Category Archives: Equine

THE STORY OF DREAM ALLIANCE GALLOPS TOWARDS THE SILVER SCREEN: ELAINE PEARCE TALKS TO TRAINER PHILIP HOBBS

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle”, Winston Churchill once famously remarked.

That rings true for many of us and none less so than Minehead’s famous couple, Sarah and Philip Hobbs of Sandhill Racing Stables.

Philip was raised on his family’s farm with homebred racehorses which his father trained. He proved to be a successful jockey from a young age and competed with his Pony Club team in the Prince Philip Games. He took to showjumping (and he was later to compete successfully at Hickstead).

But little did 13-year-old Philip realise that the 11-year-old girl he was competing against at Exford Show was to be his future wife, Sarah. It was the Puissance competition and with four rounds already jumped they were the only two remaining competitors.

“My father asked Sarah’s father if we could share the prize money. (Sarah’s father, incidentally, was the famous late Bertie Hill, Olympic Gold Medallist and the first British rider to compete in three equestrian Olympiads and probably best known for partnering the Queen’s horse, Countryman to Olympic Gold in 1956 at Stockholm). Our ponies had already competed in several other classes and my father thought they had done enough. It was agreed and we had to share the £6 first prize!”

Even their ponies were (unintentionally) related. “My pony was a 14.2hh piebald (black and white) pony called ‘Anything’, who jumped into a field with a yearling TB filly and produced Sarah’s skewbald (brown and white) pony called ‘Simon’!”

Philip enjoyed a spell of riding winners at point-to-points and then rode first as an amateur jockey before turning professional at the age of 21. Life-threatening injuries go with the territory but in Philip’s case there was nothing too serious. He was race riding with the likes of Paul Nicholls and Jonjo O’Neill, both of whom are now highly successful trainers.

Around this time Sarah was living with her family at Great Rapscott, near South Molton, following in her father’s footsteps by representing her country in the European Junior Championships in Rome and riding successfully in three-day events. When she wasn’t eventing she was enjoying riding in point-to-points.

Philip and Sarah married in1982 and Philip’s career as a trainer began in 1985 with six horses. North Yard was the very first horse that he sent out. Not only did he win but he was ridden by Philip, and out of his first eight runners came another five winners.

“I organised Sarah some rides under National Hunt Rules and she actually won on our first-ever flat race on a horse called ‘Aswamedh’. She also rode several winners over hurdles before starting our family.”

The success continued; Philip is now recognised as one of the best trainers in the country, having 111 horses in training. There are, however, two people who are not greatly impressed: namely Philip and Sarah’s two little grandsons, two-year-old Hubert and four-year-old Ernest, who show no interest whatsoever in racing or watching Grandpa (or Grandma) on TV!

We are all having to come to terms with the  Coronavirus situation. The very day that I was speaking with Philip, he should have been on his way to Aintree, for the Grand National meeting.

“You must be hugely disappointed?” I asked him. Philosophically, he replied, “Well, I don’t feel so bad, knowing that all the other trainers are in the same boat and it is not just me who is in lockdown. In fact, I feel sorry for the small businesses and such like as they will find recovery very hard.”

And as for ‘racing behind closed doors’? (that was when, for a short time, horse racing in the UK was closed to spectators with limited attendees). “Well, I found that to work very well”. But it didn’t last, and Philip, with his members of staff, now reduced to 14, are preparing the horses for their summer holidays.

I asked Philip what he thought were the qualities of a good trainer and he said, very definitely, “organisation”! I must admit I had been pondering how on earth one could manage not only 111 horses in training (= 111+ owners to keep informed!), which races to run them in and, as if that weren’t enough, overseeing the daily writing-up of the ‘white board’ (the lists stating which staff member, or stable jockey, is going to ride which horse), noting the health of each, and myriad other things besides. And, of course, the training programme!

“You must have a good empathy with horses and an understanding of the different personalities of each. But nothing beats experience and that only comes with training many horses that, over time, throw up a variety of problems… but I would say that as I get older!

“When it comes to feeding the horses, science doesn’t seem to have played much part in improving a horse’s performance. It all comes back to knowing your horses as individuals.”

One of the best-known among Philip’s horses was Dream Alliance, who came to his yard as a four-year-old, having been born on an allotment in Wales. During the five years that he was with Philip he won the Welsh Grand National. It was a rags-to-riches dream come true and a documentary called ‘Dark Horse’ was made about him. Now a feature film, entitled ‘Dream Horse’, has been made of the story and it has many Welsh connections, with Euros Lyn directing. Damian Lewis and Toni Collette take the title roles.

