A Grooms Perspective
Aachen….where to begin? Its hard to describe the feeling of walking Christine Bates’ horse Adelaide Hill around the grass arena’s , as riders like Ingrid Klimke and Marcus Ehning just casually stroll past you! These are the riders that have inspired and continue to inspire me everyday so it is a very surreal and cool experience. Going into Aachen I was both very excited and nervous.I had never been to a show of such calibre so it was a little daunting! Christine and I both laugh at how OCD we are, we enjoy everything being orderly, so being in a different country with unfamiliar surroundings can be quite tricky. however, once greeted by the large Australian banners streaked across the stables it quickly felt like home.
Once Adelaide was settled into his stable I took him for a walk around the grounds. To get to the grass arena where you were able to warm up, lunge, hand walk and graze you went through a maze of stable blocks and crossed over various paths which included bypassing the amazing trade stalls, to this point Adelaide was his normal chilled self, however this quickly changed when low and behold the marching band got starters. Oh my gosh I don’t think I have seen a horses eyes pop out of their head more than Adelaide’s did haha…once that passed he was a man on a mission to get to the grass. We joke at home that when he comes in from the paddock in the afternoons his head is always fat, we suspect it is because his piggy self just eats and eats and eats, he very much enjoyed the Aachen grass after his long travels across from the UK.
On the Friday Christine and Adelaide put there best foot forward to produce two fabulous results in both the show jumping and dressage arena. It was a very proud groom moment as I watched them make their way down the centreline looking very much the part with the Australian flag proudly stitched onto the saddle blanket.
I made sure that I always gave myself at least 45 minutes to get Adelaide ready, it was important to me that he looked the best he could, fortunately he is already very handsome so he makes my job quite easy! Lots of gear cleaning, baby oiling, makeup and brushing! Once Christine mounted Adelaide I would quickly follow with my little bag filled with everything you could possibly need before entering the ring- sponges, towels, brushes, studs, baby wipes, camera, whip and everything in between! The horses were all turned out to such an incredible standard. One thing I noticed that over in the UK they tend to do lots and lots of little tiny plaits so I was very relieved when Christine said it wasn’t what she wanted.
One of the highlights of the whole event was being in amongst the warm up; wether that be waiting to take the boots off or walking Adelaide around. I was so proud to be wearing the Australian uniform, I felt apart of something very special. I was seriously impressed by the professionalism of not only the riders but also the stewards and marshals, it was really outstanding. The grooms at Aachen were treated with such respect; we were given three free meals a day (who am I to turn down free food!) and had access to almost everywhere on the grounds including the fabulous trade stalls which I made full use of and definitely put a dent in the bank account. The grooms were all great and it is so lovely when passing grooms from other countries and you can exchange a nice smile and hello. I became particularly close with Andrew Hoy’s groom Katie Dutton. Grooming can be a tough gig at times especially when things don’t always go to plan so it is always nice to have the support of other grooms!
On Saturday morning cross country approaches , and the stables are always in madness with everyone trying to organise ice, studs, the cool down and gear. Unfortunately team Bates had a disappointing morning with the decision to withdraw Adelaide due to presenting lame out of the stable for XC. Although this is not the result anyone was hoping for, Adelaide and Christine had proven themselves at an international level and I felt very proud of them both.
There is definitely a certain feeling in the air on cross country day and even the horses could feel it, so much excitement and adrenaline! I was lucky enough to go sit in the main stadium and watch the riders over the last few fences. A highlight would definitely be watching Chris Burton come through the finish line. You can see how he earns the title of being the fastest cross country rider in the world. The cool down is always a bit of a stressful period for grooms, you want to make sure you get the horse cooled down as fast as possible especially in the German heat, lots of water being thrown everywhere, sometimes not actually on the horse but the people around it haha.
As I left Aachen on the Saturday night, exhausted and very poor I was filled with such excitement and so many great memories. It is an event that I think everyone should put on their bucket list wether you are horsey or not, there is something for everyone. As a groom I walked away with more respect and knowledge of the sport I love and it opened my eyes to the opportunities that the equestrian world can offer. I was able to make friends with grooms from all different countries and feel apart of something very special. It was tiring, emotional and at times overwhelming , but totally rewarding and I loved every minute of it and am super proud to have been a part of Team Bates.
