With best laid plans of updating this sooner, it turns out to be another six months have passed and I’m only doing it now! As usual with horses the journey hasn’t been completely smooth but I’ve had far worse :-).

It was a dream to have Colin back working & competing again. We took him to Alnwick & Rockrose to get the last Summer Regional qualifiers & hopefully gain Regional qualification. We achieved PSG & thought we may as well give Inter 1 a try, so at Alnwick we had a go! He scored his best score yet at that level from a list 1 judge with just under 70%. At Rockrose he completed his qualification for Inter 1 & things really seemed to be on the up! Forward 2 weeks & I saw a small lump on his leg. We had been warned that the treatment of his initial injury may weaken the apparatus of the leg….& it had. On the plus side his recovery is going well & we hope he will start work properly at the beginning of February.
Humphrey went to Rockrose at the beginning of June for the Young Horse qualifier. He won & qualified for the semi-final at Port Royal but we decided that it was best to not compete at the semi-finals & Regionals this year & save him for next year. He competed at the Scottish Championships & was 3rd in the Novice Gold with 70% & was 2nd in the Novice Freestyle Gold with 74%. By using those scores & then heading to Morris EC at the start of October he completed qualification for the Winter Regional Championships at Novice Gold & Novice Freestyle Gold. Since then we have been concentrating on training & teaching him to find a better balance & cope with his power.
Plum arrived back from doing embryo transfer at the end of June. She had successfully produced two embryos in her 10 weeks away but it meant I had only 5 weeks to get her back into work & ready for the Summer Regionals. Although her body was out of shape, her mind was in a good place & she tried her hardest to do all I asked.
In preparation for the Regionals we competed at SNEC & Morris, just one class at each as her fitness wasn’t what it was. She was great & had over 70% in elementary at each. At the Regional Championships she dug deep & performed well winning both the Novice Gold & the Elementary Gold…..so we were Nationals bound!!! At the Scottish Championships she won the Elementary Gold Championship & was 2nd to my other horse in the Elementary Freestyle Gold.
I had decided a while back I could no longer afford to compete & train Plum beyond this year so I went to the National Championships knowing this would be our last competition together. For all there was no top 10 placing & she was just shy of the magic 70% with 69.4% & 69.8% in both. I was so pleased with her efforts as she felt she had given her all & really tried for me. Thankyou Plum as it made all the difficult times during the first year worthwhile! Good luck in the future, I’ll watch out for you….thanks Reay for giving me the chance to compete your lovely mare.
During June, Gordon Grainger of Kingfisher Building Products & I made a trip out to Holland to try a horse that was for sale. Kirby Kroos of RD Dressage was the agent that looked after us on our trip & that guided us through the subsequent purchase. So, at the end of June Goofy La Perle joined us in Scotland. Goofy is a 6yo, 17.2hh bay gelding by Bellissimo, out of a Jazz mare.
He had a month of training, then we set some competition goals & he has achieved all of these with good success! In a test situation I have to admit that it initially felt like I was steering a labrador puppy round the tests but with his growing experience it is less so now. Initially he had to qualify for the Scottish Championships & had a highlight of scoring 80% at SNEC. At the Scottish Championships he was 2nd to Plum in the Elementary Gold & he won the Elementary Freestyle Gold. The Scottish Championships saw his Elementary qualifications for the Winter Regionals complete, next goal Medium!
He trained & progressed in October & from mid November we caught the last Winter Regional qualifiers. Success again & he qualified for the Medium Gold & the Medium Freestyle Gold. We have time now to consolidate the training through to the Regionals at the end of February.
Not to be outdone Freddie made an appearance at Alnwick in August in the Advanced Medium Freestyle. A year after he last competed he was as ever the absolute professional. It was such a joy to take him down the centre line again, he won & qualified for the Scottish Championships. There I felt we opted to stay too safe, I didn’t ask questions & our performance lacked the usual polish & sparkle. He still scored well over 70% but was 2nd. He has qualified for the Winter Regionals & I’ll see how he is physically at the end of January as to whether we make an additional effort to go or not….knowing Freddie & I we will only be happy if we give 100% effort.
Henry is having a little sabbatical until the spring. After being broken he was worked at home during the summer but I always felt he was resisting work. After investigations resulting in clean x-rays, it was decided that he was suffering from ‘growing pains’ & 4 months of full-time turnout was what he needed. So, Henry with a New Zealand rug in hoof headed down to good hilly grazing near Newcastle. I look forward to his return in the spring & seeing if he is stronger & work is easier for him.
As ever, as the year comes to a close I am indebted to everyone that helps me achieve all that I do;
Mum & Dad                                                                                       Carl Hester
Mary Hope                                                                                         Dominique Flament
Alison & Gordon Grainger (Kingfisher Building Products)      Stewart Armstrong
Alison Trotter                                                                                     Geoff Elphick
Conor Bangham                                                                                 Tom McMullen
Topspec                                                                                               Nicola Smith
Sankey Saddlery                                                                                Brian Smith
Equilibrium                                                                                        Clyde Veterinary Group
Uvex/Zebra Products                                                                        Framework Osteopathy
JM Horseboxes

The year is flying past, can hardly believe it is June already! A news update is always on the ‘things to do’ list but it seems to get overtaken by something else most of the time :-/.

