We have decided to write a piece every week. This will be on Nikki’s News to let you know what’s going on.
It will include all the day-to-day goings on. We will follow horses progress, tell you of new arrivals, hopefully, have some funny stories. The idea is for it to be entertaining. Club members will still receive their own emails concerning club horses and news, as usual.
This week story is about despair and perseverance, love and loyalty, a lot of tears and a miraculous happy end…
I hope you enjoy the reading! – How many tears we’ve shed for you my friend?
Well, as usual it has been a busy few days. I seem to spend my life in a perpetual whizz! Everything that needs to be done gets done somehow and there is always a method to my madness!!!
As this episode of news is going to be quite a long one – photos and video included! – I just invite you to click here to read a full version!
Also, do not forget to visit our Facebook for more day-to-day pics and short stories!
Well, it has been a very busy few days since we last spoke, lots of racing.
We have a few new members of staff, who are settling in well and seem to be getting on really well. We would like a couple more good riders who are willing to join the mad house! On non-racing days there are lots of people, but being a very small yard on race days when at least 2/3 have gone it makes a lot more work for those who are left! Yesterday, to add to our work load, we had a huge feed delivery mid-morning! Bad timing, the poor driver must have wondered why Dan and I weren’t ecstatic to see him! Anyway, several tonnes later it was all put away in the feed room and we still finished at lunch time!
During the morning, Rupert, one of the younger horses, was having a “play” in the indoor school. He is very naughty on the walker and so is banned due to the probability of serious damage to the most important piece of machinery here! When I went to get him for his lunch, he certainly had enjoyed his time in there. Every jump pole was scattered at very artistic angles around the school. All the wings had been knocked over, the lunge reins had been thrown around, he had made a big hole for a good roll. But he had managed to roll a big plastic drain pipe we use as a jump up and down and that bit of the school looked beautiful!!!
We had a very sad mid-week, the time had come to say good bye to our dear stallion Alaqhir. He was the most well-mannered and kind stallion. He was never difficult and has passed on his amazing temperament to his foals. He was born in the U.S.A. and was trained in Dubai. Al was very well travelled and went backwards and forwards across the Atlantic many times in his career. He ran 40 times and was placed 26 of those, running over a mile, turf and sand. We have 12 foals by him and the first of those is due to run any time soon. She is a 4 year old, un-named and we will run her in a point-to-point bumper hopefully and take it from there.
Alaqhir’s legacy lives on, the colt we have by him born last summer, is stunning and probably one of the best we have bred. Al was a wonderful horse and a pleasure to have known, he will be missed.
On a brighter note, Owners Day has started her new life. She was retired from racing. She has been very lucky and has gone to a fantastic new home, she will enjoy hacking around Dartmoor and competing in Racehorse Re-Trained classes. She has a great temperament and a lovely calm attitude to life. When Bryony was recovering from her injury in the summer, she always chose O.D. to take for a hack. It is always mixed emotions when a horse retires. You feel sad that all the hopes and dreams the owners have are not going to become a reality, the only fair option is to face it and call it a day. It doesn’t help owners, us, the jockey or the horse to keep trying for too long. Owners Day finished her racing career sound which is obviously great and because she has a lovely outlook she can go on and have a second career. We know she will be well looked after and have a happy life.
This week we also had a surprise birthday party to attend. Very exciting but nerve wracking. For anyone that knows us, we are famously late for most things! The plan was for all his guests to be there at the venue before him… With a little stress we got there just in time. Not knowing the layout of the hotel, Jim and I crept from the bar, through the restaurant and around to the back of the building crossing all fingers we wouldn’t bump into him. We must have looked fairly suspicious, I’m surprised we weren’t thrown out by the door man! Well thank goodness, we found the room and joined all the other guests and we didn’t spoil the surprise. It was a lovely evening and great to catch up with lots of people we haven’t seen for a long time
We had a busy weekend with lots of visitors. The weather is beautiful at the moment and after they had met the horses, they took a drive over the moors. It was very funny as the wife of one of the groups, couldn’t help noticing my kitchen is still in the same state of dis-repair as last time she saw it! She was very good to point this fact out to Jim? I’m not sure even her bullying will make anything happen, there always seems to be something more important to do to the yard? I may surprise you all one day and actually just do it! I can’t keep saying “Please excuse the tiles behind the Aga, we’ve just had it put in!”
