A Horse Called Pigeon

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Thank You!!!

Posted by Alex on January 21, 2014 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy New Year all!

And a massive THANK YOU for nominating us in the 2014 Equestrian Social Media Awards!

We have been selected as a finalist in category 5 (Best Use of Social Media by an Amateur Horseperson). Please go VOTE for 'A Horse Called Pigeon' and all your favourites in the other categories too! Voting closes at 4pm (UK time) on the 7th February 2014... go on, do it now!


One step closer to that holiday intensive training and videoing trip on Grand Prix horses in Portugal!!!

Thank you so much in advance to everyone who takes the time to vote for 'A Horse Called Pigeon'... we are honoured to have you on Planet Pigeon! :-)


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Stop... ESMA Time!!!

Posted by Alex on December 9, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Anticipation flourishes today at Team Pigeon… It’s ESMA nominations time! Please help ‘A Horse Called Pigeon’ move closer to winning our first Equestrian Social Media Award in 2014. All you need to do is follow the link below and nominate us for one (or more, or all) of the categories we are included in (1, 5, 14 and 18) before December 20th. Category 5, Best Use of Social Media by an Amateur Horseperson, is the one we really want. I promise to take my helmet camera with me if I am lucky enough to win the training trip on Grand Prix horses in Portugal!!! Thank you so much in advance to everyone who takes the time to nominate ‘A Horse Called Pigeon’… I am honoured to have your horseome support! :-)



20.09.2013 - Beautiful Blenheim and a Busted Bonce

Posted by Alex on September 20, 2013 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I love September... The autumn leaves, blackberry picking, harvest moons and Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, the highlight of my British Eventing season. This famous 3 star event on my doorstep attracts eventing's biggest names to compete their established and younger horses. Away from the main competitions there's shopping, displays and demonstrations, and the Eventer Challenge aimed at the amateur rider which I had the honour of taking part in for the first time this year on the team for West Oxfordshire Riding Club!


Preparations for this competition started well with a couple of training sessions with show jump guru Joe Macdonald. But with a few weeks to go Pigeon put in a few uncharacteristic refusals while show jumping one day and my alarm bells began to ring. I had a physiotherapist friend check her over - definite sore spots through Pigeon's back and shoulders. I felt awfully guilty and decided that the first thing to get looked at was the saddle fit. First I had training with Sam Griffiths though so the prolite was dusted off to lift the front of Pigeon’s saddle. That seemed to help although Pigeon tired herself out by getting overly excited about poles on the ground and a cross pole and the new extra fluffy coat meant she was soon quite sweaty! With less than a week to go before B-day the saddle was sorted (as I had suspected it needed lifting at the front). I had a happy and fit horse... phew! Time to book Joe in for another lesson before Blenheim. Tuesday evening before the competition on Thursday morning - perfect!


Things started going wrong again on Tuesday morning... Cycling off to work as usual I came around a blind turn a little faster than I should to find another cyclist bearing down on me. I pulled to the left, he pulled to the right. There was no time to adjust course before our heads collided, his helmet putting a neat slice in my scalp (I really need to wear a helmet on my bike as well as when I'm on my horse)! I walked home all covered in blood (what a sight for the early morning commuters). On further examination I decided I should probably go to the hospital - being able to see your own skull is never a good thing! After a couple of hours in accident and emergency I was en route home, my head held together with medical glue (amazing stuff). My lesson with Joe that night was cancelled and Pigeon had another day off as I sat around feeling sorry for myself. My West Oxon teammates came to the rescue. 'How will I get my riding hat on?' I moaned. 'I’ll squash it on!' said Abi. 'And I'll bring superglue to stick you back together afterwards' said Tor. Those girls really are all heart!


As it turned out I could get my trusty old Dublin hat to slip on with ease (my new HS1 was far too tight to contemplate). I even managed to ride for half an hour without disturbing the wound. Cleaning Pigeon’s stud holes was trickier though! It was raining, it was dark. I had to clean the stud holes in Pigeon’s stable, with a head torch for light. The problem was that every time I leant over all the blood rushed to my head to cause it to throb painfully. I ended up on one knee hoping that Pigeon would not decide to suddenly kick out!


As soon as I got home that evening at around 8.30pm I had a call to let me know that my Grandmother had fallen down the stairs and no-one could get hold of my parents who were in France at the time. I eventually managed to get them on the phone and we heard at 10.30pm that my nearly 92 year old Grandmother had not pulled through (the coroner later confirmed that she had suffered a heart attack which caused her to fall). I was understandably upset and seriously considering pulling out of the competition the next day (I was due to be getting on the horse in 12 hours at this point). My Father talked me around though… I should not let this keep me from an event I have been looking forward to for so long. Decision made! I would man up and do it for my Nanny… ‘Now where did I put my tough girl eventer pants? I think I’m gonna need them!’


