Kyzyl Eventing Blog 2019

 

The following blog is being serially published in "All Horse" magazine, following their publication of the story of Atamekan and the origin of Kyzyl Akhal-Tekes (see bottom of this page).

MAY

Meet Teddy!
Tedzhen (pronounced Ted-jen) is a 16hh pure-bred Akhal-Teke gelding, chestnut with a white face and four rather dashing white socks. No surprise that he is something of a character; at his conception his sire, my late, much-loved Central Asian stallion Atamekan, got stuck trying to hurdle a metal gate to reach his dam prematurely, and had to be cut loose by the Fire Brigade. With a start like that, Teddy clearly thought he had a reputation to live up to.
Though, to look at him, you might think he had been sired by a warmblood. Not for Teddy the lean, mean “dry” look of the Akhal-Teke, nor the exceptional strength-weight ratio that is one of its secret weapons. Ted is well supplied in the weight department. But he has all the intelligence of the breed (too much, sometimes), the agility and – though he hides it well – the sensitivity. Also, unusually, heavy muscle power. It all gives him big movement with an enormous jump.
A pity, then, that he had to wait until he was 14½ to use it. Long-term health problems left me unable to ride properly, and for ten years I ached to compete him. Finally, research caught up with my illness, and the goalposts shifted. First-night nerves beset his debut; we needed three tries to get down the centre line. By the end of that winter, though, we'd got our act together and won a cup for dressage. Fast forward eighteen months, and we completed our first affiliated event – Broadway, last October - with a clear cross-country round.
The goal: a season's affiliated eventing; the dream: upgrading to BE100. Can we make it? Only one way to find out. Since Ted's winter break we have been out schooling regularly with our wonderful trainer Barbara Leach, ninety this year. Just last week Leyland Court XC, my favourite schooling course, opened in time to get a session in before the snow came. Teddy went like a train – and again at our next practice. Gloom, then, when our first scheduled outing, Sapey ODE, was cancelled due to waterlogged ground.  
Where now? We're on the waiting list for Solihull, with Broadway to follow. First time out of the season is always an unknown at the best of times, but one thing I think I can rely on: this time, we'll get down the centre line first try.
 
JUNE
Well, after losing Sapey to the weather and not getting in to Solihull, Teddy and I have finally marked our BE scorecard with a run in Broadway's BE80.
It was a day of mixed fortunes. Our dressage was, to put it politely, a bit keen; but Ted redeemed himself in the showjumping. Despite being held while a paramedic attended to a casualty, and then repeatedly checked by a bell with a mind of its own, he kept his concentration to jump clear. The ground was holding on the cross-country and the Broadway hill formidable; my over-caution over the first half-mile earned us 6 time faults. But he scorched round the rest, taking a memorable flyer at the drop wall and finishing like a train, with no jumping faults.
We'd had some good warm-up outings earlier, with Eventers' Challenges at Summerhouse EC (Gloucester) and Moores Farm (Corse Lawn). Teddys's full-sister Ainur, still going like a bomb at nineteen years, joined us at Summerhouse, piloted by Hazel Carter. In only their second competition together they jumped double clear and came home with a rosette – more than Teddy and I managed. 
These two horses are an odd couple: Teddy a sixteen-hand heavyweight, Aina lean, wiry and only 15.1hh. A marked gender difference seems to run in this female line. They have three half-siblings: two big, chunky geldings and one fine-boned mare just 14.3hh. Meanwhile Aina herself has foaled a petite 14.2hh mare (by a 15hh Arab) and a gelding by a 16.2hh TB who made nearly 17 hands. I wait to see whether Aina's yearling from last year's in-house mating – by my own part-bred stallion Sam – will run true to form; so far, he's growing like a beanstalk.
Aina is off to stud again soon. This is probably my last chance to breed a pure-bred Akhal-Teke from her; and her sporting genes should produce a foal to credit the breed. I just hope I won't be too old to compete it myself!
As for Teddy, he's going to have a shock to the system this weekend: three dressage classes in one afternoon. Just so that he learns not to see those white boards as part of the cross-country start box. Maybe then we'll be steadier at Howick next week.
 
JULY
Looking back, we did quite a bit last month.
Teddy survived his three dressage classes (scoring 70% in one, and bringing home a couple of rosettes) and was a lot more relaxed at Howick BE80. Dancing through the water, he skipped round an inviting course to give me my best XC ride since 1982. Time to go up a level.
The BRC Area 15 ODE at Sapey was our first 90cm. It couldn't have started worse. Confidently I presented Ted's passport, with an immaculate vaccination record going back 15 years to when passports first came in, every annual booster on time plus the six-month extra now needed. Heads were shaken: where were the primary vaccinations? They were done, I replied, in 2003 when passports didn't exist. But, I was told, I must produce the evidence or go home.
Desperately I spoiled the Sunday morning of two of my vets. They were still chasing their  pre-passport records when the event vet kindly took the trouble to find me. They had decided to make an exception, just for today.
I was still shaking when we reached the dressage. So, soon, was Ted; the arenas were quietly placed away behind high hedges: perfect for an easily distracted horse. But the other arenas were empty and we were entirely alone; and Teddy had an agoraphobic meltdown. Neither of us recovered our cool, and after a fence down SJ we took time to get going XC, stopping at the water. Belatedly finding his mojo, Ted then flew round the rest, fluent at both the trakehner and the quarry – my two main worries.
That was a confidence-booster for West Wilts, our first BE90. Here for the first time in affiliated, our dressage was in the thirties. Teddy show-jumped well, rolling one pole; then set out confidently for his most demanding XC to date. Disappointingly, the water – strong ripples into a blinding sun – spoiled our thunder by two steps back. But the rest was thrilling. Nothing else fazed him, not even the four-foot brush, the biggest fence he's ever jumped. Onwards and upwards!
Exciting times, too, in the breeding sheds. The 19-year-old Ainur took first time by frozen AI to the outstanding Akhal-Teke dressage stallion, Oyun Shael; while my own pure-bred Xanadu has covered his first visiting mare, with three more in the harem. I hope the offspring look more Akhal-Teke than poor old Ted.
“Is your horse a Criollo?” asked a rider at Howick. Now there's a first!
 