I’ve come to the conclusion my yellow labrador, Barley, will have to go on a fitness plan. He is gross! He goes to the summer gallops and plods up in his own time, stopping off at each water trough for a dunk! He can’t go to the winter gallops as it is near a busy road. So, do I get a bicycle or a pony? A bike is cheaper and it doesn’t need feeding! If I get a pony, I know I will want to compete again and I’m really not sure I have time to train a competition pony. Maybe, the answer would be to work out how to put Barley on the horse walker! And with that image I will end now!
Hope to see you soon, take care.
Happy New Year, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and the coming year will be happy, healthy, peaceful and lots of fun!
I have to admit I did struggle to get into the spirit leading up to Christmas, I think with having a member of the family not being well all the preparations and excitement seemed secondary. Thank goodness the patient is on the road to recovery and I did manage to organise some sort of celebration!!!
About 6 weeks ago, a friend of Hadden’s let slip that Hadden was coming home for a flying visit over Christmas. He hadn’t mentioned his plan, so I presumed it was going to be a surprise. As the time got nearer, I thought it was unlikely to happen. He is now based down in Florida, at a winter competition for three months and I couldn’t see how he could leave. But he had arranged a rider, groom and plenty of food, packed his bag and jumped on a plane! It was fantastic to see him, if only briefly. So, I had all my children at home. Bryony rode out and drove down, only one portion of pud for her, she had a low weight boxing day! It has always been difficult for me over the years with the jockeys in the family who are riding on boxing day. It almost feels like I’m torturing them, by presenting tonnes of Christmas lunch which they really shouldn’t eat. Bryony, obviously doesn’t find it as hard as Jim and Hadden, did but she is careful.
During the Christmas period, we are very aware that the normal routine is slightly different, as all horse owners know, they are creatures of habit. And feeding times and exercise have to be kept as near to normal as possible. Our staff are fabulous, and everybody turned up to help. More hands make light work!!! We did have a major panic on Christmas eve, when the walker had a blip! The walker is the best invention ever, next to a dishwasher in my view!!! The thought of it not working was enough to strike fear in to us all. None of us are mechanically minded and with no chance of getting an engineer out the only option was to apply plenty of oil and bash it with a suitably large hammer! It worked… so all the horses could go on the walker for a Christmas stroll!!!
The horses are all really well and the runners have been in good form. I haven’t been racing for ages it seems. With racing starting so early at this time of the year there is always still a lot to do by the time the lorry leaves.
All the latest arrivals have settled in and are doing well. They all seem very nice horses. My pointers are coming along and I’m looking forward to getting started with them. The early part of the season is a bit disjointed for us, there are a few meetings in the south west. We tend to wait until the new year, when there are more regular meetings and you can get some sort of sequence going. A cunning plan!!!
The stables are nearly finished and look fabulous, I will take a video to show you all. Atlantic Grey discovered he can kick one of the poles and it makes a really good noise! It didn’t make the feed barrow get there any faster and he was promptly moved to another box before he did himself damage!
Well, I think that is most of the news.
Again, Happy New Year and hope to see you all soon.
It’s been a very busy few days. We are flat out at the moment, this is a great time of year, racing is in full swing, and if we aren’t racing there is always good racing to watch on T.V.