Dream Horse trailer

It was filmed at Newbury, Chepstow and Aintree racetracks, with the horses being provided by Wales’ top trainer, Tim Vaughan, and another four or five from a company called ‘Devil’s Horsemen’. This company supply the film industry with horses, one of which is the Lloyds Bank’s famous ‘Black Horse’.

Tim’s facilities at Pant Wilkin were used, even his bedroom! His Assistant Trainer, Robbie Llewellyn, supervised their horses whilst the company oversaw the racing scenes, in which Tim’s stable staff and his two stable jockeys, Charlie Price and Alan Johns, delighted in participating. It was very exciting for Tim and Abbi’s children, especially for 12-year-old Edward who is a champion pony racer in his own right and for 11-year-old Grace, who took the Reserve Champion Show Hunter Pony at last year’s Horse of the Year Show at the NEC.

In common with Philip’s grandsons, Tim’s youngest, six-year-old Henry, prefers to play with tractors.

“The film should’ve come out a week or so ago, in America,” said Philip, “but it has been delayed by the Coronavirus.”

Philip and Sarah much enjoyed the preview, although Philip did find it a little strange to find himself on the big screen being portrayed by somebody else!

There is a trailer currently on YouTube, which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkaU4tFh1bw

Thank you to Philip for giving so generously of his time to talk to me during this challenging period.

PHOTO: The Sandhill Racing Stables team

The 24th Westcountry Equine Fair continues showcasing ‘The Best of the West’ this year with a fantastic array of masterclasses, competitive events and training methods from people in the West of England. The West Country has some amazing equestrian stars and they will be celebrated at their local event.

The annual Westcountry Equine Fair takes place at Westpoint, Exeter on Saturday 7 and Sunday and 8 December 2019 and this year will feature showjumper Andrew Williams; dressage rider Louise Hutchinson; Western Riding and The Parelli Instructor Team SW UK. There will be the ever-popular competitive events including the Horse & Hound Pony Club Challenge (sponsored by Stags) and the junior showjumping competition (sponsored by Redpost Equestrian) – a great opportunity for young riders to perform in front of a large crowd in the indoor arena. Also back by popular demand and in its third year is the unaffiliated Quadrille competition, a perfect opportunity to see some great riding skills and colourful costumes.

With a breed village and heavy horse area plus the BETA Equestrian Knowledge Zone – featuring Robocob the mechanical horse, free hat and body protector checks and plentiful advice from top experts, there is something for everyone.

The show is not complete without the amazing equestrian shopping village. Stay stylish with the latest fashions; keep up to date with new products and excellent advice and of course plenty of the main brands, show offers, competitions and book signings. With over 200 companies, this is a great equestrian shopping experience for the horse and for the rider. Don’t forget you don’t need to carry those heavy shopping bags around with the shop and drop facility in the foyer – all donations to Brooke animal charity.

Join the West Country’s equine community for a weekend of equestrian celebration!

To book your tickets in advance and save money visit www.westcountryequinefair.co.uk and follow the event on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated.

EXETER JOCKEY CLUB CHAMPIONS DEVON AIR AMBULANCE RACE DAY 2019: TICKETS AVAILABLE

The popular charity race day returns with a full day of family-friendly fun and an exclusive dining experience in support of Devon Air Ambulance.

The Jockey Club at Exeter Racecourse is once more supporting the local charity with a Devon Air Ambulance Race Day on Sunday 24 November, 2019.

This year’s event will feature a dedicated race of the county’s famous and much-loved Dartmoor ponies, who are typically more familiar with the challenging terrain of the moors than the even, maintained grass of the racecourse.

Horse enthusiasts are in for a treat as not only will they enjoy the Dartmoor Hill Pony charity race, but they will also have the chance to watch the spectacle of seven other more conventional races.

For £75 per person, the charity hospitality package includes the charity race followed by the conventional races, the advice of a professional Race Day presenter and tipster, and a delicious menu comprising locally sourced ingredients created by Head Chef, Ian Brimacombe.

Jack Parkinson, Exeter Racecourse General Manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome back the Devon Air Ambulance Trust to Exeter for its Charity Race Day. It’s an outstanding organisation that serves the people of Devon every day by delivering critical care in time-critical situations. The Air Ambulance has attended Exeter races on several occasions over the years and we are indebted to them. We hope that families will come and enjoy a day at the races, and our charity race too, when a team of Dartmoor Hill Ponies will be dashing to the line for glory.”

