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One very cantankerous creature…Farley Hall BE Report

So, in our bid for worldwide domination, we thought we would head a little further west and check out Farley Hall. Now…. as I hate being late, we left bright and early (too early as it turned out), we had a lovely drive, with Toby and Charlotte producing some rather delectable bacon rolls to keep us fuelled and arrived with plenty of time to walk the course and get ready (or for Claire to do a fab job getting Dan ready while I had a nap).

Dressage time… yay!!! Dan had the MAJOR arse ache at being got up unnecessarily early to just stand around and wait, so our test was a little stroppy! He stomped around the arena like a teenage goth that’s parents have confiscated his eyeliner to make him do the chores ….. but we still managed to be only 9 points behind the leader!

Back to the box for a quick change and off for a spot of show jumping! Whoopee! I love a bit of show jumping! It was a lovely, well-presented course, but Dan had his own views, he felt it was a little on the small side, so failed to give it the respect it deserved. This resulted in nothing like an unfortunate pole, instead we made a couple of poles feel really unlucky as we booted one half way across the arena, and stamped on another! But apart from that blip in the middle, the rest was something to be pleased with!

At long last, cross country time!!!! This is what he is all about! Today was all about letting the hand brake off and going for it! The starter counted us down, and we were off, or at least we would have been if he hadn’t been too busy spooking at the bloody flags!! But once he realised they weren’t going to kill him, he WAS off: the perfect demonstration of power and grace eating up the distance as he flew over every obstacle as though they were nothing; well… all except number 9, number 9 nearly killed us, or we nearly killed ourselves being a little over enthusiastic, one of the 2. But what a run! We were a little too fast, with a few naughty time points, but a good practice run before the hills of Brightling.

Pictures by Ultimate Images Photography.

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A day in the life/how to: lorry dog edition

6am: Arrive at the yard & check the premises is free from intruders. This is achieved by running around the same barn several times whilst making as much noise as possible. +10 bonus points are achieved for every neighbour you wake up.
7.00am: Discover that your handler is grooming and plaiting their horse instead of giving you attention. Sit outside the stable door and cry for 45 minutes whilst they do so to express your disdain.
7.45am: Follow your handler very, very closely for the next hour whilst they load the lorry in case they try to leave you. +5 bonus points for every time they nearly trip over you.
8.45am: Leave the yard and engage superior lorry dog mode. This is what you were made for.

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9.20am: Arrive at the venue and promptly realise that there is mud & puddles as far as the eye can see. Spend 20 minutes tiptoeing through the trench-like conditions, trying to find a dry spot to sit whilst your handler gets tacked up.

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9.43am: Get dragged across the muddy lorry park to the warm up. Express your disgust at this by walking really, really slowly and jumping all the puddles. +15 bonus points for every time you splash your handler whilst doing so.
11am: Head to photographers tent, conveniently placed beside the cafe, and gain yourself a new boyfriend in the form of a fellow black Labrador
11.15am: Give your handler your cutest look and end up sharing their breakfast
11.17am: Promptly dump your boyfriend when he also tries to get food off YOUR handler
11.35am: Get back into the lorry and fall asleep in the most helpful place possible.

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12.10pm: Refuse to leave the lorry and head out into the rain and cold. Continue to sleep instead.
1.40pm: Finally get dragged out the lorry and into another car and head to your next clinic. Take a nap on route.

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2pm: Take your place beside the arena to watch. Try to make friends with everyone you can, but allow no-one except your handler to touch you
2.10pm: Spot a cat across the other side of the arena. Proceed to make as much noise as possible in order to warn everyone about the threat.
2.15pm: Promptly get asked to leave for causing too much disruption. Apparently Olympic champions do not appreciate dogs interrupting their lessons. Clearly, they are cat people.
2.20pm: Sheepishly return to the yard and do another intruder check, just the same as before
2.25pm: Help with the mucking out by sitting in the most helpful place possible

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3pm: Help with the sweeping by sitting in the most helpful place possible

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3.20pm: Disappear for 45 minutes, refuse to come back to call, and once your handler is suitably panicked, return looking like this:

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4.10pm: Spook a horse by barking
4.12pm: Chase after spooked loose horse, barking in an attempt to herd it.
4.15pm: Fail
4.20pm: Celebrate the caught horse by barking. More.
5pm: Sit in the middle of the school and make horses work around you. Refuse to move.
5.20pm: Make sure your handler is still alive when they get off their horse. Thank the horse too for not killing your handler.

