Hi Everyone, I can’t believe three months have passed and it’s time to update you all again on the progress of Wemyss Point, the first of Wetherby Racecourse’s official ambassadors as part of the Retraining of Racehorses ‘Horses for Courses’ scheme.
When I wrote our first blog back in May, Wemyss was settling into his different way of working life, and we were looking forward to targeting some first outings hopefully before I next updated you. When I sit and look back, we’ve had a busy three months which has culminated in us achieving more together than I’d first hoped in this time.
Our first trip out was to Hambleton Show at the end of May; here I had Wemyss entered in the In Hand ROR Tattersalls Open Qualifier. This is a showing class where I didn’t ride him, so we could use this as a first test for the season, and an opportunity to get out and about. Unfortunately, Wemyss travelled badly to Hambleton, got himself very wound up in the lorry and arrived dripping in sweat; not the best start for a showing class but we took it as a one-off, initially thinking it was just because he hadn’t been anywhere for ages and was just too excited. Once settled at the showground Wemyss was fine, finished 4th in the class (he needed to continue to develop his muscles in a different shape across his topline now outside of racing) and enjoyed meeting new friends. However, the return journey was equally eventful and we all arrived home in a bit of a fluster.
Our next trip was to a ‘Snakes & Ladders’ Clinic in Northumberland. These clinics are run by Samantha Brown, a brilliant dressage trainer who I have used in the past with Chloe’s Image and are designed to help the horse build rhythm, strength and balance, achieved through a combination of what can be quite complicated polework exercises. Poor Wemyss again didn’t travel well, and although he tried hard at the clinic found the poles terrifying (hilarious for an established hurdler) and all the distances between poles far too short for his huge stride. The return journey was again awful, and then an accidental incident between my Mum and Wemyss when we got home resulting in her in A&E with a badly broken wrist ended the day badly…I must stress this absolutely wasn’t Wemyss’ fault but he’s certainly been involved in some hair-raising moments in the last three months.
We have since learned that poles are actually a good training exercise for Wemyss provided he is working alone and not in a group because currently he simply cannot shorten his stride and considering how good he was over hurdles, his coordination is pretty appalling!
I then decided we needed to try a few different things to understand whether the journey nightmares were a blip, or something related to either my horsebox or Wemyss himself. Many short trips to hack with friends, to the fuel station and just around our local countryside concluded that the issue is twofold; partly adrenaline / excitement and partly Wemyss struggling to balance when turning left-handed and getting himself stressed out. Because of this I decided that this season was going to be spent simply going on short trips to re-educate Wemyss that traveling is not exciting or scary, but thought we would persist, with no pressure, on going to enjoyable trips and taking one day at a time.
Wemyss admiring the scenery at Aske Hall pleasure ride, and relaxing meeting Oscar the Shetland Pony on one or our many 10-minute trips.
In June, one of our local equestrian centres had a show which ticked all the boxes; local, easy to access, and on a Sunday so roads would be quiet and hopefully nobody would mind if I was going 30mph to give my pony a pleasurable journey! So off we went to Bishopton where Wemyss contested his first ridden showing class, a milestone which will always be memorable as his career hopefully progresses in the future. He travelled much better, arrived only slightly patchy with sweat, and behaved impeccably in the ring to finish 3rd, standing alongside fellow ex-Phil Kirby trained ‘Jawaab’ in 2nd.
With our new-found confidence we set off to Newton Rigg for a lovely Sparket Equestrian show a couple of weeks later, thankfully the classes were inside as the heavens opened and everything was underwater. Sadly though the warm up was outside so this was not the best day for precious Wemyss who doesn’t believe in working in the rain! He finished 2nd and 3rd in his two classes though so again we were very pleased and excited for the future.
