"From deluge to drought..."
Guest Blog: Sharon Hunt, July 2018
So this year has been an exceptional one. I cannot think of another season like it! Excessive rain meant that events were cancelled and rained off, or if they ran it was near bottomless going and less than ideal, especially for the early, confidence building ones. I am so particular and precious about my horses that I didn’t want to risk them, so little was achieved in March and then once it did dry out the end of April disaster struck and my best horse ‘Veyga‘ picked up a soft tissue injury which prevents him from any competitions for the rest of the season. A particular shame as we would have been part of some Nations cups again, I felt that we were close to being back on the peripheral British team, as his dressage was excellent and his jumping always careful and consistent, but it was not meant to be this year.
I also changed tactics with mine and David and Sue Howard’s ‘loughnatousa Venture ‘from Eventing to show jumping. He wasn’t enjoying the XC, particularly with the wet ground at the beginning of the season. This change in career has paid dividends though, as we have won jumping classes at the Woodbridge show, South Suffolk, Suffolk and Hickstead! And we are only 1/2 way through his season so far, so exciting times ahead with him!My dressage horse, ‘Loughnatousa Winston ‘has also been in winning form this year. He won the winter regional medium qualifier at Easton College and then went on to do well in the Winter National Championships. He has since stepped up to Advanced Medium level and achieving good places with high percentages. He has successfully started his four time flying changes, so our progression to eventual Prix St George level is coming along nicely.
I have been Eventing, but on my 13 year old niece Aimee’s Eventing pony, but solely to gain him more experience so he is ready for her. They will aim for Badminton Grassroots next year, so their campaign starts in a few weeks. She has been very successful stepping up to 100 level with HSB Harriet and learning fast with pony ‘Starholme lulu‘ who is really talented but a great educator as certainly not push button! This will help her in the future, as she has had to work for her successes. The horses and ponies we provide for her are talented and safe, but not necessarily easy. I believe it’s the gentle struggles we have that make success far more rewarding and have a greater impact on our lives in general.
Whilst I have been doing less competitions with the older horses I have been busy with my young stock. I am lucky enough to have bred some gorgeous foals, who have grown into beautiful animals. They are exciting as they have super temperaments, great conformation and so far seem to be talented! It’s a complete lottery breeding and I am a total amateur, but seems so far I have got lucky! The mares I use are my own former reliable competition horses, so very much tried and tested. ‘Red Amber’ has competed at 3* Eventing level and jumped 1.30’s comfortably and has excellent paces. Just Maisie was a top event mare and has an incredible record with me, never a run out or stop XC at 3* level and placed 13th Bramham and 15th Blenheim CCI 3*. She was a true 4* mare but sadly injury prevented her from ever achieving this. Poppy is the 3rd mare I have used, she jumped 1.35’s easily, but very much a showjumper and not an event horse. She was a little hot but had so much talent and so it was decided breeding was a better choice for her. My oldest homebred is 4 year old chestnut gelding by Cevin Z. He has the most wonderful temperament and is super easy, so I can leave him a couple of weeks and get straight back on, which is generally unheard of for not only a 4 year old but also for his amount of education so far. He seriously moves and a super careful jump, so he is exciting! We then have 2 x 3 year olds, both by the same sire, the late Landor S. They also have excellent temperaments - both have been so easy to start, long lining and the transition to tack just seemed natural. I have backed our bay mare ‘Daisy ‘but the black gelding ‘Dexter’ has just been sat on at this stage. He will continue his progress later this summer. After my coaching commitments quieten down again.We have also started 2 year old ‘Reggie’. This is not something I would usually do but he is 16.3 already! I would worry for him to be any bigger and stronger before starting him, as I start all the youngsters myself including sitting on the first time, so he has gently long reined around our farm and shows an excellent attitude . This one really is a natural, very excited about him!
Our facilities are made for producing horses! We have a very safe environment around the farm for hacking the older horses and long reining the youngsters. With 2 sets of gallops I can quietly train them out there, this also improves my fitness at the same time tuning along behind them! The gallops work well for quiet horses that need to be braver or keen ones that need to slow down! The variety too means they can start safely in a big lunge ring, then move into the indoor school, onto the circular gallops with running rails then either into the XC grass field or outdoor school. None of us ever get bored!
I have really been developing my coaching career this year too. I was lucky enough to be chosen onto a ‘BEF pathway coaching course ‘. I am one of just 12 coaches on this from all the disciplines. The development and insight that this 18 month course has given me so far is immeasurable. That coupled with my increased confidence levels has led to a huge rise in clients. I also have now trained the eastern region U18’s for the last 5 seasons - within which our teams have improved from finishing 7/8 in their championships to 2 consecutive wins in the last 2 years and in my first 2 years 2nd and 3rd!I am really enjoying being able to give back to pupils all I have learnt. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing my pupils enjoy their lessons and then the excitement of being on their journey whilst achieving their goals. This area of my life will keep developing along with my facility upgrades. All working progress and huge ambitions!
I was lucky enough to upgrade my indoor school surface to top quality Martin Collins ‘Eco track’. The difference this has made is unbelievable! The horses not only jump fantastically on it, but it’s brightened the whole school up as it’s a very light coloured sand compared to former dark grey. This makes an enormous difference to our moods on a dark, gloomy winter day! We also had a huge 35 x 65 m outdoor school put in, just in time for the drought that started - our grass in the training field is exceptional but even that has become very firm without any rain for 10 weeks! This arena has made such a difference for me with clinics and lessons, I can now offer top quality lessons on top surfaces. The xc course has been developed too, we have a new bank complex which has varying degrees of difficulty, also a water complex with steps surrounding it, but best of all is that we have changed the surface on the gallops around the water jump and opened up the area by cutting down the hedge so we can jump in and out of the xc field. This has made a huge difference in the amount of fences we have available and the level of difficulty that is now on offer, which will therefore encourage the more experience riders. We’ve also improved the lunge ring’s drainage that used to flood and flipped over the waxed surface on the circular gallops as these used to get very wet too, as the surface had become so tightly packed, the water simply couldn’t get through. We will constantly keep improving our farm and have plans to involve our sponsors in the developments. I aim to increase traffic for all. But in the meantime, we have created an outstanding training centre, suitable for every discipline!
"A chance meeting…"
I always enjoy helping Heiniger in November on their stand for ‘Your Horse Live’ which is the most fantastic show. This year I had a chance to visit some of the other stands as I had decided we needed to upgrade our 2 Horsebox as we use it so frequently, a much more economical vehicle to run that the 5 horse Scania, but now we needed a stronger and fancier one for the upcoming young horses. The first one I saw was an ‘Owens’. This immediately impressed me, really excited to see its quality and the superb attention to detail. My father taught me how to check for the quality of a build and this one really was exceptional. I also felt it was good value for money, but when comparing to the most of the other top brands there, I could see clearly it was vastly better both in quality of build and also in price. Owens were also wonderful to deal with, explained everything in detail and have an extremely pleasant manner!
Emma at Owens helped us every step of the way to create our incredible new 2 stall box. The logo on the side of Tankers Town and I makes it not only unique but also classy. We couldn’t be happier, there is honestly nothing that I would change about it. I can’t speak highly enough of this company and their customer service. 10/10!
Sharon will be providing regular guest blog updates about her string of horses, training and competitions so be sure to keep checking back for the latest updates. Interested in training with Sharon? Contact Sharon’s PA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 01359 244501.