We are delighted to welcome Jo Boggon, our Grassroots Gardener, to the blogging team. Jo is competing in the BE100 Grassroots Championships on her two horses having competed there three times before. Jo describes herself as an OAP but somehow juggles an incredibly hectic landscape designing business with her passion for her ponies. As well as sharing her news, Jo will be providing us with helpful gardening tips!
In just over a weeks time I will be taking my lovely 2 horses, Goodluck Jonathan and Deelside Red Adair to compete in the BE100 Grassroots Championships. This will be my fourth visit to the Championships but I am still as nervous and excited as I was when I went in 2011 with Little Bridge. In fact, because I came 3rd last year on Goodluck Jonathan and am riding two horses I think I am probably going to feel quite ill by the time the competition begins.
I have always bought young horses in Ireland and I love bringing them on. They give me such a huge amount of pleasure and being there from the beginning helping them to develop and learn is so fulfilling. There is also the cost factor – I could never afford to buy a made horse.
So Johnny I saw trotting across a field full of young Connemaras and in my eyes he seemed to float amongst the bright yellow ragwort that filled the field. He was only 4 and had been recently backed and cost me less than it did to MOT my lorry! His mother was a very good National Hunt racehorse and his dad was a coloured cob so probably an unintended one night stand! He went to my lovely friend Mary Doyle for a 6 week educational crash course, mainly in jumping and I hunted him for 3 months after he came back in October. He was amazing, jumping hedges, ditches, gates; in fact anything that was put in front of him. Mary’s training is to ask them to do something every day and let them look but never say no. He went straight from Ireland to Lesley Peyton Gilbert’s dressage yard and she also loved him and could see beyond his rather unfortunate colouring – he even popped over a wheel barrow on his way back from the field to the stable much to Lesley’s amazement.
Ruby was a different kettle of fish and came straight to me after I saw a picture of him in Ireland. He is a very pretty little boy with lovely breeding, having Cruising as his grandfather on one side and Touchdown as a grandfather on the other side. Sam Griffiths mare Paulank Brockagh winning last years Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is also by Touchdown. So Ruby you have much to live up to! Supposedly backed, he arrived in England as a five year old and was very nervy and managed to buck me off at least 4 times in my ménage. It has taken 2 years for him to grow into himself mentally and he is now a complete joy to ride.
I run my own landscape gardening business, which is based in London and I therefore need full time help. Charlie would come up and hack, lunge, feed, muck out and keep them looking beautiful. Jade would school them twice a week and it worked perfectly. Without Jade and Charlie I wouldn’t have such beautifully schooled and happy horses. I work mainly in London so often would spend all week living in London and only come back to ride at the weekends or come and hunt for a day during the week.
Hunting is the very best way, in my opinion of bringing young horses on. It teaches them so much and gives huge amounts of confidence with their jumping as well as teaching them where their feet are and how to use them. We all actually love doing the cross country in mud. Johnny has been a star from the beginning; he is so careful and very easy on the flat and absolutely loves his cross country. He has been so consistent and was runner up in the foundation points league table last year, beaten by just 2 points. And with Ruby’s help I won the Grassroots Riders Award and Ruby was 10th. To top this, they both qualified for the Grassroots Championships. So all in all 2014 was a pretty good year on the pony front.
Last year at Badminton, there were 65 in the class and I was very disappointed with Johnny’s dressage mark and was lying around 30th before going into the show jumping. However in true Badminton style, both the show jumping and XC were hugely influential and there ended up only being 8 double clears which pinged Johnny and I up to 2nd equal. Sadly we were not as close to the optimum XC time as George Bolt and so ended up being 3rd. In fact I had no idea how I had done until a friend walked over to the lorry park where we were having lunch to tell me that I was 3rd. So here’s hoping they do the same this year! And I get 2 double clears!
We also bought a house in Dorset with the aim of selling our house in Northamptonshire as well as selling my flat in London. And then there was the building project. To allow us to have somewhere to live whilst in London we had to build a small box in the courtyard of my flat – a 1 bedroom with office and living space. Now it’s almost May 2015 and we still have our house in Northampton, the flat has yet to go on the market and the building works are just about finished. So on top of trying to concentrate on getting my ponies ready and in tip top shape for Badminton, I am commuting between London, Dorset and Northamptonshire, often with the horses. They luckily don’t seem to mind and absolutely love their new home. Luckily they live out all year round so are pretty tough. But it has meant that I’ve had to find new trainers and haven’t done as much flat work training as I would have liked to do. On top of this our business has never been busier so juggling everything including our incredibly scarce resources has been very very tricky.
But the boys have been stars. At Moreton Horse Trials in March, Ruby was second and Johnny was 4th; at Aldon, Ruby won and Johnny was 2nd having had a couple of time penalties in the cross country. He got a 20 dressage score but because he had been coughing earlier in the week I didn’t want to push him going round Aldon’s hilly and long XC course.
After Aldon we went to Portman and upped our level by entering the 100 plus which does a novice dressage test, almost novice show jumping and 100 XC. Again we were in the prizes with Johnny coming 2nd and Ruby 7th. At Bicton this weekend they were both amazing in the 100 plus coming 2nd and 3rd with identical dressage scores. And here we had the chance of doing the BE championship test in a large arena, which we will be doing at Badminton. Being in a large 20m x 60m arena is so completely different and I have to just concentrate on keeping my rhythm and not rushing as there is so much more time and space between the movements.
I am so very lucky with all the people who help me and this includes Hamish my long term and often harangued boyfriend who is also now working with me on the gardens. He knows how important my ponies are and has been wonderful at letting me disappear to ride my boys in preparation for the big test next week. I am no longer a spring chicken and am getting rather good at winning the OAP awards at various events and it would be lovely to reclaim the Keep Kicking On cup, which I won on Johnny at Badminton last year.
We have come a very long way and I thank my lucky stars that I am able to ride and compete successfully as an ageing amateur and I often get quite emotional especially in the starting box of the cross country with tears streaming down my cheeks as they count me down. So on Wednesday night I will have a large glass of champagne regardless of how we do and the boys will have a week off back in Northamptonshire guzzling on the lovely green grass.
I’m meant to be giving a top tip for gardening but am so absorbed in my boys all I can say is get your weeding done now before the roots take hold and if you see any gaura in the nurseries, either pink or white and have a spare patch buy it. They flower all summer and keep going until the first frost. Come and see me and my boys at Badminton if you are there and we will try our very best to bring a prize or two home.
In the meantime, look what I found in my hat today! A wren has laid 5 eggs in it! So it won’t be coming with me to Badminton!