Okay, so this might come a little out of left field, but one of my favourite things to do at a competition, is to scope out potential horses to add to my fantasy stable. Yes, friends, it’s a thing, it’s my thing, and just ask my friend Kate Nash, it’s been going on for years. Theoretically, I SUPPOSE, I could spend my time at competitions engaged in other pursuits like gossiping, picking apart other riders training methods or moaning about the judging/state of/marks too low/marks too high/ bias/blindness/blah/blah/WINE. So, ANYHOODLE, fantasy stable it is.
The horses that cross this golden threshold are not necessarily international competitors, instead, they are horses I see and think I’d really LOVE to ride. They are always beautiful to look at and unsurprisingly, most of them have international tails. I often don’t know the people who own them, nor to I seek to make their acquaintance, because that would be like, TOTALLY CRAZY. Imagine the conversation, “Um, hi, my name’s Lara. Sooooooo, your horse, yeah the one you’re sitting on, well, I’ve just put it in box number three of my fantasy stable.” Enough said.
Today, I want to take a moment to talk about the horse that started it all, the horse that was standing in box number one, because not so long ago, I was saddened and sorry to hear, that box number one of my fantasy stable is now standing empty. I still remember the first time I saw her, I was at a competition, picking my way down one of the stable isles, dodging the gigantic puddles of water and horse pee that always eventuate after a classic Werribee downpour. “Katie, Katie, who is that?” Katie glanced over, “Oh, that’s Judy Smith’s Duchess.” “Katie, Katie, I think I’m in LURVE.” Katie, completely used to my propensity for making grand and sweeping statements, probably didn’t bat so much as an eyelash. To be truthful, I can’t entirely remember. What I do remember, was that this mare had eyes like a baby seal and a gleaming black coat to boot.
Later that day, I hovered near the tack box, pretending to be busy, whilst secretly earwigging on a conversation Katie was having with the owner of this glorious animal. She was by De Niro, check. She wasn’t much to look at when they first saw her in Germany, check. They fell in love with her beautiful face, check.
Armed with this information, I went home that evening and said to Michael A Tweedie, “Darling, I just want you to know, that today I saw my dream horse. I’m putting her in box number one of my fantasy stable. Do you want to know what her name is? Her name **pause for effect**, is Duchessssssss.” Deadpan, Michael A Tweedie turned to me and said “Of course it is.” Then promptly wandered off to cook dinner, muttering something under his breath about expensive taste. LOL.
When I first saw her, Duchess was out at Medium level and over the years I took great pleasure in watching her make her way to Grand Prix. I felt quite validated to be honest, the horse in box number one was entirely worthy of the honour, more than worthy in fact. Over time, Michael A Tweedie heard enough about this horse, that one day when he was called to Judy Smith’s place for a pre-purchase examination, having never met her before, apparently he said “Oh, you’re Judy Smith. You own Duchess don’t you?” The poor women was quite taken by surprise. “Oh, don’t worry, nothing sinister, my wife, you see, she loves your horse. I’ve been hearing about her for YEARS.” Later that evening when Mike recounted this story to me, of course I was like “ERMERGERRRED, how embarrassing! The fantasy stable is meant to be like, a total SECRET! How embarrassing, EMERGERRRED, WINE.”
Now that my fantasy stable is the worst kept secret in the UNIVERSE, I will fess up and say that box number two has been occupied since the 2013 Carl Hester Masterclass at Equitana by Lisa Martin’s Furst Famous and Katharine Farrell’s Luxor 118 lives in box number three.
Of course, I can’t spend all my time filling my fantasy stable because I’m a rider, so I have an actual real life stable to fill. In box number one stands a pretty as a picture, chestnut mare, with a stripe and a snip and four fancy white socks. As far as her international tail goes, I’m working on it. Poor Ann-Katrin Fischer has stood and listened as I extolled the virtues of Champion Tails Water Glaze. “It’s the bombdiggity. Please spray it in Sugarloaf Flame’s tail at every opportunity. Um, thanks?” LOL.
I’m hoping to fill box number two in my real life stable really soon. You see, Flame’s purchase wasn’t just exciting, it was positively transformative. I loaded that horse on the float and I morphed, from someone who was simply a rider, to become **pause for effect** a BREEEEEEEDER. A horse with the pedigree of a Russian Tsarina will do that to you. In one fell swoop, I became one of THOSE people, you know, the ones that bang on and on (and sometimes on) about their horse’s PEDIGREE.
At the risk of being completely insufferable, bear with me whilst I take a moment to talk about Flame’s fancy relations, because her relations are so fancy, that sometimes, I secretly stalk them on the INTERNET. Flame is out of a mare called Anouk, who is by a horse called Jazz (no explanation needed). Anouk was bred by a very famous person called Nico Witte who lives in a country called The Netherlands. Anouk had a baby with a horse called Ampere and this foal was called Fellini and he grew up to be a licensed stallion. For any non-horsey people who are still reading, this is a BIG DEAL. Hayley Gilbert and Lyn Gilbert bought Anouk, put her on a plane and brought her to AUSTRALIA. Stacy McGregor then helped Anouk make lots and lots of embryos. One special night, probably at a most uncivilised hour, Stacy McGregor took a dose of Fuerst Fugger out of her liquid nitrogen tank, looked up into the sky, watched the planets align and made Flame. It was all very ZEN because that’s what the breeding season is like. TOTALLY ZEN.
Jokes aside, life has a funny way of coming full circle. This breeding season, there’s another special dose of semen sitting in Stacy’s liquid nitrogen tank. This time, it’s De Niro. When Flame finishes her first proper stint in work as a dressage horse, she’ll meet the team at Seven Creeks Equine Veterinary Clinic and we will try for an embryo. Let’s hope the filly fairy waves her magic wand. If she’s black, there will be no prizes for guessing what I’ll call her.
Postscript: The 2016 breeding season came and went and I never sent Flame to have an embryo flushed. We bought a new house and I had no spare $$$ So, anyway, #reallife #nextyear