BLOG: Nicola FitzGibbon
It has been a while since my last blog, so I’ve got plenty of news to share with you all! My horses are well and truly out of their winter hibernation and having had a good break, they are shaping up well for the season ahead.
The weekend before last I competed my seven-year-old mare Penny Lane in her second 1.35m HSI/Bluegrass Spring Tour class and she jumped brilliantly, finishing fifth with a double clear round. Astilbe B has still a few more training rounds to go before he will be ready to compete at that level and my new young rides for the year, Bodessa (a six-year-old mare by Ulysses) and Triomphe Kervec (a five-year-old stallion by Kannan), are both beginning to compete at their respective levels now also.
Bodessa is owned by dressage rider Judy Reynolds, who recently made the move to Edouard de Rothschild's Paris yard to team up with Jessica Kürten. Together they will be training de Rothschild towards the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
I recently switched all my horses onto a new feed thanks to Connolly’s Red Mills, which is the Horse Care range, a specially formulated feed which helps prevent a build-up of gastric acid and muscle stiffness. This is great for Penny Lane, as she has a tendency to suffer from gastric ulcers and she certainly seems to be in top form since she began her new diet!
Skipping back to before Christmas, I spent a week training at Rolf-Gӧran Bengtsson’s and Bo Kristofferson's yard in Germany; an amazing experience by all accounts! The professionalism and thoroughness of every single member of their team, as well as Rolf's talent and genius, leaves no doubt as to why he shot up the world rankings to number one.
Then at the beginning of the new year I spent a few weeks practicing for my HGV test, miraculously passed, and headed off to Florida the following day for more training; this time with John Brennan and Missy Clarke in Palm Beach. The number of Irish out there was unbelievable! It was almost like being at a lovely warm, sunny show in Ireland; every day I bumped into someone Irish I hadn't met before. I also came across an old friend, Looping Star, who is now competing successfully in the junior (under 18 years old) jumper classes.
The show scene in Palm Beach is a completely different world and it was great to experience it, but I did miss the more relaxed attitude that the Irish have towards competing! The training from Missy was a wonderful opportunity for me and an interesting insight into the American forward seat of riding. I was even given the chance to compete the horse that I mostly trained on, for which I was very grateful; it's not the easiest to get into the ring over there without your own horses!
Horseware Ireland was title sponsor during one of the weeks I was in Palm Beach and the MacGuinness family were all out to oversee operations. It was through Tom and Lorraine MacGuinness that I was introduced to Jessica Newman, founder of JustWorld International.
JWI is a charity which helps provide education for disadvantaged children in different parts of the world; their mission being to help break the cycle of poverty through education and support programmes. When I discovered the projects the charity was working on, I was keen to become a rider ambassador to help promote and raise their profile.
The JWI ambassadors are all members of the equestrian world and include some well-known riders such as Kevin Staut, Laura Kraut and Luciana Diniz. I also learned that the JWI annual fashion show fundraiser, presented by Horseware Ireland, was to be held the following month and so I was keen to return to help out with that. It also coincided with the Nations Cup weekend, so it was great to be there to cheer on the Irish who really turned in a very strong performance.
The Strut! For a JustWorld fashion show was a brilliant event and a great crowd attended and really got into the swing of things. It was amusing that the models (mainly competitive equestrians) got attacked by nerves before their short walk down the runway and yet they'd all have jumped a Grand Prix track without a second thought!
I found it somewhat comforting that the clothes were all from equestrian lifestyle ranges; I wore the super-smart Pessoa by Horseware competition look, one of the brands which I am fortunate enough to be sponsored by here in Ireland.
The biggest crowd-pleaser of the evening was the charity auction, where a polo lesson with Mike Azzaro (an American polo legend!) and a date with Swedish rider Daniel Zetterman were up for grabs. Overall the event raised over $10,000, so it was a huge success! If you'd like to learn more about the JustWorld charity and their projects, or make a donation, check out their website www.justworldinternational.org.
So that's all for this time. A few slightly quieter weeks lie ahead for me now; my aims for the next while will be getting the young horses up to speed, a serious yard spring clean, new arena plans and a continuing search for some more experienced horses to ride. You never know what's around the corner, so hopefully I'll have some excitement to report in a few weeks' time!
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