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6.30pm: Return home after a long day. Consider changing careers to something simpler, like a lap dog or petting zoo hound. Fall asleep dreaming of being a superior lorry dog anyway.

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Our First Novice…South of England BE Report

So, this time last year I made the decision to retire Bert from eventing after he struggled to make the step up to novice and it hit me hard.
Now I have always been lucky enough to have access to lots of horses to play with, and thankfully, this time was no different. I had just taken Claire Penfolds Dantastic to his first BE90 at the lovely Munstead Horse Trials. One year later and Dan has not only taken that step up, at the same event that Bert retired at, but tackled it like a true pro.

Normally at this point I would wax eloquent, and spin a humorous account of how we tackled the SJ beast and then nailed the cross country…… But this event was different.
Our dressage was flawed, but a valiant effort; we scored only 4% behind first place (and only 2.5% behind Sir Mark Todd!!!!)

Then the sj beast got the better of us….. I tried too hard to achieve what we are capable of, and in the process made some mistakes. But they are my own mistakes, I own them and learn from them and will do so much better next time.

But then it was time for cross country; oh my god….. this is what we were made for. The course challenged him, and he answered that challenge like the true hero he is. He answered every question I asked of him, took every stride I put him on (whether it was right or wrong) and didn’t question me once. He made it feel effortless.
I have my faults, Dan has his, but over the last year we have become more than the sum of our parts. We may never challenge Ollie Townend or Pippa Funnell, but with the help of  a large amount of people we are going to challenge people’s perceptions of us.
This little horse made me so very proud at the South of England Horse Trials and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone that has helped us come this far. There are so many people that have invested time in us so thank you to all of you. Claire Penfold, Helen WarrenCaroline JeanneCharlotte StephensSpring Hill Dressage and everyone else that has been there for us; and of course our wonderful sponsors and supporting companies.
Voltaire Design United Kingdom
PW Equine Physio
equiXTREME
Kelly Hazelden Equine Dentist
Equivation
Spidge Event Photography

Unfortunately, I don’t think we will get another run this year (work gets in the way!) But here is to next season! My BE family, you have been great, and I look forward to seeing you all at the SEEL ball in November!

#Dantastic #tamethebeast

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Pretty in Pink…Firle BE Report

I’m sure many will agree with me when I say that Firle Place is a venue that simply oozes class, quality, and composure. So, what better way to bring this crashing down on its head than with a ridiculous pair of egotistical males donned from head-to-toe in hot pink? All, of course, for a very good cause…

Firle place has always been a significant venue for us – every year, we always try to give our own little nod to everyone who is fighting, or has been affected by, Breast Cancer by ditching the usual red colours and donning pink instead. This year, we decided to see just how far we could take this, and simultaneously try to raise some money for a Breast Cancer Charity.   In addition to this, Firle was even more of a big deal for us, as it was set to be Dantastic’s last 100 event before he was due to step up to Novice at South of England. So there was everything to play for!

After a couple of weeks of preparation for operation pink (thanks mainly to Dantastic’s awesome owner Claire Penfold, who dared to take the pinkness even further than I would have thought to!!) the big day finally arrived, and it was go time. The dressage went well, scoring a respectable 33.8, and with just 2 poles down in the SJ, the main event – the cross country – soon rolled around!

And what a vision it was!! As you can tell by the photos below, Dan stepped up to the mark and embraced the pink like the true hero he is, storming around the course to come home clear. It’s slightly disconcerting quite how well he suits pink!!!

An enormous thank you needs to be given to Spidge Event Photography, who were covering the event and donated a percentage of their takings from the entire weekend. In total, they donated a whopping £512.50 to our cause, and we couldnt be more grateful for such an amazing act of kindness. The equestrian world can be an incredible place at times!

