That was 2016 – PART 1 Nerves, Internationals and my happy!

I didn’t write a New Year summary of 2015. It was an odd year of uncertainty and worry, trying to get divorced and failing dismally. Just a whole lot of stress on all levels. I stepped into 2016 hoping to be single and back to my old self with the flick of a switch, all those New year resolutions poised and primed. Sadly, it took until February to finally get the divorce settled and signed off and with it a whole load of getting ‘me’ back. I felt like a lost child in those months, a whole load of anxious spouted forth unexpectedly, and a lot of depression too. Not an experience I would like to live out again, the thought makes me shiver. So why share this on a horsey blog? Well it has everything to do with my little horse Wanda. Medicated up to my eyeballs I decided to not follow my doctors’ advice and went cold turkey, desperately trying to find my riding mojo and a focus in my own life, while still being a mum and earning a living…oh and live in temporary accommodation while we built a new home.

Much of this year has been spent training and hacking, I didn’t really feel up too much else. Eventing was just a disaster and either I was poorly, the children were poorly, or something kicked off at home. I totally fell out of love with the sport. I just couldn’t see the point of making myself even more worn out, doing something that didn’t give me a ‘buzz’ anymore. But it’s all worked out well. Taking time out from competing has brought my riding up a level. For sure I could be fitter, stronger and thinner, but that will come. What I have gained by quietly working away with my long supporting trainers Fiona and Matt has been invaluable and reaped its rewards on Wanda’s way of going and what I’m feeling and responding too while riding her. This is the year I ‘got’ the point of it all and those damn stupid dressage terms make sense… ‘over the back’, ‘into the hand’ and the simplest but hardest to achieve ‘straightness’. It’s all had an impact on my test riding which is heading in the direction I want it to follow… onwards and upwards!

I decided to aim for a few dressage competitions and have the odd jumping lesson with Mia Palles Clarke, who again has been a long-standing supporter of what we do and totally ‘gets’ what I want to achieve out of training sessions. We did a few BD competitions, with some success, and then Fiona mentioned that it would be worth aiming for selection to the Suffolk squad for the inter-county challenge. A competition I had no clue about. But with half the year almost gone I decided it was time to take the plunge and focus. It felt like time was slipping away…

Intercountry trials consisted of several training sessions with the fabulous Mette Assouline, then a test riding day, on the basis of that performance the teams were selected. Scoring a PB of over 74% at the test day gave me a place on the squad and we eventually came 9th out of 28 teams – the highest placed Suffolk team that weekend. It was an amazing experience, something I wouldn’t have even dared contemplate at the start of the year, and was a massive learning curve in terms of competitive dressage riding, in a busy atmosphere, during the hottest weekend of the year (with a stomach bug – ewwww)!

It was an experience that rekindled a buzz for competitive riding, and to be accepted onto part of a team was a responsibility I didn’t shy away from but relished.

unspecified

The summer was a mix of school holidays, sunshine, building projects, Pony Club and hacking out with the children, so competitions were on the backburner, but again I felt the year passing me by and I looked towards getting out and enjoying Wanda. It was all about the ‘experience’ with my horse and it was intriguing to see my ‘want’ to ride and compete slowly creep back. I think part of my motivation was talking to my dear friend Hannah Francis. She was always one to encourage, uplift, and motivate. Her infectious personality did have an influence on me then and still does today. August was an emotional month for so many of us, I miss Hannah terribly but I always spare a thought for her every time I ride and spend time with the horses. Every time I moan about the mud or the rain or the hard work it all is, I am also equally grateful for being able to own and ride my horses. I don’t think Hannah ever knew how influential she was to me and now by supporting her charity I can pay that back. The Champions Willberry Charity Race in 2017 will form part of that and I hope will be a fitting way to remember Hannah and raise funds for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony and the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.

