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.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

IWMT 2016: Another successful event at Smiths Lawn Horse Trials

Winner, Rachel Harris, receiving her prizes from Kathryn & Louise
 It wasn't just the sunshine providing the heat at Smiths Lawn horse trials, Windsor, the competition for the Ian White Memorial Trophy was hot too, with the top 5 riders all completing on sub-30 scores.

Rachel Harris and Manor Mayhem led the field from the start, posting an unbeatable dressage score of 24.5, with no extra penalties to add after the final phase. "We entered this section last year as our first BE100 and came second, so it was amazing to go one better this year!" Rachel also commented on the lovely atmosphere of the competition saying, "we really like the encouraging feel this section gives to amateur riders plus the whole event at Smiths Lawn is great and really friendly." Rachel wins a training session with top trainer, Gill Watson, as well as lots of other goodies from our wonderful sponsors.

Just 0.6 of a penalty separated the next 4 riders with Giselle Mackinlay (Dark Spirit) taking the runner-up prize (29.3 penalties), followed by Olivia Mitchell (Woodland Lad) in third, on a score of 29.5. Fourth placed Jessie Vanassche and her stunning horse, Da Vinci II, finished on 29.8 and are a familiar combination in this class, having been the IWMT champion it last year. Their impeccable turnout won Jessie the Willow trophy for the second year running.
Willow trophy winner: Jessie Vanassche

The Moose trophy, awarded to the combination closest to the optimum time across country, went to 11th-placed Amanda Brettle on Ysgwynfawr Fergus - every commentator's nightmare!

And, as has become a tradition in the IWMT class, there are no losers; Gina Weare on Youghal Grey Boy, will receive a box of brownies from Chester the Eventer and his owners, Cala and Garry Russell. Gina and 'Louey' sadly parted company at fence 10 but thanks to Louey's 'quick thinking', Gina was able to remount and complete the course. "He waited for me, very conveniently next to one of the driving obstacles, so we even had a mounting block." But, perhaps eventing is not Louey's first love, as Gina explained. "Louey is looking forward to the winter when he can go and do his proper job of jumping big hedges with the Mid Surrey Farmers Draghounds, and doesn't have to do stressage and pole vaulting!"

A huge thank you, as always, to our fabulous sponsors, who provided the fantastic goodie bags to 10th place.
This year they were: Protexin Equine, Gill Watson, Equilibrium Products, Elizabeth Hough of Your Great Mind Coaching, Nigel Taylor from Aston-le-Walls horse trials, Crisy Salmon of Feelgood Forever, and Sarah Alexander (alexander technique teacher/craniosacral therapist). Not forgetting the lovely Tissie Reason and her super team at Smiths Lawn horse trials, who have supported the Memorial Trophy class since our first year in 2009.

A special thank you must also go to Bradley Hall of Running Fox Event Catering who kindly gave me and my support team (Liz Bonnieman, Dawn Bentley, Alison and Eleanor Dexter and Louise Leverton from Protexin) free bacon butties (delicious they were too, I might add) while we were judging the best turned out prize, donating the proceeds to our charity this year,  Brain Tumour Research.
Judging the best turned out with the help of our canine friends!
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, 2 August 2016

Girl power: Gail and Grace Wilson ride high on their talented mares

Mares don't always get a good press largely due to hormonal issues linked to moodiness and behavioural problems, particularly when they are out competing. However, there are many mares out there bucking the trend and achieving success in the various equestrian disciplines.  Mother and daughter team, Gail and Grace Wilson, have enjoyed some fantastic dressage results with their mares and don't believe they present any more challenges than geldings if handled correctly.  Here they share their insights into riding and competing their mares:

Grace and Big Grace! Photo: Kevin Sparrow
Farantie (aka Olive) is ridden by Gail. She is 6 years old by Negro out of Garantie by Grande Cru and Gail has owned her since she was 6 months old
Giovanna (Grace) is ridden by Grace and is known as 'Big Grace' to save any confusion with the rider! She is 5 years old and is by Glocks Johnson out of Zepety (by Rhodium). Grace has had her since she was a weanling.

