Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Amateur rider diary: And the winner is....

"And the winner is...." Imagine, as an amateur rider, if you heard your name called out at the end of this sentence and at a national awards event. Well, Claire 'Tig' Abel did and here she recounts a very special evening at the Horse and Hound Awards after being nominated for the Pikeur Amateur Rider of the Year Award.

"A friend showed me the competition in Horse and Hound Magazine and asked if it was ok if she nominated me." explains Tig, who of course said yes. This year was the first time Horse and Hound ran the awards, which recognise equestrian heroes throughout the equine world. The Pikeur award recognises an amateur rider, who doesn't make a living from their passion, for their dedication to equestrianism. Nominations are accepted and then 5 riders are shortlisted. "The shortlisted riders are presented in Horse and Hound magazine before the award is decided through online voting. They ask you lots of questions for this feature, and I felt I gave rubbish answers so I didn't expect to get many votes!" The winning rider is decided from the online poll, which is open for public voting for 2 weeks. All 5 riders are invited to attend the evening awards party - this year held at Ascot Racecourse - and no-one knows who the winner is until they are announced on the night.

"I was absolutely convinced I hadn't got it," says Tig, who was sat at a table right at the back of the hall, about as far away from the stage as you could  get. "But, then someone else from the back won a prize, so I realised I might still be in with a chance and decided I'd better stop drinking!" Tig was also sure that the other winners already knew they had won their category, "because they all gave such brilliant speeches, and I thought they must have been primed - I hadn't prepared anything".

The moment arrived. "And the winner of the Pikeur Amateur Rider of the Year 2016 is....Dr Claire Abel!" As it happened, Tig's speech went well as the presenter asked her lots of questions. "Thinking back now, I thought it was odd that everyone I knew from Horse and Hound didn't come up and say hello all evening - it turns out they all knew I'd won and didn't want to spill the beans." Tig was presented with a beautiful glass trophy and will receive full competition and home outfits from Pikeur. To receive such a high profile award is fantastic achievement for any rider, let alone one who rides for pleasure. Well done Tig!

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Amateur rider diary: An international treat for Claire Abel

Meet Claire 'Tig' Abel, an amateur dressage rider based in Buckinghamshire. She currently owns 12-year old Roo (aka Rowan Magic) and 9-year old Coco (aka RoCoco). 'Amateur' doesn't really do this talented lady justice given her professional approach to  training and competing, which, by the way, she juggles around running her own accountancy business, AccountAbel. Here she shares her first experience of competing internationally when she was invited to compete Roo in Saumur.

In the UK, to ride internationally in dressage you need to achieve scores of 67% or more at Premier League level. Having qualified you then apply to British Dressage to be considered for selection. This year, for the second time in as many years, Tig and Roo  qualified to ride internationally at Prix St George and Inter1 levels. Having competed at a home international at Hartpury CDI last year, the pair were selected to ride this year in the beautiful location of Saumur, France."I put our names down for the CDI's at Le Mans or Samur, but I really wanted to go to Saumur, so I was chuffed to bits when we were chosen," explains Tig.

Tig decided to travel from Portsmouth to Caens. "I was the solo driver so I needed to keep the driving as minimal as possible." This ferry crossing is about 8 hours long, giving a total driving time of about 6 hours. And how did Roo find his first water crossing? "He shook the whole way there," says Tig. "They try to keep the horseboxes together at the ports, but you are in with all the freight traffic, so there's a lot of clanging and noise." She continues:"On the ferry, you have to be escorted by a member of staff if you're going to the horsebox, so it made it quite difficult to check on the horses." However, on the way back, Roo wore his 'ears' - the Equiline Soundless Earnet provides soundproofing and this seemed to resolve any anxiety issues. "Despite the challenges of the ferry trip, Roo unloaded at Saumur as fresh as ever and clearly knew 'he had arrived'!" she laughs.

How did Tig cope with her nerves given the grand occasion? She takes a big intake of breath before responding. "The atmosphere was incredible. The seating around the arena was quite high, so you felt like you were riding alone until the crowd applauds at the end. They even had a chandelier suspended above X!" What was the highlight? "O goodness, all of it!" she smiles. "I went into the first class [the Inter I] thinking I was just there to make up numbers, but when we came 5th out of 26, I had a bit more belief in what we could do." This meant they qualified for the final music class where they improved and were awarded 4th.

Click here for the video of Claire and Roo's performance.