If 2016 was about learning and gaining new experiences, then riding as a guinea pig dressage test rider at Osberton horse trails was one to remember. At FEI level eventing dressage judges have a ‘warm up rider’ so that they can address any marking or tech issues before the competition commences. Although I didn’t ride competitively, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn a slightly more complex test and to ride on grass, in tails in an international environment. Wanda managed to disgrace herself by escaping at 4am as we were about to leave… then galloped across a ploughed field and onto the road. Not one of our best 2016 moments! Literally cold hosed off and thrown on the lorry, we made the trip up, accompanied with FriendsBerry from the charity Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony as our lucky mascot. I usually drive myself and compete alone, so it was a case of arriving, throwing chalk powder at Wanda’s legs to cover the mud and getting on with it. Although I wasn’t completely satisfied with my test (I rarely am), we scored well and I was particularly pleased with the way that Wanda settled and focused. An amazing experience, despite all the drama beforehand! This was a warm up to our first International competition, again a new experience for both of us!

scan0096

scan0095

I had read about the Senior Home International on the BD east newsletter, they were looking for some novice riders and to be fair I hadn’t much of a clue what was involved when I emailed Kathrine, the regional rep, to apply to ride. It was a good feeling to get a bit of the brave me back, id lost my ‘give it a go’ and I felt it was returning. All very last minute, but I was accepted onto the Eastern squad, riding against teams from the rest of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland at a three-day competition at Sheepgate. I was made to feel so welcome by the team members. Eastern BD has a great team camaraderie as well as some superb coaching and volunteer support. They all work tirelessly to promote the sport in my region and the East is a very strong community because of it. All I can say is, at these sorts of higher pressure competitions, teamwork and support is everything. From helping each other sew on George’s cross flags onto saddle cloths, to killing the time between tests, to giving sympathy if things don’t go to plan, but also building you up to kick ass in the next test… without the good teamies you are sunk. I was riding 3 tests, a warm up on the Friday (we came 9th and I was happy with a top 10 in tough competition), then championship classes over the weekend. I could not have predicted how well we did, coming 2nd in the first test, 4th in the second, and 4th overall in my section, just a smidge off a bronze placing – sadly the M judge wasn’t keen on our test. What can you say other than, that’s dressage and I will take into account the comments and learn from them. Fighting talk eh? Yes, we were back in the game, the black dog had left the room!

I learnt so much from that weekend, how important the support of your friends around you is, and how fun, enthusiastic and friendly my regional riders are. These are people who have fun, party but are seriously focussed on their horse’s welfare and wellbeing, as well as riding very competitively. I have to admit my eyes were opened…and my perceptions of what ‘dressage riders’ were like were crushed.

An intense 2 weeks of competition rounded up with a 9th placing at our first Petplan Novice Festival, a worthwhile trip out, and a great benchmark for moving up to Elementary in December, which we did in style winning our first competition (and the Novice that day too), topped off with a mention in Horse and Hound. Our plan is to move up to Medium in 2017… no more messing about and waiting for the right ‘moment’. I’ve come to realise that there is never the right time to do most things, and that it’s easy to procrastinate, delay or just not try. With three children to look after and a job, my life is busy but I’ve also learnt that I need to do things for myself too. I can’t do everything I want but getting out and competing is a buzz. It makes trogging about in the mud and cold worthwhile, and I now enjoy the sparkle, which makes me happy, and not debilitatingly anxious. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt this year… is to grab every opportunity with both hands and not to be afraid of going out of your comfort zone, just put the work in to make it happen. But more of that in my next blog… an experience that literally made my heart almost burst with pride. But for now, can I wish you a peaceful New Year, stay safe, be brave and enjoy xx.  

20161201_103650

Equisense Launch High-Tech Equine Care System

This week the winners of the SPOGA Innovation Award in 2016, Equisense, have launched another high-tech equine centric product.

Imagine being able to accurately measure your horse’s daily activity, build a picture of his health and well-being, track any changes and be alerted in the event of an accident or if colic is suspected?

Equisense Care is a connected equine bodysuit created for all horse owners who have an interest in the health and wellbeing of their horses. Created to be linked to a mobile application that not only evaluates the horse’s wellbeing and state of health in real-time (thanks to 3G connectivity) but this clever piece of kit also enables the owner to optimise their horse’s lifestyle, enabling them to take action in the event of a problem. Created by a team of passionate equestrians, technology experts, vets and biomechanical engineers, this product is set to change the way we understand and observe our horses: From evaluating his well-being over days, weeks, months and years through to monitoring his recovery post trauma or during illness.

This wearable tech is the result of careful research and planning and has been carefully adapted to guarantee his comfort and safety all year round courtesy of an anatomically designed bib that can worn all year around both in the stable and field and under rugs (A lightweight honeycomb summer bib and a shoulder protective winter version designed to be worn under rugs are available)

Equisense Care works in two ways:

* Without a subscription you can retrieve all your data as soon as you connect your smartphone to your sensor via Bluetooth.

* With a small subscription (€19.90 per month) thanks to 3G connectivity, you will always have access to the data in REAL TIME, which means that you will receive alerts from the device on any noted changes as they are happening and enabling you to take appropriate action, whether that’s paying a visit to the stables to check on your horse, monitoring his progress on a journey or calling your vet with concise and accurate data to highlight a possible issue or concern.

Currently this device is available for pre-order and the team plan to go into large scale production next summer with delivery of Equisense Care Kickstarter orders being sent out in the Autumn of 2017.  To pre -order via Kickstarter click here

equisense-care-design-drawing

The Equisense Care device will be able to analyse time spent moving, time spent at each gait, distance travelled, time spent sleeping, heart rate and heart rate variability, respiratory rate and perspiration with additional free upgrades planned to monitor body temperature, agitation and time spent eating.

 

For further information on this revolutionary equine technology click here

 

 

And now for something completely different… the Booze berry!

Found up anlogod down the country in chic bars, niche suppliers, country events and all over social media, Pinkster Gin has ridden on the crest of the Gin renaissance that sees no sign of slowing down. Distilled in small batches, locally grown raspberries are then hand-steeped in the core spirit at the company’s HQ, local to us, near Cambridge, creating its distinctive colour and flavour. The gin is deliciously dry, with a hint of fruit and an exceptionally smooth finish.pinkster%20gt%202

There’s raspberry on the nose as the juniper comes through and then a slight spice that develops and lingers. For the perfect drink after a long day out with your horses, serve with Fever-Tree tonic, a raspberry and a sprig of well-spanked fresh mint.  Spanking the mint (clapping it in your hands before you place it in the glass on top of the ice) releases the minty aromas!

0000015_boozy-berries_550.pngThe innovation behind Pinkster came about purely by accident when founder Stephen Marsh was experimenting at home and, after working his way through an entire fruit bowl, discovered that raspberry delivered the best flavour. Best of all, the raspberries are recycled, albeit slightly intoxicated (28% proof!), and sold as Boozy Berries.

So aside from eating these fruity gems straight from the jar what else can be done with them? On a wet Saturday afternoon I decided to try out some of my own kitchen experiments, combining flavour ideas suggested to me by my children (who don’t drink Gin I may add…) and my own thoughts on what makes the perfect boozy pudding. What evolved was….

Lemon Curd and Boozy Berry Ice Cream!

20161108_142612.jpg

Ingredients

325 g Good Quality Lemon Curd

1 Unwaxed lemon

284 ml Double Cream

250 g Natural Yoghurt

¼ to ½ a Jar of Pinkster Boozy Berries (depending on taste & desired ‘boozyness’)

Mint to Garnish

Method

Finely grate the zest and squeeze the juice from the lemon.

Very lightly whip the cream with an electric or hand whisk until it is just starting to thicken but has not yet formed into stiff peaks.

Using a metal spoon, fold in the lemon zest and juice and yogurt. Gradually fold in the lemon curd then pour into a 1 litre freezer proof tub with lid.

Place in the freezer for 4-5 hours until fully frozen or dig out that really expensive ice cream maker you use about once a year!

Remove the container every hour or so to stir with a fork, making sure the more frozen edges are mixed in. After about 2 hours, when the ice cream is firming up, drain 1/4 to 1/2 a jar of Boozy Berries into a bowl. Crush them lightly with the back of a fork and stir  into the ice cream mix, so they are evenly distributed. Return the container to the freezer for another 2 – 3 hrs to, giving the odd blend to distribute the frozen edges.

To Serve -If making in advance, take out of the freezer and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to soften slightly before serving. Garnish with boozy berries, fresh mint and if you feel in the mood a small shot of the Boozy Berry liquor or a well-mixed Pinkster G&T.

Boozy Berries are sold online at www.pinkstergin.com (£6 for a 300g jar) or via select retail outlets – see the website for details.

Many thanks to Pinkster for sending over the Berries & some of their amazing gin for Team B&W to try.

Being friendly and pairing up!