Groom Izzy over’n’ out
Tuesday 10th July
Mum, William and I were invited to Samantha Birch’s property for a BBQ just after Barbury. It was a great night catching up with Sammi and meeting her husband Ed. The BBQ had a very Aussie feel with Rob Palm joining us. Rob has based at Sammi’s for his UK campaign. Catching up with Sammi’s long term Head Girl Hels who I don’t think has changed a bit. More Aussies as Sammi’s working pupil is also from Australia Hannah Lewindon. Sammi and Ed have recently purchased a great equestrian property near Cirencester. The property has a huge house which is currently undergoing renovations. There are lots of stables, accommodation and an indoor and outdoor arena. There’s lots of work to be done but it’s a great property with so much potential. Apparently Rob has been put to work doing lots of handyman jobs.
Thursday 12th July
Our first team training in preparation for Aachen was a two day Nelson Pessoa Clinic held at the Wellington Riding Club. The Wellington Riding Club is a huge Riding and Livery Centre with multiple outdoor and indoor arenas. We were lucky enough to have the new outdoor arena which was huge and had a fantastic surface.
Day one of the clinic focused on how we warm our horses up before competition. The main focus was riding our horses in a way to really get them to use their body and back. Make them have to work and think at the same time. We had a couple of simple exercises where we varied the strides before and after the fence and the exercise was jumped from both directions. Once the horse was waiting, listening and using themselves we then moved to a square oxer again jumping from both sides and the height increased and the oxer became wider. We finished our warm up with a tall vertical. We used the vertical as our last fence as the first fence we were about to go and jump started with a vertical.
Due to Adelaide being spooky and I’d had the added bonus of watching the previous lessons I warmed Adelaide up a little earlier for my lesson so I could ride through the exercise with the poles on the ground. Once he had the idea he settled into the exercise well. As always he jumped the oxer and vertical super. We then moved outside to the big arena where the recent 4* Luhmuhlen showjumping course had been replicated. The results showed that rails coming down and time faults were very influential. The main difference I could tell was the course was set at about 1.40m – 1.45m. Adelaide started his round well until I had the vertical going into the treble at fence 6A. This did fire him up a little and he became a little harder to ride and I had another vertical down at fence 11. I was still pleased as Adelaide had only done one round of showjumping since April at Barbury in the CIC2*. After a quick chat with Nelson we decided to jump the whole course again. Adelaide felt super and was really rideable and much more focused and on the job. I certainly finished the lesson ready to tackle Aachen.
Friday 13th July
The second day of the Nelson Clinic was again about exercises and grids and then going and jumping around another course. Was very interesting watching the change and improvement in each horse when they came to jump the course. The Aachen squad horses didn’t jump again and most riders bought their other horses for the second day. Adelaide had a fairly easy day hacking out in the woods.
Saturday 14th July
Saturday was a dressage session at home and to start organising horse and human gear for Aachen. Normally this isn’t such a big deal but when you are travelling in someone else’s lorry it’s easy to forget things as you are so used to all the gear and equipment just living in your truck/gooseneck. Packing is also hard for me as I have a terrible habit of over packing especially when it comes to rugs. Meanwhile super groom Izzy Dunne had the weekend off to go and catch up with her mum and family up in leeds. Mum got onto organising things like tickets on the Eurorail and accommodation in Brussels and more train tickets from Brussels to Aachen and return.
Sunday 15th July
Sunday I had Stuart Tinney come and visit Adelaide and I at Westwood Stud. Stuart gave me a hand jumping Adelaide as I wanted to set up a few things like a corner and a bounce in preparation for Aachen. Adelaide jumped super and I could certainly feel the benefits from the clinic with Nelson.
