We're Not Past Eventing Yet
Harry Hall Editor Lucy Higginson has been lucky enough to ride with two of her equestrian idols lately — Mary King and Lucinda Green. And she’s watched unfolding chaos among those who run British equestrianism with interest.
My mare is now 15 years old. I’ve never had a horse that age before. As someone who owns no land, keeping a horse at the bottom of the garden is a dream that must wait for the foreseeable future, and in the meanwhile I’ve always kept a horse at livery.
Consequently I’ve always sold my horses on in the past while they have plenty of ‘miles left on the clock’ for a new owner, rather than keep them to an age at which I might eventually need to retire them — a pretty expensive business if you don’t have any grazing of your own. But this time, Rosie is staying with me for keeps, and I hope I will just be brave enough to do the right thing by her when her working life comes to an end; she is susceptible to mud fever and isn’t a hugely sociable horse, so I am not sure a protracted field retirement is for her.
In the meanwhile though, we’ve morphed from a pair who used to focus very much on eventing, so a pair who enjoy lower key fun. Rosie is predominantly a ‘park ride’ — truly just a well schooled, forward going, utterly reliable riding horse for taking me and my sharers into the wonderful Windsor Great Park which is a very lovely thing to do an any time of year.
‘Let the horse choose’ stabling
Last month we went for the annual family holiday to Dartmoor and once again I was able to hire a cottage with a lush paddock right outside the kitchen door. An old stable — wittily labelled ‘The Grand Hyatt’ — in the corner of the field had been converted to a woodshed, but its owners kindly reorganised it so we could leave it open for Rosie to use whenever she wanted to escape flies or rain, and she loved this arrangement. I’m quite a fan of the “let the horse choose” method of stabling and turning out, if you have the facilities for it. And with rugs like the Fieldmasta so light, breathable, well designed and weatherproof, a horse can cheerfully opt to be in or out whenever they choose.
Even in July, you need a gamut of rugs on Dartmoor. When it rains it can be biblical, and the insect life in Devon is far richer than in our home county of Berkshire. A fly mask for the day time is essential, and I went well armed with fly spray, a Masta fly rug and so on too.
I love riding Rosie on the moors and exploring new lanes and bridle paths. Some of the wild Dartmoor ponies are quite inquisitive but Rosie seems to enjoy a few ‘muzzle meetings’ with the locals.
Miles with Mary King
Back in June we paid another visit to Dartmoor as we had the chance to ride with a Liberty Trails run ride accompanied by the great Mary King. Though she’s been a Devon lady all her life, Mary had never enjoyed a long ride on Dartmoor before and she grinned away throughout. We had superb weather and I found my lightweight, stretchy Caldene Milia breeches ideal. They’re especially ideal at the sale price of £37.99 (down from £100) or just £25 to Harry Hall One Club members.
Brave pants on
We’ve done two fun rides this summer, one organised by the Vine and Craven hunt at Kingsclere (gorgeous countryside and masses to jump) and one at Gaddesden Estate near Hemel Hempstead. And my friend (and idol!) Lucinda Green kindly suggested I tag along to one of her cross country schooling days at Tweseldown. I put my brave pants on and kicked on and Rosie showed me she’s not quite geriatric just yet! We popped all kinds of fences, some intro and a few pre-novice. We both absolutely loved it and now plan to enter our first one day event for about two years later next month — if my courage lasts out!
Trouble at the top
Meanwhile as I’ve been merrily doing my own thing with my horse, I’ve watched with interest unfolding dramas in Stoneleigh where British horse sport is administrated. The British Equestrian Federation’s new Chief Executive, Clare Salmon (selected with the help of expensive headhunters) appears to have been an unpopular choice from an early stage and has now resigned her post after just over a year in the role, leaving no clearly discernible legacy for her six figure salary beyond a string of departing sponsors and much reduced youth programme training.
A post-resignation spat soon ensued with Ms Salmon and the BEF member bodies flinging a certain amount of mud in each other’s direction. Meanwhile the BEF must restructure its board by 31 October to secure UK Sport funding — with no one at the helm beyond the unpaid and largely unknown (in equestrian circles anyway) Joanne Shaw, chair of the board, now apparently left to lead this. Things, as the song says, can only get better…