Devon Air Ambulance crew and volunteers will have a presence at the Race Day, collecting donations, selling raffle tickets and chatting about the charity – there may even be an appearance from charity mascot, Ambrose Bear.

Devon Air Ambulance Fundraising Manager, Tracy Owen, said: “We’re looking forward to returning to Exeter Racecourse for this enjoyable fundraising event. Last year it cost £7.5 million to keep Devon’s two emergency air ambulances flying and because we are independent of Government and National Lottery funding it is entirely thanks to our supporters that we raised this sum. We’re very grateful to the Jockey Club at Exeter Racecourse for their continued support of the charity.”

Businesses looking to take staff out for a social or savvy shoppers looking for an unusual early Christmas gift might want to secure their place in what will be either the Travado or Golden Jubilee Suite – both of which are private boxes with fantastic views over the course – for the Devon Air Ambulance Race Day.

Tickets can be purchased by phoning 01392 466666 and speaking to the fundraising team, or by visiting the Devon Air Ambulance website: bit.ly/DAARaceDay2019 

NEW! SOMERSET COUNTY SHOW LAUNCHES THIS YEAR

Many people have asked why Somerset has no County Show, well now at last it has and in the county town of Taunton! The two-day event is now scheduled to be held at Taunton Racecourse on an annual basis, every September. Plans for the 2019 event, which takes place on 20 and 21 September, are well underway with a huge array of activities and displays already booked.

The show is designed to showcase the very best that Somerset has to offer, with the emphasis on individual and community participation. As befitting the venue, equestrian enthusiasts will be well catered for, with polo and the Pony Club all represented, along with the hugely entertaining British trials and scurry driving team event – and The Shetland Pony Grand National, to name but a few.

Field sports of all disciplines are included, with a challenging open clay shoot, gun dog scurries, fly casting, falconry, archery and air rifle range, with have-a-go facilities available under expert supervision.

For dog lovers there are gun dog demonstrations and competitions, agility, exhibitions, and a fun dog show, so bring your dog on a lead with you!

Tone FM are hosting a community stage providing up and coming entertainers, bands and choirs a chance to perform in public, so if you “have got talent” get in touch to book your slot! Celebrity chef Lesley Waters is hosting cookery demonstrations throughout the weekend and creating a range of dishes using local produce available from the many artisan producers in the food and drinks hall.

There will also be plenty of street foods to enjoy, with local beer and cider provided. Classic and Vintage cars will be converging from all over the county, and no show would be complete without the smell and sounds of the steam engines. There are also plenty of activities for the children to enjoy, including a puppet show, fun fair, climbing wall, bouncy castles and ferret racing!

If you are interested in being part of this prestigious event or would like trade space or sponsorship details, contact Sharon Mitchell on 07739 964843 or by email on sharon@somersetcountyshow.co.uk.

SUCCESS AT WESTCOUNTRY EQUINE FAIR

The Westcountry Equine Fair held at Westpoint, Exeter, on 1 and 2 December was a great success for both exhibiting companies and the many competitors and displays taking part.

This year organisers, Contour Exhibitions, saw a fantastic increase in the number of entries to the various competitive events, highlighting the enjoyment people derive from the Fair.

Four Pony Club teams took part in the fast-paced Pony Club Horse & Hound Show Jumping Challenge, with Taunton Vale Harriers the winning team on Saturday 1st. Hattie Barnes riding Star from Tiverton Hunt Pony Club was the most stylish rider and Ruby Russo with Bess from Cotley Hunt Pony Club was the fastest runner. South Pool Pony Club were the winners on Sunday 2 December, with Poppy Burner riding Puff from South Pool Pony Club being the most stylish rider and Jasper Kolowski (Silverton Pony Club) being the fastest runner.

The unaffiliated Quadrille Competition is in its second year and the quality of performances was absolutely amazing. Cornwall Trec Group was the winning team this year with their theme Sister Act at the Moulin Rouge (see photo).

Imagine being a young rider competing in front of a large crowd. 14 youngsters did just that and they were amazing. The Junior Show Jumping Competition sees children 14 years and younger on ponies 13.2hh and under jump a course. Alfie Diaper, age 9, riding Buddy II, was first and also claimed the prize for the most stylish rider; Finlay Adams, age 13, riding Doylan Fairy Footsteps, was second and also best turned out; and Ella Stephens, age 11, riding Amees Flame, took third place.

