Houghton Hall - 25th-29th May

This was both Liberty and Glory (Lori) and Winterdown Cooley (Jovi)s’ first attempt at a CCI**. It was also our new groom Amy’s first time at an overnight event, talk about in at the deep end! They travelled up on Tuesday evening for the trot up on Wednesday and as expected they both sailed through. Due to their inexperience they don't yet get too excited about trot up as they haven't worked out what comes next. Give them time and they'll be as much of a nightmare as Cooly no doubt!

They both did sweet enough tests, Lori scored 56.7 and Jovi got 53.9, but clearly there is room for improvement in this area. Tom is hoping that now they've both mastered the basics there will be more time for fine tuning on the flat.

The cross country was a fairly tough track but they both stepped up to the challenge superbly and demonstrated their increasing confidence and maturity in this phase. Jovi jumped an effortless clear inside the time and the video can be viewed at https://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/ride/tom-d-crisp-winterdown-cooley-houghton-international-2016

Lori also jumped fantastically but unfortunately misread the final element of one of the combinations. She came above the bridle and just didn't see the fence causing her to ungracefully clatter into it. She picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties for the incident but otherwise was fantastic. She's proving to be a real little "pocket rocket"!

Thanks to all of Amy's hard work overnight Lori had recovered well from her incident the day before and both horses sailed through the trot up on Sunday morning. Lori jumped a great clear in the show jumping, proving once again how much she enjoys this phase. Jovi also jumped a nice clear but due to his tendency to get a little "tight" in the show jumping Tom decided to take it steady and picked up an unfortunate 1 time penalty.

Overall, a good weekend with lots to learn from, but certainly two horses with bright futures!

Badminton - 2nd - 8th May

Wow, what a rollercoaster of a week!!! The build up to a big event is always as stressful as it is exciting and this was no different. We were in the middle of a staffing crisis as Ellie still has a broken leg and Sophie had some holiday booked so poor Vivian had been working her socks off. Unfortunately this left us in a mad rush in the last few days trying to get everything washed and dried! The bleach came out in force to clean all the white numnahs, Tom was seen with his tool kit at all hours fixing one thing or another and the entire lorry needed cleaning from top to bottom. Not only did we have all this to contend with but Cooly (in his usually precious way) had managed to acquire himself a cracked heel so we spent several sleepless nights hoping it would settle down in time!

Anyway, Tuesday came and unbelievably we were loading up and heading off! It felt like a small miracle and the whole team were super excited (except Tom who still looked a little green!). Arriving at Badminton is an experience in itself. You have to drive through the village down these tiny little lanes and you unload for a vet check at the village hall; this involves the horses being checked over and some paperwork being completed, then you load back up and head to the stables.

Walking under the archway into the stables for the first time is something I don’t think anyone will ever forget – it’s magnificent and the atmosphere is electric. The stable manager and officials are really friendly and Cooly seemed to settle straight in to his luxurious new box – probably remembering his little outing here for a dressage test last year! Our fingers were crossed to make it a little further this year!

Wednesday is the dreaded first trot up! I think everyone hates this part – the thought of making it this far and to trip at the last hurdle is terrifying and this year it wasn’t the smoothest of experiences for us! Cooly is always a hot head at the trot up and he’s so busy looking at everything and pulling Tom along it’s impossible for the ground jury to see anything and true to form he trotted like a moron. “Coolys Luxury to the hold box”. We hadn’t thought he looked bad but unfortunately the ground jury weren’t happy. We had a look at him ourselves and wondered if his heel was giving him a tiny bit of bother but other than that the vets couldn’t find a mark on him so we represented. He trots down and back and the ground jury shake their heads, at this point we all think it’s over. Luckily they ask him to trot again and we all hold our breath. “Coolys Luxury accepted”. Hurray! When he trots sensibly he looks fine!!! Just takes three attempts for him to settle! Special pony! And a big buck on the way back into the stables to prove the point! The worst part is done, we’re onto the dressage…

Wednesday evening after the trot up and again Thursday morning Tom has some coaching from his trainer Ian Woodhead and Cooly looks incredible, the best I’ve ever seen him go. As Tom heads into the arena we all have our fingers and toes crossed that he can pull it off in the atmosphere and he does! He did a beautiful test, the best canter work and changes he’s ever done at this level and some really classy trot work – what a superstar! You can imagine that after watching his test we were somewhat disappointed with his rather average mark of 51.3. There wasn’t much time to reflect on this as we were taken straight off for a random dope test! More stress -we know we are whiter than white and as careful as possible but you can’t help but feel nervous (as expected it did all come back fine!).