Wet Wemyss warming up in the rain, going beautifully in the ring and proudly smiling with his 2nd rosette at Newton Rigg
It had become apparent before over recent weeks though, thinking back to my first blog, that Wemyss is still really lacking some of the remote control buttons, and our trot to canter transitions were pretty much non-existent. When they did happen, they were fairly unpredictable and nowhere near as neat as they should be. People reading this may think it’s surprising that such a simple movement as transitioning from trot into canter can’t be hard, but with racehorses they very often go from walk straight into canter on the gallops, and if moving from trot to canter, often achieve this by gradually getting faster until the change of pace is achieved. In showing / dressage though, the canter strike off needs to be cleanly completed within a single stride, and the trot pace and rhythm need not to change prior to this. With Wemyss, he was all about going faster and faster in trot, becoming unbalanced and ending up with an incorrect strike off which will be heavily penalised in his future of showing / dressage so needed to be sorted sooner rather than later! I called in the help of my best friend Tanya Buckingham-Lloyd who happens to also be one of the best event riders and coaches around. She came to help Wemyss and I at home, loved him as soon as she met him, and very quickly gave us some exercise to improve his straightness and balance to aid success of our canter transitions.
With our new armoury of exercises, we have been to a couple more local shows in July; Durham County and Dalston in Cumbria, both around 60 minutes’ drive with no sweaty Wemyss on arrival. We even survived gale force wind, a flyaway marquee and the Shetland Pony Grand National in the ring next door at Durham! We finished 2nd and 3rd in our two classes despite these challenges, and 3rd in both our classes at Dalston. Each show though was showing us that the travelling was improving, and Wemyss behaviour is good, and able to handle many different environments.
Going beautifully in the ring at Durham after surviving the flyaway marquee, and both of us laughing watching the Shetland Pony Grand National
After the success of our first few shows, I decided to bite the bullet and enter my favourite show of the year, the Retraining of Racehorses National Championships at Aintree. Wemyss had qualified for the final of the In Hand Series on the Saturday, but because he needs more ridden experience I decided to attend on the Friday for the ridden sections. We arrived without drama after 3 hours driving, and the lovely part of this show was having Michelle (General Manager at Wetherby Racecourse) along with us to support and showcase the relationship between Wetherby Racecourse and Wemyss’ life after racing. The Horses for Courses scheme is becoming more and more popular and it remains important for racing to be supportive of horses future careers and welfare.
Being back at a racecourse certainly proved a challenge for Wemyss, he has run at Aintree before and knew exactly what he could be there for! He did though manage to contain himself beautifully and finished 4th in each of two strongly contested Novice and Amateur ROR Tattersalls 2024 Qualifiers. It was an honour for us both being in the ring at such a prestigious venue alongside the likes of Native River, Definitely Red (Aintree Racecourses Horses for Courses Ambassador) and Aso who are also now starting out on their second careers.
I was particularly proud of Wemyss in the Novice class as it was his first time being ridden by a ride judge and he behaved impeccably. Again, it may seme such a simple thing for a horse to be ridden by a different rider, but when they are learning a new trade after racing, the first time is a big ask. And on this occasion, being on a racecourse, having a male rider legged up, Wemyss could be forgiven for thinking he would soon be galloping down to the start!
Wemyss with Michelle & me, sporting his new ROR Horses for Courses rug, and strutting his stuff in the ring on the hallowed turf of Aintree
As I write this and think of what’s next, Wemyss has one showing entry left this season back at Newton Rigg for the finals of their series on 17th September, then he will have a short holiday while I focus on my Veteran horse who is attending the VHS Championships at the end of the month. The Autumn and Winter will then involve lots more training, with the aim of a full and successful mixed discipline season next year. Hopefully by the time I write to you again Wemyss and I will have tackled our first dressage test and maybe even done a bit of jumping. If all goes to plan and we are lucky, some of you may see us back at Wetherby too.
I’ll close with this beautiful photo captured at Dalston Show, which I just think sums Wemyss up perfectly, always willing to pose and always managing to look stunning!
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed our update.
Beth & Wemyss.