Behind the scenes at Harry Meade's yard - Spring 2024 blog

7th May 2024

With the 2024 season well and truly underway, it’s great to have the horses back out eventing. Although we don’t start competing until the beginning of March, the run-up to the first batch of events is a pretty intense affair. Producing event horses is like squeezing 10 days’ work into a week for every horse – the higher-level horses gallop twice a week, and with dressage and show jumping training, as well as out-of-season competitions for both disciplines and cross-country schooling whenever the deluges cease, it’s like packing lamps into Marry Poppins’ bag. 

Training hard not only ensures the horses are performing at their best, it also sharpens up the whole team. We took eleven horses cross-country schooling at Larkhill, with each horse jumping twice around the BE cross-country course. With 22 cross-country rounds back-to-back, there is no margin for error – whether it be concentrated focus, my fitness or the logistics of the team producing horse after horse at the right time in the right kit, and importantly always in a calm way; nothing must be rushed but everything must be punctual without raising the horses’ heart rates. Even the sheer logistics of travelling that number of horses, people and kit is a significant feat, as is each simple task, like doing their stud holes – cleaning out, tapping and putting in 88 studs before, and removing them all after and re-plugging the holes.

With similar days and numbers of horses going to dressage competitions and show jumping training, where we hire an arena for the day, we brush away the cobwebs, battle through the fatigue, educate the newer members of the crew and gradually remember what it’s like to be a slick, professional and a highly capable team.

Having never shied away from storms, snow, failing light, blood, sweat and tears, a hard-earned cohesion and confidence in the team’s abilities binds us together. As the first event marks the dawn of a new season, competing with fewer horses and easier conditions is a comparative walk in the park. As the competitions start, we get the horses back out in the fields – which have been protected and saved during the wettest months for this moment –which is a welcome relief to equines and humans, as after the more strenuous work they can now enjoy days off, which lightens the load for all.

Years of producing horses from scatty three- or four-year-olds through the grades has paid off as we look forward to a strong hand at each of the major events. The current focus is on Badminton, with entries for Cavalier Crystal, Away Cruising and Red Kite, all of whom we have had from the start of their careers. Annaghmore Valoner and Et Hop du Matz spearhead our Bramham campaign, with each of the younger horses targeting a spring international at the relevant level.

And, of course, with four horses currently long-listed for the Paris Olympics, there is all to play for.

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