Many of us daydream of riding internationally, but as amateurs, we often think this is an impossible dream. "A lot of people think they can't do it," agrees Tig. "But you have to believe in yourself and your horse. Aim high. Don't wait until you are absolutely foot perfect at any level either. Be brave and give that next level a go, otherwise you'll always talk yourself out of doing it."
Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Event groom diary: A season of highs and a career first

Jimmy & Crisy performing their circus trick - a kiss for a carrot
Meet Crisy Salmon, groom for international eventrider, Sarah Bullimore. Here she brings us up to date with her 2016 season - and what a season it has been.

Sorry for the long absence since my last post. It turns out I’m not very good at keeping up to date with blogging, but I see this as a good thing because now I can just summarise all the best bits from this season.

A new ride for me

Sadly, Jimmy, the lovely horse I had on loan, went lame over the summer. Injuries from general wear and tear that come with old age were diagnosed so we decided retirement was the best option. Fortunately, I found a replacement horse soon after. Lenny is my new ride and he’s working his socks off! He was certainly a tricky ride to start with and has tested my stick-ability (with mixed results), but we have a great bond and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.

And my first 4 star

Sarah & Lilly after the prize giving
Grooming wise, I had my first experience at a 4* event and where better than our ‘local’ event of Burghley with Reve Du Rouet.  But, before that career highlight, we had plenty of work to do earlier in the season.
The Bullimore Team started the year on a high out in Barocca D’alva (Portugal) and  I was thrilled to go out there for the final part of the competition.  Sarah achieved fantastic results, with Reve Du Rouet winning the CIC3* and Lilly Corinne coming 3rd in the CCI3*. All the hard work and preparation over winter had paid off! 
In May we headed to the beautiful venue of Houghton(Norfolk) where Sarah’s up and coming youngster, Corouet, competed in the Burghley Young Event Horse 5-year old class, and Valentino was entered in the CIC3* as a member  of the Nations Cup team. Well, Corouet strutted his stuff and won the class; a real boost just prior to the Burghley young horse final for which he’d already qualified.  Meanwhile, Valentino showed his great reliability by finishing on his dressage score of 44.1 to finish a respectable 7th
September arrived, and off we went to Burghley! Sarah took Blou, her Badminton horse. Now, crowds terrify Blou and he made himself a little famous for all the wrong reasons in the dressage arena at Badminton in the spring.   So, it was a nail biting moment for us all when Sarah entered the arena at Burghley. I was so proud of him when he held it together to give them a good score of 49.1.
Crosscountry morning dawned and, early on, the course was causing problems all over the place.  Yet again, I was incredibly nervous. So much so, that when Sarah and Blou set off, I couldn’t watch them on the screens. I stayed at the finish line listening to their progress via the commentary. It wasn’t until a week later that I finally watched  the cross country on catch up TV  and despite the first few fences being a bit sticky, Sarah and Blou  made it look so easy! Picking up 22 time faults put them in a good position overnight. Thankfully, the next day Blou was full of energy, fantastically sound, and ready for the show jumping. Unfortunately, the crowds got the better of him and he dropped out of the placings. Not the result we were hoping for, but from my point of view, I loved every minute of my first 4* and I know Sarah will be back. A great saying I overheard a rider say this year was, “to put it in the f**k it bucket and move on”, which I think applies to anyone who works with or rides horses - although I’m not sure there would be much in Michael Jung’s bucket!

Parties and celebrations

Part of an (interesting) fashion show
The most fun event of the year had to be Boekelo CCI3* in Holland at the beginning of October. Lots of parties! Every night there was social event including a BBQ and fashion show. After completing another tricky and testing crosscountry course, the whole trip was topped off by Lilly Corinne finishing on a great score of 54.9 and in 9th place.
We finished the season on another victory with Corouet winning the Novice class at Oasby (Lincolnshire). He didn’t do as well as we had hoped at Burghley in the young horse class, so this win confirmed he is good at his job and an exciting prospect for Sarah despite his size – he’s only  15.2hh!

New arrivals

Milo (left) & his sister Mira
This year we also welcomed into the world a colt and filly, both born thanks to embryo transfer from Lilly into two surrogate mares. Having twins is a bit of a miracle, so we are feeling very lucky. With Corouet being the oldest of the current youngster and doing so well, the future is even more exciting.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

IWMT 2017: The last hurrah!

After much thought and deliberation, I have decided that the Ian White Memorial Trophy (IWMT) 2017 will be our last. This event has been far more successful than I ever dared hoped thanks to the belief and support of so many people, not least the competitors.