Were you looking for mares specifically?
Gail explains, "we were looking for youngsters of either gender." "Who were well bred," adds Grace.
What are the best things about owning and competing a mare and is it any different to owning/competing a gelding?
Both agree that the quirks they see are not gender-related, but due to personality differences, though Gail adds, "Olive thinks she is a stallion sometimes, which is quite amusing - she arches her neck and grows a few inches taller when she sees other horses. I tend to ignore her antics and canter on!"
Gail and Olive under the watchful eye of their Dutch instructor, Jeroen Hulsman
Age is another factor, as Grace explains, "I don't think, in my experience, that owning and riding a mare is any different to competing a gelding. Big Grace is a young horse so we have green moments, as you'd expect. She has been tricky to do some things, like loading onto the horsebox, but she's brilliant now. Oh, and she can trash a rug in 3 seconds if it's not tough enough! She's just a princess really. At 17.3hh, it's not so much the hormones that are the issue, but the size and she grows even bigger if she doesn't  like something."
Grace relaxing at home
What top tips would you offer other riders considering buying/competing a mare, or who may own a mare and are having problems?
"When buying any horse, I really don't think the sex matters - you need to look at conformation, education and behaviour. If someone is having a problem with a mare, I would get them to consider a few things, assuming the horse is sound and otherwise in good health: hormone supplements have helped a few mares I have known to cope with day-to-day life. I would also ensure you set boundaries early on to avoid the horse becoming the boss, although this would be true for a gelding as well," suggests Grace. Gail agrees, adding, "it's really important to consider the combination of horse and rider and look at factors such as training level and age. If you're having issues, try and understand the root cause of the problem".
Gail and Olive competing at the Hickstead Masters; photo: Bonnie Bubbles Rug Wash
What are you top achievements to date with Olive and Grace, and what are your hopes for their future?
"Olive came 3rd in the Badminton Qualifier as a 4-year old and did well in the International Dressage Horse Qualifiers as a 6-year old, coming 6th. We qualified for the Hickstead Masters this year and at the final we got a brilliant mark of 69+%, finishing 10th. We've also qualified for this summer's BD Regionals at novice level. As far as the future is concerned, only time will tell. She will go as far as good health, training and natural ability lets us and then we will breed from her to produce youngsters for Grace to ride."
"My top achievements with Grace have been getting to the 4-year old finals at Hartpury, and winning the Shearwater Qualifier at Quainton Stud, which qualified us for the 5-year old Shearwater Semi-finals at Hartpury this year where we finished 12th. We too have qualified for the summer novice Regionals and we came 12th in the novice class at the  Hickstead Masters. My ambitions are to continue her training up the levels and see how far we can go, and then maybe she can have a foal, but with a pony stallion!"
Gail and Grace are based at Hill Green Farm Livery in Wigginton near Tring. Gail is available for lessons on your own horse or on one of her schoolmasters.
Equilibrium Products are celebrating mares and have recently launched a delicious 2-in-1 feed supplement, Simplymare, designed to support your mare's temperament and promote great condition all year round. To join in the conversation go to their website and share your mare stories #celebrateyourmare

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.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Meet vet Nikki from Farr&Pursey Equine Veterinary Services

Rick and Nikki at their practice in Aldbury
Farr & Pursey Equine Veterinary Services have only been in business just over a year and already they are building an excellent reputation. Set up in February 2015 by Nikki Pursey and her colleague, Rick Farr, they are gaining a great client base thanks to their dedicated and personalised service. Here we find out more about Nikki and what her ambitions are for the practice.

"As a child I was completely pony mad and knew I wanted to be around them, but I also loved science and discovering how things work." Becoming a vet seemed the perfect way to combine Nikki's two passions in life. "I did my first work experience at 13 as I was not quite sure how I'd handle the more gory aspects of the job!" She loved it and from then on was totally focused on what she wanted to do. Her determination paid off when, in 2007, she  qualified from Cambridge University.

