like weather things have been pretty busy with Equine Fitness - Girth Heart Monitors have been going all over the world including Australia, America, Sweden, Poland and Ireland. The Irish girths have gone to a chap called Con Manane who specialises in buying and selling two year olds. He uses the HM on a treadmill and decides from his results which one's are worth keeping and which one's should be sold on. The more people who collect data with regards to heart rates in horses the more invaluable the information will become to all trainers. It is amazing how 'traditional' most English trainers are though and how reluctant they are to embrace any 'new' ideas.

I meant to catch up on my postings last night but got waylaid by the film about Margaret Thatcher's last few weeks as Prime Minister. It was fascinating to see what really happened - well I'm not sure how close to the truth it was but it seemed pretty close. She was a remarkable woman but it is quite understandable how she became so unpopular within her cabinet. She didn't suffer fools gladly and treated the majority of them with complete disdain. In her later years she it became quite evident that the power had gone to her head and she stopped being rational about some of her decisions. She always thought she was right, even though there were times, like the poll tax, when she was evidently wrong. What I found particularly interesting was how few of the cabinet stood up to her and how they just told her what they thought she wanted to hear. Easy to see how she got carried away with her own power and control if no one ever told her that she had overstepped the mark . Some of the ministers that came off particularly badly in last nights portrayal of her downfall was John Major, Douglas Herd and Geoffrey Howe who were two-faced, spineless and dishonest. The one's that stood up to her were Kenneth Clark and Norman Tebbitt who was loyal to the end. It was a shame that the end of her premiership ended as it did as, whether you liked her or not, she has to go down as one of Britain's finest prime ministers.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The horses all had the day off today as I had a lot deer velvet orders to catch up on. The results from the blood tests came through and Andrew said that Dream had every excuse to "run like a hairy goat" The bloods showed that she had a bacterial infection and a high muscle enzyme count. As we noticed when we took her out the following day she had a very high heart rate which was probably due to the bacterial infection. This would have caused her to have a lactic acid build up during the race which would have meant severe muscle soreness. Thank goodness David pulled her up when he did with no harm done. Dove also had a residual bacterial infection but not as bad as Dream. They all had snotty noses about six weeks ago and it obviously is still hanging around so they are going to go onto anti-biotics to help clear it up for good. Dream is also going to have anti-inflammatories and azodine to help her muscle soreness. It was such a relief to know that there was an excuse for her bad run. We will let you of this time, Dream!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Jack is back

Jack the 'White Hunter' having returned from his 10 hour battle .

Jack, feeling slightly guilty, helping with tonight's blog.

