(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.
Nicholson & Avebury at the Owl HoleLockeridge-based Andrew Nicholson and the 'little' grey' Avebury won the CCI*** title - the feature competition at the St James's Place International Barbury Horse Trials on Sunday (July 12) - for an astounding fourth year running.
No horse in the history of eventing has ever won a class of this stature four times in succession. Last to go after a long afternoon’s tense wait, Rosemary and Mark Barlow’s wonderful 15-year-old grey was flawless across country, finishing 12 seconds inside the optimum time and easily holding his lead.
What was more Andrew Nicholson - a New Zealand Olympic medal winner - and the 15-year-old chestnut gelding Nereo took second place. After the dressage, show jumping and cross country phases Nereo was a mere 4.4 penalty points behind his stable mate.
Members of the New Zealand elite squad took third (Sir Mark Todd and Leonidas II from Badgerstown) and fifth place (Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy from Mildenhall.) There were two British entries in the top ten places: Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen were fourth and Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre were sixth.
A sign of the form as the European Championships approach was the placing of two French entries in the top ten - and a third French pair at eleventh.
The Barlows (who own Avebury) holding trophies - either side of David Bellamy (of St James's Place Wealth Management) with Penny Bunter and Nicholson on the rightA celebratory family group: Andrew with his wife Wiggy and children Lily and ZachThe Championships will be held at Blair castle in Scotland in September - and it is very likely that Nicola Wilson and Laura Collette will have earned their place in the twelve strong British team.
It rained - sometimes very hard - up on the Marlborough Downs during the final cross-country section - and everyone got pretty wet. But there were very few falls on the 3,910 metre course designed by Sir Mark Phillips. And not many riders overran the 6 minutes and 52 seconds optimum time for the course.
It was noted by the experts that the top five riders had no penalties against them in both the show jumping and cross country - and finished with just their dressage penalties. A remarkable achievement - especially for those who went round the course later in the somewhat more slippery conditions.
In the final, cross country phase of the competition the riders that top the leader board from the first two phases go last and the crowds certainly stayed to watch the last few riders and see whether Avebury would make history.
It was a very exciting finish. Not only was there a very tight margin between Nicholson's two horses, but Sir Mark Todd was just one tenth of a penalty point behind Nicholson and Nereo.
Sir Mark & Front StreetEarlier in the day, Sir Mark Todd won the eighth running at Barbury of the Retrained Racehorse Eventing Championship title - a competition for racehorses that have not lasted long on the racetrack and are being retrained in another discipline - in this case as eventers.
Sir Mark was riding Front Street. After his victory, Todd said: "I love thoroughbreds they have brilliant minds to work with. I used to train racehorses in New Zealand and now we've just won a big Retraining of Racehorses class here at Barbury proving their versatility. Front Street is such a genuine fellow and tries his heart out, which is typical of his breed."
Front Street, 11 years old, ran a total of eight times. In his most successful outing he took third place in a steeplechase at Plumpton. The competition is sponsored by the Retraining of Racehorses charity and the National Trainers Federation- the racehorse trainers' association.
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L to r: Erik Duvander, Jonelle Price, Sir Mark Todd, Jock Paget & Clarke JohnstoneThree of the four riders selected to represent New Zealand in the eventing competition at the Rio Olympic games are based in the Marlborough area.
The three named for the team on Monday morning (June 27) are: Sir Mark Todd (based at Badgsertown), Jonelle Price (Mildenhall), Jonathan Paget (near Burbage).
The fourth member of the team is Clarke Johnstone who is normally based in New Zealand. And another member of Marlborough's New Zealand equestrian community, Jonelle's husband Tim Price will be going to Rio as the team's 'fifth man' or 'travelling reserve'.
The New Zealand squad's coach and chef d'equipe, Erik Duvander told Marlborough.News: "It's our best team ever."
The team was announced in Hungerford by Lady Alexandra Smith, the wife of the current New Zealand High Commissioner, Sir Lockwood Smith.
She also named New Zealand based Julie Brougham to represent her country in the dressage. It will be her first Olympic Games.
Each rider has two named horses, but only one will travel to Rio. The decision on which horse each rider takes will be made after the Barbury and Aachen competitions.
Sir Mark ToddAged 60, Sir Mark Todd becomes New Zealand's oldest ever Olympian. At the Los Angeles Games in 1984 he won the first of his two individual Olympic gold medals. Rio will be the seventh Olympics at which he has represented New Zealand.