AUGUST
July 5th was a momentous anniversary for the Kyzyl Horses. Twenty years ago, my late stallion Atamekan, Teddy's sire, finally arrived at my home in Herefordshire after a three-year-campaign to save him from starvation in Turkmenistan and bring him to England. It was also Teddy's 17th birthday. Training with Teddy and Sam at Emma Garner's E G Equestrian near Ledbury, we celebrated with fizz and chocolate cake; then broke down on the way home. Perhaps the chocolate cake was the last straw for the Land Rover.
A good job it took us reliably to Chepstow ODE the week before; for we had a red-hot ride. Not literally; the brief heatwave may have cooked the Saturday competitors, but it relented for us on Sunday. Ted was well behaved in the dressage, had one unlucky fence down SJ, and I should have been confident as we set off on the XC. But I'd lost sleep over a daunting trakehner, and there was a jump awfully close to the water...
I should have trusted him. Well, almost; for his freak shy turning into Fence 5 nearly took out the fence judge and her Jack Russell. After that, clearly embarrassed, he pulled himself together and jumped the round of his life. Better than Howick, our season's best so far – and a bigger course, too. We were both on a high well into the next week. So was Hazel who, riding her own Fidget, finished on her dressage score.
There's a gap now until Homme House in August (as Howick 2 coincides with a family wedding), and our trainer Barbara is taking the opportunity to get Hazel and me on the lunge for a few weeks. Time also for some creosoting and yet another blitz on the ragwort! Meanwhile, Sam's yearling son Kyzyl Doubloon makes his social debut at Malvern next weekend, in a World Breeds class where he and Hazel parade as a pair of Turkmens.
As for the stud work: the mares are well spread out this year. The Thoroughbred Another Dinkum (Annie), with her star-studded pedigree, has gone home. That leaves Xan's latest squeeze, Irish Sport Horse Scary Mary, in sole possession for now of the visiting mares' field. Next to arrive will be a Friesian mare, with a couple of Welsh Cobs looking for a late summer romance. Nothing wrong, as my vet used to say, with a July foal. 
Which brings us back to where we came in, with the Birthday Boy...
 
SEPTEMBER
It seemed like an awfully long gap between Chepstow ODE, at the end of June, and Homme House in early August. 
Fortunately one of the year's big occasions falls in early July. For some years now, the British Palomino Society has thrown its doors open to other colours, and World Breeds Class, ridden and in-hand, usually draw Akhal-Tekes from all over Britain to the beautiful Three Counties Showground at Malvern. My yearling Kyzyl Doubloon (aka Baloo) made his show debut, ably handled by Hazel, and came away with two rosettes. Illness and injury had hit the Teke community, and the only other Akhal-Teke this year was Jacqueline Bradbury's lovely new stallion Gemyr. Jac has turned this boy round from almost feral to well-mannered enough to win a show class... in just a few short weeks. One to watch... 
More trips to Emma Garner's E G Equestrian to work on her beautiful surface. Gymnastic gridwork: single pole, stride, bounce, stride, parallel – then all change. Too many repetitions equals a bored horse, and Akhal-Tekes have a very low boredom threshold. We also took the chance for Hazel's first XC school on Teddy. Sadly, her scheduled clinic was cancelled, but we went anyway... They gelled very well, Teddy going confidently and Hazel quickly getting the measure of his variable brakes and his quirky brain. 
And so to the only ODE of the last month, Homme House. Hardly our best showing, with three fences down SJ and a run-off, glancing out at a curving line through a combination on sloping ground. But it's just a few weeks since any completion at BE90 left me euphoric, and here I am complaining about the details... Certainly, compared to the beginning of the year, my points of reference have fundamentally altered. As I walked today the West Wilts BE90 beautiful course I hope to jump on Wednesday, I couldn't help looking at one or two BE100 jumps alongside my own course with the creeping thought, “We could do that... and that...”
Meanwhile a very long stud season keeps us busy. Scary Mary was only scanned after going home, so it was an ecstatic owner who sent me pictures of the little round blob on the screen. Annie has yet to tell us if she has any secrets. And the two black mares are still turning up their noses at both boys... 
 
ARTICLE in ALL HORSE MAGAZINE, APRIL 2019