Madonna and children saddle up with Fox-Pitt

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The Independent Online

* Like any true horsewoman, Madonna has clearly decided that the best response to an accident is to jump straight back into the saddle.

Five months after she broke her hand, ribs and collarbone in a riding accident, the Queen of Pop has signed her children up for lessons with Britain's top three-day eventer, William Fox-Pitt, right.

By way of a late Christmas present, I hear that nine-year-old Lourdes and Rocco, five, have also been given membership of the Olympic star's club, Fox-Pitt Eventing.

As a result, horsey circles are alive with speculation that Madge and her family will be turning up at this summer's major Eventing championships, where the club has private marquees.

Yesterday, Fox-Pitt, who lives near to Ashcombe, Madonna's Dorset country seat, shared details of the star's prowess in the saddle. "I was asked by Madonna for some lessons, as she is quite local," he told me. "She wanted someone to help her after her fall and I am happy to report she is now back in full flow."

"I haven't seen the children ride yet, but they've joined my club and hopefully will come along soon. Rocco's obviously still quite small but he can ride. Lourdes is a rider and is very keen, like lots of girls her age.

"There was quite a fuss made over Madonna's fall, but everyone falls off. Some of her backers weren't keen on her riding again but she's a risk taker who likes to push her limits."

* Martin Shaw may be a hot ticket in the West End right now, but that hasn't prevented him being an object of ridicule to fellow actors.

Today's issue of The Stage carries a cheeky item about the occasionally lofty star, by theatre critic Mark Shenton.

"I was recently asked to interview Shaw in connection with his current London run in A Man for All Seasons," he writes.

"A letter was duly sent to me under the letterhead of his agent Ken McReddie, that I had to sign and return to confirm that Shaw has agreed to: 'answer only pre-arranged questions, a list of which is attached'."

Shenton was also required to give a written undertaking that his article would be "serious and respectful of the production, the producers, and of Shaw," and that the actor would receive full copy approval before publication. He politely declined.

Having clocked up three wives and recently acquired a new girlfriend, Shaw has seen his share of tabloid intrusion. But he could do with lightening up, all the same.

* To the dismay of her many admirers, there are signs that Elle Macpherson's brief flirtation with single life is over.

Newspapers in her native Australia report that the supermodel is back with Arkie Busson, the London-based financier who fathered her two children.

According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the couple patched things up in New York earlier this month, and are now: "very much together".

If the (normally reliable) title is on the money, two possible reasons will be cited for the couple's reunion.

"Firstly, Elle was photographed on a jetski in Barbados before Christmas, looking stunning and reminding her former boyfriend of what he was missing," says one pundit.

"Secondly, Busson's given tons of cash to Tony Blair's city academies, so it's only a matter of time before he's offered an honour. Lady Elle would certainly have a bit of a ring to it."

* There are fears for Piers Morgan's TV career, following Paul O'Grady's defection to Channel Four last week.

Fleet Street's Mr Floppy was to be a judge in O'Grady's ITV talent show - a brainchild of Simon Cowell - this summer. Although O'Grady's contract doesn't officially prevent him doing the job, sources now reckon ITV may can it in protest.

That would upset Morgan, who only recently filmed the pilot episode. "It was great to push a buzzer and make a big X come up, telling some ventriloquist he's not good enough," he said at Monday's Tatler restaurant awards.

"It appeals to my innate sense of cruelty. I've nothing to lose: people think I'm like that anyway."

* Pandora wasn't alone in detecting a whiff of fish about reports of a Fathers for Justice plot to kidnap Tony Blair's youngest son, Leo.

But how did such a flakey story - upon which neither Downing Street, nor the Metropolitan Police will comment - end up on the front page of The Sun?

Cynics suggest that the supposed "scoop" owes much to the fact that The Sun's proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, is currently visiting London.

"Rebekah Wade, the paper's editor, told staff that they'd better come up with a decent exclusive when the Big Man's in town," I'm told.

"In the absence of anything better, she had to go with the dodgy Leo Blair yarn. With a bit of luck, Rupert will have gone back home by the time it all falls to pieces."

Fingers crossed!