The Best of the West theme ran through, with some amazing displays from stars from the West of England including John Chubb, Tim Cheffings and the Indoor Driving trials.

This year also saw a large number of new equestrian companies and new products at the show, as well as the old favourites. We look forward to seeing them all again in 2019.

The event is going from strength to strength and we are looking forward to more fun in 2019. The dates are Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December at Westpoint in Exeter.

Exmoor Magazine’s equine writer, Cindy Cowling, and her daughter Ellen had a great time! Cindy said, “The Westcountry Equine Fair never fails to deliver! The only equine fair in the West Country dedicated to the horse and rider, whether you go to watch one of the indoor Master Classes from some of the country’s top riders, or get up to speed with new innovations such as Husks ‘air technology’, this two-day event should be in every rider’s or equestrian enthusiast’s diary.”

 

WESTCOUNTRY EQUINE FAIR THIS WEEKEND

The Westcountry Equine Fair this weekend welcomes the return of the unaffiliated Quadrille competition and is set to bring glamour, colour, fun and story-telling once again!

The Westcountry Equine Fair takes place on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 December at Westpoint in Exeter and is delighted to host the quadrille competition, which will take place on the Saturday of the show at 2.15pm. Six teams will take part: Blackdown Hills Riding Club; Brent Knoll Riding Club; Cannington Equestrian centre; Cornwall Trec Group; East Devon Pony Club and Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony. All the competing teams have chosen some amazing themes for their display.

Each team will have four riders and the displays to music will last five minutes.

The Westcountry Equine Fair is well known for its competitive elements, with the horse & hound show jumping challenge now on both show days and the junior show jumping competition on Sunday. Both have been running for a number of years and have proved very popular. The Junior Show Jumping Competition has 15 competitors, all 14 and under – an amazing platform for them. The horse & hound pony club challenge has four teams of four riders and four runners with dogs, a fast-paced and fun-filled challenge for both teams and the audience!

The show is not complete without the amazing equestrian shopping village. Stay stylish with the latest fashions, keep up to date with new products and excellent advice and of course plenty of the main brands, show offers, competitions and book signings. With over 200 companies, this is a great equestrian shopping experience for the horse and for the rider. Don’t forget you don’t need to carry those heavy shopping bags around, as there is the shop-and-drop facility in the foyer – all donations to South West Equine Protection.

To book your tickets in advance and save money visit www.westcountryequinefair.co.uk or call 01392 421500 (office hours) and follow on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated.

KING’S CELEBRATES OFFICIAL RIDING LICENCE

King’s College is celebrating becoming a licensed riding establishment after passing the local authority inspection at the end of last month.

The new facility, which is just a few minutes’ drive from King’s College, is proving very popular and the new King’s horses have settled nicely into their new home.

The King’s Equestrian Centre comprises eight boxes in an enclosed yard, and is situated at the end of a quiet lane, well away from any traffic, with easy access onto woodland paths and open countryside, which is ideal for riders of all levels.

Emma Edwards, Head of Equestrian, who is a champion carriage driver and competitive rider herself, said: “It seems to have been a long time in the planning stages but now, at last, we have got the King’s Equestrian Centre open.

“This is a hugely exciting development for us and is already proving itself to be popular with pupils, both from home and overseas.”

BROMPTON REGIS SHOW & GYMKHANA

Brompton Regis Show & Gymkhana (Brompton Regis Cricket Field, Renford Knap TA22 9NJ) will be celebrating its 65th birthday on 18 August, with lots to enjoy for every member of the family (and for dogs, horses and ponies too!) .

The show opens at 9am with show jumping when the refreshment tent will also open for teas, coffees, cakes, etc.  The exciting Gundog Scurry sponsored by Hollam Shoot starts at 10.30am and the ever-popular Dog Show starts at 12.30pm with pedigree classes, followed by family fun dog classes at 2.30pm (all times are approx.). Entries for all Scurry and Dog Show classes are taken on the day – so bring your dogs and have some fun! The exhibits tent opens at noon, with amazing displays of flowers, vegetables, cookery, handicraft and eggs.

The children’s area and stalls open at 10am with a Bouncy Castle. Face Painting will start at 11am. Enjoy our vintage tractor display, coconut shy, bric-a-brac, plants, books and bottle stalls, tombola, raffle, etc., and our Auction of Promises (opening at 11.30am) will have some magnificent offers waiting for your bid. For the first time we have the Somerset Red Arrows Majorettes performing in the refreshment area at approx 2.30pm.