All the horses have been progressing well in one form or another;

Freddie has just recently upped his work again to gingerly doing advanced medium type work. In my mind he is theoretically retired to reduce pressure on him & I but I can’t help dreaming of one last Championship….guess time will tell. He is willing in mind, just hope his body lets him dance publicly once more. Even now he still gives me moments of how amazing he can be & reminds me of how special he is.

Plum (Sugar Plum Fairy, owned by Reay Campbell of the Caledonia stud) has really surprised me with her attitude this year. After what was a difficult end to 2016 with her, she exceeded all my expectations & won the Novice Gold & Novice Freestyle Gold at the Winter Regional Championships at Morris EC. Reay had plans of embryo transfer with her & knowing that I planned to qualify her at Novice Gold for the Summer Regionals before she was to head to stud after the Winter Championships. She qualified very easily & so immediately I lifted the bar & wondered if Elementary Gold qualification would be possible -poor Plum! She rose to the challenge & qualified in 2 competitions at Howe EC & SNEC! She benefited from the higher level tests & returned to Novice at the Winter Championships with greater confidence in herself & more belief in me.
Plum had never experienced anything like the Winter Championships; a 9hr journey, followed by competition stabling & performing in the potentially terrifying Hartpury arena. The Novice Freestyle Gold was first & she simply amazed me. She stayed with me & believed me when I said everything would be ok….the end result was a happy horse & ecstatic rider. We scored 73.06% & finished 3rd….we were only 0.64% behind the winner, it was very close! A very tired Plum did the Novice Gold the next day, we made a mistake but still gained 68.04% & 12th. On the journey home we dropped her off at the stud & look forward to her returning with the Regional Championships at Cabin in August as our aim.

Henry (Isambard) started his ridden work over the winter, with Jonathan Lough doing the job of breaking him in. He is as strong willed as his brother & half brother but I’m determined! Conor Bangham has come to help me work the horses 3 days a week, he is hacking Henry & we are taking our time so that he is positive & confident about work. As many of you will know it’s the tacking up & finishing off that takes the time & Conor allows me to be finished riding by lunchtime 3 days a week so that I can teach, go to the gym or even have a few hours to myself!

Humphrey (Hidalgo) has become publicly acceptable for viewing & so has been allowed out to competitions! Being 17.2hh, he needed time to understand his body & grow into it. He had his first outing at a HorseScotland training day & had to cope with jumping training going on next door…eyes were out on stalks! His first competition was a Novice Freestyle Gold at Morris EC using music very generously supplied by Colin :-). He had never seen white boards or flowerpots before but was a complete star & won the test with 75%. He then went to Inchchoonans & Rockrose & thrilled us by qualifying for the Novice Gold Regional Championship.
Towards the end of May he was asked to be a guinea pig at the Michael Eilberg demonstration held at Morris EC. Humphrey was a great & coped admirably with the pole work Michael did with him. Michael gave me some ideas for the toolbox, which will be very useful. While heading home we had a front tyre blowout…Humphrey stood fantastically while we were recovered & we finally got to bed at 2am!

Colin has been quietly improving in the background. Thanks to the wonderful veterinary care from Andrew McDiarmid (Clyde Vets) & the farriery of Stewart Armstrong, Colin improved enough to do his first flying change in 9.5 months on his birthday – 1st April! As a trial he went to a HorseScotland training at Morris at the start of May & tentatively we planned to do our first competition towards the end of May. Luckily we found a PSG at Alnwick Ford EC. Tentative seemed to be the order of the day & the mission of no real mistakes was completed though a jog in the extended walk was very expensive….he scored 66.97%. We need to be braver & have the feeling that we are there to take the test on – that is our goal for next time. Saying all of that it was so good to be riding with my tailcoat on again & have Colin back as my partner….brought a tear to my eye when we finished the test!

On a personal note; I continue to get stronger. The frustration, although still there is more manageable but I still strive to be the old Jo….she is getting more within reach though! In May I sat my UKCC Level 3 Dressage Specific coaching exam & passed! I was quite stressed – for me it is far less stressful competing at the National Championships than that! Thankfully it is done & I am very relieved. Thankyou very much to the team at HorseScotland, BD Scotland, Sharon Lindop & Harry Payne for the help in getting me through the work over the last 15 months.

As always I am indebted to the support I get from my sponsors; TopSpec, Equilibrium, Sankey Saddles, Uvex, JM Horseboxes & HorseScotland. Thankyou Mary – Lady Hope & Reay, for having belief in me & allowing me to have your horses & Mum, my greatest supporter & critic!