Well, what a year 2012 has been! For me, the main highlight was the London Olympics. I was fortunate enough to go and watch the XC at Greenwich. The noise of the crowd, the atmosphere at the event and the sights and buzz around London are things I hope I never forget. Even at home watching the extra-large TV bought especially for the games was edge of the seat stuff. Charlotte and her ‘dancing horse’ were amazing and hopefully brought home the first 2 gold medals of many for British Dressage.
I think will always look back on my 2012 eventing season negatively and with frustration. Between the never ending rain, cancelled events, injuries and disappointments it is a season I wouldn’t want to repeat in hurry. However, I also had some brilliant personal achievements that I shouldn’t overlook.
My preparation for the eventing season was my best yet, going into our first event together Rocco felt fit and fabulous. I worked hard on our weaknesses over the winter and I reaped the rewards with a 2nd place at Somerford Park Novice. It was difficult to find the motivation to school him at 6 o’clock in the morning before going to work when it was -11 degrees but it paid off and I shall draw on that this coming bleak January!
Ricky had a very successful season after a somewhat shaky start (look at the Weston park blog!) and it was with him that I gained my first novice win, my first double clear at intermediate and first top 10 placing at intermediate. Our first intermediate together at Catton was my favourite run of the season. A reasonable dressage score from Ricky followed by a classy double clear was the point when I realise that I was riding a very talented horse with a very promising future.
Rocco on his way to 2nd at Somerford Park
Rick at his first Intermediate
Along with the great highs, I had quite a few miserable lows. Rocco’s fractured splint bone, most probably acquired whilst doing star jumps or some other crazy acrobatic in the field; put him out of action in mid-May. Although, considering the cancellations, he chose the best season to do it! Ricky clocked on that I was getting excited about him and that we were heading to our first 2* at Somerford Park and took evasive action by self-harming to get out of the hard work. 16 weeks of unidentified lameness later and he is now back in walk work with his owner Caz. Fingers crossed he will make a full recovery although disappointingly, it probably isn't going to be in time for the 2013 season.
Rocco is now progressing well through his re-hab programme and I am thinking about aiming his eventing comeback for mid-April so I’m not rushing him and the ground shouldn't be too wet. With the significant increases in entry fees i'm focusing on quality not quantity of events next season. Chatsworth, Barbury, Hartpury and Gatcombe are all on my list of events that i would like to do. Next year will be about getting Rocco back into the swing of things, enjoying the sport and my fabulous horse (and hoping his injury doesn't re-occur) rather than chasing qualifications and placings. I’m also seriously considering joining British Dressage. The weather is going to have to be tropical during the spring for the saturated ground to dry out, and if it isn't I can see a quite a few events cancelling again. Dressage will be my back up entertainment and focus if the season is a washout again, and a qualification for the elementary regionals is a very achievable goal for us.
To end my 2012 round up, I would sincerely like to thank my family, friends, sponsors and supporters for their continued support during a tough season. I’d also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read a blog, left a nice comment, or offered advice and encouragement to me during my first year of blogging and running my Star Eventing website. I wish you all the best for 2013.
All the best,
Jess, Rocco and Ricky.
Another week, another vets visit. Although my vet is fab, I have had enough of seeing him this season! After finding Ricky lame the day before our first 2* he was booked in for a visit at the same time as Rocco’s bi-monthly check up so we boxed up and headed up to a local arena.
Rocco has been feeling very well recently, resulting in a few acrobatics and me falling off out hacking. Thankfully I landed on my feet; holding on to my reins so the little horror didn’t make a break to freedom but it was an experience I hope not to repeat again. It was Rocco’s turn to see the vet first and after a trot up he had a lunge. I expected him to explode on the lunge as he hadn’t cantered since May and because of his ‘star jump’ exploits out hacking. However, he did his best donkey impression and was very chilled with no dramatics on the lunge. Mark, my vet seemed really pleased with his progress although he did mention he looks like a 4 year old, both muscle and balance wise. Rock is now allowed to start some gentle schooling work, starting at 10 minutes and his work can gradually increase as and when he feels fit and strong enough. I hope to have him out competing in dressage by the end of October.
Ricky was up next and after trotting up and flexion tests we discovered that it was his fetlock causing him the bother not his knee as I expected. Mark thinks he has knocked it somehow, possible at the same time he caught his knee. So, Rick has had some strong anti-inflammatory drug, and after 2 days off he can get out hacking again, walking for up to an hour. His fitness shouldn’t be too affected so if all goes well on his check up in a week we will still make Gatcombe 2*.
