Prepping for 5 days at Houghton Hall International Horse Trials

A little treatment

We went to the gallops in Monday with Vinnie and Conquer to do their last gallop before their competitions at Houghton.  Both worked well.

Vinnie was a little foot sore at the end, probably left over from pulling both front shoes off at Chatsworth.  He had been fine for the last few days but the motion of galloping obviously just triggered a little soreness. We got Robert our vet out just to double check we weren’t missing anything.  We stood his feet in iced water and clayed them over night for the next 3 days and all was good.


Busy Busy

Tuesday seemed to go on and on.  Mum took the lorry in first thing to the service people as the water pump seemed not to be working - luckily going away for 5 days it wasn’t too serious as their are lots of taps and facilities on site. If it had been for a one day we would have had to take lots of water drums with us!!! They confirmed that the pump needed replacing but couldn’t do anything until we returned from Houghton.  All the horses were ridden except Vinnie who we turned out with pack feet to make sure they didn’t get any further bruising. Conquer and William both had lessons away from the yard and Martin our farrier came to put Conquer’s back shoe on which had come off in the lesson and check Vinnie’s. At some point at the end of the day we started and finished packing the lorry for Houghton ready to leave at 5am on Wednesday morning. Immy had come and helped for most of the day so it didn’t take too long. More needed doing when we got home, packing, food shopping, cooking and admin!!


All About Houghton

The rest of the week was all about Vinnie (3*) and Conquer (2*) competing at Houghton.  We left the yard at 5am having got up at 3.30am - I like to give the horses an hour after their feed before they travel when I can - while they are doing this we finished packing the lorry and iced Vinnie’s feet once more.  We had decided that we would take each discipline as it came with him. The horses bickered all the way up which is tiring for them and us. There was not a lot we could do about it - we had a stop on the way to give them a short rest and eventually arrived at 10am.  Shortly before we arrived we got a crack in the lorry windscreen due to a stone flying up from a lorry on the other side of the road - something else to be fixed!!!!

We unloaded the horses and took them to the vets for a check in, where they check their heart beat, their markings and chip number matching with their passport and then they keep the passports until you leave.  We have been known to forget to pick it up before but not this time!!! As Vinnie’s competition was short format he had to be trotted up there and then - all clear was given. We then took them to their stables where they found lots of grass to eat down before the shavings went in.  Back to the lorry for unpacking and setting up the back of the lorry for the rest of the week. The Gazebo was put up which lasted a short while before the wind came in and destroyed it!!! A stronger one needed for the future.

I rode both horses around the park before Conquer’s trot up later in the afternoon and Mum plaited up.The trot up seemed very high energy and a lot of the horses found it overwhelming - the wind was strong which wound a lot of horses up and there were some Damien Hirst sculptures which were very modern and certainly got some interesting looks from the horses, once they had clocked them. Conquer trotted up well but got a little carried away on the return run. (All adds to the fun of it).

Thursday early start as Conquer’s dressage was just after 9am.  He felt anxious and wasn’t willing to relax and soften during the warm up and unfortunately this followed into the test but there were some good movements.  We then went and walked both XC courses just to get a feel and have a look. At this stage the ground was too hard to run in some areas (in my opinion) but the team at Houghton were working very hard to address this.  We were forecast rain and that eventually came in later than expected but was torrential and rained a good part of the night. This was great and made a huge difference to the ground on the XC. Vinnie did his test at the end of the day and this proved to be a very good one.  There were still some movements to improve on and he didn’t quite get either of his changes so to finish on a score of 30.8 - so nearly in the 20’s but not quite, was great. In the evening I went to a friends lorry for supper, drinks and games - there was a good crowd of friends up there - like the days when we all did Junior’s together.


Friday was rest day as far as competing was concerned.  The horses still needed exercising and the courses needed walking noting where the minute markers were and walking the lines I wanted to ride.  As there were 2 courses we did them back to back so by lunch we were ready for a sit down. The horses get a lot of hand grazing everyday to keep them moving as the stables are very small and the horses very big!! Friday late afternoon I made the most of it being a quiet day and the bar being open. It was lovely to sit and chill for once.

Saturday Lindsey Hopkinson joined us with her Camera and she shadowed me for the day clicking away and taking some videos for the picture bank.  Vinnie’s 3* show jumping was first and he jumped the best round yet. We iced his feet and legs after as the ground was firm enough. We had a quick turn around to be ready for Conquers XC.  He felt tense so I decided to take the course as it came and if he didn’t feel great I would retire. Thankfully he got into his stride and was SUPEEER. Coming home clear and inside the time.  Unfortunately he slightly tied-up (which is like muscle cramp) so once he had been washed off, cooled down and iced his legs we got the vet to meet us at the stable to put him on fluids and liquid electrolytes.  This was a new experience for us so lots was learnt other than the reason why!!! Let’s hope it is a one off……


Final day - Sunday.  Very early start as we had the trot up at 9am and I was in the first group to go.  Mum hadn’t plaited the day before as we felt that Conquer should be left to relax having tied up so she did it first thing on Sunday and he also had a walk and stretch before it, while Mum was doing this I took Vinnie for a stroll.  As soon as that was finished we were back out walking the 3* course in order to decide whether to run Vinnie or not. We unanimously decided to run him but with lots of provisos. Some friends came for the day to support and have a catch up which I always enjoy. Vinnie was first on and gave me such a good ride XC clear with 3.2 time. I hadn’t looked at my minute watch all the way round - he was in such a good rhythm I left it at that - I could have pushed on in the last stretch but didn’t feel that there was any benefit in doing this (later I found out I would have been 6th if i had pushed on to get inside the time) but I am more than happy finishing 14th knowing we could have done it.


We then had another quick turn around as we had to get Conquer ready for the show jumping. I also wanted to give myself enough time to warm him up and keep him relaxed after the antics the day before.  This paid off as he jumped clear which I was so pleased with as he could have quite easily come out not jumping as I know he can. We finished 19th which I was very pleased with knowing the only area we could have improved was the dressage - 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!


Once the show jumping had finished it was time to pack the lorry up and head back home. It was nice to finish the week with 2 super horses doing double clears and despite having no signal it was a really great event and obvious they had done all they could on the ground.

Thank you BEDE’s and everyone who helped.

Lindsey Hopkinson