On Saturday, Bryony was riding over the Aintree, fences. I cannot lie, I do get nervous, but very excited at the same time. As I remember Jenny Pitman, saying “you can’t win it if you’re not in it”. Bryony gave Present Man a lovely ride. I do enjoy watching her over those fences, I can only think that all the jumping she did as she was growing up has helped. She would jump anything and everything! She told me that evening, that Present Man jumped the canal turn really well but as he started leaning in to turn, he slipped, for a second she thought, “no, stand up lad!” Thank goodness he kept his feet and off he went.
A new horse came in on Monday, he was purchased from Ascot Sales. He seems very nice and has settled in quickly. I don’t think he will take very long to get ready to run, which is exciting. And he is very cool about chickens, I think he has definitely met them before! You can tell the horses who haven’t, they stand there for a while just staring at them as if to say “what kind of place is this?”. Once they get used to them wandering around, I think they have quite a calming influence.
Jim and I went to the Wooden Spoon lunch which was lovely. Met lots of rugby players from Exeter Chiefs and some very interesting people. It is an amazing charity that does a huge amount of good work helping children’s charities in the south west. We have been very lucky to be involved in a very small way for a long time now.
I advertised for some new staff this week, I had several replies and look forward to welcoming them to the mad house!
It has been a tough couple of weeks, we have a family member in hospital. and although it was a planned visit it unfortunately has turned out to be a longer stay than we hoped. In this scenario, there is nothing to do except rally around to help the best you can. We all soon got into a routine of dog walking duties. I have to say walking urban dogs is a novelty to me? But we are managing to work, visit and the house is still standing as are the chickens and cat! It’s amazing how resilient you can be in adversity.
The best news of the week was that my eldest brother was coming to visit for a few days. I haven’t seen him since the summer, when B’ and I went to stay with them in Spain, to help her recuperation. I can’t offer him the glorious weather and a swimming pool… I’ve got cold, rain and The River Dart!!! I haven’t told him about the imminent snow forecast.
One of the horses thought it would be hilarious to grab hold of the rubber mat on the front of the walker this morning, he gave it a good shake. There was a lot of noise as the whole machine shook and swayed, it looked more like a fair ground ride than a walker. He was very quickly taken off and turned out to get rid of some of his energy. Luckily, our initial fear of it being broken were unfounded and it lives to fight another day! Until the next rowdy young horse decides to have a bit of sport.
Well, I think I’ve caught you up to date. Don’t forget to keep up with Facebook, at absolutely no expense I offer you The Twelve Days of Christmas!!!
Well, we have been experiencing monsoon conditions this week, with hurricane strength winds! This makes riding out, interesting? The roads are flooded, and we have to be weary of fast cars skidding when they come around the corner and see the string! Again, the indoor has come into its own this week. One lot was in there doing some schooling, it was all going very well, until Jim, was a faller, well actually an un-seat!!! The girls all held their breath, as the boss was rolling around in the sand amongst poles, until it became obvious he was OK when they could stifle their laughter no longer!!! He owes a quid for a fall…
We had fantastic news this week – Percy, one of the “Holybrook” pack, was given the all clear from a biopsy. He is Hadden’s black lab and is hoping to join him in the U.S.A. later on. It was a horrible time waiting for the results, you just have to carry on and keep busy, Percy, was oblivious to all the worry. Although, he did seem to wonder why I kept taking him on the same car ride which always ended up going to see a nice man, who kept prodding him, taking samples and making him have a sleep!
A new horse came in last weekend, she is very sweet and looks good. Jolly, as I’ve decided should be her stable name. Has been up in isolation at the top yard. We have to be careful when we have a new arrival, just in case they are carrying any nasty bugs! She settled in very quickly and is very lucky she sailed from Ireland before it got really rough. Let’s hope she is good, she certainly has a very nice nature, which is always a bonus.
I spent all week winding up my nerves for the weekend’s racing for B. It is a very odd way of life we live? Most of the time we run on adrenaline, fear, eternal hope and we have a huge ability to “pick yourself up again” attitude. I always find it funny trying to explain to “normal” people how a life in racing works!!! Racing and training horses is a strange way to make a living. In my case, I still get nervous every time B’ rides. I have full faith in her ability, usually she is riding well trained horses, who are fit and schooled well. My usual strategy is to walk around the house and peek in through the window. I have no idea why that would help? I also have to watch her jump one! Call me mad, but there are lot of superstitions in racing.
