One minute you’re preparing for Badminton 2020, the next you’re on lockdown, facing uncertainty like many of us. Millie Dumas updates us on her plans for the future, what she’s doing with her horses and a few tips along the way.
Q : With the outbreak of Covid-19 & subsequent halt of the immediate eventing competition season how has this affected your 2020 plans?
Hugely! As Event riders we are used to swiftly adjusting to Plan B, C and even D but this is a totally different angle and one that no one has encountered before. My top horse Artistiek was entered again for Badminton. Since our successful debut there together last year our plan had always been to take him back there this year hopefully to do even better. He had a short holiday at the end of last season & since early December began his fittening and training work towards this goal. Although there are other 5* events in Europe the terrain and big fences of Badminton are more suited to him.
Q: On a lot of peoples minds at the moment finance or sudden lack of it! Have you any good money saving tips at this tricky time?
Obviously we have been lucky to have horses turned out more with the good weather (especially after such a long and wet winter when bills do rocket) which inevitably cuts down on hard feed, hay, bedding etc. Horses are probably not being shod so much with less roadwork, although it is really important to keep the feet in shape. The other thing we have done is to reduce the insurance cover on our HGV horsebox from comprehensive to Fire, theft & accidental damage while it is remaining unused. Luckily we have a small runaround horsebox for any emergencies but this is a huge saving until competitions resume, also road tax as well.
Q: How has ‘Artie’s’ workload now changed ?
He was obviously very fit so I have backed off the galloping work instead keeping him ticking over with working out on the grass round the farm interspersed with lunging, polework and more turnout. He is a very experienced horse so it is really about keeping him happy in his brain and his body supple. As we don’t know if/ when the 2020 season will/will not resume it is obviously hard to set goals but we try to remain positive and ready.
Q: As a rider how are you keeping yourself busy and positive?
Many ways! This year has been a little bit about rebuilding my string, owing to some older horses moving on last season, and remodelling our business plan. We have some really lovely 4 & 5 year olds plus a 6 year old who fortunately joined us the day before lock down. I am loving being able to spend a lot of time with them, educating them, finding out all about them as individually they are so different, watching them change both physically and mentally. The young horses can be so satisfying and it’s something I have always enjoyed, especially when you produce them to the highest level. We sell a lot too but obviously this is also on hold as is the cross country schooling course here. I think as many other yards at the moment we have done a lot of spring cleaning, jobs that needed to be done but had put off. I have also just moved house so every room has now been painted & decorated ! At the moment I think we are actually busier with so many chores being ticked off but is good to be busy and keep your mind active.
We also have 2 kittens and a puppy to add to our menagerie who certainly keep the spirits up !
Q: Has your feeding plan changed?
Yes. One good thing is the better weather has arrived so all the horses are out on grass every day. For such fit horses, they have been very relaxed, happy and manageable. We are lucky here in Somerset that grass is green, lush and plentiful so we need to be careful that we don’t suddenly have a lot of tubbies ! The hard feed has been cut back but keeping up those all important BETTALife supplements. We use PharmaTrac Total Digestive Support and PharmaQuin Joint Complete and it is important to keep this up.
Q: Are you managing to keep in touch with the outside world?
Well obviously one of us draws the short straw to do the once a week supermarket shop, usually boyfriend! Only managed once to get a slot for online delivery! I keep in touch with a few other riders and we compare ideas of what we are doing. It is also really important to keep in touch with sponsors too during this difficult time for them as well and to let them know we haven’t forgotten them and fingers crossed we all come out the other side.