But it will also be the tenth Games he has been involved in: he was selected for the 1980 Moscow Games which were then boycotted, in 1996 he was in the team but his horse went lame, and in 2004, while he was officially 'retired', he travelled as the team trainer. He is currently ranked third in the world.
His named horses are Leonidas II and Campino. Sir Mark rode the twelve year-old gelding Leonidas into fourth place at Badminton last year and again this year.
Jonelle Price As part of the New Zealand team, Jonelle Price won a bronze medal at the London Games - with Sir Mark and Jock Paget. She is currently at ninth place in the international rankings and came third at the recent second round of the new Event Rider Masters (ERM) event at Bramham. Her two named horses for Rio are Faerie Dianimo and Classic Moet.
She rode the eleven year-old dapple grey Faerie Dianimo - known as Maggie May - for the Bramham ERM leg and said afterwards she favoured her for Rio. Jonedlle is looking forward to Rio and does not think the climate will cause them any problems.
Clarke JohnstoneTwenty-nine year-old Clarke Johnstone is normally based in New Zealand. In 2012 he was in contention for the London Olympics but had to bow out when his horse was injured.
He came over to Britain in March for the Badminton CIC4* competition. And has stayed on at the Australian rider Christopher Burton's yard in Surrey so he could train with the New Zealand high performance squad. His horse Balmoral Sensation - a 12-year-old grey gelding - has eleven international wins to his credit.
Jock Paget Jonathon Paget - known to all as Jock - lives in Burbage and has a yard nearby. With Sir mark Todd and Jonelle Price he was part of New Zealand's Bronze Medal winning team at the London Olympics.
He left New Zealand in 2010 and - as the official biography says : "The quietly-spoken former bricklayer came from nowhere to finish seventh individual at the Alltech FEI World `Equestrian Games in 2010." For his horse to take to Rio, he will choosing between the 17-year-old Clifton Lush and 11-year-old Clifton Signature.
Travelling reserve Tim Price - currently ranked tenth in the world - has had bad luck this season with his favoured horse Wesko suffering a 'significant soft tissue injury' in April that took him out of competition for the year, he was unseated at Badminton and eliminated in the Rolex Kentucky.
Tim Price, who won Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2014, dropped a place from third to fourth at this year's 4* comeptition in Germany when he had a rail down on Ringwood Sky Boy. His listed horses for Rio are Ringwood Skyboy and Bango.
Most of the five members of the team will be competing at the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trial (7-10 July.)
On Sunday (February 28) Sally Randell ran her first winner as a licensed trainer when the eight year-old bay gelding Goal won at Southwell in a two mile selling handicap hurdle. Goal is owned by Mark Hampson and was ridden by his daughter Brodie, who works for Sally Randell Racing.
Sally Randell became a licensed trainer in November - taking over Andy Turnell's Broad Hinton yard. Since then she has had plenty of placed horses, but the jump season's wet conditions have not favoured her horses.
Just a week ago Brodie Hampson had made headlines when she won the Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown on her father's horse Jennys Surprise.
Jennys Surprise, Brodie, Mark & his wife Jan holding the Gold Cup with staff members at Prospect HospiceMark Hampson has cancer and when he was told was told he had thirty days to live, Brodie had promised him that before he died she would win a race in his colours.
Goal, who had not won a hurdle race since June 2013 and was well beaten on his last outing at Taunton, won the two mile handicap hurdle at Southwell by one and quarter lengths from a field of thirteen.
Now she has won two races in her father’s colours. Mark Hampson is currently a patient at the Prospect Hospice in Wroughton.
Sally and Brodie told Marlborough News Online they are delighted to get their first winner: "We started my training career seven years ago together in South Wales so I always hoped she would be steering home my first winner!"
"And fantastic to carry on the fairy tale for Mark Hampson and get another winner for him too - the first of many for such a young, dedicated and passionate team."
Brodie Hampson's other ride at Southwell was on Driftashore who came home seventh of the nine entries in a three mile handicap hurdle race. The race was won by Delgany Demon - trained by Neil King whose yard is just up on the downs from Broad Hinton - at Burderop near Barbury Castle.
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Willis Brothers team repairing an obstacle at Barbury Castler Horse Trials 2014The Willis Brothers have been selected to build the cross country course for the eventing competition at the Rio Olympics next year.