Having gained valuable experience working at other veterinary practices, Nikki, along with her veterinary colleague, Rick, decided to launch their own equine business, and Farr & Pursey was opened in February 2015. "We set up Farr &Pursey because we wanted to deliver a much more personal service tailored to our clients' need," explains Nikki. Knowing that many horse owners don't want to travel their horses to receive veterinary care, Farr &Pursey have invested in the most up-to-date diagnostic equipment so they can provide a mobile service without their customers having to travel anywhere. "Having more control over the diagnostic tests we can perform and which drugs/treatment protocols we can use is really important to us so we can give the best care we can to our patients and maximise the changes of a successful outcome."  Farr &Pursey is now 16 months old and Nikki cannot believe how far they have come in such a short time. "I would like to see us cementing ourselves as one of the leading practices in the area; providing top class veterinary care whilst maintaining a personal touch with our clients."

Despite the long hours and challenges of running a business, Nikki is as enthusiastic as ever about being a vet. "There are a few things that make this the best job in the world. No two days are the same and you never stop learning because there is always a new drug coming out or a new diagnostic test to get to grips with; it keeps you on your toes! I love the contact I have with my clients and getting to know them and their horses. Lots of people enter the profession without ever really considering that an animal is unlikely to walk through your door without an owner attached but I really enjoy that human interaction - especially when they provide tea and cake!"

Nikki and her beloved Satch
And, as a fellow horse owner, Nikki can apply her own experiences and empathise with clients when their horses are ill. "I started riding when I was 4 and had my first pony, Mouse, on loan at 10. Satch was the first pony I owned and we spent many a weekend at Pony Club camp and competitions. Over the years, Satch amassed a few ailments such as colic and Cushing's disease, which means I've been on the other side of the vet/client relationship. We sadly lost him last month so I also know what it is like to make that final agonising decision and just how important it is that we handle it sensitively as the vet."

So, what does the future look like for Farr & Pursey? "We already have some of the best diagnostic equipment in the area and I would like to see this expand further. We also hope to take on a couple of other vets in due course to make out-of-hours cover a little less draining for the two of us, but we don't want to become a big practice and lose the personal touch. In time we may build a clinic base, but I never want to lose our ability to bring the service to our clients' yards."  As a client of Farr & Pursey myself, I can highly recommend them as a veterinary practice - Nikki and Rick are personable and knowledgeable veterinary professionals who really do care about both the animals and their owners.

Next time: Nikki shares her experience of what ailments seem to be on the rise, and what owners can do ensure their horse receive the best veterinary care.

 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, 26 June 2016

Badminton Grassroots: a first-timer's experience

Jessie Vanassche was the winner of the Ian White Memorial Trophy in 2015. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength. In May, she travelled to the hallowed turf of Badminton to compete in the BE90 Grassroots Championships for the first time..and she did rather well! Here she tells of her experience.

Although course walks with professional riders were offered, Jessie followed her trainer's instruction and walked the crosscountry track first with her mum and then on her own. This helped her to 'get in the zone and fully concentrated on the job in hand'. There was also a crosscountry app available for download which Jessie found helpful for reminding her of the course throughout the preparations. On the eve of the event, everyone gathered together for welcoming drinks and this proved to be a very special moment for Jessie. 'I chatted with both Mary and Emily King about the competition ahead!'

The day of the event dawned. 'Considering I was riding at Badminton, I felt surprisingly calm', explained Jessie. While she walked the course one more time,  her mum and friend Heidi smartened up DaVinci and the rest of her support team arrived over from the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, Jessie's trainer/cousin Sarah Holmes couldn't make it, but her aunt came instead to help Jessie and DaVinci warm up. 'Having her there definitely helped my performance on the day as I was so relaxed.'

Jessie was a little concerned about how DV would react to the dressage arenas given there were flowers, signs and flags everywhere. 'But much to my delight, he must have known it was an important day because he didn't look at anything and stayed on my side throughout the whole test. We finished with a score of 25.3!' After watching how the crosscountry course was riding for her fellow competitors, Jessie and DV focused on the showjumping phase and the pair put in a fantastic performance to jump clear. 'DV jumped brilliantly considering the course was up to height and had been built in a way which I knew could potentially catch us out. Hearing the cheer of my supporters as we went through the finish put a massive smile on my face knowing we were through to the last phase on 25.3.'