 

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Just a little something for the ego…Smiths Lawn BE Report

With Dan’s persistent rise to greatness, I felt it was time to expand his fan base, and let some really prominent members of society bask in the glow of our awesomeness. What better way to do it than to go have little pop round the Queens back garden at Smiths Lawn Horse Trials?
Now, eventing on a weekday and so late in the afternoon, threw me completely. I could actually go to work for the morning first (lucky me), while Dan’s owner, Claire, got him all spick and span and ready to go.
So we get to the Windsor great park, and drive ever onwards down the longest drive I have ever seen, past some of the most beautiful lakes and water courses, to arrive at the lawns beside Guards Polo Club. This is already starting to feel grand enough for even our over developed egos. 😉
We headed off to the dressage with plenty of time and warmed up beautifully, he was soft and balanced and sashayed his way around the warm up like Shakira ballroom dancing. Our time came and we headed to our arena…… just as the heavens opened. We had approximately 3 meters of rain in 4 and a half minutes, then it stopped with the end of my test (well… nearly), but Dan pulled a cracking test out of the bag with only one moment of silliness losing us a couple of marks.
So now is the moment I never look forward to, the dreaded show jumping….. and what a challenging course it appeared to be (the course builder was obviously a mad man that took inspiration from a knotted ball of string), with everything seeming to be related off of a difficult turn (I actually almost got lost and had to come right back to find the 4th jump!). But what a course it turned out to be! Ignoring my little sat nav failure, it was a beautiful round. The course really encouraged you to think and ride, and we finished on a mere 4 faults! That course builder really knew what he was doing.
Then it was the moment we had been waiting for, Cross Country, and we had the honor of being the last to go (although it was verging on getting dark by this point). The course was beautifully presented and bang up to height, with some challenges and questions, although it was a little shorter than I am used to. The course rode fantastically and Dan flew round the course hitting every stride perfectly and maintaining a perfect rhythm all the way. Until the woods. Going last had it’s perks (like being the only one on the course for the commentator to focus on, lol) but it has its down side as well. It was so gloomy in the woods that we had to slow right down……… for the first time, Dan had to trot on a cross country course! This led to us being a few seconds over time and claiming a couple of penalties.
Now our final score put us in 22nd place, which is not wonderful. But our score was only 15 points behind first place in a very competitive section, how could I not be pleased with that! His dressage was great, his show jumping epic, and his cross country was awesome, and I am sure I saw the Queen give us a wave as she walked her corgis; all in all, it was a bloody good day!

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When 2 become 3 – Chilham Castle Report

Chilham Castle International Horse Trials is always a fantastic event, and this weekend was no exception; the ground was perfect, and the setting was as beautiful as ever.
We had 3 horses in 3 different classes: Tigger was up first in the 90, then Roo made his debut in the 80, before Dan showed them how it is supposed to be done and finished the weekend in style in the 100!

So we left bright and early Saturday morning for Tigger’s section, and arrived with plenty of time to walk the course without rushing. He strolled down for the dressage in a very relaxed manner, and warmed up like a mature sensible horse, rather than a spoilt little brat. He was nice and consistent and worked in an even tempo, but unfortunately Helen still has not grasped the concept of accuracy, so it wasn’t the best score.
Next was Show Jumping… now Tigger is more than capable, but is also a sticky little sod. Saturday though, he decided he could do it! And he jumped everything off a decent stride, sadly meaning that he couldn’t make it through the double without sticking in a shuffle and taking a pole with him on the way out – no one told Chilham about Tigger strides! So off to cross country! Now Helen and Tigger have never managed to complete around this course, and they were determined that this time…… it would happen. They stormed out of the cross country start like true competitors, attacked the first jump with a previously unseen intensity, before vanishing to take on the rest of the course. As they rode the best I’ve ever seen, they balanced on the edge of disaster, backing off of the flower beds and nearly grinding to a halt, till Helen finally gave him a damn good slap with the stick, and the game was on! They went clear! They were bang on for every stride on the rest of the course and came in with 4 time penalties to add. Leaving them in a fairly respectable 18th.
So next up was Claire Penfolds Roo and Zoe, in their BE debut. His dressage was amazingly chilled out for such a green horse; and for such a big horse, Zoe did a great job of holding him together and keeping him in the arena. Off to show jumping! Chilham is the perfect arena for a big, green horse like him. Plenty of space to turn and manoeuvre, and he gave Zoe a clear round! Cross country time….. and the heavens opened! Poor Roo and Zoe had to tackle their first BE course in nothing less than monsoon conditions. But that was not going to deter them, they soldiered on and battled the hills and the elements to get home clear. Sadly, the hills took their toll, and Roo came back claiming a few time penalties, but securing a very admirable 10th place!

