I am Abi boulton, more usually known as Tic Toc Eventing, I am 26 years of age and am based at my family home in Staffordshire.
I was surrounded by horses from the very start so that's probably the reason why I chose this way of life! On my Mother’s side we were a big hunting family – she was Hunt Secretary to the Meynell & South Staffs for a few years and my Grandfather was Secretary, then Master & Huntsman of the South Staffs before the amalgamation. My Great Grandfather was Secretary and then Master prior to that.
Dad, a totally un-horsey agricultural land drainage contractor, has sort of embraced his life being taken over by our equine friends and it was inevitable that he should branch out into arena and gallop construction (Boultons Arenas & Gallops). He will, if he can, make an appearance at some competitions; skipping the dressage phase when possible & will take his semi-safe position as HHH aka ‘Head Horse Holder’.
My early years were spent competing Working Hunter ponies and I was known for not being the most brave: my party trick when I fell off was to lie for dead and wait to be carried off by the first aid crew! My mother was not best impressed to say the least! Hunting definitely helped and the nerves soon disappeared – I had a great 14hh dun pony which we had as a 5-year-old from Jane Beswick (Pebbly Pipe Dream). He and I grew up together and formed a fantastic relationship – he was not wrapped up in cotton wool and hunted through the winter and went showing through the summer and latterly went Pony Trialling. Our claim to fame came at the Royal International Horse Show in 2010 – first time we had qualified – we won our class, went Champion and had to come back on the Sunday for the Dick Saunders supreme. We had no real expectations on that Sunday, in fact we had discussed not going back at all, but we made history that day to become the first WHP to win the Dick Saunders Supreme Championship. Unfortunately, although age-wise I had got another year, my long legs meant I grew out of ponies very quickly. Ben was purchased a few weeks after and Chippy (as he was known) found a home with Chelsea Pearce.
During the last year I have quietly taken on a couple of owned horses to compete and have now made the decision to fill the yard with a few more owned horses. If there is anyone out there that would like to talk about possibly having their horse with me then I am most certainly up for whatever comes. I have experience of riding youngsters, off-the-track-thoroughbreds and I love taking horses through the grades; unlocking their potential and can cope with quirky 5* horses!
I have a great support system currently with Mum helping out when she can alongside working full time and I’ve definitely taken advantage of her ‘working from home’ this past year. We don’t have anyone full time but Vicki and Zoe help us out part-time and as we get busier with events they help with cover when we are away. Having physical help on the yard in the mornings really helps me begin my days a little fresher and enables me to start working the horses a little earlier.
I am super lucky to be able to train with Tim Downes for dressage and Jeanette Brakewell for jumping. I am fortunate enough to live near them both so they can shout at me on a regular basis which is always fun! Tim has been training me for around about eight years now & Jan for over ten which seems crazy but I have a great relationship with them both and I am forever grateful for their ongoing guidance and support.
A few more names to be mentioned from behind the scenes, Steph Appleton (ably assisted by Elaine), keeping the horses comfortable; treating them both at home and away when competing at long format events, our farrier Andrew Leek and Equine Dentist Mark Aldridge.
I also have some great companies that support me and I do my best to help promote; especially when in these current times businesses are having to rely a lot more on online platforms to engage customers.
Fairfax & Favor
Gain Equine Nutrition
Racing Blue Storm
Boultons Arenas & Gallops
My biggest career highlight to date would definitely be competing at Burghley back in 2015 with my absolute hero Tilston Tic Toc aka Benjamin. We have had such a journey together and he has just got the biggest character. I was 15 and he was 8 when my mother bought him and he was competing at Novice level at the time. He is not easy and usually has something to say in the dressage but that didn’t stop us being longlisted at Junior and Young Rider level and then continuing up the levels to reach one of the biggest Eventing stages with the added bonus of a clear round cross country on our debut was absolutely mind blowing. I am so grateful that he is still happy and healthy and, COVID allowing, I will still be able to compete him at the grand age of 19 this season!
Lockdown life has probably been a tale of two halves. On one hand I count myself lucky I have the horses to keep me busy and we have just had to take advantage of the extra time & put to positive work. On the other hand, especially with the added stereotypical British winter weather, it has made motivation and inspiration quite difficult as I am sure a lot of people will agree. I am just buzzing for when we are finally able to take the horses out for a party!
Like most other people I imagine, we are itching to get out and start the 2021 Eventing Season!! Ben will of course be making an appearance, but we have made the decision to retire him from the highest level of competitions. However, we still of course will be enjoying ourselves over some of our favourite National tracks throughout the season whilst also doing a little bit of Showjumping.
We are only a small yard and have everything from broodmares, foals, youngstock, a couple of owners’ horses through to Ben. We have made plans for each of the competing horses with what is hopefully an achievable aim by the end of the season. However, currently with the ever-changing messages re COVID we are expecting to have plans A, B, C & D! Each horse is an individual and we will make sure they are ready for each and every stage of their development through the grades.
Akina Z is a lovely powerhouse of a mare we have on the yard who is growing with confidence every day and is our ‘one to watch’. She stepped up to Intermediate at the end of last year gaining a top 10 placing at Oasby following a great performance at Thoresberton. Considering our aim at the beginning of 2020 was for her to step up to Intermediate a lot earlier our plans had to change because of lockdown and it did her no harm having a few more runs at Novice with higher placings and finish the season on a high.
She will be 9 this year and we hope to continue to build her strength mentally and physically to ensure she feels as prepared as possible for each event. We would hope that she should be able to step up to Advanced this season – she has all the ability so we will see how the season unfolds.
Banzai du Loir ridden by the fabulous jockey Yasmin Ingham is one I have definitely got my eyes on. They won the 8/9yo 4*S at Burnham Market at the end of last Season & I was so happy for them and all involved. Yas is a lovely rider and person, and I am excited to see what this pair will achieve this year!
Another is the ‘Elephant in the room’ or rather the ‘Pig’, Piggy March, who no doubt is under everybody’s radar this season after her consistent high placings over the past couple years, not just at the top levels but all through her string of quality horses.