This week has been a real up and down week that totally exemplifies eventing and horses in general. The fantastic news that I can start schooling Rocco after his splint bone fracture is over shadowed by the uncertainty Ricky making Gatcombe.
Last week I headed off to spectate at Harpury International Horse Trials. Being a student there it’s an event I would really love to do, but because of this year’s disgusting weather, Rick and I weren’t qualified. I was up extra early to give Rick a gentle hack after his successful run at Aston and his well-deserved day off. Ricky felt fine in walk but he didn’t feel quite right in trot. I walked him home and after trotting him up in hand my fears were confirmed, he wasn’t 100% sound.
After a good prod, poke and feel I found we he had some slight swelling on his knee. He had a pretty clean round at Aston apart from one fence that got a little close to and I heard a knock as we went over. I presumed he had just bumped his knee, so iced him up and set off to Hartpury with my fingers firmly crossed that he would be fine in 6 days for our first 2* together.
The event at Hartpury is quite different to any other 3 days I have been to; opposed to rolling green acres of horseboxes surrounded with gazebos and small camps sites the boxes are parked on the hard standing in more of an estate or cul-de-sac like layout! I walked the 2* as if I was going to ride it and I was pleased that I thought Ricky and I could do it and had a good chance of going clear. The track was fairly short around 8 minutes but had a couple of good questions that caught quite a few competitors out but it is definitely going on my list of events for next year.
The 3* track at Hartpury caused quite a few tumbles and problems even for some quite experienced scalps and the frangible pins were put to use more than I have ever seen before! There seems to be a fashion of a double of corners in modern day course building and Hartpury was no exception. It’s a fence which causes lot of issues so it is definitely an exercise I will be practising in the arena over the winter for next season.
Back home, after a couple more days icing and resting Ricky seemed fine. I took him up for a dressage lesson the night before my 2* dressage to run through the test. He started to warm up well but after my first medium trot I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. After a walk, I trotted him up and he was definitely lame. Devastated didn’t cover it.
Somerford turned out to be a very difficult 2* in the end although beautifully presented and build as all of the courses are. It seemed to be a real XC test rather than a dressage competition which was unfortunate for me as that is Ricky's strongest phase. Im seriously hoping that it is nothing serious and he will be fine for my next event which is Gatcombe Park 2*.
Last week Ricky and I headed off to Aston-le-Walls intermediate. It’s a fairly long journey of 3 hours 15 minutes from our base in North Wales but the only other intermediate option that weekend was Eglinton in Scotland and that's 6 hours away, so, Oxford it was!
Ricky warmed up really well for the dressage, much calmer than ever before. He perked up a little as we trotted over to our arena, but I focused on flexing his neck and keeping him soft and relaxed and he quickly settled. I had a dressage lesson with Sue Hughes during the week and we had focused on working him uphill in a more advanced outline but also keeping his neck and back relaxed and swinging. I really tried hard to emulate this in our test and although we had a couple of minor errors, I felt it was our best test out eventing to date. I was so pleased that the judge agreed and we scored 30.5, a personal best for Ricky!
The showjumping was on a surface and the working in indoors. It was quite a fraught environment with all the professionals dominating the working in and the fences, so I had a quick warm up, a pop and headed outside. The track had been causing quite a bit of bother, both with poles falling and time penalties. It was a very hot day and Rick had felt quite lethargic before the showjumping but he perked straight up when he entered the arena and was fairly ‘jolly’ and quite strong. It wasn’t our most tidy round as Rick was hoping about, but I wrestled him round for just one pole (4faults) where I didn’t quite have enough leg on or have the canter together enough. I was also disappointed to find I had 6 penalties for being 6 seconds over the optimum time allowed. Annoying, but I am practising my jump off turns and corner cutting for the next time out!
The XC was very beefy, fairly technical and the toughest intermediate challenge Rick and I had faced together. All morning the course had seemed to have caused issues and the words ‘and they pick up an unfortunate 20 penalties’ were heard quite frequently over the tannoy. I set off determined to have a positive round and keep a good rhythm. Ricky was very strong and combined with wet reins from his sweaty neck didn’t make it easy to control him. Thank goodness I had a knot in the end. It probably wasn’t the most textbook of rounds but Rick was bold and straight all the way round and ate up the course. I did have a close call at fence 11, a large hedge and then 3 curving strides to 2 skinnies on 2 strides. Rick snatched the reins out of my hands over the first element making it difficult for me to turn to the second, we ended up shuffling in an extra stride and climbing over the first part and also adding an extra stride to the second element. It’s such a good job Ricky is so adjustable, willing and athletic because at 17.2hh an extra stride in those distances made them short!