On the way to crosscountry, Jessie knew she was in the top 5, but she had to push that to the back of her mind to fully concentrate on the next task. 'As I got to the start I had goosebumps all over at the thought of riding around the famous Badminton Estate. I knew I would need to attack every fence, especially the water as it was early on in the course (fence 5) and that's where the crowds would be.' DV gave her a super ride round and as they came over the finish line, Jessie checked her watch to find they had completed dead on the optimum time. 'I jumped off to a hug from mum knowing we  had done the best we could - finally, the hard work had paid off.' After cooling DV, Jessie heard the news that they had come second. 'I don't there were many dry eyes in my little support group, I was thrilled.'

The prize giving was performed in front of Badminton House. The top 6 riders were escorted down to the house to wait for the 4* trot up to finish before being called forward. 'When I entered the prize giving, Mary King spotted me and gave me a thumbs up, how cool is that?' laughs Jessie. Straight after the prize giving, Jessie was taken over to the media centre to attend a press conference along with the winner. 'I got back to the lorry to find the celebration drinks had already started flowing and DV was tucked up in bed for the night.'

'It has all been slightly unreal and it took a good week after for it to even sink in.' Jessie and DV now hope to qualify again but this time at BE100 level. And a top tip for those who qualify next year? 'You can only do what you can do. Don't put yourself under pressure because it's Badminton; treat it as any other event and enjoy.'

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.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Another layer of the onion is peeled: moving on after losing a life partner

As we near what would have been Ian's 50th birthday, I feel another milestone is reached and a new phase is starting.
 A good friend of mine likened the process of grief as peeling the layers of an onion. Not that the grief diminishes, it's just that with each phase, or layer, you learn something new and move on. For anyone going through the loss of a life partner, whether it be through bereavement or divorce, it is a significant and traumatic event that shatters your life, future and self-confidence into tiny, heart-wrenching fragments.  Here's my story so far and what I've learned.

When Ian died, lots of people kept telling me: 'You're so young - you will find someone else'. They meant well, but I was horrified at the thought. Ian was my soulmate; we met when I was 19, and we were going to grow old together. Why would I now want to be with anyone else? No, I was quite happy being by myself with my memories as company, thank you very much. And, to my shame, I judged other widows who had found happiness with someone else...

Then, quite unexpectedly, I too met someone and realised that being with another man was possible - that it wasn't a case of 'replacing Ian' - I could love again in a new and different way. But the guilt of moving on never left me. It always felt like there were 3 people in that relationship. Fortunately, my partner was incredibly understanding and supportive, and we had a fun-filled 6 years together. 

Looking back, I went into that relationship feeling vulnerable and in need of being loved - more than I cared to admit - and I always felt like I was 'Ian's widow'. When we parted ways earlier this year, I emerged feeling stronger from having had that experience. I feel happy to be me - not as anyone's partner, wife or widow - but plain old me. And it feels good! My wedding rings have been removed from my finger and stored carefully with love. There are no shrines to Ian in my home, but pictures of us competing our horses remain on the walls to depict the amazing experiences I had with a very special man. Experiences that form a significant part of my past. And, what really matters is what is in my heart. No-one can ever take my memories away, and no-one will take away the love Ian and I shared.

I feel hopeful about the future. I know now that I can be happy either on my own or with someone new. I am a strong, capable, independent woman either way. I am me, and I no longer feel the same guilt about moving on with my life. Ian helped me to understand the power of opening up my heart and letting someone in - however vulnerable that can make us feel at times. I haven't got here on my own either. I have had, and continue to have, the love of my friends and professional support from counselors and coaches. It's through this professional framework that I have discovered who I really am, and I no longer hold the belief that I am weaker for wanting someone to share my life in the future  - it doesn't have to mean I am any less independent (or stubborn!).  I don't think many of us can journey through life and take the knocks without professional guidance.

None of us are perfect either - and that's ok too. I have had my fair share of wobbly days when I want to scream at the unfairness of it all, and need to remain under my duvet and weep. It's all part of the process, and I am ready to peel another layer of that onion of grief.

I am ready to seize life in this new phase, single or not, and enjoy living it my way, as me.

I would love to hear your stories of rebuilding your life after a significant event. Please feel able to share.
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.