Sunday morning was to be day 2 at Chilham Castle International Horse Trials, and it was Dan’s time to shine, so I set my alarm for 4.30, ready for a nice early start, and headed to bed. So obviously when my alarm goes off I jump out of bed fresh and ready to go…. or alternatively, oversleep and wake up 25 minutes before we are supposed to leave the yard. Luckily Claire is there and had Dan ready to go, so off we go….. or not… where are the bloody lorry keys????? After 10 minutes of running around and swearing, turns out they were in my pocket. Finally, we were on our way. So we arrive to find the ground somewhat more water logged than the day before, but the car park lads were on fine form and got everyone where they needed to go without any problem. (I say no problem, but we did have a bit of a scary moment when we started slipping sideways down the hill towards a parked lorry!)
So having finally arrived and parked up safely, it’s dressage time, and what a view to warm up too. Dan warmed up beautifully and was the centre of all attention, he sashayed and glided below the castle, his magnificence only matched by the skill shown by his rider 😉 He powered into the arena and strode down the centre line all poetry and grace and successfully pulled a very respectable score out of the bag, finishing only 8 points behind the leader.
Now on to the dreaded show jumping! He warms up all sweetness and light, and then the steward calls us…… it’s time. We enter the arena and prepare to do battle with the beast. The beast gets the upperhand, we go disunited, but Dan pulls himself together, sorts his legs out, and attacks! His rhythm is set, his canter is perfect, and off we go. What a round. He tried his heart out, and we jumped together. But sadly….. still not to be and before we finish, 2 poles fall. But now it is the main event, the reason we do it. It’s cross country time! And Dan is not going to disappoint. He storms out of the start box like a thing possessed, the jumps flow towards us one after another and Dan flows over them effortlessly. He laughs at this course, he destroys it. It is nothing compared to his magnificence. Until the coffin. Mental note…… how ever beautiful and lovely it feels at that pace, slow up and shorten for coffins! My life flashed before my eyes as I felt Dan catch the final part, but that boy is smart, he manages to rebalance and get his feet under him for landing. With a grunt of irritation he regroups and sods off. Storming around the rest of the course to come in just under the time. Another fantastic event at a fantastic venue.
Now we look to Smiths Lawn next Monday, and the challenge of a new venue!

 

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Does my helmet look weird in this?… Eridge BE Report.

Wow, what a cracking weekend was had at Eridge Horse Trials, Country Market & Dog Show. It started off with Dantastics owner Claire providing a full on fry up (including black and white pudding!) on the lorry before Helen and Tigger took on the 90. Tigger pulled a very nice dressage test out of the bag, before nailing a fantastic clear round show jumping! Then they were off for cross country and it was a valiant effort. They kicked on across the country, on what was their most demanding course they have run so far, but were struck by hesitancy at the ditch and picked up 20 penalties, pushing them out of the placings this time.
Then it was Dantastics turn! Dressage proved a little bit excitable, so we didnt pull the best score out of the bag!
But then it was time to go show jumping. Finally, I was looking forward to it!!! The beast was not going to get us this time. It was our best round to date, and he jumped beautifully (on all but one jump), I feel I can actually use the phrase “an unlucky pole” (a phrase I’ve never been able to use before). The training, the mind coaching, and the life changing saddle from Voltaire Design finally came together to give us our most fluent BE show jumping round to date.
And then off to the cross country. Our favourite phase! And this is a course I love. So much time and effort was put into making the running perfect, and the ground was ideal! Dan destroyed this course. He attacked every jump like it had personally scorned him, and hit every stride bang on! He flowed over the countryside as though it was there for his personal pleasure! But disaster struck, this was not to be our perfect round…….. I lost my hat silk!!! The photos were ruined. 😧 But I’ll let you be the judge!