Thursday evening is the owners drinks party (much needed at this point!) at Badminton House, which is spectacular. Tom, Barry (from Swift Bedding), Martyn and Sharon (members of the Swift Syndicate) and me (Beth, the groom) were lucky enough to go. They open the entire downstairs and gardens, which are breathtaking, to hundreds of lucky visitors and the Duchess of Beaufort and her son greet you personally. The champagne is free flowing and the atmosphere incredible. It was an awesome experience and going to the stables to put Cooly to bed after, slightly tipsy, in a maxi dress and heels was quite an experience too. And I definitely wasn’t the only one…

With Thursday dressage under our belt we had chance for a bit of a break on Friday. Tom gave Cooly a gallop and jump in preparation for the next day and he spent lots of time being pampered with his massage rug and hand grazing. We also spent some time at the Swift Bedding stall up in the trade stands where there was an amazing Fortum and Mason hamper up for grabs and glasses of red wine on offer!

Saturday morning at a three day is always a nervous affair, we try to keep the routine as normal as possible for Cooly but under the surface there’s some serious tension while you wait for the cross country to start. Luckily Cooly’s time was fairly early on so there wasn’t as much waiting as there could have been. Tom had just enough time to watch Olly’s classy round and then we had Cooly waiting outside the canteen (where the TV screens are) ready for Tom to jump straight on. Whilst Tom is warming up me and Sophie can hear the commentary; with the course causing no end of problems are our heart rates are increasing with every second that passes. Cooly warms up well, we put the grease onto his legs and he heads up to the start box. 3,2,1…

He jumped absolutely impeccably around the first two thirds of the course, straight as a die on every line, perfect strides through every combination and foot perfect over every fence. And then the Vicarage Vee; unfortunately Cooly just misread it. He didn’t understand the undulation of the ground and instead of jumping out over the ditch he thought about jumping into it. He has a tendency to jump left at the best of times and Tom is kicking himself for not holding him stronger on his line. He had jumped so well up to that point that Tom thought it was an easy fence…! Oh well, both horse and rider in one piece, lessons learnt and hopefully Cooly will understand it better next year! We got one stage further this year, third times lucky, roll on Badminton 2017!

Belton - 15th-17th April

Sorry, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a chance to give everyone an update about the season, and a lot has happened in the last few months. I’ll start with Belton where we had Winterdown Cooley (Jovi) and Liberty and Glory (Lori) in the CIC** and Coolys Luxury (Cooly) in the CIC***.

In the dressage on Friday Lori and Jovi held it together and did respectable tests for their first time at this level. They were both a little tense, to be expected given it was their first time in this kind of atmosphere, and their marks reflected this, scoring 51.6 and 54.4 respectively. Cooly warmed up really nicely outside but unfortunately in the test had a small temper tantrum! We’re not really sure what caused it as he’s not done it before or since but he just decided to stop and refuse to move in one corner – presumably there was a scary lion hiding between the trade stands ready to eat him! Consequently he scored a disappointing 60.6, leaving us slightly on the back foot going into the jumping phases.

We woke up Saturday morning excited to start afresh, as the jumping phases are always our stronger suit, but when we walked out of the lorry it was snowing!!! Not just a little but humungous flakes of snow settling on the ground! We dubiously loaded the horses, as Belton stables are off site, and headed to the park expecting to be sent straight home again. However, they very sensibly cancelled some of the national classes and postponed the international ones so the ground could thaw and dry out. We walked the cross country in the snow (first time for everything!), gave the ponies a leg stretch and sat down for a coffee. A seriously luxurious start to a show day! The organisers clearly know their venue very well and after a few hours the ground had dried to almost perfect conditions so it was time for the 2 star horses to jump. The showjumping was up to height and in a very busy arena, so we weren’t sure how they were going to cope, but Lori jumped a beautiful clear. She looked as scopey as ever and the older she gets the more she tries her little heart out! Jovi also jumped a nice round, unfortunately knocking a pole when he got slightly distracted by the crowd, but he seems to have really grown up and is no longer worried about this phase which is a real relief for everyone.

The cross country course was fairly challenging for their first attempt at this level and watching little Lori warm up the fences looked massive!!! However, she jumped a super round, really trying hard and with lots of confidence. She had an unfortunate blip at the water where Tom softened into quite a simple fence and she just lost her confidence at the last minute and had to re-present. But she jumped all the challenging combinations and tight lines with ease so we were thrilled with how well she coped with the step up. Jovi also jumped a great round, we’d decided before he went to go long at the water, as he often comes above the bridle when his feet get wet and we didn’t want to risk him not seeing the skinny on the way out! However, he was foot perfect through all the combinations and watching a video of the water back afterwards he seems to be getting over this tendency too! Overall, we came away very pleased with the two star horses, especially since this time last year they were jumping BE100!

On Sunday it was Cooly’s turn to jump, but we realised the only stud girth we had with us that fit him was looking a little old and frayed. We didn’t want to risk him running in it as the stitching wasn’t great but Tom has a rule that we never use new things on a show day! Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place! Voltaire Design very kindly lent us a beautiful soft stud girth for the day so we had to be brave and use it for the first time round a 3 star!

