The Perils Of Show Jumping Sport - 21

So where on earth is the WKD show jumping team this week I suppose you are wondering?

It's of course been our usual hectic few weeks - we’ve had twelve of the Sycamore Stables horses and crew based down in the south of Portugal in sunny Vlamoura this month for the super Atlantic tour.

The idea of a winter tour in the sunnier parts of Southern Europe developed in Spain over 20 years ago when the first Sunshine Tour took place in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain. Basically it was a chance to get the young horses started for the season ahead in a holiday relaxing atmosphere. Over the years these Tours have grown and there are now several to choose from, usually lasting between 6 to 8 weeks. It's a great way to break up the long dark winter for us and the effect on both staff and animals is amazing! Everyone seems so much happier being able to work outside instead of being holed up at a cold indoor show, and the benefits I have seen develop for the young horses means that for Sycamore Stables the annual winter escape is as a habitual part of our programme as the migration of the birds around us at home.

We have a mixture of five, and seven year-olds for the young horse classes, and then a couple of nice eight year-olds who will this year step up with Sam to the bigger stuff having been nursed along previously, some new older ones to introduce to international level, and then old favourites like Limelight de Breve and Sumas Zorro, who I will play with for a couple of weeks before she goes back to Sam for the big stuff the last two weeks.

It might seem strange to people outside the Team, but for Sam and I this swapping and sharing of horses is perfectly normal. We find that the horses like the change and it's amazing how little issues that one of us may be having can be solved by changing riders and having another person’s viewpoint on things; it might not work for everyone but we really function well as a unit and I think that's what makes our Team so strong.

For this Tour we have been joined by a new team member, Catriona Fallon, who we have brought in to help us with the younger horses to start them off and produce them up. She will hopefully also help with the sales side of the Stables to try to bring in new clients - and of course it's always nice to have fresh ideas and input. Catriona has already had some lovely rounds with "her" horses and hopefully this partnership with our Stables can continue to grow.

Talking of the sales side of things, it's with a mixture of pride and sadness that we watched WKD Pepperpot compete recently very successfully in the 150m classes with her new owner, Caitlyn Zeigler from Artisan farms. It was so hard to wave this fantastic mare goodbye as she had given both Sam and I the most fantastic years of her life. I had her since she was four and Sam rode her for the last four years with this mare really being responsible for taking him to the level where he deserved to be. They had many many firsts together, with brilliant performances at the World Cup Finals in s'Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, many wins at top international level, and of course their fantastic run of great results at Spruce Meadows in 2014. Sam I’m sure will miss this brave little mare with the huge heart and the amazing brain, however we really look forward to seeing her strut her stuff with Eric Lamaze’s Team and am sure we will see her somewhere soon!

Nevertheless as they say, when one door shuts another window opens and we have been delighted to see how well our eight year-olds have stepped up to fill Peppers huge shoes. Last weekend WKD Diva, our flashy chestnut mare by Balourada x Hors la Loi made her two star ranking class debut - and she was determined to let the world know she has arrived! She popped around her first 145m track like it was the local gymkhana. It was truly fantastic to watch this new partnership which is emerging between her and Sam and it's so exciting to watch the newbies step up through the levels. It seems like no time at all since we bought her at Cavan show as a precocious six year old...Although as she was previously owned and ridden by friends Olivia McCormack and Liam McKee, I had my eye on this one since I first saw her as a four year old. It is so brilliant to see her grow in confidence and ability under the fantastic hands of Sam.

We have also many other ones that have been impressive; Sam has the super scopey homebred WKD Mojito (Lupicor x Laughton's flight) through to the final of the seven-year-old European Cup today with a super clear round yesterday, while today sees the final with two more rounds and then if necessary a jump-off, so fingers crossed there for a good result. Catriona has another two homebreds in the five-year-old finals also today with WKD Aimez Moi (Je t'Aime flamenco x Tot de Semilly) and WKD Magic (Contador x Carnival Drum). And with me currently on my way back from the races at Cheltenham (I love five o’clock starts said no one ever!) it's going to be a hectic day, especially as I jump Townhead Casita and Championes in the 135m class today. That’s if I make it in time from the airport.

I’ll be hoping that one lot of visitors who had moved into the tack room last week will have left. Last week while I was getting ready for my class, and while putting on my boots and not really concentrating on the task at hand, I realised that something was preventing my foot from going in! Not thinking I zipped down the boot fully – I was greeted by a big pair of shiny eyes looking up at me. I don’t know who was more scared, me or the mouse but he was swiftly shook out and I couldn’t believe the little blighter had actually chewed a hole in the zip!! Catriona subsequently found one of his little friends in her hat the next day. Well let's just say with all the screams from the yard lately I’m sure everyone at the show thinks Sam has been beating us!!

It was decided we needed some help to convince the rodents to winter elsewhere and we borrowed German rider Mark Bettinger’s Jack Russell who proceeded to tear the place apart. I’m not sure if it was the dog or the screaming but later on we did hear similar screams coming from several aisles away so I think our little furry friends had packed up and moved on.

So as you can see, we’ve had a busy few weeks here at Sycamore and hopefully this weekend will see a few rosettes on the door, some money in the bank and a few more clients through the barn. That's all we can hope for and what keeps us going!!

Until next time, take care and keep kicking!



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