 

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Never listen to a beast…Brightling BE Report

Had a fab day out at Brightling park this weekend. Once again, there is alot to like, but lots to work on!

Tigger pulled a fab dressage test out of the bag for Helen, and then jumped beautifully round the show jumping (with one completely unnecessary pole off a short stride). Then it was cross country time! Tigger can be a tricky little bugger, but is finally starting to give a little back, he jumped nicely out of a stride through 80% of the course. But then, sadly, complacency hits, Helen stops using her leg, and Tigger just…… stops. A completely unnecessary refusal, that cost her a placing. She won’t make that mistake again!

Now it’s Dantastic time, and he was in a very competitive section with some big names. Not that that bothered him in the slightest! So we headed off to the dressage, and our first problem……. COWS! Our relationship thus far, has not included COWS, and they came as a bit of a shock to the system. So as we had a little dance and a play, on the road, with the traffic, more of the bloody things came over to see what the fuss was all about. Thankfully another rider came along and Dan managed to shimmy through the gate alongside them, effectively shielded and preparing to throw this other horse in front of the aforementioned cows, should they suddenly decide they crave horse flesh. Of course, as soon as we got through the gate, they were revealed to be nothing but your everyday humdrum, non horse eating bovines, and dressage was allowed to happen! Dan produced a lovely rhythmical test, with some of his best trot work to date, (all the hard work with Sune at Spring Hill Dressage is paying off). So we were off to a great start!
Then it was show jumping time, and Brightling is a fantastic arena for a show-off like Dan. He positively strutted into the arena to cries of adoration from his adoring masses (or at least that’s what it sounded like anyway. ). The bell rang, and battle with the beast was joined. We approached the first, it’s a glorious stride with a powerful jump, and the crowd goes wild with excitement. We head to the second on a bit of a hairpin turn, and power up the hill, complacency has set in and Dan is a little lax with his back feet, the Beast claims it’s first pole. Determined not to make the same mistake again, the next 2 jumps are pure poetry, and then it’s the double. We relax, We breathe, we remember everything we are told and breeze through it effortlessly. But then, the Beast whispers cruelly in my ear “it’s a long way to the next jump, don’t just sit there and support him, why don’t you interfere? Fiddle with your hands? You know, see if you can fit 7.5 strides in there instead of 6. He’d like that”.
What a pillock! Why listen to that? The top pole goes flying. But we pull ourselves together, and crack on like the heroes we know ourselves to be, leaving the rest of the poles up, and the Beast furious at being denied any further victory.
And we’re off to cross country! The course was perfect, Brightling had presented the ground beautifully, and the going was great. Dan left the start box like an arrow from a bow, he had been waiting for this. He hit every stride perfectly and soared over the jumps as though they weren’t there. He was the vision of power and grace. As powerful as a hurricane sweeping across the countryside, and as agile as a cheetah chasing an antelope across the plains. Until we get to the palisade before the water that is…… a brief conversation is held (short or long stride?) neither of us win and we nearly stack it (I literally saw my life pass before my eyes!). We take the next jump a little more carefully, and then kick on up the hill to the Folly. The brief problem over, the boy was not to be held back, and he pretty much flew off the top of the hill. He stormed round the rest of the course determined to prove to anyone that saw us at the palisade, that his godlike mask was not to be ignored, and that even heroes falter occasionally (all the better to make a heroic recovery from!) And leave everyone in no doubt that they were in the presence of greatness. 