Cooly had got cast the week before at home and looked a little lacklustre in the show jumping warm up so we had real debate whether or not to jump. He really needed the run if he was going to head to Badminton in a few weeks time, so in the end Tom decided to show jump and see how he felt and he jumped a beautiful round with just one pole down around a track that was causing no end of problems. We decided to go ahead and run him cross country and he jumped a fantastic round – pulling Tom’s arms out the entire way! Tom’s first comment when he got back was “no more racehorse cubes for him!”.

Munstead - 26th March

The day after Gatcombe we headed to Munstead with the babies. We had Forestino (Forest) and Visionary (Weed) entered in the BE100. We decided to cheekily put Vendome on the lorry as well to see if we could get a last minute withdrawal which we did!!! This did mean poor Vivian had 10 mins to put studs in, plait and tack up!

Weed did a nice consistent test, as we've come to expect from him, to score 31 and jumped a lovely keen, enthusiastic double clear with just a few xc time faults to finish 9th in his section.

Forest did a good test, for 35, and jumped a lovely mature, flowing double clear to finish 5th in his section.

Dressage superstar Vendome scored 28.8 and went on to jump a good, but slightly green double clear. He would have finished 2nd in his section had he not been HC! We were glad he got a run and are hoping it will have built his confidence before his Novice run at S of E in 2 weeks time.

One of our liveries Beth and her horse Ben jumped a double clear on a dressage of 27 in the BE90 to finish second. She regularly trains with Tom and is very grateful for all his help over the winter.

A successful day all round for Team Crisp. Roll on South of England!!!

Gatcombe - 25th March

At last the sun was shining and we headed to Gatcombe with the more experienced horses. Winterdown Cooley (Jovi), Liberty and Glory (Lori) and Coolys Luxury (Cooly) were very pleased to be out and it was lovely for us to catch up with several familiar faces. Thank you very much to Barry (from Swift Bedding) and Ray Martin for your continued support.  Unfortunately Tom didn't get chance to meet Mark (also from Swift Bedding) as he had to rush off to a 'surprise' party but everyone at Team Crisp wishes him a very happy 50th birthday!

Lori and Jovi were running in the intermediate and Cooly in the advanced intermediate. In the dressage Lori did a nice test for a mark of 35.5. Jovi was a little hot headed but Tom managed to keep a lid on his excitement for a respectable mark of 34.3. Cooly was the star of the dressage doing a lovely test for a good mark of 29.8. He definitely reminded us that at this stage in his career he's a class above the rest!

Jovi show jumped first, he was a little green in the warm up, understandably so, given it was his first time out this year and it was a little muddy. He went on to jump a lovely mature clear round and he gained himself quite a fan club in the process!!! Lori was a little more mature and as usual jumped a lovely clear.

Next was the intermediates' cross country. Lori jumped a nice round but picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties early on in the course. She didn't lock onto the second part of a combination, and so Tom didn't present to the fence. In her mind she hasn't done anything wrong and jumped a lovely double clear! Jovi was next and he jumped a good clear round, however, he was a little green again and kept coming above the bridle. Next time out we're considering trying a martingale and hopefully he'll be a little more confident, now he's got his first run of the year under his belt.

Cooly was very excited in the jumping phases and unfortunately got distracted a couple of time in the show jumping and rolled a couple of poles. However, the rest of the round was beautiful so lots to be excited about. He jumped a lovely clear cross country, except where he jumped the rails after the water like a gangly five year old because he was too busy looking at everything else! Tom was so unimpressed that he shouted "ARGHHHH RUBBISH!" loud enough for the whole crowd to hear. We imagine Cooly was a little embarrassed and won't be making that mistake again any time soon!

Overall, a lot to like and be excited about and good to have all the horses safely back in one piece after their first run of the year!

Isleham - 5th-6th March

The 2016 season started very early in the morning on Saturday 5th March. We usually start the season with several horses at Isleham in Cambridgeshire. It’s a pretty long drive for us but it’s worth it as it’s a nice start to the season.

We had 3 horses in the BE100 and two in the Novice. It’d been a week of terrible weather and when the team arrived at Isleham on the Saturday morning it was snowing! Visionary (Weed) did a lovely test, having been a little fresh in the warm up, for a mark of 31.5. Unfortunately, Forestino had to do his test in the middle of a snow storm but did a very good test considering, for a mark of 35. Tom also thought Vendome did a nice test, perhaps a little spooky, but he got a very disappointing mark of 40.8. None of us quite understand, as he usually works superbly on the flat!

Visionary was first to go in the show jumping. The going was pretty deep after all the horrible weather we’d had and Weed tried his hardest but it was hard work for a young horse, and despite his best efforts, he rolled a couple of poles. Tom decided not to jump the others as he didn’t want to risk knocking their confidence. He decided to save them all for another day and withdrew all the horses from the rest of the weekend hoping to run at Twesledown instead…

Unfortunately, the weather continued to be against us and that wasn’t to be either after the event had to be abandoned. Fingers crossed the horses will get a run at Munstead and Gatcombe!!!