Talking of resilience, Bryony had a wasted journey to Doncaster, she was booked to ride a lovely young horse for P. Nicholls in the bumper and was looking forward to it. The meeting was abandoned after a horse had slipped up, obviously safety has to be the priority for horse and jockey. But nonetheless it was very frustrating and a long drive!
We had the “back man” in this week. He treated several horses and hopefully all his patients will feel the benefit for some physio. I know I could do with some!
The stables are coming along really well. Brian has got down to the end of the barn now. The yard looks very smart and all the horses seem to like their new stables. It did occur to me that the extra drainage we had to do this week to mend a collapsed pipe was probably my new kitchen! Oh, well you never know, I may get it done one day!
I’ve just watched a replay of Newbury, another Saturday winner for B’, Kapcorse was very exciting and dear Black Corton, who as always was brave and gave his all.
I have entered Cuddle Up, for Wadebrige point-to-point next weekend. If you are there, come and say hello.
Have a good week, see you soon.
After weeks of secrecy, sneaking around and phone calls in the middle of the night, the big secret was revealed on the 14th November!!!
A surprise celebration in a “This is your Life” style, Jim had no idea and was shocked to say the least!!! He believed he was going to a charity race night at The Eastern Eye, Newton Abbott.
I want to send my heartfelt thanks to everybody who came, lots of people close to Jim throughout his life made it very special, recollecting memories and telling stories. I also want to thank my co-conspirators without whom it would have been impossible. Poor Chris had several whispered messages and hushed conversations ended suddenly, when Jim came in the house!!! I was nearly caught one day hiding in the garden shed. The airing cupboard was another good hiding place, but I couldn’t see him coming? But I have discovered I can go to the pub for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and he doesn’t know I’ve gone!!!
Thank you all for coming on the night, I hope you enjoyed it.
The stables look amazing and such an improvement. Brian has done a fantastic job, it has not been easy. The floor of the barn, which was originally a cattle barn, is not as level as we hoped. But with a little jiggling and a lot of patience he has managed it! Now, just got the other end of the barn to do!
The first point-to-point was on Sunday. We ran Cuddle Up, who is owned by Lucy and Robert Dickenson. It was good to start the season, and not too far to travel! She ran well; although Josh pulled her up, she took the day very well and has come home enjoying her first ever day at the races. It was a bit hectic finding all the pointing equipment, especially as we took Hadden’s lorry. I had taken everything out and cleaned it ready for sale. As you can imagine there is always a lot of gear in lorries, every eventuality is covered! Spare tack, vet first aid, buckets, sponges, coats, wellies etc, etc, etc. Thank you to the team of helpers that came to my rescue, especially to Anna Hylands, who led up and looked after Cuddle.
Looks like we’re having a cold snap, so keep warm and safe, speak again soon.
The yard is getting into full swing now. Jim has been racing 4 days this week, and there have been some very early starts.
It was great to go to Haldon, on Tuesday to watch the Haldon Gold Cup. I love the race, it is one of the big races we have in the west country and some fabulous horses have run it. I didn’t think the crowd was very big this year, but the weather probably had something to do with that? Bryony and San Benedeto were 3rd, I thought for a second he was coming up that hill and he could do it, but the winner went away very bravely.
A massive thanks go to Bob, for helping out with the driving this week. They have been long trips and it certainly makes it easier to have a co-driver. It’s been quite challenging this week, with Phil, Jim and Dan away at the races, seasonal ailments laying a couple of staff down, college for one girl, but the team left at home have been brilliant and as usual carry on and get everything done. We are very lucky to have brilliant staff, who have been with us for a long time. They all know what to do and are very conscientious, pulling together when we are short staffed.