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“Like a teenage goth”… Farley Hall Report

So, in our bid for worldwide domination, we thought we would head a little further west and check out Farley Hall. Now…. as I hate being late, we left bright and early (too early as it turned out), we had a lovely drive, with Toby and Charlotte producing some rather delectable bacon rolls to keep us fuelled and arrived with plenty of time to walk the course and get ready (or for Claire to do a fab job getting Dan ready while I had a nap).

Dressage time… yay!!! Dan had the MAJOR arse ache at being got up unnecessarily early to just stand around and wait, so our test was a little stroppy! He stomped around the arena like a teenage goth that’s parents have confiscated his eyeliner to make him do the chores ….. but we still managed to be only 9 points behind the leader!

Back to the box for a quick change and off for a spot of show jumping! Whoopee! I love a bit of show jumping! It was a lovely, well-presented course, but Dan had his own views, he felt it was a little on the small side, so failed to give it the respect it deserved. This resulted in nothing like an unfortunate pole, instead we made a couple of poles feel really unlucky as we booted one half way across the arena, and stamped on another! But apart from that blip in the middle, the rest was something to be pleased with!

At long last, cross country time!!!! This is what he is all about! Today was all about letting the hand brake off and going for it! The starter counted us down, and we were off, or at least we would have been if he hadn’t been too busy spooking at the bloody flags!! But once he realised they weren’t going to kill him, he WAS off: the perfect demonstration of power and grace eating up the distance as he flew over every obstacle as though they were nothing; well… all except number 9, number 9 nearly killed us, or we nearly killed ourselves being a little over enthusiastic, one of the 2. But what a run! We were a little too fast, with a few naughty time points, but a good practice run before the hills of Brightling.

Pictures by Ultimate Images Photography.

 

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When Gods walk among us…Rackham BE Report

So a bloody scorcher of a day at Rackham Cross Country Course yesterday, but what a fab day!

So… BE90 first!

Brian tried his heart out and gave a lovely dressage test and a brilliant round of show jumping (but he eats show jumps for breakfast, the Beast holds nothing over him). But sadly he just didn’t have the confidence for quite an open cross country course (I’m sure he is agoraphobic, give him an arena and his stable and he is happy as me in the pub!), so a bit of pure show jumping for him for a while I think! Let the cogs in his head mesh again.

Tigger and Helen provided a very relaxed dressage test (so relaxed she couldn’t find the enthusiasm to take a contact!) But that proceeded to pull a fab round of show jumping out of the bag with a dropped toe taking the rear rail on the LAST jump, how bloody infuriating! But then she stormed round the cross country and hit every stride perfectly before crossing the line without any time penalties, and without a watch! Brat/Barbie pony did good.

And for the BE100…

But now it’s the main event! The man we have all been waiting for, it’s DANTASTIC TIME!!!!!!

He warmed up for the dressage with all the elegance and grace of a ballroom dancer, he was supple and magisterial and the warm up arena basked in the glow of his munificence (it was good, in other words ). The test itself was a little less relaxed, but the judge obviously liked us, and he got the 6th best score in his section, and his first sub 30! We were off to a fantastic day. As his mega mummy (Claire Penfold) cooled him down and got him ready for the show jumping, I had a stroll around the xc, to further test trainer Caroline’s patience by successfully distracting the rest of her group on the course walk.
Now, it’s show jumping time! And holy cow was it good! We strutted into the arena like we owned the place (successfully ignoring the photographer!) Put our game face on, and tackled the Beast. It was going down! We jumped powerfully, we jumped precisely, and we kept our cool after jumping long into the first double and having a pole on the way out. Next up was what my son Harry has now dubbed the Pikachu jump, and we hit the stride bang on, keeping the rhythm to get home with just the one pole!.

But why were we really here??? For the cross country of course! For Dan’s chance to remind us all that Gods walk among us! To grace us with the thunder of his passing as he ate up the distance and took every jump as though it was there purely for his pleasure (is that a little ostentatious???)
But accolade aside, what else does this hero of mythological proportions deserve??? A rosette! Yayyyyy, Dantastic came 10th.
Bring on next weekend. Watch out Farley Hall, Dantastic is coming for you!

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