Monday 16th July
Monday we drove to Gareth Hughes property for dressage lessons. The drive was about 1hr and 45 mins and I must say I’m getting more confident with driving on the English roads and the many narrow lanes and roundabouts. I’ve trained a fair bit with Gareth in Australia but not since 2016. Gareth certainly felt that Adelaide had improved and was now more supple and definitely softer. We mainly worked on the movements and lines of the test and trying to pick up those extra marks. We then headed back home. One of the frustrating things of driving lorries in the UK is the maximum speed is 90kph. It makes driving very boring and I was struggling to stay awake. 90kph seemed mind numbingly slow.
Tuesday 17th July
I gave Adelaide a fairly easy day with just 10 minutes stretching and then a hack out in the woods as Sammi Had planned to leave for Aachen in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The drive from the UK to Aachen is approx. 12 hours but can be longer depending on the queues for the ferry. Meanwhile mum drove to Swindon Train Station to collect Matthew who had finally arrived in the UK. Izzy, William and I finished loading the lorry with Adelaide and all of his gear to deliver him to Sammi’s, ready for departure to Aachen. Matt and mum met us at Sammi’s. It was great to finally see my husband, chatting daily on the phone is just not the same. We left Adelaide in the capable hands of Hels.
It was then time for everyone to get their own bags ready for the journey to Aachen. We were driving from Marlborough to Heathrow Airport to drop the hire car off. It was then a taxi ride to St Pancras International Station. We had a 2 hour super fast train ride from London to Brussels. We arrived in Brussels at about 11pm and while looking for a our hotel room nearly got ourselves in the middle of a brawl just outside the train station. There was lots of screaming and yelling and people running everywhere. We high tailed it out of there and found the hotel pretty smartly. The cops finally turned up and the chaos ended. We were all ready for bed.
Wednesday 18th July
Next morning we all had a lovely breakfast and a little bit of relaxation time. It was then another hours train ride to Aachen. Once in Aachen we found Mum, William and Matthews hotel and dropped their bags off. We then all headed to Aachen. Wow it’s just out of this world. We managed to find the accreditation office and then it was onto finding mine and Izzy’s hotel. It was then time to find the shuttle buses that regularly go to the hotels. This took a while and it wasn’t much fun lugging our suitcases around the horse park. But eventually we found both and it was a relief to dump the bags. It was straight back to Aachen to check out the lay of the land.
Aachen is a very large complex especially if you’ve not been there before. It did take us a while to find the stables as the eventer barn is not near the main stable complex where the dressage and jumpers are located. It was a great sight to walk down the aisle and see all our stables decked out with Aussie flags and our names on the doors. We then checked out all the arenas and the trade stands as we waited for the horses to arrive.
Once the horses arrived it was pretty hectic to get horses unloaded and gear sorted. We also needed more shavings for the stables but the only person I could find was a young boy driving a tractor that didn’t speak much English. Eventually we sorted shavings and the ponies were happy with their extra fluffy beds. I then had a lesson booked with Gareth Hughes. Adelaide went very well and we only worked for about 25 mins. Gareth thought he was going better since our Monday lesson. Just shows you how good Gareth is as a coach. Once we had all finished working our horses it was then a quick team meeting to organise our ride times, briefing times, course walk and trot up times for the following day.
Thursday 19th July
I opted to give Adelaide an early morning jump session. This was done out on a large grass arena shared with the showjumpers. There are plenty of fences to choose from and the grass footing was excellent. Adelaide jumped very well and we didn’t jump too big. I just wanted to make sure that he was rideable and not spooky. We had the competitors briefing at 1.00pm where they do the draw for the Nations Cup Teams. It came down to position 2 and 11 between Aus and the UK and we drew number 2 out. Long story short, this made me first rider out and first rider for the Australian Team. It was then onto xc course walking. It always amazes me how different a venue can look on TV compared to real life. The XC course and going was superb. It was a tough three star track and there was a lot of decisions to make. Time was always going to be tough to make.