A hectic half term for Black and White eventing with work, 3 children, the house build and a host of pony activities! So time for something different – you get to see me close up & personal (with no make up – EEEK!), riding out and Vlogging (without falling off)! A few words about what we have been up to, supporting one another and being positive (especially on social media).  A Massive thanks to Katie (my top notch XC partner in crime) and Kate (for being a lovely kind friend). Enjoy and have fun with your horses xx Nikki and Wanda

 

While I’m here… if you enjoy what we do and would like to support our work, we have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Haynet Equine Blogger of the Year Awards. The winner of the award will be selected on 50% vote and 50 % appraisal of their blog. If you would like to vote for us just follow the link by clicking onto the logo below. Voting takes about 30 seconds and we really appreciate your support!

 

 

Olympia set to welcome Victoria Pendleton in the Markel Champions Challenge

Olympia, The London International Horse Show, is delighted to announce that double Olympic gold medallist, Victoria Pendleton, will be gracing the Olympia arena as she turns her hand to show jumping in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund on the evening of Friday 16th December for the Markel Champions Challenge.

ijf

She will be plying her trade against the best in the racing world. The Challenge is made up of a flat jockey team captained by Frankie Dettori and a jump jockey team captained by current National Hunt Champion, Richard ‘Dickie’ Johnson. The flat team will also include about-to-be-crowned Champion flat jockey Jim Crowley. Both teams will be gunning for glory making the adrenalin fuelled contest even-money.

0071a8e0d54155c46c5670ff3d8706f6c1f293eb
Frankie’s team: Frankie Dettori, Jim Crowley, Hayley Turner, Adam Kirby, 5th rider (TBC)
Dickie’s team: Richard Johnson, Victoria Pendleton, Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Harry Skelton

The competition will see the five flat jockeys competing against the five jump jockeys over a challenging show jumping course built by the legendary course designer Bob Ellis. This exhilarating spectacle will task even the most experienced of riders, creating huge excitement around the Olympia arena for this year’s Friday evening performance.

Prior to the event, the former cyclist will undergo specialist training from a fellow Olympian, currently at the pinnacle of his career – Rio 2016’s individual show jumping gold medallist Nick Skelton. Nick will be giving Victoria special tuition as the multi-sport queen switches saddles yet again to take up this latest challenge.
Victoria Pendleton, multiple Olympic medallist, said:

“I am thrilled to be a part of such a prestigious event like Olympia. The Markel Champions Challenge will be an exciting competition with such a high calibre of jockeys and I’m really looking forward to riding in it. To be back involved in a team again and hear the excitement of the crowd will be immense, I just hope the jump jockeys can get over the line for the win!”      

Juliet Redfern, Markel’s Managing Director of Equine and Livestock, said:

“It is fantastic to see the return of the Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund; Markel are proud to be associated with such a credible cause at a brilliant event. To see Victoria on board will be enormously inspiring to everyone, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish all the competitors the best of luck.”  

Lisa Hancock, Chief Executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund, said:

“The Injured Jockeys Fund is delighted to be involved in this fantastic event. Not only will it be a lot of fun but it will help to raise awareness and crucial support for all injured jockeys and their families.”  

3b4c922ee96b94d50e626a8b98b6a058c24e6445
To buy your tickets to this unique event and secure your place at one of the equestrian performances of the year, please visit www.olympiahorseshow.com or telephone the box office on 0871 230 5580.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

logo-olympia

 

Fairfax & Favor Go Pink for Charity!

As many of you know October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month , which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.

Running a charity project for the second year running, to show support for the campaign is luxury boot and shoe manufacturers Fairfax and Favor.

During October the brand will be selling their limited edition, Breast Cancer Awareness leather tassel with all proceeds going to Breast Cancer Care UK.

Breast_Cancer_tassels1_1024x1024.jpg

The tassels are a  limited edition piece is crafted in Fairfax and Favor’s signature tassel style combining supple powder pink leather with a custom gold shield, all finished with a beautiful cotton gift bag to keep them in the best possible condition.

breast_cancer_tassels3_2048x2048

Designed to be worn with the FF Regina boots, or used to adorn their handbags or an accessory of your choice.

The limited edition tassels are priced at £30.00 and can be ordered here

Show your support, look stylish and think pink!