Ian and Moose at Hambleden
The IWMT began in 2009, just over a year after my husband, Ian, died of a brain tumour. He was 42. In his memory, I wanted to give something back to the sport we had both been so passionate about. And, in particular, encourage amateur owner/riders like ourselves to go out there and enjoy eventing.

The first event went very well, and I swear the winner was heaven sent. Why? Well, she rode a dark bay mare who looked exactly like Willow, my mare at the time. A tudor rose had been stencilled onto her hindquarters, which appealed to this Lancashire lass, and her cross country colours were the same as mine - green. When I heard how she'd described her mare in her commentary notes, I could have written them myself about Willow. The day after her victory, she contacted me to explain that the reason she had entered the trophy section was because her young nephew had died of a brain tumour earlier that year. She said she had felt him beside her in spirit that day at Smiths Lawn. It gave us all goose bumps!

I could not have continued this event without my wonderful friends and family. Nor could I have done it without the backing of Smiths Lawn horse trials organiser, Tissie Reason. A regular reader of the Team White column I wrote at the time for Eventing Worldwide, Tissie was thrilled to be a key member of the trophy team. Part of the reason our section has remained so popular is thanks to our amazing sponsors, from top riders and trainers, including Piggy French, Gill Watson, Jonty Evans, Nigel Taylor and Robert Stevens, to businesses and organisations, including Equilibrium Trizone, Protexin Equine, Your Great Mind coaching (Elizabeth Hough), the Event Horse Owners Association (EHOA), Feel Good Forever aloe vera products (Crisy Salmon), Bossy's Bibs, NAF UK and Sarah Alexander (Alexander Technique lessons). Last but by no means least, the rider who completes the event with the highest score also wins a prize courtesy of Chester the Eventer and his owners, Cala and Garry Russell, who generously donate a box of Say It With Brownies.

Friends and supporters of IWMT
It is now time for me to move on as I feel my life is transitioning into another new and exciting phase. I know Ian would understand my desire to live in the 'here and now' and follow my dreams. After all, I witnessed his pain and anguish at knowing that he would never have the chance to fulfill all of his. On his behalf, I want to thank every one of our competitors who have been involved in this competition - we really couldn't do this without you. Here's to a successful final event - thank you to our sponsors for continuing their support to the final hurdle - see you in August at Smiths Lawn Horse Trials for the Cathean Ltd Owner/Rider section. For more information, see the event schedule on and

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Young horse diary: meet Baz

"I'm not looking for a 4-year old!" Well, that was the plan, as I searched for a new horse earlier this year.  And then a beautiful 4-year old found me - but, that's how it works with animals, isn't it? They find you.

And so it was with Baz (aka Hesterdora). Right from the first time we met, this stunning and affectionate bright bay gelding turned on the charm in the stable, wanting lots of fuss and attention. Under saddle he felt like he was totally 'with me' the whole time and I knew, after just one ride, that we would have fun together.

A few weeks later, he arrived at Hill Green Farm Livery. I could not have wished for a more sweet-natured, chilled out chap. Since his arrival he has brought untold joy, and I think he represents a new phase in my life, having no links with my past, only the here and now.

I've never brought on a horse this young before, so it's a steep learning curve for both of us, and I couldn't do it without the unwavering support from the Hill Green posse, and especially Gail and Grace Wilson. I must also thank experienced Dutch trainer and rider, Jeroen Hulsman and his talented team, who started Baz's training and have, therefore, made my life a whole lot easier!

In a short space of time, there have been many firsts - pole work, jumping, adventures to other arenas in the horsebox and having shoes fitted (thank you Bella Tschaikowsky and Adam Watts). And just to make sure I don't get too complacent, Baz suddenly turned rodeo star for a few moments last week just to remind me that he is only 4!

I'll keep you posted with our progress through future blog posts, and please share your own experiences of bringing on a young horse.

 Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Monday, 5 September 2016

IWMT2016: Meet our winner, Rachel Harris, the galloping vet!

Rachel receives the Ian White Memorial Trophy
Last year, Rachel Harris and her horse, Manor Mayhem (known as Wii to his friends), came within a whisker of victory as runners up in the Ian White Memorial Trophy (IWMT) at Smiths Lawn Horse Trials, Windsor. This year they reigned supreme with a double clear landing them the top spot and 5 penalties clear of the rest of the field. Here we find out a little more about Rachel and Wii.