A few hours later I was at Blenheim with Pigeon (who was looking at the 3 star course with an enthusiastic expression… maybe next year Squidge). Seeing Joe Macdonald and my darling husband, Jon, in the warm up was a great relief. My anxiety (if not my fatigue) began to dispel. Joe was full of great advice as we walked the course (you can hear me repeat some of it in the helmet cam video). He orchestrated the warm up of all four team members in his usual calm controlled style. He knew what point each rider was at in their individual warm ups and Jon noticed riders from rival teams visibly relax in his presence! What a hero!


Pigeon warmed up really nicely and would most likely have gone clear if I had ridden well. I think she was on the best form I have known. It is such a shame that I was not on top form and let her down somewhat. Still considering the circumstance I did OK (and I’ll do better next year)… Four poles in the show jumping (three after I had turned too early to the fences) and a stop at the first lion (my fault again as I over checked Pigeon’s speed whereas I could probably have trusted her to jump; she was certainly locked onto the fence)! On the plus side our Riding Club chairman said I had the best line through the three fences in the middle of the arena of all the rounds she had seen (two angled hedges [one under a big tree] to a very skinny arrowhead). All four riders completed the course (Tor went clear, Mel contained a very keen Skye, and Maddy held it together when Boaty got one of the flags caught in his tail and dragged it around a section of the course). Thank you to Dodson and Horrell for sponsoring the event and providing pretty rosettes and goody bags for those not eliminated. When Jon (who ferries people about in golf buggies) told my childhood hero, Lucinda Green, that we had beaten our local rivals from Bicester Riding Club, Lucinda declared ‘yes’! Jon was merrily telling all the professional riders about me and Pigeon… hilarious! I should say a well done to Bicester though. It was the first year they qualified for this event so they did really well to complete. West Oxon where eliminated for many years of initially sending a team to Blenheim!


Friday of the Blenheim weekend is usually my day to walk the cross country course, watch some dressage and displays and have a reconnaissance of the shopping on offer. This year though I was exhausted on Friday (the miserable weather didn’t help either). I eventually got to Blenheim at 4 in the afternoon and just had a look around the trade stands then headed off to a party at local friend’s house.


Saturday and Sunday are working days. I volunteer every year as a crossing steward out on the course. It’s hard work being on your feet all day engaging with (and sometimes having to shout at) the public but it's always really good fun and very rewarding. This year on Saturday I was reunited with the dream team. The crossing up on the hill by fence 11 was expertly manned by me, with Sandy and Emily (who I know from previous years) and the legendary Mike (who I also worked with during the Olympics). We make a good team and worked together like a well-oiled machine on our very busy crossing point. Once the cross country was finished for Saturday I watched a bit of the all new Masters’ Challenge which was very entertaining. This saw a group of prominent hunt masters jumping a gate that was raised in height with each round. If a horse knocked the gate down or refused the fence the rider was given three options, retire from the contest, pay a fine to Macmillan Nurses, or remove an item of clothing… Let’s just say that Mike Jackson is rather buff and I might have to get him out for a couple of lessons with Pigeon!


All change again on Sunday. A new crossing point, and a new team (including my Riding Club teammate Maddy). This crossing point is a tricky one when the course runs clockwise as the horses appear quite suddenly out from the woods. Fortunately we had a radio to the previous fence who gave us ample warning that a competitor was on their way up to our crossing point. William Fox-Pitt stopped while he was walking the course to talk about the controversy that had occurred the previous day during the show jumping phase in the 8 and 9 year old CIC 3* class. William’s ride Freddie Mac and Sam Griffiths’ Favorit Z had been eliminated for jumping in hind boots that contained some elastic (such boots are prohibited by the FEI in young horse classes as they can be pulled tight to pinch the horse’s legs and so encourage a bigger jump). The issue came after these eliminations as officials went to the warm up and told various competitors that the boots they were using were not legal. Therefore those riders had the opportunity to remove said boots and continue in the competition unlike poor William who had already been eliminated and was refused an appeal! No wonder he was frustrated!! I’m sure the win with his other ride, Fernhill Pimms, went some way to making up for it. It was lovely to see him leading the victory lap for CIC 3* and I think Aoife Clark riding Fenyas Elegance was a very deserving first ever Irish winner of the CCI 3* - that woman is on fire this season!


So Blenheim is all done for another year and I suspect that my season is too. I will miss Swalcliffe next weekend as I have my Grandmother’s funeral. After that Jon and I are off to Greece for 10 days at the start of October. I think it’s time for Pigeon to get woolly and fat for winter and enjoy being a horse for a few weeks. I will try to get to a hunter trial or something in late October but much will depend on the ground and weather conditions! I will also try to get my Hack Cam – Harvest Special uploaded to YouTube before I go away – but no promises… I am still using my bicycle to get around :)


18.07.2013 - It's Too Damn Hot (as the song goes)

Posted by Alex on July 18, 2013 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

My inaugural blog finds Pigeon and I in unusual circumstances... This year in the UK we are actually having a summer!

While the masses are enjoying trips to the beach and punting on the river, the eventer (as well as the gardener and narrowboat dweller) in me is wishing for rain. The ground is like concrete so the fast work to keep Pigeon cross country fit has come to an end for now, and I dare not enter any competitions until the ground has softened off a bit! How do eventers in Australia and New Zealand cope?