 

 

The B&W Creative guide to taking on-point Flat Layout Photos

Flat lay photos have been popularised over the last few years or so on Instagram, and way before then in glossy mags – they are a classic, simple and chic way to show off your favourite objects and current addictions in a way that captures interest. I’ve seen them used loads in Food & Fashion editorials, blogs and on social media platforms… but now they are working their way into the equestrian industry.

Flatlays are a really simple way to create interesting and very personal posts, specific to your brand and what you do. I personally love Paris in Four Months, Flatlay@bali_ayu and mamiaoyagi

So, you if you want to try taking some flatlays images here are some B&W tips to creating cracking shots and some ideas of apps and software to help you edit and refine them.

  1. Keep your background clean and neutral

You don’t want the surface behind the objects to take away from the products you are taking pictures of. If you are contemplating taking a series, then consider keeping the background consistent. Backgrounds could be a white or plain wood table top, granite counter, a white sheet or even a simple concrete floor (like my images in this blog – I did sweep up first!)

14274513_10153648830962142_1300478582_o

  1. Find a suitable light source – ideally sunlight

Natural light is the best light source to show off the objects you are taking photos of. For sure you can add a filter later on in an app (but this won’t get rid of unwanted shadows). A good light source will really support the quality of your images, so work in the daytime if possible.Equally I don’t use a flash on my camera as I’m not keen on the quality this gives. At a push I use an angle poise lamp with a super white bulb, but rarely go down the artificial light route.

  1. Theme it up…

Think about creating a series of flat lays with a linking theme, for example, the types of objects or their colours. This not only will help you construct visually interesting images, but when they are uploaded to social media they also show a consistent theme. Consider the colours of the objects, contrasting colours and snippets of really piercing colour can lift a composition. Likewise pairing a shirt, belt and a necklace and show an outfit inspiration and can be laid out interestingly.

14274275_10153648831827142_582581282_o

  1. Layout

This is the hardest aspect to crack and needs consideration and practice to get it right. Flat objects, by nature are easy to capture as they sit or lay flat. Clothing needs arranging and folding to work well, so in this sense is trickier to capture. Objects can also angle off the image, you don’t have to include the whole object in shot. You can also try layering objects as I have with this boot composition. Experiment with contrasting textures and props to develop your theme. Flat lays are all about creating a lifestyle image so think about what that could or should be.

14285360_10153648823252142_456731643_o

  1. Space it out

Give your objects space to ‘breathe’, less is more! Too many elements can be visually confusing – especially to someone viewing via their phone. Think of arranging in 3’s and 5’s when choosing your objects as these groupings can often work best together.On an iPhone iOS7 there is a handy ‘square’ function which helps you to template up and arrange a flat lay ready for Instagram uploading – so use tech to your advantage!

14285071_10153648833022142_1093092329_o

So you’ve thought about your background, light, theme and layout… now what are the best apps to edit images in to share?

Instagram –  Instagram (iOS / Android) – Pretty much the number 1 favourite for many and growing massively in popularity over the past few years due to the ability to tag. The filters and overlays are pretty good to. A great app, just remember slick images and hashtags are king! 

VSCO (iOS / Android) My personal favourite as I like the simple layout and the trademark filters (which VSCO prefers to call “Pre-sets”). It’s like Insta for cool kids. (the images in this blog were edited via VSCO).

Flatlay (Coming Soon) You use any image you have already taken on Instagram, Pinterest or within your library and plug it alongside a collection of products you have curated. Share it with the Flatlay community and the world via your page and social channels. The app that’s set to make flatlays even more commercial.

Snapseed (iOS / Android) A retouching and photo editing tool that helps enhance your photo to give you the cleanest image. Some useful stock filters and effects that will help you make the most of your images.

Lightroom (iOS / Android) An industry standard piece of software created by Adobe. There are a selection of photo shoot pre-sets and you can adjust hues, colour tones and add effects to your images.

Bazaart (iOS) An app to help you make really clean backdrops and crop product shots against a flat white background. You can then collage products together and share via social. There is an upgrade that connects directly with the desktop version of Photoshop for the Mac. New import and export options let users easily switch between Bazaart on mobile and Photoshop on the desktop at will via your Creative Cloud account. A handy one for apple users.

Enjoy your image creation! Let me know how you get on x