(Photo: Will Weaver)Harriet Rochester’s Marlborough Downs Uncovered column gets a bit personal
Globally horses play a diverse role. From a reliant working member of the community in third world countries to a priceless competitor in sports from eventing to horseracing or as a much-loved pet or companion.
This latter role was highlighted very poignantly earlier this month, when staff at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan granted Sheila Marsh's dying wish, by arranging a visit from her horse to her hospital bed (- photo at right.) Mrs Marsh died the very next day.
It also cannot be ignored that these animals are also a valuable commodity in the horsemeat trade. At last year’s World Horse Welfare conference, HRH The Princess Royal, who is the charity’s president, controversially highlighted this point. When she addressed the 400 delegates at this year’s conference, The Princess Royal, perhaps not wanting to stir the pot quite so vigorously, asked: ‘What is the Value of Horses?’
It was a question that sparked debate for the remainder of the conference and has prompted me to quiz myself.
The value of horses spans money, utility and sentiment. This was demonstrated by several detailed studies across numerous scenarios during the conference.
Jason Hare addresses the conferenceArguably the most thought provoking case was delivered by ex-Royal Marine Jason Hare. He was “blown up twice” while serving as a Royal Marine, once by a suicide bomber and once by stepping on an improvised explosive device. Jason suffered catastrophic injuries - losing his left leg, digits on his right hand, his left eye and he also suffered severe facial injuries and had to have his nose amputated. “I lost my facial identity,” he said.
It was at HorseBack UK, a charity which aids the recuperation of service men and women who have suffered physical or mental injuries, that Jason’s road to recovery began.
“I found working with horses extremely beneficial. It’s hard to be patient when you’re a patient, but working with these animals relaxed me and taught me perseverance.”
“In the Royal Marines we say: you have to improvise, adapt and overcome – it’s the same principal in this role. It might take weeks, months or even a year but this gave me my mobility back - and with dignity. I never thought I would be a horse owner but as I learnt to walk, my horse learnt new skills – we did it together.”
Jason’s words and experience inspired me to ask myself this question - what is the value of the horse to me? In addition to the important fact that a significant part of my PR business revolves around the horse-world, I am a mad keen racegoer and eventing groupie. But for the purpose of this exercise I am going to focus just on Thomas – my horse.
I purchased Tom a year ago, he is a former racehorse, who never made much of an impression on the track, despite boasting a rather smart pedigree. My main aim was to have some fun and have a bash at eventing.
A year on and we have successfully completed several BE 100’s, we’ve yet to snaffle that elusive rosette, but there’s always next year and I am pretty proud of us and our journey. [BE100 is a British Eventing class where the fences do not exceed 100cms.]
Tom came to me during what for me felt like a particularly low spot in my life. On reflection this now sounds rather hollow, especially when we are reminded so frequently of the cruel curve balls life can throw – and particularly by Jason’s story. But our problems tend to be relative to us, however big or small.
Anyway, I was now responsible for a living being, someone who relied upon me to nurture, train and develop him. I began to start making plans, this was anything from Tom’s day-to-day exercise program to setting competition targets.
Little did I know that I was ‘positive forecasting’ or for those who have read The Secret using ‘the law of attraction’. Having learned this tool I then began apply it to other areas of my life - foremost to work. And lo and behold new business prospects began cropping up. It was as if the world was a lamp with a genie within it and all I had to do was put my wish out to the universe, give it a little rub and it was granted. Happy days.
So one way I value the horse is its power to teach. I believe we never stop learning, consciously or sub-consciously and what we gain in one experience we can more often than not transfer that skill into another area of our life, usually to our benefit.
Returning to Jason’s story and the emotional and therapeutic value of the horse: to finish his address he told how he was asked how much he paid his therapist – his reply was "Feed, hay and water". Priceless - in my opinion.
Harriet Rochester of HRSM Ltd.
Harriet & Thomas Harriet Rochester’s Marlborough Downs Uncovered feature marks the end another eventing season:
This week my horse, Thomas, checked into his winter residence – a lush field of grass up on the Marlborough Downs, along with some of his equine mates who are there for a well-earned break after a busy eventing season.
With a relentless schedule of competitions for professional riders between the months of March and October, one wonders what can possibly keep these equestrian adrenaline junkie’s amused during all that winter downtime?
So after some digging about I discovered what some of the Marlborough eventing tribe are planning to help the winter months fly by…
||Andrew Nicholson Stables: Lockeridge
2014 highlights – triple wins at Landrover Burghley Horse Trials and at the Barbury International Horse Trials winner - riding Avebury.
Andrew wouldn’t admit that to avoid the winter weather he will often be found ensconced reading his new book Focused. However, he says;
“Going jump racing at Cheltenham is as good as any holiday for me. I also take some of the youngsters to hunter trials and give a lead to my nine-year-old daughter. We will steal a few days away as a family in between doing general maintenance around the property, something that’s a bit of a bore but necessary.’
“Before we know it, December will be here and the horses will come back into slow work and then we’ll be preparing to do it all again in 2015”.
Sir Mark Todd Stables: Badgerstown
Eventing legend and International Equestrian Federation rider of the twentieth century.