One of the most time-consuming jobs is rugging up! Especially at the moment; it’s warm then it turns cold, the poor horses don’t know whether their hot or cold! I am useless at judging the temperature as I’m always cold!!! All I do know is it’s a good work out chucking 2 or 3 rugs on each of the 30 horses, it’s no wonder my shoulders ache a bit in the evening!
We had a bit of a panic on Saturday, when the monsoon conditions got the better of the drain pipes on the barn. The water was coming into the feed room, and we have just had a feed delivery. It’s never happened before but it needed a quick response, all the bags had to be moved very quickly back out! These things are sent to try us?
Point-to-pointing starts next weekend, so that is really exciting, please go to Nikki’s Yard to read about the pointers for this season and keep up to date with what’s going on.
Best wishes Nikki.
Well, we have certainly put some miles on the clock!!! In excess of 1,400. Phil was obviously bored on one of the trips to take time to work that out? Jim was most upset after a pit-stop, it had cost £10.00 for two hot drinks and one portion of chips! But at last we are starting to see reasonable going…in some places around the country! It really feels like the winter season is starting now and lots of exciting racing ahead.
The yard is ticking along, Phil is clipping every spare moment she has. The horses are all looking great. I love walking around the yard, when they’re all rugged up, looking cosy and warm. I have to say up at Kelso, on Saturday, there were some very cold looking horses in the paddock.
Last weekend was very exciting or nerve wracking, depending on your point of view! I’m sure you will remember our home-bred, Robin Longstride, he is our pride and joy. He point-to-pointed for us one season and wasn’t too bad, but the family all decided eventing was probably his calling. This coincided with the time Hadden had come home to live and so he began work with him. He did a lot of show jumping competitions with him and lots of cross-country schooling, alongside his dressage. He was sold to a lovely family just before Hadden left for USA. Well, he has settled very well and Hannah, his new owner has just run him in a novice. He finished 3rd, he was clear in his show jumping and cross country, and she was happy with his dressage test. We are all so happy, it is fantastic when ex-racehorses go on to do another discipline, and it shows with a horse who is genuine, trainable and with riders who know how to produce them, anything is possible. We are looking forward to watching his career and hope an invite arrives to come and watch him.
Also, on Saturday, Hadden, was timber racing again. This was the big race they had targeted, so the pressure was on!!! The International Gold Cup is a very historic race and anybody with a timber racer wants to win this one. The amazing Doc Cebo ran an absolutely fantastic race and Hadden kept so cool with a constant challenge from a well fancied horse, but he won!!! He said afterwards, “he is the toughest horse he has ever ridden” he was so proud of him and thankful!!!
Meanwhile, Bryony and I were also clocking up the miles! Cheltenham, Friday, her horse ran well, but weakened on the run in. It was quite late when we got away and we set off to get to Lancaster, where we were staying the night to drive onto Kelso, for Saturday. No supper, by the time we got there so shower and bed. The next day was a bright, cold day, the drive was long, but the scenery was amazing, the colours on the huge mountains were breath-taking. Neither of us had been in that area before, so it was exciting. Bryony was riding one that on paper had a good chance? I’m going to be polite and say that maybe he was feeling the bitter cold as well as we were?
You can imagine it was a very long trip back down to Aintree that night, but we’ve both been in this racing game long enough to know days like that make the good days even more valuable and treasured. We stayed in a fabulous hotel, very trendy and this evening we were able to have dinner. Hurrah!!!
Sunday, off we go again, but today Bryony is so pumped and looking forward to riding Frodon. She has done her homework, looked at replays, has a definite race plan, is fit and raring to get on with it. We are settling into a system, she drives to the races and I drive home. Jim was always the same he drove there, usually too fast, and I drove sedately back. If it had been a bad day the music would be very loud so as I couldn’t hear him. She, to be fair, was very good on the way back from Kelso, I had de-frosted by the time we were passing Lancaster, where we had started that morning!!!
