“Sadly, this has not been my best year on the Eventing scene. I started off by heading to the Sunshine Tour in Spain and Portugal with the aim of getting Tigger qualified for Badminton. I wanted to take 5 horses and although mine is a 5 horse truck, we would have had no room for rugs, feed, haylage, etc. So very kindly, Ian and Bron Greer lent me their truck. After three days we arrived in Spain to find lots of friends out there and despite being tired we settled the horses in and had a great night catching up with international and English friends we hadn’t seen for a while. Tragically a young, talented and amazing person, Francisco, died out there. We all know this is a dangerous sport but this was just so close to home and so unexpected, I think it affected everyone. My riding went to pieces and I’m not sure I really put myself back together. Tig went well in the final week in Portugal for the 3*, I knew that I had to be third to get to Badminton. Tig did a good dressage and a fast clear XC. We were in fourth, but a good friend of mine, Kiko, had to pull his beautiful horse Super de Foja, so then we were in third. There was less than a pole between first and sixth. Everyone behind me had a pole down so I knew going in that all I could afford was a pole. I had the pole down but thought we were safe on time. When they announced I was third I cried my eyes out after all the disappointment and sadness, the trip had been worth it. It was a massively emotional prize giving due to Barroca being Francisco’s home event, his cousin winning it, and a beautiful poem being dictated by a crying Nick Bird. Francisco’s whole family stood by the ring heads held high, including both his brothers who had so bravely ridden in their brother’s colours. I think the family were the only ones being brave, everyone else was crying freely. When I went to pick up my horses’ passports however, despite a prize giving and a TV interview, the secretary said I had had a time fault and was 4th, so it had all been for nothing. To add insult to injury the lorry broke down on the way home and the place we were stabled at was so small that when Tigger got down to roll he managed to crack his stifle and was incredibly lame. It was a long drive back and I have never been so close to giving up eventing in my career.
I started the British season with a lot of new horses, as the previous year I had sold my wonderful 3* horse Piglet to a Swiss rider. My previous season in 2014 had been a very successful year, this year was not going brilliantly. Donkey and Neville were picking up rosettes but the others were taking their time. We were now aiming Tig at Luhmuhlen but they were requiring an extra CIC3*. So although Tig was not at peak condition having had so much time off we went to Ballendenisk with Kirsty Johnson. We went steady but clear round the XC with an average dressage and bad show jumping – both Tig and I were rusty but the SJ did cause carnage. True to our luck this year Tig went lame after our last gallop on the Friday before leaving for Luhmuhlen on Monday. The whole yard was gutted!
Aside from this, a lovely 3* horse I bought from Alberto Hermosa Farrass got cast in his stable and cut his leg. My vet put a couple of stiches in his leg and gave him some IV antibiotic. I rang her that night and said he was not himself. His temperature was normal, and not being aware that horses could have reactions to antibiotics I wasn’t too worried. The next morning however, he was very unhappy and the vet came straight over and gave him fluids. I still wasn’t concerned until she said if he made it through the night he would be ok. I never knew horses could react like that! I slept beside him constantly checking him and he made it through the night. He even started eating again the next morning so I thought he would be ok. Sadly, at lunchtime he starting going really downhill, eventually collapsing and we had to put him to sleep. It was an awful experience and I will always wonder if I had the knowledge I had now, would he still be with us?
Shortly after all that, Donkey managed to slice his front leg down to the bone – to this day we are not sure how he managed it! That meant he was off for at least a couple of months and our hopes of Le Lion were totally dashed. I have to say I didn’t have a lot of drive or determination after that and I really couldn’t see the point in continuing. Ironically, it was the other stallion in my yard that made me want to compete again. I took him in Donkey’s place to a novice at Tweseldown. This was to be his first novice; Tweseldown is renowned for a big SJ but a reasonable XC. Well, they have beefed it up! It was massive and I’m sure the SJ was intermediate. My poor 5yo, I wasn’t sure he was ready and thought we’d probably demolish the SJ, which is not uncommon at that event… He flew! He had one rail which was completely my fault. Elaine, his owner and myself were over the moon and couldn’t believe how brilliant he was! So I took him steadily round the XC so as not to scare him, he had a stop at the water but I think I sat a bit too still. He made me feel excited about my job again and with Tig on the mend things started to look up. I gained some wonderful sponsorship, from Global Herbs and new owners and we were off once again!
Molly, my brilliant groom, then managed to break her leg. Things got pretty hectic with several events with 5 horses entered still left but I managed, and then we went off to Romania… As you know that also ended in disaster! I’m quite happy this year is coming to an end, though I’m very grateful to all my owners, grooms, sponsors and especially my family.”