We have managed to get out to one event this month. The area 18 riding club horse trials qualifier on July 7th at Sapey in Worcestershire was a warm one but a fun one! We went to this event the day before and stayed overnight as the venue is far far away from home (and we were travelling on hilly twisting roads in a lorry with a dodgy clutch containing a tonnes worth of horses). The horses’ accommodation came via a team member who had grown up in the area and had friends who could take another four horses in their private yard. Phil was very welcoming, being instantly on hand when we arrived with buckets of water and sponges to wash our hot sweaty ponies off and buckets of tea for the hot sweaty competitors! Pigeon stayed in a light and airy American style barn with lots of other horses around to chat to during the night and even the company of a chicken in the stall’s feed manger (‘did you hear the one about the chicken and the pigeon’ jokes come to mind)… Our accommodation was less glamorous – a pile of rugs and a sleeping bag in the back of the horsebox! At least Abi and I had separate rooms (in that we put the partition across), and we went to a great local pub for a late dinner which was very tasty and surprisingly cheap.

It was an early start the next day so we could walk the course together and watch the one competitor entered as an individual go round. Much tea was drunk, horses were polished (Pigeon decided to lie down in her poo overnight of course), plaited and loaded. And we slowly headed off on those twisty hills again. Our team were unlucky to all be riding around lunchtime in the intense heat! Pigeon and I were first up and kicked the team off by making a real mess of the dressage! It was pure damage limitation as Pigeon decided the arena was super scary, with the cows in the field about a mile away and a small group of people watching… I came away on a sweaty wound up pony that I was tempted to put back on the lorry for the day. (‘You are not going show jumping. You are not going cross country. You are going home and to bed without any dinner missy’ said Alex). But she (and my sense of humour) recovered quickly so I decided to give the show jumping a shot. And I am glad I did – we went clear, hurrah (video here)! Another clear around the cross country track just a little over the optimum time (video here) and we were done. Time to wash off, drink water and take a walk around. Overall the team came in third place – a greatly improved result compared to last year although not enough to qualify for the national championships in August (only the top team go through). There are a few photos from the weekend on the photos page!

In other news we have started show jump training with Joe MacDonald, a young show jumper based with eventer Julie Tew in Gloucestershire. I have only had one lesson with Joe so far but I was really pleased with his quiet calm manner and different approach compared to previous trainers. I have booked another session next week so more soon on this as we prepare for the Riding Club Eventers’ Challenge at Blenheim International Horse Trials in September (yikes)!

Friday the 19th will find Pigeon and I having another go at Novice 24 in a small dressage competition at home (because I love dressage so much)!

I hope you are all happy and well. Do get in touch if you have any questions, comments, complaints or suggestions!

Greenwich Park, London 2012 Olympics - A Gamesmaker's Perspective

Posted by Alex on July 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It seems unbelievable that I applied to volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics nearly than three years ago and now it is all over!

Although I was delighted to have been accepted I must admit to being disappointed to hear that I would be working in print distribution (sounded a bit close to my usual job). My optimism returned though when I was told that I would be based at Greenwich Park where the equestrian events were to take place!

As it turned out print distribution was one of the best jobs I could have hoped for! Our team was responsible for photocopying and delivering various reports (such as start lists and results) around the park to our many 'clients' (venue management, the press, media and sports info for instance). The role necessitated a high level of access so we got brilliant ‘all area’ accreditations. We tended to be busy just before and after the competitions so we could spend the rest of the time watching the sport from the stands!

And what sport we had to watch!

My first shift was cross country day which was unusual in that the whole park was in use rather than just the stadium. I spent the morning in the main print room (with windows a couple of metres from the warm up arenas) and the afternoon in a temporary print room on the cross country finish where the horses were being cooled off and checked over. There was also a TV room here for the competitors to watch the action - so we got very close to all the big names!

Although I was not on duty to see the silver medal awarded to the GB eventing team, I returned for the start of the jumping and then worked every day until the final medal for the women’s modern pentathlon was awarded.

The atmosphere of excitement seemed to grow everyday in Greenwich. You knew when a GB rider had finished their show jumping round or dressage test by the sound of thunder (23, 000 people stamping their feet) and the screams of applause... before long we had Mexican waves that went around and around the stands until Mike Tucker, on site commentator, had to intervene! The emotion in the venue by the time we got to Charlotte Du Jardin's freestyle dressage to music was tangible and I don't believe there was a dry eye in the house when we heard 'Land of Hope and Glory' and the chimes of Big Ben – a triumph for British Dressage and waterproof mascara! In many ways it was a relief to move onto the modern pentathlon - I doubt my heart could take anymore equestrian events and I was well and truly out of tissues!

What an experience; I witnessed history in the making, made some great new friends and have been overwhelmed by the public’s support and gratitude to all the Gamesmakers… Roll on Rio 2016 - I should have the YouTube montage ready by then!