We have a 6½ furlong all-weather gallop which is basically a Eurotrack surface, that has been ‘topped up’ and supplemented with Martin Collins’ ever- improving products. The last 2½ furlongs rise 90 feet and provide a testing, but not too stiff gradiant for the horses to work against. We find that the surface is very ‘secure’, with a minimum amount of slippage beneath the horses feet. The gallop is maintained daily and also the sides are groomed, to maintain a level and as consistent a surface as possible.
We spent £10,000 last Summer to install another three furlongs of extra drainage to try to cope with what seem to be ever-changing and more dramatic weather patterns. So far, despite the recent desperate conditions, everything is holding up well! frosts up to minus 14°C. The gallop finishes with a 2½ furlong uphill climb which is ideal to improve and test the horses fitness and ability.
Although we don’t have Grass Gallops as such at home, we are very lucky to have access to two beautiful Grass Gallops. The Edgcote Estate is owned by David Allen who has done a painstaking job of re-instating a Grass Gallop that has been there fro well over fifty years. It is the gallop on which Edward Courage trained those great steeplechasers, Tiberetta, Spanish Steps and Royal Relief.
The gallop is only 10 minutes away by horsebox and is an oval of over 1 mile with a 3 furlong uphill spur coming off it, up which the horses finish their work. This means that you can work over any distance from 5 furlongs to steady work of upto 2½ miles! We all share responsibility for it’s repair and so hopefully the gallop is improving all the time.
Alternatively we take a load of four horses down to Peter Cundall’s legendary grass gallop at Compton. This takes just under an hour when the A34 is behaving!
This is a stiff 1½m gallop all ‘against the collar’, that provides a perfect test. This place has been grass for hundreds of years and remains perfect when other gallops would either be underwater or rock-hard. Peter looks after it lovingly and we find it a very useful facility. Many un-raced horses can look so impressive doing short works on an All-Weather, but this grass gallop provides the ‘litmus test’.
In our ceaseless efforts to improve the performance of our horses and ‘Neccessity being the Mother of Invention’, we have created a new facility, The Barley Canter.
This a half-mile, left-handed oval strip that is rotavated through a barley field. The barley will be harvested in the next few days, but the canter will remain whether the field is planted or left fallow this autumn. Obviously this canter will only be usuable during drier periods and will be out of action through the winter, but we think that doing slower 1m-3m steady canters will prove to be a very useful alternative to our all-weather gallop. The horses seem to love this canter; it teaches them to relax, not to rush or get too keen which can happen in shorter, sharper canters.
They get into a good rhythm which helps both their action and breathing. We’re thinking that a lot of steady ground-work cantering will be done on The Barley Canter for 2-3 weeks, before they use the up-hill gallop. It should also be helpful for those horses that are more prone to hind-end problems.