At 5pm we had the official horse inspection. Adelaide was the first of the Aussie horses to trot and he trotted well and was accepted. All the Aussie horses passed the first inspection. It was then time to get back in the saddle for arena familiarisation. The teams were split in half. We then had approx. ½ an hour to play in the arena. It was very interesting that we were allowed to ride in the arena and there were no limitations on what you could do in the arena. You did have to watch what you were doing at all times as there is so many in the arena at once. I really can’t understand why in Australia we are not allowed to do this at our major events. Especially events that have all weather surfaces. If the best show in the world will allow this to happen why are we making it even harder for our aussie based riders to do their best come dressage day. We need to get with the times and follow the rest of the world.
It had been a long and busy day and we were all hungry so the riders and our supporters crashed the Grooms BBQ which is put on by the organising committee. The food was fantastic and it was great to catch up with our family and friends after a busy first day. Izzy and I then caught the shuttle back to our hotel, showered and went to bed. It’s extremely hard of an evening to work out what time it is due to the sun setting so late. Before you know it it’s 11pm at night.
Friday 20th July
Friday was an early start as I needed to pre ride Adelaide at 6.30am ready for his test time at 8.30am. We left the hotel at 5.30am by taxi. Luckily we had a great taxi driver as I informed him, I had no cash and he didn’t take credit card. So he found me an atm on our way to the horse park. Adelaide had a quick bite to eat, Izzy mucked him out and I found coffee. I was on Adelaide bt 6.30am and just did a lot of long and low with lots of stretching. We were back in the stables by 6.50am. Izzy worked her magic and I went and got competition ready. I was back on Adelaide at 7.55am for my 8.30am test. He felt really good in the warm up and the officials moved me into the final warm-up. I thought I only had 8 mins to my test but apparently the officials were a little too eager and I still had 12 mins to my test. This was slightly bad timing as I could feel that Adelaide was starting to get tired so I had no option but to give him a walk break. This was not ideal but out of my control really. I then picked him back up and did a couple of minutes and then we were in that main arena. Adelaide as always gave me everything he had. We were a little lacking in the first medium trot and my timing was a little out in the flying changes. But overall I thought our test was relaxed and accurate. I was a little disappointed with our score but it was always going to be hard going first out at your first international competition. I was probably on of the luckier riders that had pretty consistent marks from all three judges as this was not the case for many riders that followed. I was also grateful to be on early as the day proceeded to get quite warm which is not ideal with a horse that still has his winter coat.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent watching and supporting my fellow teammates. Unfortunately Rob’s horse Koko Story was belled during his test by the judges and eliminated. We were all shocked and extremely heartbroken for Rob. Andrew did a great test on a fairly inexperienced horse. He definitely looked like he’s only going to get better. Sammi had an almost perfect test with just a couple of annoying glitches. Burto did a lovely test on his beautiful mare but did have a few moments of tension which probably cost them the lead. Overall it was a good day for the Aussies.
I had organised a XC course walk with Sam Lyle who was at Aachen as part of the High Performance Elite coaching program. I wanted to make the most of having my regular coach Sam and his words of wisdom. It was great being able to really makes plans about the lines I would be taking to try and have a fast clear round. You really had to know at every fence if you were taking an inside line or an outside line. It’s easy to see why Chris Burton is the fastest XC rider in the world. It’s all about covering the shortest amount of ground among other things. As this was Adelaide’s first big international event I felt I had to take into consideration that the crowds could be a factor in the approach to some fences. Overall I was very confident that Adelaide and I would do well around the XC course.
Unlike some events, Aachen runs on time, all the time. I started Adelaide’s show jumping warm up in the big grass jumping arena with the assistance of the legend Nelson Pessoa and Stuart Tinney. As I had been warned that I would need to be at the gate to walk the course quickly to get back on Adelaide for my final warm up. I raced around the course with Nelson. Made a plan and was very aware of how large this arena is and that I would need to watch my time on course. While I was walking the course I had Stuart putting Adelaide’s hind boots back on in front of the stewards. I only planned to jump a few fences in the warm up as Adelaide felt so good. I was then given the call to go to the arena spot on time. I was extremely grateful of the advise from Sam Griffiths and Chris Burton. You really can’t appreciate just how big that arena is until you’re riding in it.