The Horse Show and Gymkhana will be a full day event with lots of classes, from jumping, showing (including Exmoor Ponies) and fancy dress, to the excitement of the gymkhana to cheer on. (Entries for all classes are taken on the day.) And don’t miss our traditional Parade of Hounds at approx 2.30pm.

At around 3.30pm, the Auction of Promises winners will be announced, followed by a very entertaining auction of tempting produce from the various exhibits. Not to be missed!

See you there!

Su Elsden, Show Secretary – 01398 371473

 

NORTH DEVON SCHOOLS SHOW JUMPING LEAGUE (NDSSJL) ROUND FOUR RESULTS

On Sunday 7 January over 80 pupils from primary and secondary schools in the area took part in the fourth round of the 2018 North Devon Schools Show Jumping League.

Despite the freezing-cold temperatures and howling winds, every competitor rode with high spirits and did their school proud.

Organiser Vicky Fiddes commented, “Even though they couldn’t feel their toes or their fingers, all of our fabulous competitors rode beautifully and were as always super polite and a pleasure to watch! Thank you to every child, parent and teacher involved for making our job so much fun. Huge congratulations to everyone who scored themselves some all-important league points.”

The 50cm team class was won by the Ilfracombe Academy Divas, with their team member Aimee Hearnden taking the individual win on her pony, Champion.

Great Torrington’s Flying Fillies jumped above the other 10 teams in the class to win the 60cm, whilst West Buckland’s Bethany Gay and Rocky went on to win the individual section.

The competition then moved on to the 70cm team class where Great Torrington’s second team, The Day Dreamers, took the win, with their team member Megan Cole, riding her pony Mr Finley, also winning individually.

The 80cm class was action-packed but South Molton Community College’s Team Storm jumped their socks off to beat the rest of the class. Braunton Academy’s Lilli Fiddes, riding Miradays Luigi, took the individual win.

The final class of the day was the 90cm where there was some fantastic sportsmanship. The Bideford Blazers from Bideford Community College walked away with first place. In the individual section it was another win for Great Torrington’s Megan Cole, this time riding her pony, Something Nice.

The organisers would like to thank their sponsors Torch Equine Vets and Devonshire Motors for their support and generosity.

Round 5 of the North Devon Schools Show Jumping League will take place on 4 February.

More info on how you can support or take part in the league can be found at Coxleigh.com.

PONY CLUB CHALLENGE AT WESTPOINT

Imagine performing as a young rider in front of a large crowd in an arena. The competitors in the Pony Club horse & hound show jumping challenge will do just that at Westpoint this December.

Introduced to the annual Westcountry Equine Fair nine years ago, the challenge now has a dedicated following from both pony clubs and audiences alike.

The Westcountry Equine Fair takes place at Westpoint in Exeter on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 December. The event, now in its 21st year, is pleased to announce the four pony club teams taking part this year are:  East Devon Hunt Pony Club; Lamerton; Polden Hills and Poole & District.

The clubs will compete against each other in this fast-paced and thrilling competition. Riders will jump a course followed by runners and their dogs.

The Pony Club has a long tradition of being the starting point for a large majority of equestrian team members and medal winners including this year’s stars Grant Bazin and Alexander Bragg. Not only does the Pony Club offer nine exciting disciplines including Eventing, Dressage, Polocrosse and Tetrathlon, but it also provides instruction in horse care and riding for people up to 25 years.

No Pony? No problem! You can join in the fun at one of 500 Pony Club centres across the UK. So if the Pony Club challenge at the Westcountry Equine Fair inspires you, then look up your local Pony Club for more information.

In addition to the unrivalled entertainment, the Equine Fair also features a dedicated shopping village ‘for the horse, for the rider and for Christmas’, with over 200 companies offering helpful advice and great show offers on 1000s of products for horse and rider including many big name brands including Joules, Ariat, Toggi and Thorowgood. Also look out for the BETA Equestrian Knowledge Zone in hall 2.

Don’t forget you don’t need to carry those heavy shopping bags around with the shop and drop facility in the foyer – all donations to Devon Air Ambulance.

This is certainly the total equestrian experience for the dedicated rider! To book your tickets in advance and save money visit www.westcountryequinefair.co.uk or call 01392 421500 (office hours) and follow the event on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated.