Gillian Takes Some Tusting Time Out
Last week, I found myself on tour with no fewer than three Explorer holdalls, three different tote bags, a Clipper, an Excursion washbag and various pouches. I took a trip to Holland for a bit of ‘Tusting Time Out’ with one of my best friends, Mia Palles-Clark and her husband Andy. As these two are happy owners of quite a number of our bags, it turned into a bit of a Tusting bags-on-tour thing.
Mia is one of the UK’s top showjumping coaches, infact, she is one of an honoured few chosen by the sport’s governing body to coach its coaches. However, not content to just teach, Mia competes plenty too, and the recent retirement of her long-time top horse, Oroness, means that Mia is on the hunt for a successor.
Buying a horse is a nerve-racking business, there is so much that can go wrong, and so much to know, so it’s definitely wise to take at least one extra pair of (experienced) eyes with you when you go shopping. Needless to say, when Mia asked me to be that extra pair of eyes on a trip to Holland, I didn’t hesitate. Holland is recognised world-wide as a centre of excellence for breeding performance horses, and Mia has good contacts there. I’ve also been riding and competing all of my life but I had never seen the Dutch system so I was very excited to get an opportunity to go. So, with Andy to complete our team of three and to be the voice of reason on strategy and finance (not to mention co-owner), we set off … with quite a lot of Tusting luggage between us.
An overnight ferry to Hook of Holland left us hitting the Dutch roads early and our first appointment with a lovely grey gelding called Cadenza. About five minutes after meeting him, our voice of reason declared himself in love with Cadenza and the strategy was starting to unravel. We watched Cadenza being ridden but sadly realised he was not the potential world-beater Mia was looking for, so we thanked the seller and dragged Andy away from his new friend. And so began three days of fascinating touring of all manner of Dutch producers and dealers of showjumpers. Each evening was spent discussing the day’s discoveries over dinner – and fielding requests to return to see Cadenza…
Eventually we were introduced to Frank, a farrier and rider, who with his partner Marlene, specialises in starting young horses which they source direct from their breeders. Choosing three-year-olds with the very best bloodlines, they start with the cream of the crop and then add their patient and talented training techniques to begin these horses’ ridden careers. Result: Mia meets ‘the one’ – a gorgeous bay mare who puts such a smile on Mia’s face that we know a match is made. Happily Andy and I were bowled over too – phew!
Having struck a deal with Frank, our last day was one for stocking up on riding gear at a nearby riders’ clothing store – one so massive that it occupied Mia and I for enough time to numb Andy almost to the bone. We revived his spirits by agreeing to visit Cadenza once more on the way back to the ferry, thinking that he might be a suitable purchase for one of Mia’s clients back home. Alas, with apparent total disregard for poor Andy’s feelings, Cadenza was really very naughty for Mia, thus ensuring he hadn’t booked himself a passage to the UK…
And so we returned to Hook of Holland for our ferry home, the car laden once again with Tusting luggage which had served us very well during our trip. Our conversation turned to planning the new mare’s stable name. Curiously, the Dutch don’t tend to give their horses pet names, but rather just call them by the name of their father. As this young mare was sired by a horse called Cannabis, she is currently known as ‘the cannabis’ – clearly something that needs a little work, especially for the moment when the customs inspectors ask what’s in the back of the truck, and how much does it weigh!
PS. We stayed at the VenDerValk TheatreHotel in Almelo and loved it.