From the moment Adelaide and I entered that arena I was extremely confident that he was going to jump amazing, and he delivered. There is no better feeling than making a plan and then being able to execute that plan. We were extremely unlucky to have 4 faults at the second last, the C element of the treble. Adelaide felt like he tried his heart out and you can’t ask any more than that. Pretty sure you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for a good few hours.
Saturday 21st July
Saturday morning was not what I was expecting with Adelaide trotting up lame. I had to make the heartbreaking decision to withraw him from the cross country. To come so far and to be performing so well just made it all that bit harder. As it wasn’t just the personal disappointment but the disappointment of letting my teammates down and Australia no longer having a team in the Nations Cup at the biggest show in the world. Its was extremely difficult as well for all my family, friends and supporters that had flown from Australia to watch us compete.
Once XC started I went and supported our three remaining Aussie riders and watched them all put in amazing performances and helped them all in the cool down. As far as I was concerned I was still a member of the team and that’s the Aussie thing to do. I truly believe that Adelaide and I would have stormed around the cross country but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Sunday 22nd July
We headed home to the UK with a lot of disappointment in our hearts. It was also hard with knowing that Izzy, Mum, Matthew and William were all heading back to Australia and Adelaide and I would be on our own again.
Adelaide is now back at the Nicholson’s Westwood Stud and he’s enjoying having a few days off and loving being able to go out in his field. Today we go and see Australian Team Vet Graham Potts. I know Adelaide very well and unfortunately it doesn’t look good and our campaign has come to an end. I’ve spoken with Chris Webb and Adelaide and I will not be named in the final 8 horses still in contention for the World Equestrian Games. After the most amazing start to our campaign it has all ended suddenly and as you can imagine it’s extremely sad. Adelaide and I have had a dream run over the last 8 months and our time in the UK has also been a truly life changing experience. But for whatever reason it’s just not meant to be. I would have loved Adelaide to have had the fairytale ending he so deserved. I will always be truly grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me by my supporters, the Australian Eventing community, friends and family and the support given by Equestrian Australia.. It was so close to being perfect.
All Things Barbury!
Times flies when you‘re having fun!
Thank you to everyone back home that supported my online auction whether you donated a prize for the auction or you bought a prize in the auction. Without your support and generosity Adelaide and I couldn’t be on this trip of a lifetime. I will be forever grateful that so many people in Australia made this possible for me. So thank you, thank you xxx
Well last week my Aussie family arrived. First off was the arrival of Izzy Dunne in preparation for Barbury CIC. Izzy has been working for Team Bates since March this year. I can honestly say without Izzy we would never have been able to organise this trip to the UK. Izzy has been such an asset to our team with her love of the horses, exceptional computer skills and her ability to put up with our crazy eventer life and family. Adelaide was very happy to see Izzy and demanded where is the NUTRIGRAIN.
The following day saw the arrival of my mum Wendy and William Bates. William had a few big days of travel which had seen him fly from Sydney to Perth spend a few hours in Perth and then continue to London with my mum. As per usual William charmed all the crew and scored himself a spot in the cockpit on the new Dreamliner. Mum and William had to hit the ground running as we were wanting to take Adelaide cross country schooling before Barbury. We are lucky that XC schooling at Boomerang Stables is not too far from the Nicholson’s and run by Australian Russ Hardy. This is a great facility and had plenty to offer including some firm Aussie type ground.
Thursday was spent riding Adelaide, cleaning and packing gear. I was able to take the small lorry to Barbury which meant that I could bring Adelaide home after his dressage test so he didn’t have to stand in the sun for the whole day. Its ok I haven’t turned all English and gone soft, Adelaide still has his winter coat and the temps were around 30 degrees with humidity and no breeze.
When we arrived at Barbury Andrew very kindly gave me a run down on where I could find everything. Go to that hut and pay your starting fee and then you can collect your back numbers. Walk down there for your two star warm up and competition arenas. Oh and make sure you take your FEI passport when you go to do your test. I. stood there for a second and went, oh shit. Andrew is like, “you forgot your passport didn’t you?” Everyone who knows me knows that I like to be very organised, I usually think of everything, very rarely forget anything and well known for over packing. A quick phone call to Mum and crisis was averted. Good thing the Nicholson’s only live about 15 minutes from Barbury.