Surrey-based Rachel fits her riding career around that of a small animal vet - no small challenge so every little bit of help is appreciated. 'I have a fairly flexible rota for 3 days of the week when I can ride and also at the weekends,' she explains. Being based at a livery yard where Wii is cared for while Rachel is out at work is also a huge support. 'I'm lucky to keep Wii at the amazing October Farm, which is a great set up owned by Barry and Karen Carter and run by [international eventer] Nici Wilson. They look after Wii so I can just concentrate on riding. They have great knowledge if I need advice too. Everyone at the farm is really helpful and it has a fantastic atmosphere. It's also very inspiring to watch them produce their jumpers and young horses which makes me keep wanting to get better.'

As with most eventers, the cross country phase is Rachel's favourite but she enjoys competing as a whole. 'I love having something to aim for and work towards.' And the biggest challenge? 'Plaiting Wii, as he fidgets backwards and forwards despite being cross-tied!'
Rachel and Wii on their way to victory at Smiths Lawn

So, how did Manor Mayhem and Rachel get together? 'I saw him advertised on Horse Quest - I think
it must have been fate because I told my mum that I was going to buy him before we'd even phoned up or seen him!' They travelled up to Yorkshire where he was based with his breeder, Janet Drake. 'We flew up from Heathrow to Leeds and bought him that same day.' This was in March 2015 so they are a relatively new partnership, but it's clear that Rachel adores him. 'He is a great horse, very easy and friendly. He's quite big being 17hh and half Shire.' He's cheeky too. 'He likes to put stuff in his mouth, especially my gloves!'

Last year the pair qualified for the BE90 Grassroots championship at Badminton, and Rachel would love to qualify again but at the BE100 level. 'I would like to then move up to novice and qualify to do a CCI*. Ultimately, I'd like to do a CCI* abroad - somewhere sunny.' 

Rosettes and trophy take pride of place at home!
The IWMT section is aimed at working owner/riders like Rachel, who juggle everyday life with their passion for eventing. Rachel shares her advice on how she manages to successfully event around everything else. 'I think being based somewhere with experienced and like-minded people, who all want each other to do well, has really helped me.' Good training is also key. 'Get the best training you can from someone who is positive - I've gone to [recently crowned Burghley winner] Chris Burton since having Wii and he's made me so much more confident and given me things to practise at home.' And what about keeping the motivation, especially during the bleak winter months? 'I found having a break from competing and taking it easy from the end of the season 'til after Christmas last year made me really keen to get out again this year, as I really don't like the winter weather!' 

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Making decisions: heart or head?

'I know it fits the brief, but it just doesn't feel right!' How many times have you heard this on the TV programme, Location Location Location and other property shows? No matter what it looks like on paper, most people know when they find 'their home' and it's usually accompanied by an emotional reaction which sends presenters, Kirsty and Phil, into an excitable spin. Yet many people would argue that you should use your head when making life-changing decisions like buying a house. So, how should you make decisions?

Recently, I've made a decision that goes against the advice of some experts I've consulted. Yes me - the ultimate conformist and people pleaser. Why? Because the choice I made felt right for me at that time. And, I believe the best decisions I've made in life have come from my heart. It's how I've found my animals - how else can you explain the arrival of Moose, a rather expensive souvenir of a holiday in Ireland? But, look at how much joy he brought? Similarly, when I tried Wilbur all my lofty ambitions about intermediate eventing melted as I grinned from ear to ear. I didn't care if we never jumped a stick again. In fact, buying a horse must be heart-felt because if we looked at how much they cost in money and time, surely no-one in their sane mind would buy one!

Then I look at the decisions I made with my head, and it's not such a happy tale. I did a University degree that, if I'm honest, didn't really make my heart sing. It was a choice based on advice from well-meaning career advisors, friends and family.  As a consequence, I started my working life as an unhappy research chemist. Thankfully, fate stepped in - I escaped the laboratory and pursued a career in clinical research which I loved because it played to all my strengths.  This, in turn, provided the opportunity to follow my passion of writing - technical and equestrian. And it's through combining writing and equestrianism that I found myself in the press tents at international three day events such as Badminton, Blenheim, and the Eventing Europeans in Fontainbleu, interviewing my heroes of the sport and seeing my work in print. Happy days!

When we follow our heart, we are actually taking note of our gut instinct. This inner voice, or our subconscious, knows all the answers we need to live our life well. However, it's often drowned out by the constant chatter we have going on in our heads. As Susan Jeffers says in her brilliant book, 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway', there are no right or wrong choices, just options with different outcomes and consequences. So, next time you have an important decision to make, by all means write down the pros and cons and do your research, but best of all, quieten your mind and tune in to what feels right for you, because then you'll be tapping into the heart of who you really are.

What decisions have you made using your heart or head and how have they turned out for you?

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.