The family business based near Malmesbury have specialised for over 30 years in building fixed and portable cross country obstacles for eventing and steeplechase jumps and hurdle fences for the racing industry.
They build and maintain the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials cross country course - as well as courses for Badminton, Gatcombe Park and many other events large and small throughout the UK and the world.
The Willis Brothers built cross country fences and courses for the Olympic Games in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and in Sydney (2000) as well as the World Equestrian Games.
This is their first Olympic Games contract for sixteen years. As Ashley Willis told Marlborough News Online: "It's an honour - it really is."
For many years the Brothers have sourced some of their most essential materials from Savernake Forest - by arrangement with the Forestry Commission they cut young birch brushwood which they use for jumps at Cheltenham and racecourses far wide.
Six members of the Willis team will go to Brazil in July to build the course for the Olympic test competition at two-star level. That will stretch the family a bit as July sees the Barbury Castle Horse Trials - so some members of this long-standing family firm will be staying behind to make sure every goes to plan at Wiltshire's premier eventing competition.
The course is being designed by Pierre Michelet who designed the course for last summer's World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
The Rio Olympic eventing competition will take place between 6 and 9 August 2016. But work has already started and they will soon start shipping fences out to Brazil.
It is not very often you see a troop of the Household Cavalry - in full ceremonial dress - moving calmly down a farm track in Lambourn. As it happens, they had just emerged from Lambourn Open Day's show ring and the hectic moves of their new musical ride.
Lambourn - village and valley - was packed with visitors for the 25th Open Day, all making the most of the brilliant Good Friday sunshine (March 25.) They came from far and wide - certainly from Swindon and from Birmingham. The crowd was estimated at 12,000.
In the morning they crowded into the twenty-six training yards that were open for the public. Notices reminded visitors that some horses bite and they should not feed or touch any of them - but for many that was a notice too far and horses got a good amount of touchy attention.
A lesson in progress at Dan Kubler's yardAlong the way they could have taken in a lesson in how the horse works from equine chiropractor Nicole Rossa. She had with her some 3-D graphics - co-operative as long as the hay lasted. Turn the horse round and Ms Rossa could show visitors a colour representation of its important muscles.
Oliver Sherwood's Rhonehurst yard was one of the most popular destinations. And there you could catch a glimpse of last year's Aintree Crabbie's Grand National winner Many Clouds - not to mention winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Betbright Cup Chase at Cheltenham and all for an initial investment at the sales of six thousand Euros.
The crowds waiting for Many Clouds to emerge for a quick two circuits was immense. Many Clouds is a bit camera shy and photographers had to be alert to catch his quick glance out of his box - just making sure there was still a crowd there?
At the Sherwood yard Rayvin Black needed a minder - he's a bit 'spirited'Travelling Head Girl Lisa Kozak & Oliver SheroodMany Clouds led by Chris Jerdin - with fans
Oliver Sherwood explained that he did not want Many Clouds to get too wound up with only two weeks to go before his return to Aintree's Grand National course. But he relented and two circuits of the yard became three.
Also very popular was Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows yard - home to the come- back-kid Sprinter Sacre. Fresh from winning the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, he joined three Gold Cup winners for the afternoon's Parade of Equine heroes.
Before that parade, the show ground had all manner of food, trade and charity stands - and all manner of entertainments. A parade of the local hunt complete with some straying hounds, a display by lurchers from the distant north-east of England and the Shetland Grand National with jockeys not much taller than their mounts.
And, of course, the Household Cavalry. This was a newly designed musical ride by the troop made up of eight soldiers from the Life Guards and eight from the Blues and Royals - in the uniform and accoutrements they wear for state ceremonials and which they would once have fought. With them the drum horses and buglers.
The cavalry are coming...Wheeling together
They are accompanied by four riders dressed in the stable gear of the 1820s and performing skills like laying the horses down while the ride goes an around them. A rare and much appreciated sight - especially as they left the ring charging at the gallop.
Memories Galore - one of Harry Dunlop Racing's horses at Windsor House Stables3-year old colt Valitop at Jose Santos' yard - with friendLambourn Open Day raises money for the Lambourn Valley Housing trust - which provides homes for stable staff - and for other Lambourn charities.
There was a bit of commentator naughtiness when it was hinted that Victoria Pendleton herself might be taking part in the show jumping contest between teams of jockeys and soldiers of the Household Cavalry.
It turned out that Jamie Osbourne was wearing the silks of Pacha Du Polder's owner - the horse Ms Pendleton rode to fifth place in Cheltenham's St James's Place Foxhunter Chase.