Adelaide performed well in the dressage and did his usual consistent test. The warm up area for the two star dressage was on the side of a hill and was as firm as Goulburn. So not ideal and I was very mindful to not over do it. There is certainly room for improvement in our test for Aachen and I’ll be looking forward to being able to ride in good arena’s. We had a quick chat with Helen Christie who had come along to say Hi and watch my test, a few photos with the awesome Libby Law and we took Adelaide back to the lorry to be cooled down.
While we cooled Adelaide down we caught up with Derek Pascoe and did a quick interview for Equestrian Australia on our life in the UK. We then drove Adelaide back to Westwood Stud so he could have the rest of the afternoon in his box out of the sun and humidity. Getting home proved a little more difficult as the road into Barbury from Marlborough is very narrow and not ideal for lorries. Just as we were nearly into Marlborough the traffic came to a stand still as the lane is really only wide enough for one lorry not two lorries going in opposite directions. This was extremely interesting to watch as the lorry I was following decided that it should have a bit of an argument with the oncoming lorry as who should have to reverse back to let the other one through. After about 10 minutes the bigger lorry won and the small lorry started the very difficult task of reversing backwards while trying to not bump any parked cars on the street and convince the cars and lorries behind them already that they too need to start reversing. What seemed like forever we were then eventually able to pass and continue on what is meant to be a short journey home. Poor Adelaide was pretty hot and sweaty once off the lorry. Unlike Aussie trucks where we make sure there is always good ventilation and airflow, English lorries tend to have very small windows and no roof vents so on a hot day the horses will sweat up.
We then headed back to Barbury to have a course walk around the 2* track. For those that don’t know Barbury it’s pretty hilly and you can virtually see the whole course as a spectator. I thought the track was inviting at the start and relatively straight forward. First combination was a brush rolltop jumping off a turn down hill to a brush arrowhead which was approximately 70 meters after the A element. This brush arrowhead did cause a few problems as you come down the hill the horses have a full view of all the marquees and trade stands so can be easily distracted if you’re riding an inexperienced horse. Next combination was an open skinny oxer then six curving strides to an open corner. You then went uphill and turned onto a coffin/gully style fence, vertical rail in and out over a brush arrowhead. It was then onto a quarry with just a rock wall going in and nothing on the way out. A couple of table tops on a curving 5 strides it was then downhill to another table 5 strides to a wishing well and three strides to another wishing well. We then had two water jumps, first water was a pheasant feeder type fence where you landed on dry ground and then ran down into a pond, you then travelled approximately 80 meters to a log drop into water and six strides out over a V style arrowhead rails. You then had a couple of single straightforward fences and the next related line was a wall with brush on top, up a mound to an owl hole then seven or eight strides on a right curve to a brush arrowhead. Both the owl hole and brush arrowhead caused problems. We then had three more fences and you were home. Overall a great first start for Adelaide who had not competed since Sydney 3DE the last weekend of April.
Saturday we left early so I could walk the cross country course with Andrew Nicholson. Andrew is known as the king of Barbury so I wanted to make the most of his experience and knowledge of the course. His information was spot on. We also walked the two star showjumping. It was an interesting course and quite different to what we have in Australia. Firstly the arena is on two levels. Secondly there are some XC fences also in the arena ready for the ERM class which finishes in the main arena. The course was a mix of tight turns and open stretches. You also went up the bank to the second level to a vertical four strides to an oxer, canter around the water jump over a triple bar back down to the lower level to the last related line and combination. Time was relatively easy to make as they had set it at 98 seconds and then reduced the time again after the first three horses to 90 seconds. I watched the first 10 horses go and everyone was making the time easily.
Adelaide show-jumped at noon. I made the decision to turn inside to fence 3 and go outside to fence 4. In hindsight I slightly overrode Adelaide up the bank and probably didn’t quite give him enough time to read the vertical and we had it down. Overall I was happy with how he jumped and the way he handled the atmosphere and the different styled arena. It was just a short wait till I went XC. Adelaide felt extremely confident and pretty quick around the track and we finished just two seconds over the time allowed. I had purposely not found out what the time allowed was on course so I could let him travel at the speed he was comfortable with and give a great ride at the same time. It turned out we were one of the few fast rounds of the day and moved from 27th place to 5th place. Barbury was a great event and a great run in preparation for Aachen.