It was great to be back at Aintree, and I was lucky to get a seat in the owners and trainers’ restaurant, so I settled down to watch an afternoon’s racing. Thank goodness B’ won. I know I’m a bit bias, but it was a text book ride. She used her head, was aware of what was going on during the race, she kept super calm and concentrated on doing what was best for her horse. Frodon was brilliant and seemed to enjoy his day as well. The only problem with going to the races with B’, it takes so long to get anywhere. She is very generous with her time and really enjoys meeting people and appreciates their support. So, we ended up on a very high note! And headed back down to the West Country!!!
Exciting week, it looks like the rain has come!!! (possibly an understatement!) Apparently South Devon had 125 cm’s – but it seems to have missed some race courses.
It’s a really busy time of the year for us. The yard is full, and we have several new horses – it’s always really exciting to have some new faces in the yard and expectations are high they will all reach their full potential this winter. We have some great new owners and Racing Club members, and I’m sure they will have lots of fun and plenty of success in the coming months.
Friday, at Newton Abbot races, was challenging – for horse and jockey – the wind was strong, there was a distinct possibility of me being blown off the bank into the river at one point!!! But, we survived, and the owners bar is always a good place to dry off a bit before the next race. It was lovely to see so many club members – I noticed we had all looked out our winter racing coats.
Talking of winter clothes, there was much hilarity on the yard, when Saturday, mucking out was punctuated with roars of laughter at my new mucking out boots! What’s wrong with red flowers? Brightens up a dull day. I’m sticking with the look – they are only jealous!!??
Hadden wins at Genesee Valley, Geneseo, N.Y. – The amazing Doc Cebo wins by a distance over the timber, he is a real specialist, which I think you need to race in those races. They are fixed fences and normally big! We couldn’t watch live this week – which – for anyone who knows how I tend to watch racing – is probably a good thing.
So far, I’ve ducked clipping, but I don’t think I can put it off for much longer. It seems a never-ending job, by the time Phil and I have got them all done it’s time to reclip the first ones again!!! The constant drone of the clippers, and no matter how many waterproof layers you put on the hair still seems to get everywhere you rather it wasn’t. John Cleese, silly walk has nothing on us.
So, on that happy thought, wish me luck!
Well, how amazing! Bryony has been nominated for the Horse and Hound Neue Schulz Professional Rider of the year. This was a complete surprise to be told yesterday evening, and so good for racing to be in such an amazing line up of riders.
B’ will need all the help you can give, so please vote.
Follow this link to Neue Schule Professional Rider of the Year page , scroll down to the voting list and choose your winner!!!
Voting closes on the 18th October. Lets cross fingers, good luck B’!
It’s been a good week at Holybrook, the horses and people have been enjoying this fabulous weather. Maybe, a little annoying for those waiting for some give in the going, it makes me feel guilty for enjoying it!!! But I’m sure when the rain comes we will all soon forget and winter racing will get into full swing.
The youngsters are doing very well and are all riding well, their schooling is coming along. The new school Hadden had made is proving to be a great asset, it’s a safe, quite place and they can really concentrate.
Of course it was great to have B’ back on Monday. As usual with racing no fairy tale comeback, but she came close! She looked very fit and was pleased how strong she felt, all that hard work in the gym over the last couple of months certainly paid off. She, of course is desperate to get back into the winner’s enclosure, as am I, nothing like a jockey that needs a winner…
The new stables are ready and will soon be delivered, that is very exciting, I can’t wait. It will cause a bit of turmoil as they are going in, but it will be worth it.
Hadden has settled into his new life in America, pictures and videos he has sent show a fantastic yard and facilities. Suzy, the show jumper, he took with him is still in quarantine but he can visit every day. He rode in a “Timber” race last weekend and won! Amazing riding to switch back to race riding after riding show jumpers. I guess it’s like riding a bike? Except you’re doing about 30 mph towards fixed timber fences!!!
Hope you are all well and see you soon!