On the 8th December, event rider Nick Gauntlett hosted an amazing open day for the winners of the 2013 Likit Pony Club Open Eventing League. As you will see from the video, we were fortunate to have bright and sunny weather for our visit and Nick's team had laid on plenty of hot drinks, soup, sandwiches and cakes which helped keep out the winter chill!
Nick was full of praise for the Pony Club and also Likit for its support of the League, saying: "As a past member of the Beaufort Hunt Pony Club, I can honestly say that, without the Pony Club, I wouldn't be doing what I do today. The Pony Club gave me great tuition and helped me make friendships that still stand today. With that in mind I think it's important that riders give something back as they make their way through the ranks. It's great that Likit are sponsoring this series and that the Pony Club are putting these schemes together."
Nick started out by taking us on a tour of his indoor stable block and explained that Astier Nicolas and Tiana Coudray also have stables on the farm. It was noticeable that Nick's horses were all extremely settled - and keen to get their share of cuddles as we made our way through the barn. Head girl, Annabelle James told us that she likes to maintain a quiet atmosphere in the yard to keep the horses relaxed. Nick expanded on this by saying that a lot of thought went in to designing the yard so that the stable area is more peaceful.
Star of the yard is Grand Manoeuvre, a chestnut who looked suitably pleased to be the centre of attention. Nick showed us the grooming bay, horse walker and hydrotherapy spa while Annabelle tacked up Grand Manoeuvre for the ridden demo. In the arena, the Likit banners caused a few moments of excitement but the horse soon settled in to his work and Nick talked us through his schooling session and the areas he is working on to improve the horse's dressage scores - not least getting the horse to "take a deep breath and relax".
Nick joined us for lunch before bringing out the 7 year old, Carden Earl Grey. As Nick anticipated, this horse found both the Likit banners and the audience to be hugely exciting but again, he soon settled in - although his high jinx throughout the session provided caused a few giggles. The afternoon session focused on jumping and Nick showed how he likes to play with striding and angles, saying, "Allowing the horses to play a little bit and think for themselves when jumping helps them learn to get out of difficulty when faced with a problem."
At the end of the day, Nick presented Likit rugs, rosettes and prize vouchers to our winners before we all headed off in our respective directions; no doubt pondering how the lessons we had learned could be put in to practice with our own horses when we got home.