Sunday I gave Adelaide a quiet ride and he had time out in the field. I then headed over to Barbury to watch the ERM class go XC. Caught up with friends and had a few drinks. If you ever want to watch a rider on how to ride the perfect cross country round watch Chris Burton. His round was sensational and he was the only rider to make time (9 seconds) under. For me his horse was always in balance and the pace changed instantly when required, the round was super smooth and his horse looked to have finished more confident the further they went. You can totally see why Chris is the fastest cross country rider in the world.
Monday after working Adelaide the family and I headed to Bath for some sightseeing. Wow Bath is truly a beautiful town with so much history. I just love the architecture and the lovely old buildings. We didn’t go to the Roman Baths as the queue was ridiculously long and it was pretty hot to be standing around for hours. Instead we had lunch and walked round taking in the sights. We did venture into the amazing Cathedral. It’s hard to comprehend that you are walking over grave stones that are from the 17th Century. My great friend Becks Bennett was also able to spend the day with us. I first met Becks when she came to Australia backpacking in about 2003. Becks lived and worked with us and groomed for Matthew and I during her stay. I then conned Becks to come back in 2006 to nanny/groom when William was just 6 weeks old. Becks and I have always stayed in touch over the years. Becks was instrumental in sending Rosie Jilla to our property back in 2011, and she also helped us in 2016 when I was planning to bring Adelaide to the Uk in preparation for Rio Olympics. So to actually be in the UK with Adelaide seems even more special when you can share that experience with friends and family from all over the world.
Tuesday we spent the day at home catching up on washing, food shopping and office jobs. William has become great mates with Andrew and Wiggys son Zac. William and Zac literally ran around all day playing some form of sport. Either tennis, cricket, rugby or soccer and their playtime even included an ironman course which meant swimming in the horse baths! I’m truly grateful to the Nicholson’s for not only having Adelaide and I stay at their home but my crazy family. It has certainly been fun and loud.
Next blog – Nelson Pessoa Clinic, BBQ’s with Aussies, Gareth Hughes and preparations for Aachen.
Aachan here we come!
Wow what a week it’s been.
Dodgy sales man, gallops in England, English pubs, catching up with Aussie friends and representing Australia.
Last Saturday was spent driving around looking at used cars. Its sounds fun but it was not. I live in a beautiful town in Marlborough, Wiltshire and I went car shopping in Swindon. Swindon is no less than 12 miles from Marlborough and sounds like a lovely name and you are in England so of course it has to be another beautiful town. Oh, how wrong was I. Think of car shopping in Blacktown. Luckily I had moral support in former Aussie resident and client Sarah Martin. Sarah lived and worked in Sydney and changed hobbies from polo to eventing and was a regular at the Bates Ultimate Training Clinic and comp days and moved back to the UK about 18 months ago with her pocket rocket polo pony turned eventer Nero.
You know your in trouble when even google maps is getting lost. It was a sign that I probably shouldn’t bother with this car and dealer. Next stop really wasn’t any better, more dodgy cars and rust buckets and some cars had such bad smells there are no words to describe the stench. I was amazed how they are quite happy for you to jump in the car a and take it for a test drive knowing that you are a foreigner. After a couple more no goes, it was time for a pub lunch, re group and find some more cars to look at. Sarah and I scoured google and we found another car yard and this one actually looked more promising. Less sleazy sales man, better quality cars and more to choose from. The guy actually seemed genuine. I found a golf that I liked took it for a spin, negotiated a few things that I wanted fixed and left a deposit. Happy days or so I thought.
