As someone who works full time in a demanding job (when I’m not at the yard, I actually spend my days as a consultant in a busy recruitment office) the past month has proven that hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck pays off.
Being an amateur rider my dream and ultimate eventing aim is to get to Badminton Grassroots and compete in the Mitsubishi Motors Cup – well, two weekends ago, we got one step closer to that aim by coming 2nd at Borde Hill Horse Trials… and bagging ourselves a regional final qualification!
Our season hasn’t got off to the best start as you know – head injuries, abscesses and withdrawing from our first event. Then, when we finally got to our first event, Chilham Castle in Kent, I had my first ever retirement across country at fence eight.
Our dressage wasn’t bad, not our best but it was our first time on grass so I wasn’t expecting much, our show jumping wasn’t great either with three fences down and then the cross-country all went a little bit wrong! We were held in the cross-country start box for over 40 minutes due to a problem on course and when we eventually set off Smokey wasn’t himself, not taking me forward to the fences and generally being quite sticky. I knew something wasn’t right so jumped fence eight, a simple pheasant feeder, held my hand up and called it a day.
As soon as I got off Smokey stopped and did the biggest wee known to man! He tried so hard for me, but as you can imagine, jumping when you’re so desperate for the loo is just something you can’t do. Horses are horses after all. If only they could talk sometimes!
Onwards and upwards to Tweseldown with ‘Weegate’ behind us. We’d had a great lesson with Luke Baber-Davis the week before at Eden Equestrian (entered with Equo of course!) and felt very prepared for our dressage. Apparently it showed and we got a new dressage personal best of 31.3! I was over the moon, and we got some lovely positive comments from the judge too. A very exciting score, as I know we still have more to give in the dressage.
We had an unlucky pole in the showjumping coming into the double, but after three down at Chilham I was really chuffed with that. We then went onto the most amazing cross-country round – clear and 12 seconds under the time… our best ever time at 90!
Time is something we’ve always struggled to get and we’ve been working on fitness and taking fences out of a forward stride all winter. British Eventing have also allowed riders of lower levels to wear a stopwatch for a trial period and I know this has helped us enormously. It means I’ve learnt to be efficient with strides and really be conscious of how much time we used to waste setting up. Overall we ended in 13th. It was lovely to have my grandparents and a family friend come and visit and support us, and more importantly join us for tea and cake at the lorry afterwards!
Onwards and upwards yet again to Borde Hill – the event where it all came together. Putting into practice our sessions with Luke at Eden we went and got another brilliant dressage of 33.3. Our section was marked quite toughly and this put us in the top half. I think it’s safe to say the showjumping was causing a lot of faults and problems! Poles we’re flying everywhere but Smokey was absolutely mega! We’ve really been focusing on getting him to use his shoulders more with my amazing trainer Sharon and it paid off with a super clear over a very tough course.
Then onto the cross-country course. Borde Hill is known to be a tough 90 course and one that rivals some 100 tracks. A perfect run as we are stepping up to 100 at Rackham at our next event. Smokey absolutely ate it up and made nothing of the max height and width obstacles. The time was very tight and we were very cunning with some of our lines. He gave me the round of my life and came home bang on optimum time! I think the fence judges made a lot of comments about our enjoyment as commentary kept relaying about how much fun we were having out on course.
We were one of the very few combinations to make it home inside the time. I couldn’t believe it when a friend ran up to tell me we were lying in 2nd. Smokey and me, in 2nd place! I’m so proud of our boy. He’s a bit of a legend.
Beside eventing, May has been a very busy month in general. We’ve had some excellent news from the vet that Hektikos is now sound and ready to come back into full work following his final bout of Tildren. We’ve been looking at events to take him to and have even started jumping! I never thought he would ever leave the ground again so I sold my GP saddle a considerable time ago… jumping in a dressage saddle can prove interesting at times!
Hektikos went out to a pole work clinic with Andy Ford last week at Eden EQ and was good as gold, if slightly keen – namely tanking off with me up the long side at every given opportunity! I’m very glad to see he’s got his ‘vavavoom’ back.
To finish this blog off, how can I forget the fantastic week that we spent at Badminton Horse Trials! We’ve not been to Badminton for years and for the first time ever we camped out in Doris (the lorry). It was a brilliant week and great to see Michael Jung with the Rolex Grandslam. We also won a course walk with Nick Gauntlett, which was pretty cool and learnt a huge amount – some of which I’ve been putting into practice. Not to mention catching up with the Equo girls and daily visits to the H&H stand!
The next things for us is Felbridge Combined Training (entered with Equo!) then onto Rackham and Brightling British Eventing events, as well as starting to do more with Hektikos… so watch this space!