However, it is unlikely that anybody minded much - there was plenty of ice cream to make up for any disappointment.
Nicholson getting fit under the watchful eyes of AP McCoy (photo: Channel 4 Racing)It will be the sixth year the Cheltenham Festival has run its charity race - the St Patrick's Derby that closes the card on the Festival's Thursday - March 12 this year. Lockeridge based event rider, Andrew Nicholson will be one of the selected entrants raising money for the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF).
It is a flat race for amateur riders who can raise the £5,000 in sponsorship. And their horses must have run twice under rules.
Nicholson will be riding the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Golden Jubilee - a six year-old that has won five times on the flat. Nicholson has been getting his weight down and training hard - including a session under the eagle eye of champion jump jockey AP McCoy at the IJF headquarters at Lambourn.
A former stalwart of the New Zealand eventing team, Andrew Nicholson, told Cotswold Life: “I will be as competitive as I can be but it’s the horse that has to run the mile and a half and lug me up the hill. As long as I do my job right and not make a fool of myself I will be happy and if I have got a horse that can really gallop who knows?"
Phil Clark being interviewed by a Racing UK colleagueHe will face some seasoned competition. The competitors include Clifford Baker who is head lad at Paul Nicholls' yard and Phil Clark the long-standing cameraman for the Racing UK television service and who has probably watched more races more closely than many of the other riders.
The Injured Jockeys Fund was established in 1964 by Lord Oaksey, after the devastating accidents to jockeys Tim Brookshaw and Paddy Farrell. The fund supports jockeys with career ending injuries and does amazing rehabilitation work - notably at its Lambourn headquarters - for many other riders injured in racing and other equestrian sports.
The choice of the IJT to benefit from this year's race is particularly significant as it was on the Thursday of the 2013 Festival that jockey J T McNamara had a terrible fall that left him paralysed.
Also taking part is Olive Murphy, a senior cabin crew member with Aer Lingus. She held an amateur licence in Ireland from 1993 to 1996 and is a lifelong friend of McNamara.
The youngest of this year's twelve riders is Thomas Williams - a student at Loughborough University and a pupil assistant trainer with Violet Jordan.
Andrew Nicholson will not be asking you to back him to win the race, but he does want you to sponsor him at his Just Giving site.
Rosettes galore - (l to r): Georgia King, Lily Jump, Holly StephensThe St John’s Academy National Schools Equestrian Association (NSEA) teams did well last weekend (May 14/15) at the Mini, Junior and Senior Inter-Schools competitions held at Stonor School near Melksham.
They came well up the NSEA competitions both as teams and as individuals - and won a hard fought for team trophy.
These competitions involve all three eventing disciplines on a single day - held under the guidelines of the British Eventing Rules for 2016.
St John's riders have had a good few weeks. They won at the West Wiltshire NSEA Jumping and Style event on April 24. This victory means they have qualified for the national championships in October.
And on May 1 they came second at the Swalcliffe Park Equestrian One Day Event - photo below.
At Stonor the competitions attracted teams from Marlborough College, Cheltenham Ladies College, Cheltenham College, Westonbirt, St Mary's, Calne, Dauntsey's, St John's Academy - and several Stonor teams.
On Saturday, Georgia King, Daisy Down, Evie Baggaley and Flossie Lloyd Jones had brilliant rounds in Class 1 (85cm). Their rounds gained the team fifth place - with Georgia King taking first place in the individual results
St John's team ready to start - (l to r): Georgia King, Lily Jump, Holly Stephens On Sunday, St John's Imogen Thompson was the school's only individual entry for the 75m class. However, after a winning dressage score, she had a nasty fall in the cross country. Both rider and pony are fine.
Later on Sunday afternoon, the St John's Pink Team were ready for the 90/95cm class. Georgia King was riding Mojo IV, Holly Stephens on Joey and Lily Jump on Chilli Pepper.
They all had excellent rounds and won the class. The individual rankings saw Georgia King gaining third place, Lily Jump fifth and Holly Stephens seventh.
The trophy is currently being engraved and the girls will then present it to the school - a good addition to its trophy cupboard.
It was a successful day's eventing. As one Mum put it: "Everyone was courteous, well turned and did St John's proud."Success at Swalcliffe - (l to r) Georgia King, Holly Stephens, Hannah Hall & Lily Jump
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