“I manage the Brazilian event team so I am off to South America in November and back again in December for some training clinics. I’m also off to New Zealand over Christmas and back via the States for more teaching."
"There’s no rest for the wicked, but I expect I will find some time to nip to the beach whilst on my travels.”
“Each snow season, I try to make an annual pilgrimage to the mountains. In order to help prevent any unwanted pre-season injuries as well as time on the piste, I always ensure there’s plenty spent experiencing and tasting the local après ski."
|Sir Mark Todd
Jesse Campbell Stables: Ogbourne St Andrew
Up and coming New Zealand rider.
“When not riding the babies, I will be catching up on the back series of Downton Abbey and playing golf, we have a lad’s eventer’s trip to Prague planned in November – it’s tough going in the winter. I also love giving the England Rugby team stick and supporting the All Blacks. "
“I am off to New Zealand at the end of the year to see my family and also spending some time in Australia with my girlfriend, where topping up my tan is on the agenda”.
Rebecca Howard Stables: Mildenhall
Current Canadian rider of the year
In late November I’m heading over the pond to my homeland – Canada, where as well as catching up with my folks and sisters I have some teaching clinics planned in British Columbia.
Hands take a real beating across the competition season so my winter guilty pleasure is a regular manicure from Kreem boutique, Marlborough.
I am also a dedicated follower of Shaun T – a Will Smith look-a-like. Him and his T25 video works out are a great incentive to help me out of bed during the winter mornings. If it’s not Shaun T – then I head to the gym.
| Rebecca Howard
After Tim’s victory at Luhmuhlen (photo: copyright Libby Law Photography)Tim and Jonelle Price Stables: Mildenhall
2014 highlights: 1st Luhmuhlen 4 star (Tim and Wesko) and 4th in the World Equestrian Games (Jonelle and Classic Moet)
As well as being an ace pilot on a horse, Jonelle is renowned as a dab hand in the kitchen and the Price Sunday’s roasts have become legendary in the area.
“What off season?! Looking ahead our winter looks pretty hectic with lots of travelling. Although, in previous winter’s us Kiwis have mastered the art of a long indulgent lunch, generally generously sponsored by numerous renowned wine regions from around the world”. Jonelle explains from the final four star event of the season at Pau in France, where she finished 4th riding Faerie Dianimo.
“Last year Tim and I went to Vietnam. It was great to experience a totally different culture and be so far removed from our daily lives. We plan to be in Germany and Sweden in November for some indoor competitions and then we are going to Puhinui, New Zealand in December for their big spring event and to spend Christmas with our families.
“As much as we enjoy the lower intensity this time of year, it’s always good to get back to the horses”.
Whether it’s winter months with the latest TV period dramas, indulging hours at the beautician’s or some globe-trotting – rest assured, come early 2015, the Marlborough event riders will be ready to roll and hungry for the competition season once more.
The French four-star eventing competition at Pau this weekend holds the odd distinction of being the last major competition of 2014, but also the first of the international equestrian federation’s Classics Series for 2014-2015.
And it’s that second part of Pau’s attraction that will disappoint New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – he has had to withdraw his eleven-year-old mare Qwanza as she was “just not quite fit enough” after a year-long lay-off following injury.
Nicholson’s other star eventers – Avebury and Nereo – are resting after another successful season in which he completed two hat-trick wins. With Avebury he won both Barbury and Burghley for the third year running. He won the Classics Series in 2013 with its $40,000 prize.
Lockeridge-based Nicholson told the New Zealand press: “There is not much point in going there if the horse is not 100 per cent. We'll miss this, write the year off and start afresh next year."
Sixteen of Pau’s 40 four-star international entries are British riders – headed by Pippa Funnell with two mounts and William Fox-Pitt with three mounts.
With Nicholson’s scratching, local interest resides with another New Zealander, Jonelle Price from Mildenhall with her nine-year-old mare Faerie Dianimo. This will be Jonelle’s first ride over Pau’s cross country course.
After a great season which included her fourth place at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, Jonelle is now ranked ninth in the world. The other New Zealand entry is Jock Paget who has two mounts in the competition.
Marcelo Tosi & Eleda All Black - trotting up for the judges [Photo copyright Nico Morgan Photography.)Imogen Hellawell (known to all as ‘Immy’) is based at Marcelo Tosi’s Woodland Farm stables in Marston, near Devizes, and is working for her Advanced Apprenticeship in Horse Care and Management with Haddon Training, who are based in Marlborough. Her Apprenticeship programme has been specifically tailored around a professional eventing yard.
“Throughout the programme Immy has been a dedicated learner who has shown a passion for working with horses. Immy demonstrates an extremely high level of quality in her work and a strong commitment to the care of Marcelo’s horses. Getting the opportunity to groom at WEG 2014 is incredible, knowing Immy Huggy would have been turned out beautifully.” Alex Plank, Haddon Training Assessor.
Marcelo Tosi is a Brazilian event rider. He was selected to represent Brazil at this summer’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy. Imogen went to WEG as his groom with his horse Huggy - more formally known as Eleda All Black. [Photo of Tosi & Eleda All Black copyright Nico Morgan Photography - see more at his website.]