Things that I have learned, trust no one especially car sales men. When buying a car, like I am, for short term use you need to make sure the car has a long MOT (green slip), you make sure you pay for a HPI check (not stolen, under finance etc), V5 log book (UK car registration) and then you need to look at getting insurance. Insurance is especially expensive if you are a foreigner as you have no record of NCD (no claims discount). So, I’m all excited and enter my golf’s license plate number into the HPI check, good it recognises that, secondly enter vin number (I had taken a photo of the plate on the engine before my test drive, all good so far everything is matching like it should. Next, I entered the date of first registration from the V5 paper work (had taken photo’s of this document). Red flag not matched. Oh that’s weird. I check the vin number from the photo I’d taken against the vin number on the V5 registration papers, this doesn’t match either. Quick call to the sales man and he’s like totally not understanding me at all. So an angry Christine calls HPI and asks what I should do, I lodge a complaint with the DVLA and ask them to investigate. So I email the sales man explaining everything and he assures me it must be a typo and they have never had this happen in 8 years of selling cars. Needless to say I said no to this car.
I’ve since found another car and it will be getting vet checked by the AA in the next day or two. But it’s off to a better start than the last one as it was all clear on the HPI report. I’ve negotiated with the car yard to fix a few things so hopefully this one passes the vet check. I will then need to tackle the task of insurance. This is not a cheap exercise as many of the insurance companies in the UK will not consider your driving record or no claims bonus from Australia.
Since my arrival in the UK I’ve discovered online shopping with Amazon. My little apartment needed a few household items and not knowing my way around it was much easier just to shop online with home delivery. My first item arrived- an electric fry pan. I was so excited and cooked an omelette, I heated up the fry pan and chucked it all in and off I started cooking away but not for long as the element blew up. I have since returned the fry pan, luckily all my other purchases have not failed so far.
Adelaide has now had two gallops in the UK. I’m very fortunate to be able to gallop near Barbury on an all weather gallop track up the most amazing hill. As we drive to the gallops you can see that the preparations for the Barbury event are well under way with the stables already being put up some three weeks ago. The closest thing I’ve seen in Australia would be the new gallop track at Wallaby Hill. Adelaide is certainly appreciating being off the hard ground and I’m looking forward to Barbury this weekend. Adelaide is only competing in the CIC** as he’s not had a start since Sydney 3DE at the end of April. There’s some 298 entries in the CIC**. Barbury is only about a 25 minute drive from Andrew’s yard so we will come home each day.
Last week I managed a night out with fellow Aussie riders Rob Palm and Lissa Green. We had dinner at a lovely pub called Silkes On The Down. Rob and Woody have settled in well at Samantha Birch’s and like me Rob has been on the hunt for a car. It was great to catch up with Lissa as it had been sometime, she has certainly grown up and she was very good at keeping Rob and I entertained for the evening.
Last Saturday I had a great lunch date at The Outside Chance in Marlborough (lunch may have gone for 4 hours with several Gin and Tonics) with an old friend Sophie Allison. Sophie and I first met some 29 years ago while I was over here competing as a junior rider. I was extremely lucky at the time I won Sophie’s pony in the pool horses. We have stayed in contact with Sophie and her family over the years. An interesting side note is back in 1996 when I returned from Sydney to Perth I met a boy named Matthew Bates. Matthew and I were talking at a party about the UK. He asked me who I knew in the UK and I answered with, I really only know one person her name is Sophie Allison. I can still remember the look on Matthew’s face as he also knew Sophie as his best mate at that time had actually dated Sophie, his name was Blair Richardson. So as they say the rest is history.
Last week saw the announcement of the Eventing Riders who will be representing Australia at Aachen in a couple of weeks time. I’m so thrilled to be named as one of the 5 riders going to Aachen. No matter who you talk to about Aachen everyone always says it’s a must do event, the best show in the world. So to be picked to compete and represent my country at Aachen is beyond my expectations and I feel like a kid in a candy store.
So its really hard to imagine that the UK is as bad as everyone says it is regarding the weather. I have now been here for 3 weeks and it has been amazingly good. Tops of about 28 degrees during the day and down to about 14 degrees at night – perfect, my kind of summer really. I’ve been told by several UK residents that this is about the best summer they have had since 1976. Feeling very lucky.
Off I go now to go and get ready for Barbury.
Till next time.