Chapter 1 - 2009
So there I was in late May, finishing Uni; my old mare was looking forward to retirement and with all this spare time on my hands, Mum and I dreaded the prospect of ‘shopping’ for a new project. How about breaking in a CB mare mum said? My brain thought "No way"! There was no way we could cope with a youngster and have me up and riding by the end of summer, let alone finding one that would suit my Pony Club all rounder roots. Mum already had a home broken Cleveland from the Harrington Stud, Whizzy, ironically named. It suited mum down to the ground, a traditional Chapman Cleveland; but not my cup of tea! Luckily Maggie Brown to the rescue! She had been looking to help Marygold Nixey to reduce her stock and had a well shown lovely leggy broodmare that needed a home.
Two weeks later and what a difference! I now had a confident mare striding out on hacks on her own and in company, trotting across open fields giving others leads past tractors, bicycles, trucks vans and cows (though the calves running at her at speed did worry her a little). Those patented Cleveland bay ears telegraphing every thought. What an honest girl! Everyone said that breaking an older CB did make sense; some of them are a bit ‘slow to mature’ and with the older body can improve some kind of body awareness. The stronger, older body and wiser brain served Lady well. She already knew how to load into a trailer, trot up in hand and know what was scary and what was not.
Lady's ‘fan club’ was growing, from Maggie Brown at birth, the Boot camp buddies and also now everyone in her new yard. Even the vet was impressed, micro-chipping and teeth rasping done with no fuss, she even slept through the booster flu and tetanus jab. The gentle clever giant she is! Even the physio who came for a routine visit had some fear about Cleveland’s - ‘Bit nasty aren’t they?’ After hanging onto Lady’s tail and swinging around her back legs for 10mins without so much as a face pulled I hope she has a changed attitude!
With more and more lessons I hope she will become my all rounder. Hunting, showing and eventing is on the cards. (Don’t worry mum – only 3’3” max!) I already have a dressage comp coming up at the local stables, an informal affair to see how she copes with a burger van, small children and dressage boards perhaps even some standing around and eating! (Don’t worry regular Cleveland Bay fans, her appetite is not small!) So here I go, off into the Riding Club and weekend Eventing world, with a Cleveland Bay who up until 8 months ago thought her job was eating and the occasional show in the summer! What a breed!
Part 2 – 2010
Last year we had backed Lady and were riding away over the winter hacking and doing some light schooling. In spring 2010 we focussed on ‘experiences’. We went to a very local riding school show in the trailer, only a walk trot dressage test, but what a test!!! Torrential rain and hurricane winds saw the warm up reduced to a 5 minute trot around a rather soggy school. My competition was an age group of between 7 and 15, so a near 17hh Cleveland trotting about might have looked a little out of place! We started well, listening with some lovely comments from the judge, (actually I was most pleased with her arriving and behaving so sensibly!) Then the stop... Lady just stopped, thought about what was being asked, then carried on – Fortunately the judge was very sympathetic to Lady re-writing the dressage test and we came 4th out of 7!
We've had quite a summer! We went to a Riding Club late summer show, and what a busy event that was. With temperatures reaching 30 Degrees, Lady didn’t much fancy doing the ridden hunter class, and unfortunately was a little lack lustre. We were still placed 5th out of 8 but should done better so we have been working on a polished show since then. Lady being a Mare is very much a one-person horse, so it’s down to me to lend her out a little to other riders so she is as responsive and light to them as she is with me.
Through the summer we worked on loading and travelling in the trailer, meeting new people and attending several things to show everyone how great Cleveland’s are!
We have been working with a local dressage trainer on improving my dressage and finer points of movement, with this I hope to compete more with the riding club with some small one day events and possibly some shows. We have had some trouble getting a balanced canter in the school, out hacking in long straight lines its fine, but 20m circles seem to evade us for the moment. With the better ground I hope to work on that in time for the 2011 Thame Show. Show jumping is not my personal favourite, and so has been rather neglected so far. Lady is keen to jump, but would rather it was a 4ft Hedge than a 2ft coloured pole with turns in between! This year has been so much fun and I can't wait to see what next year will bring!
We have enjoyed the story so far so much that Jenny is already signed up for Chapter 3. We'll have it on the website in 'Cleveland World' as soon as the ink is dry!
We attended a wonderful farm park ride in the Cotswolds, the South Oxfordshire Hunt ride, and several cubbing meets. The south Oxfordshire sponsored ride attracted lots people and was very enjoyable, if slightly damp. Lady’s forte was being calm, sensible, cross country jumping, and giving leads to a bunch of wibbly thoroughbreds past a heard of pigs! This winter we have been out six times with the Old Berks Hunt, even giving leads to nervous children and side winding point to pointers. We still haven’t found if we are better in front or behind, as Lady seems happy in either position, enjoying a jolly good gallop between! There have been some spectacular jumps, and some not so spectacular cold wintery hacks, but Lady has been keen and trustworthy throughout.
On the Cotswolds farm park ride, showing an excitable Warmblood how to do it!
Boxing Day, 2010: Snow can be so much fun!
Lucky Lady was her name, 7 years old and with the experience of two foals, showing and living at Harrington. Ten minutes cuddles in the field and we were sold! Despite her being in a small heard of about 10 others, once we had figured out which one was which she shone out. Kind eye, big ears, good legs and a grass belly to match her wonderful lifestyle relaxing on the spring meadow! Knowing that ‘Lady’ had been shown at the Great Yorkshire Show, had foals and plenty of handling in expert hands meant half the breaking was already done. We got her home in July. With me now working 9-5, there I was by 5.30 every evening lungeing and long reining a perfectly calm and unflappable horse around her own paddock, simply not batting an eye.
It was a good 10 years since we had broken Whizzy but luckily Mum and I had enough horsemanship between us to know roughly what we had to do to get to the sitting on stage. So quickly we progressed, late August climbing slowly on top of this 16.3hh getting fitter CB. There had been only one tantrum; mostly attributed to her mates standing over the fence and poking fun at her new saddle by chasing up and down the fence! Sadly next to come was a nasty fly bite on her back – un-noticed at the time. Mum legged me up for a quick lay over; the pressure under her saddle was enough for her to buck once with all the might to shake me off, and escape. Unfortunately as I slid under her belly, her leg did manage to burn through corded jods and a couple of layers of skin, so that was my John Wayne look sorted! Jumping a 5’ Gate to escape we knew she had some jumping capacity! The buck was so totally out of character we investigated and the bite on her back became apparent and her temperament remained unharmed. Off she went to a ‘boot camp’ with some friends, for a couple of weeks and whilst I recovered they worked on her riding skills.
She already knew how to load into a trailer, trot up in hand and know what was scary and what was not. It was only after Lady had been living in a rug for a couple of days it dawned on us, she probably never had one before - another event that passed with no problems. Unlike a 4 year old we could manage hour long hacks pretty quickly, as her body was already developed with some strong muscles. Everyday a new achievement, my family were becoming tired of the stories, today I did this,,, you won't believe what I achieved with Lady today,,,! Never before had I known a horse to fall asleep having her winter woollies clipped off for the first time. A testament to the Cleveland Bay temperament she is indeed!
An illustrated story by Jenny Dawson
with additional pictures by Peter Dawson