Imogen kept a diary of her time with Team Brazil for WEG 2014:
Packing, packing, packing
We started the trip to WEG on Saturday, August 23. We spent the day packing the truck not just for our horse, but for the other two team horses as well. By the time we were finished the truck was pretty full!
On French soil
We then set off at 7.00 am for the ferry in Portsmouth which was two hours away. When we were on the ferry, we did the final check on the horses (giving more hay and water) ready to leave them for the night. We arrived in Caen, France at 7.00 am. Once we left the docks we stopped to give the horses water and more hay. After a one hour drive from the docks we arrived at our base. We unloaded the horses and settled them into their stables.
The grooms' bunksFinding our feet
We spent the most of Sunday, August 24 unpacking and getting the stables organised, in the evening we took the horses out to stretch their legs. Myself and the other grooms went to discover the groom’s accommodation, which was small but very comfortable.
Hustle and bustle
Monday and Tuesday were mostly the same: the horses went for dressage training and then to graze. The venue was becoming very busy with the other teams arriving.
Let the games begin…Wednesday, August 27
Marcelo and Huggy had an arena familiarisation. This is where they could work in the warm up arena beside the main arena. In the afternoon we had the first vet inspection, so before that I spent the early part of the afternoon plaiting and making the horse look beautiful!
Thursday 28th August
In the morning we had our dressage test, so I had to plait the horse up and prepare him for the test. Our horse did a reasonable test which we were all pleased with. In the afternoon we had one other team rider doing their test, so I went to watch it with the rest of the Brazilian team.
Friday, August 29
Today was a day off so our horse just went for a short gallop and jump just to prepare him for the cross country the following day. The rest of the day we spent a lot of time grazing.
Our last team rider did an amazing test on Friday, putting him into the top 20 after the dressage.
Saturday, August 30
Cross country day arrived with very wet ground, we were lucky to be ninth out on course!! The horse was taken for a light hack to relax him and stretch his muscles in the morning. I spent this time preparing the kit so I was ready to meet them at the finish (water buckets/ sponges/scrapers/spare shoes/grease/rugs etc.)
Then it was time to go cross country, I was full of nerves as the first horses hadn't made it home. Our horse came home finishing strongly! It was time to get him washed off and cooled down - this was a real team effort getting water on and off him.
When Huggy was cool enough we took him back to the stables to be iced and to rest. For the rest of the day I helped the other Team Brazil grooms with their horses at the finish, as they had helped me. In between I kept walking and icing my horse.
In the evening it was crazy busy as we had to get all the equipment packed up, ready to leave early for the main stadium for the show jumping the following day.
Cross country day was a real team effort as everyone helped everyone! Our Chef d'Equip made sure us grooms had what we needed from food to information about the next day, and our vet gave the best care to get the horses ready for the next day.
The Brazilian riders rode all three horses home safely, so we had a team for the next day!
The showjumping arenaSunday, August 31
The alarm went off at 4.30am. We had to get the horses ready for an 8am trot up. My horse was a bit stiff so we took him for a long walk to loosen up. Then we did another lot of icing. I plaited him up and prepared him for the last vet inspection, we arrived half an hour early to give them a good walk. My horse trotted up very well and passed the vet inspection, as did the other two team horses!
After the trot up it was a mad rush to get the horses loaded and ready to leave for the hour drive to the main stadium. We settled the horses and organised the equipment we needed. At 12.45pm the riders had an arena familiarisation in the stadium, so that the horses could see everything before jumping with a full stadium of 22,000 spectators!!
Then it was my boy’s turn to jump his round. He had 3 poles down but we were very happy with him as he tried his heart out for us. There were only 13 clear rounds, so it was a course that caused a lot of problems.
Huggy in retirement When he finished it was a bit of an emotional moment as this will be his last eventing competition, as we are retiring him now. Everyone was very happy with the results as the team finished 8th out of 18 teams.
Monday, September 1
We arrived home Monday lunchtime, Huggy has now started his retirement in the field.
It was a successful WEG both for the team and Marcelo - and me.
Huggy has been an amazing horse for us, he has had an impressive career: winning team Bronze at the Pan AM Games 2011, competing at Burghley Horse Trials CCI 4* and Pau CCI 4*, the London 2012 Olympic Games and now a World Equestrian Games, he fully deserves his retirement!
No sooner was Immy back at the yard, than she was asked to accompany one of Tosi’s horses on its journey by air back to Brazil.
The Brazilian eventer Marcelo Tosi has been based in Britain since 2010. The 44-year-old has a degree in animal science and is a director of the Agromix Animal Feed company.
He was assistant trainer to the Brazilian team for the Athens Olympics in 2004. He then based himself in Belgium for six years. He rode for the Brazilians at the London Olympics.
In 2011 he won team bronze at the Pan Am Games in Mexico. He now trains with Nick Turner, Mark Todd and dressage rider Anna Ross-Davies.
Eleda All Black, owned by Bronwen Jones and Iain Greer, is a 17 year-old British bred gelding.