Such a stressful 24 hours - Jack went missing yesterday evening 6- ish, we spent most of the evening/night looking for him with Doug proclaiming him dead for certain at 10 pm when we had done a full search of the woods with no sight or sound of him. Female badgers at this time of the year are notoriously dangerous with their young and will kill any intruder at the slightest hint of danger, added to this, unknown to me, one side of the badger sett was very close to the river and there was a sheer drop- very easy for a blind terrier to lose his footing and fall into the water. As I had heard him barking at around 6.30 ish , Doug wondered whether Jack had fallen into the water and was barking to get help - this made me feel awful as I had cursed the silly old sod for not listening to me and decided that he knew his way home so could jolly well get back on his own - I felt so bad. I know it sounds silly as he is only a dog but he has been with me through thick and thin and I think you only get one or two really great dogs in your lifetime and he was one of them. He still hadn't turned up at 1 a.m by which time I had already decided that we were not going to go hunting tomorrow but were going to dig the whole wood up if necessary even if it were just to retrieve the body. We barely slept and at 5 am Doug got up for the loo and went downstairs to see if Jack had returned - I was awake but hadn't dared check because I knew if he hadn't got back at this stage then he never would. Doug got back into bed saying nothing and my heart sunk, He wasn't back... Jack is dead. I tried to reason with myself and accept the fact that he was getting old and that he was going to die anyway sometime ..... "he's back" Doug said. Oh, the relief...... and then - the silly old twonk! Covered in mud and with a chunk out of his ear missing he was still alive. What a hero! Doug wasn't quite so complimentary and they are still not talking....
Anyway the next drama this morning was that Red was as lame as a crow. Yesterday she had done a really good piece of work on the grass gallops and really impressed. We were just beginning to think that she was going to be the star of the yard after all and that we were going to have some fun this season and then this. The whole leg was hot with just a little swelling above her fetlock. As the vet was coming anyway to blood test Dream we put a cold boot on and got ready for hunting with very heavy hearts. A year's rest.... just when she was beginning to show some form...
Dove, Frog and Dream went hunting with the Bicester. First time for us with them and they were a really friendly lot. The scent wasn't brilliant but perfect for first time out for the Frog who had had a little Sedalin and was very well behaved for the first hour but then gradually became more of a retard as time went on. Doug had to go on a spraying course anyway at 1.30 pm so was able to leave early before she completely flipped. Georgia and I stayed on until having to head back because of the vets visit at 2pm. Dove behaved really well with no more than a couple of half hearted plants at stressful times like going through gateways or just before going over a bridge. Dream was just ' Dreamy'.
Andrew Higgins from Avonvale has been my horse vet for over 20 years and is brilliant. He felt Red's leg and knew straight away it wasn't a tendon problem - she had an infection in the foot and the heat in her leg was referred heat from her foot. She had perhaps trodden on a stone which had broken the sole slightly and caused a small infection. Another massive relief. Not out for the season after all. Phew....
He also took blood from Dream, Dove and poo from frog to see if her lack of weight gain was anything to do with a huge worm infestation which the normal wormers were failing to kill. Results will be back tomorrow.
As we have had very little to celebrate lately we decided to crack open a bottle of fizz this evening - most people celebrate when things go really well. We have resorted to celebrating when things don't go too badly!!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Royal Auclair

Royal Auclairs niece

It was so good to see Royal Auclair win at Fontwell in a Hunters Chase on Sunday. What a lovely genuine horse. He has now won over half a million pounds including three wins at Cheltenham and now looks all set to run in the Foxhunters there this March. It is so good when they have done so much racing and yet still have such enthusiasm. We were lucky enough to buy a relation to him at Goffs in Ireland last December. A yearling filly by Useful out of a half sister to his dam. She looks quite smart at this stage.

Have just been looking for Jack who has gone missing whilst hunting bunnies in the spinney near to the house. I am getting really worried now as he has been missing for more than 4 hours. It isn't like him to miss his tea...
On Saturday, at Whitwick Manor, Dream jumped well but ran like a hairy goat. She did a circuit and a half and then David pulled her up, she was lying about 5th at the time, she just wasn't travelling and had to be niggled along. We had given David strict instructions to pull up if she was tired but we wondered whether she was just taking the mickey as she is rather lazy, and as he was really worried about bringing her home safely he was erring on the side of caution. However, on Sunday we took her out for a short gallop and she wasn't tired from the race but had a really high heart rate and a very poor recovery rate. She didn't come below 110 even when she got back from the yard so she may have an excuse. The vet is coming tomorrow to take blood so we will know by Thursday whether she is just a lazy toad or worth persevering with.
I was a complete nervous wreck beforehand and after seeing them go down to the start disappeared off to the trailer on the pretence of checking that Dove was OK but also to have a Whisky Mac (for medicinal purposes only) The people in the next but one box to us had lost a horse in the previous race and were in tears. It had brought the horror of losing Blu back and I couldn't bear to watch the race so just reappeared when Dream arrived back - all in one piece thank goodness. We then had to celebrate her safe return and also shared a bottle of sparkling with Julie Houldey and Dave Mansell who had trained and ridden three winners respectively. we were trying to find out how it should be done... By the time we left I was fairly shabby, tired and emotional. Very pleased to have got that hurdle out of the way but also a bit disappointed - why is it always the good ones that die?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Yesterday, Will Telfor and Matt (Assistant trainer at Milton Harris's) schooled Dream, Dove and Frog. Dream and Dove went over the big fences and as it was Frog's first time jumping with a jockey on board she just went over the tyres, delighted with all of them but particularly with Frog who seems such a natural. Dove is ithe lead horse over the big fences and over the tyres. Frog will go over the hurdles next Thursday so watch this space...

Puppies in a box

We have just been to see Jack's puppies and they are just gorgeous. Jack has to get a mention here because effectively he is my 'assistant trainer' as he always helps with the schooling and when I used to train on my own and take one horse up the hill at a time he was also my pacemaker. He is getting on now and completely blind but has an uncanny knack of knowing when we are schooling - He will inevitably turn up with some unfortunate incidents.... Minnie is the proud mother - not a bad effort for first time around.
We took all four horses up the gallops this morning. Dream is racing tomorrow at Whitwick Manor, near Hereford, so just went the one time up. The other three, Dove, Frog and Red went two and a half times up the long gallop. It was really foggy and impossible to see if anyone else was on it so we didn't really get any good HR readings as twice we had to turn around to avoid other horses. Dove had every excuse to plant as there was a lot of activity with other horses but although she thought about it once she soon gave in. She seems so much happier in herself since the 'Roy treatment' and I am so relieved that we didn't try 'strong arm' tactics on her when she was playing up before. We thought we had explored every avenue as we had the chiropractor, vet and the dentist to look at her and they couldn't find anything wrong. We feel a little guilty for all the names we called her now though, as she is obviously thoroughly genuine to still have done what she has done in spite of the pain she must have been in. Frog is feeling well and dumped Georgia on the way home, luckily she had a soft landing and held on to the reins so no harm done.
I am not looking forward to putting another horse on the track after what happened to Blu. Doug and Georgia have decided that I either need a good dose of Sedalin or a very large measure of whisky before the race. I can then snooze in the trailer and they can wake me up when it is all over...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Alan and Anne Beckett came for lunch yesterday and watched Dream and Red go up the gallops first. Alan used to farm on a large scale in the Wythall area near Birmingam. In the 1960's he also started up a small farm shop which is now hugely successful. Alan and Anne are the sort of people who think nothing of jumping on a tandem and cycling from John O' Groats to Lands End or walking the entire coastal path of Britain - they put us (marginally) younger mortals to shame.
They are both Nuffield Scholars and were kind enough to award me the Alan and Anne Beckett award in 1997. I can honestly say that it has been the best thing I have ever done and I have not looked back since. So, thank you so much, Alan and Anne for giving me that unique opportunity.

Just had a good piece of work with Dove but still failed to get her heart rate up above 126 bpm (right hand graph) and Frog ( max HR 198 bpm) We went around the circular gallop twice, As I was trying to get Dove's HR up I tried to do some sprint work with her and got to a maximum speed of 37.4 mph (12 secs per furlong) with an average of 15 secs/fur . I was too scared to go around the bends at that pace so had to take a pull. Then up the long uphill gallop at a good clip (18 secs/fur). Probably should have gone up again but there was another string behind us and Frog was getting rather silly. Anyway, the bottom line is that fast work on the flat doesn't seem to elevate the HR (in Dove's case.) Her recovery rate was 50 after 2 mins. (Frog's 113 bpm) In a race situation she will have a much higher HR and that is when you could run the risk of lactic acid build up but as we don't want to work her too hard at home and risk injuring her we may have to race her as a piece of work. Although Frog's HR seems rather high in comparison you have to bear in mind that as a horse gets older the HR becomed lower, also Frog has an unconditioned heart as she has only been broken in for a short while and she is still not completely relaxing, particularly after a piece of work which is why her recovery rate is still very high.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Guilin in China

Great weekend which is why there were no postings. Hunted on foot with the Pytchley on Saturday, a bit of scent but the hounds disappeared into the elephant grass near East Haddon and not much happened after that. There are acres of the stuff in that area - it looks just like Africa but sadly hasn't got anywhere near the same magic as Africa. Very sterile, no bird life and personally I don't think it does much for anything - least of all the environment.

Got home in time to watch the England v Wales Six Nations match. I was dreading it as I thought it would be completely embarrassing, instead it was just mildly embarrassing as it is never good to lose against the Welsh but we didn't lose by as much as I thought we were going to. Their defence was much better than last week against the Italians, discipline was still a problem with two men being yellow carded, too many individuals with little team spirit - and the bottom line is that the Welsh played better with more imaginative rugby.

Straight after the game I was whisked off to Valentines night in the George and Dragon at Chalcombe - first time we have been there and it was wonderful. Delicious food, and great atmosphere. Met the locals and felt it the next day..........

This morning the horse all went out in one lot as Lucy Docker, who is doing her university dissertation on heart monitors with horses came to ride out and update her figures. We went twice up the gallops, second time at a really good clip but still couldn't get Dove above 159 bpm. Dream went to 170 bpm and Frog to 205 bpm. Recovery was 87 with Dove, 92 with Dream and 99 with Frog. We didn't have a heart monitor on Red as we only have three available at the moment. We are going to do a bit more sprint work on the flat circular gallop now to see if that lifts the heart rate to the required zone.

Spoke to Jay on the phone today - it was good to talk to her as it has been a week since we last touched base and I was beginning to worry. She is in Vietnam at the moment but is moving on to a place called Guilin in China shortly. I have just looked at photos of Guilin and it looks amazing. I so wish 'gap years' were the thing to do when I was young.....

Friday, 13 February 2009

Heart rates in horses

Velvet Frog - (not her real name!)

A much better day today - the sun shone and the snow is beginning to thaw. Georgia was in this morning so we took Red, Dream and Frog up the uphill gallop twice. We had heart monitors on the Frog and Red and it was interesting to see that although Red's recovery rate wasn't as good as before her lay-off her maximum heart rate was still pretty low at 159 bpm compared to Frog's at 206. She has managed to keep her fitness fairly well considering she has had nearly three weeks off. Both Red and Dove who are out of the same dam have incredibly big hearts - this can sometimes lead to problems if they are not trained properly because to work them anaerobically as opposed to aerobically you have to get the heart rate over 160 bpm. This is because in race conditions the heart rate will always be higher than it is at home (because of more effort and the excitement of the race). If the heart is not used to working anaerobically (over 160 bpm) it can lead to lactic acid build up and a very tired horse who will either fall or be pulled up. A big heart has to be managed differently, as surprisingly, it will need a lot more work than a horse with a smaller heart. Some horse's however, particularly the 'nervy' ones (like Dove) keep themselves fit because their heart rate shoots up when they see something 'scary'. However, a laid back horse with a big heart can be the most difficult.

Interestingly, a friend of mine, Linda Pestell, used to own a horse called Little Shilling, she bought a heart rate monitor and used it on him. She would tell us his readings - his maximum at the top of Ben Pollocks very steep gallops was only 127 bpm. We thought she must have got this wrong or alternatively he was potentially an absolute super star. He raced a few times and was very moderate so we thought she must have mis-read the readings. She sold him on to another trainer. Little Shilling has now won 6 races on the trot and is possibly going to Cheltenham. Could it be that the new trainer managed to work that huge heart in a more efficient way?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gallops still frozen and even colder than before so we ended up having rather a sociable day instead. Bill Adams, a local farmer popped around for coffee on his way round to check his cattle and then Emma who also trains a couple of pointers popped in. We were all a bit depressed with the weather so discussed our woes and then decided to go to the local pub for lunch. Sitting by the open fire with a glass of wine seemed very much the better option. Eventually we had to prise ourselves away and got back to do some office work. At about 3.30 pm it looked as though it had thawed out enough to try the gallops so we took Dove and Dream. I was a bit apprehensive as this was the first time Dove had been on the gallops since the 'Roy treatment'. I was delighted - she was completely happy in her work - no hesitation at all and although extremely strong it was keenness rather than 'running scared' as she was before with her head in the air. Dream also worked well in her normal 'Dreamy' way. We went three times around the circular gallop and once up the uphill gallop. They had been harrowed and were in good order. We used heart monitors on them and Dream's Maximum was 170 bpm, Average 105 bpm, Recovery 94 bpm - max speed 28.5 mph, Dove's - max - 150, Av - 105, recovery 87, max speed 35 mph. The average was a bit high because we didn't put the monitors on until the bottom of the gallops - normally we turn them on the way to the gallops when they are relaxed. We don't usually pay much attention to the maximum speed because getting a horse fit isn't about going flat out but sometimes it is interesting to see what sort of pace you are doing and then work that back to a race where you can find out what the average speed of that particular race was and see if your horse is any where near good enough.

More snow this afternoon but now beginning to thaw. Just heard that my terrier, Jack, is the proud father of seven pups! I am very tempted to have one.....

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Still lots of snow on the ground and a hard freeze last night has made the roads and tracks treacherous. Poor Ben Case spent the whole of yesterday harrowing the snow into the gallops as it had started to ball up, which made it rideable but since the freeze last night it has now frozen solid. Red was lunged in the school while the others went for a hack around the farm.
I rode Dove and am delighted with the way she is going. She is so relaxed since the 'Roy treatment' and really happy in herself. She hasn't planted or run backwards since, and made a lovely outline in the canter. The big test will be on the gallops where previously she often either used to plant or bolt. The Frog was relatively well behaved today, she just had a couple of bucks on the way home so Doug took her into the school for a bit of flat work until she settled and Dream was her normal sweet self. Weather and ground permitting Dream will be going to Whitwick Manor on the 21st February. After what happend to Blu I am dreading having another runner but know it is a bridge I have to cross. We really thought we had got everything right for Blu - the ground, the jockey and her fitness- but it all went horribly wrong.... yesterday Andrew Higgins, our vet came to vaccinate all the horses and said how terribly sad he was about Blu. He also said that a vet friend of his had watched the race and saw the accident. He said that she was going incredibly well, still very much on the bridle - when she appeared to collapse before the fence and her propulsion took her over. He thought it was an electrical fault between the brain and the heart- similar to that of Denmans - but luckily with Denman they had a warning sign at home. According to the vet, it happens very rarely but seems to be more common with the better class of horse. We use heartmonitors all the time and there was no sign that Blu had anything wrong. It makes it slightly easier for me to handle knowing that it wasn't a tired fall and she was doing what she loved - in the lead, thinking that she had beaten off 17 opponents and there wasn't any pain involved.
I am off to London this evening with a group of friends. We are going to a film evening about Richard Dunwoody's holiday company Wild Frontiers .

Monday, 9 February 2009

Tony McCoy rides his 3000 winner

Tony McCoy has at last ridden his 3000th winner - what an achievement! Having just had a nasty fall on Miss Sarenne at the last when well clear he picked himself up and rode Henderson trained Restless D'Artaix.
Henderson said: "He starved himself to ride the filly that fell (Miss Sarenne) and he was genuinely gutted about that "He's ridden two finishes and I think he was the only person that would have won on either of them, the one that looked an easy winner goes and tips up - After that it was fair justice that we got it over with today.”
"It couldn't be wetter, it couldn't be colder, he's starving to bits, but he can go and ride finishes like that."
"He's quite extraordinary and that's why he gets to those quite incredible numbers."
McCoy has won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the King George in a glittering career.Only the Grand National continues to elude him in his ceaseless quest for big-race triumphs.
I have to confess that I completely failed to understand why Hayley Turner won the Channel four Racing Personality of the Year award and not Tony McCoy. Not taking anything away from Hayley, riding on the flat is a completely different ball game to riding over fences where there is a one in eight chance of having a fall. True grit, determination and courage is necessary. Without being politically incorrect if Hayley was male and not female would she still have won the award? I am sure that Hayley herself would like to win on merit and not on gender.

Bush fires in Australia

I feel terrible that I have been moaning about the weather here when Southern Australia is suffering so badly with the worst bush fires ever. Almost 200 deaths so far and whole towns completely destroyed. Our thoughts are with the people who's lives have been affected by this terrible catastrophe.

This morning Georgia had to be picked up from Culworth because the Culworth road was completely blocked by cars unable to get up the hill. The snow has turned to rain making the roads if anything, worse. Dove, Dream and the Frog went out for a long hack in the snow over the hill at the back of the farm. Coming back the Frog was still full of herself and tried to buck Doug off so we thought we would take her and Dream to the long uphill gallop and try and get a bit of steam out of her. The gallop was still covered in snow and hard work for them. They both had heart monitors on and it was interesting to see the difference between an unconditioned heart and one that was relatively fit. It was also interesting to see how tough the gallop is now that it is covered with so much snow - They both went up twice and Dream's highest HR at the top was 187, Frog's was 220, the recovery rate for Dream was particularly pleasing - she was down to 88 in 3 mins whereas the Frog's was 113 at the same stage. Without the snow Dream's top heart rate would be between 150-160 bpm. However, we were amazed at how strong the Frog was - twice up with 16 stone on her back and she still had a buck in her on the way home! Quite extraordinary for a horse that has only been broken in for 7 weeks.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

When will we race again?

Jack, Lucy and Titch hunting in the snow.

This has gone on too long now! More snow forecast tonight. Very little racing on this weekend or likely to be next weekend. It is going to make the season really short. We have still got one more horse to qualify (The Frog) and are running out of time. Hopefully the hunting season will be extended.
We still managed to get all four horses out today for a hack around the farm. I was delighted with Dove who had her first outing since the Roy treatment. She walked and trotted with her head down in a lovely outline, whereas before she would be jogging sideways with her nose poked in the air. Her stride was much longer and she seemed much happier in herself. No planting or running backwards - fingers crossed we are getting somewhere with her. Red also had her first outing since her bruised withers - she went beautifully and was in no pain at all with the wither protector on so thankfully we can still work her. Doug rode Dream who needed his rather firmer riding as she can get rather lazy and she also went well and then the Frog who was very badly behaved as she didn't see the point in just walking and trotting and stuck a couple of bucks in and jogged sideways most of the ride. She needs a good gallop but the all weather gallop is covered in snow and wouldn't be safe so we are rather limited in what we can do.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Hunting on foot

Went hunting on foot with the Bicester. As we haven't been in the area for long it was the first time we had been with the Bicester. It felt like we were the 'new kids on the block' and having been with the Pytchley for twenty years it was rather odd. Everyone was very friendly and even though the scent was non existent we still had a great walk with beautiful alpine scenery.

I have just watched the worse game of International Rugby I have seen for a long time. England against Italy in the Six Nations. I didn't watch to the end as it was so bad and even though England was winning they didn't deserve to as they only scored points because of Italy's mistakes. Martin Johnson must be tearing his hair out - there is simply no commitment, no will to win, no courage. I am just off to watch the Irish match where hopefully they will play with passion and determination even if they don't win I am sure it will be worth watching unlike the embarrassingly limp English spectacle.

Friday, 6 February 2009

White stuff again

Lots of office work to do but we decide to go sledging instead - we towed each other behind the quad, and as you can see I was much kinder to Doug than he was to me....

We took Frog and Dream for a ride up the hill at the back of the farm - it was such an amazing feeling cantering on such deep snow. It felt so safe and the horses loved it. Frog is getting stronger everyday and coped with the hill, the snow and Doug's lightweight (?) impressively well.

Red and Dove had the day off as Roy said that Dove should have 3 days off after her corrective treatment, and Red's withers are still bruised - I found out what caused it and am not very happy. Her jelly pad wasn't put under her racing saddle before schooling and pressed into her withers. A stupid mistake and one I am not proud of. I should have double checked and not just assumed. We have now bought a wither protector that goes under the saddle which we will try out tomorrow weather permitting. She is such a genuine horse who always tries her hardest and deserves better

Thursday, 5 February 2009

More snow

The chooks hate the snow, but Jack and the horses love it.

As we couldn't do much with the horses and Doug couldn't go to work we did some office work and then I 'supervised' the erection of several nesting boxes around the garden and in the small spinney next to the house. Our garden is full of birds at the moment because of the hard weather and I'm filling the feeders twice a day as they are so hungry. I am hoping that by putting the nesting boxes up we will encourage them to stay with us so that I can enjoy the dawn chorus in the Spring time.
Yesterday Georgia came to ride out and we took Dove, Dream and the Frog once around the circular gallop and twice uphill. Frog was really on her toes and rather a handful, the snow flicking up seemed to unsettle her, I was rather pleased I was riding Dream and Dove was unusually well behaved. This was the first time we had been out without Blu since her death and we all felt it very deeply. She was our benchmark, and it was difficult not to compare the other horses with her and wonder how she would have coped with the snow. We miss her so much...
In the afternoon we took Dove to see a chap called Roy who is a guru on problem horses and can normally find a reason why they are behaving badly or not moving as well as one would expect. He is the 'last chance saloon' as generally speaking you have already tried the vet and the chiropractor before you resort to Roy. He spent an hour and a half on Dove and found three main problems, the worst of which was between the base of her neck and the top of her shoulder. It was a muscle very difficult to get to and had been in spasm for some time, he thought it could well be why she suddenly freezes, runs backwards and blocks on the right rein. She is normally so feisty and yet it was interesting to see how she seemed desperate for him to release the tight muscles and was leaning in to him even though it looked really painful as Roy uses all his strength. When he had finished Georgia rode her around the school and her stride had lengthened by 8 inches. Only time will tell whether this is the reason why she plants - fingers crossed.
Late afternoon we decided to brave the elements and see what the outside world was like - partly because I suddenly realised we had almost run out of potatoes - Doug thinks it goes back to my Irish genes and that I have deep seated flashbacks to the potato famine - I simply cannot bear not to have potatoes in the house, anyway, we were rather disappointed that the roads were not as bad as we thought they were going to be, there were no stranded cars, nobody hitch hiking and in the village of Byfield not one single person fell over, it wasn't like the BBC news at all. It made me feel rather guilty for not getting all my orders done today as I had assumed that the post wouldn't be picked up so there was little point.
After we had bought the potatoes we had a lovely walk around Boddington reservoir and on the drive home just as it was getting dark I saw two Barn Owls, separately, one was hovering near Milton's (I didn't know Barn Owls hovered, but it was definitely a Barn Owl and not a Kestrel) and one just near the bottom of our drive. I love Barn Owls and have just bought a Barn Owl nesting box and it would give me so much pleasure if it was actually used. I wonder how I can let them know about the 5 star accommodation waiting for them here at Blackgrounds farm?

Contrasting weather

These are the photo's that Doug's sister Kate from Australia sent with the accompanying e-mail

At home in Victoria the temperature has been above 44 degrees all week and they are forecasting another week of 40+ temperatures. Power is failing, trains have stopped running because tracks are buckling under the heat . It’s just scorching and it seems that the people are not the only ones suffering.
Check out these photos of a little Koala which just walked onto a back porch looking for a bit of heat relief. The woman filled up a bucket for it and this is what happened!

How sweet is that? It makes you realise though that if a wild animal is driven to such lengths as to come in to 'dangerous' territory like a human household it must be pretty desperate out there and a lot would be dying in the heat. Let's hope it soon stops and things get back to normal for every one's sake.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Foals playing in the snow (Velvet Dove's foal in the lead)

View on the way to the gallops

We are still struggling to come to terms with Blu's death. My daughter, Jay, who is on her gap year in Vietnam sent me this lovely e-mail - "hey ma, i hope your alright about blu, i'm so sorry you must be devastated at least she went doing what she was bred for and we were lucky to have had such an amazing horse. its just sad that she didn't have much time to shine. i hope your alright and i will ring soon, send my love to you xxxxxxx"

Life must go on and the snow is beautiful to look at but very difficult to work with. Whilst the gallops are fine to ride on the track getting to the gallops is lethal so the horses have just gone on the walker for today.

Monday, 2 February 2009

A tragic weekend

Our stable star Velvet Blu died at Horseheath when in the lead three fences from home. David Mansell rode her and although it looked as though they were going too fast he said that she was travelling so well and completely within her comfort zone. She was four lengths ahead of Mango Tango and the duo were 35 lengths ahead of the rest of the 18 runners in the restricted when she seemed to stumble 2 strides before the fence and then just not pick up. David thought that she had a heart attack but we have since had a post mortem and the heart was perfect. Tom Ellis who was some way behind also thought that it looked as though she had died before the fence. One explanation is that she may have had a brain hemorrhage - she had been brought down and knocked unconcious as a five year old when jumping hurdles at Worcester and had perhaps suffered some unknown long term damage then. During the race she had been jumping like a stag and was taking 2 lengths out of the rest of the field before it happened so it was really odd for her not to pick up at all. Jumping had always been her strong point but because she had made a silly mistake at Larkhill the week before we had got David over to school during the week and she was quite exceptional. David said that he "gave her the ride of his life" and was gutted when she fell. We are all absolutely devastated.