I was so pleased to find out that Ricky and I had been placed 9th with just 6 time penalties. It’s lovely for me as an amateur to keep up with the professional riders and fabulous for Ricky’s owner Caz to see him placed at intermediate level.
Next week we head off to our first CIC2* together at Somerford Park and I get to wear my new hat and tails for the first time…. Excited doesn’t cover it!
This Blog post has to start with a massive thank you to organisers and owners of Aston Le Walls who managed to run 4 days of competition even though the conditions were horrendous. Ricky and I were entered into the intermediate on the Sunday and it was a horribly early start due to my 9.30am dressage. The alarms were set for 2.50 and we were away by 4am. We arrived around 3 hours later, walked the showjumping and then spent around 15mins looking for the start box for the XC before we could walk it. A few direction signs wouldn’t have gone amiss! We had a quick sprint round the course, back to the lorry for a speedy bacon sandwich and then tacked up for dressage.
The dressage had been moved to a new field due to the ground conditions; it was quite a trek but served well to chill Ricky out and give him a good leg stretch after his long journey. When we eventually reached the dressage, the warm up and the arena was knee deep with mud. Ricky worked in very well and I can really feel the difference that the James Hart Solutions ‘Listen and Learn’ calmer is having on him. I was really pleased with Ricky’s test. To me, it felt his best test out eventing to date. We had 2 errors in the test, one due to a horse fly that affected our first medium trot and the second due the ground being knee deep bog when we returned to the track in our counter canter, Rick thought it was just easier to throw in a flying change. Unfortunately the judge didn’t agree and we scored 40.9 putting us second to last. I can’t believe that Ricky’s test deserved to be right at the bottom of the pack, but the judge obviously didn’t take to him and we were punished for it. We couldn’t pick up our test sheet as they weren’t available, even after 5 hours of waiting so I will never know what the judge didn’t like about our test and I will just hope not to come under him again. I would have hated to see what score we would have received if Ricky did one of his ‘naughty’ tests…..60 perhaps!?
I had walked the showjumping track first thing when I went to pick up my number. It seemed a good test, up to height and included some interesting fences such as a triple bar to oxer combination and a water tray. I had to ask Caz, Ricky’s owner if he had seen one before and if he jumped them, as we hadn’t come across one as a combination. However, it turned out when I rode over to the showjumping that I had walked the wrong track, it was the advanced! I had to quickly locate my track which was over on the surface and learn it. The showjumping working in was in the indoor and was pretty intense. Some of the professionals can be quite dominating of the fences and I find it hard to not get stressed. Because of this, I didn’t stay in the warm up too long as I didn’t want Ricky to get wound up. The course had caused a few problems and Ricky jumped really well with just one pole down. The treble was an oxer in, two strides to an upright followed by a one stride to an upright. Rick jumped so big into the treble we just made up too much distance, got a bit long and tipped out the final element out in front.
I had some concerns about the going when I first walked the XC. It resembled a festival than a XC track. The course started small and welcoming to get you going, which was considerate of the course builder as so many events had been cancelled and it was a good while since the majority of horses had managed a run. There were a couple of good questions on course including the water at 7. This involved a large brush in followed by a steep slope up over a small log followed by a steep slope down. I let Ricky take his time and figure out where he should be going and what to do with legs and he popped through well. A large hedge to a triple brush that was difficult to find a nice distance through cause Ricky no bother and he flew through like a pro on fairly long reins from me. My concerns about the going were unnecessary, it rode much better than it looked, but I took my time at a few of the turning fences almost coming back to trot and open him up on the straights where I could. Rick cruised round for 8 time penalties making it feel very easy. As we had such a good run, we have now entered Somerford Park CIC 2*. I think it’s time to don the tailcoat and get practising….
Well the wash out that is the 2012 eventing season continues…both Eland lodge NRF and Glanusk intermediate were abandoned for Ricky. Rocco who is now back in work and on the road to recovery after 3 weeks box rest with a fractured splint bone has chosen his season to be ‘broken’ very wisely. Perhaps he is more intelligent than I give him credit for? The 70 or so days of competition lost from the event calendar are causing me a nightmare in terms of competition planning, so the professionals with a string of horses must be pulling their hair out. I have already qualified for the CIC** at Somerford so that remains firmly on the plan (although a run before then would much appreciated!) but the 2* at Weston all depends on if I can get qualified or not. I need one more qualifying run at intermediate and one at CIC2* level. I have provisionally looked at 5 events before Weston to do this, running closer together than I would normally but needs must to get qualifying result.
Another terrible consequence of the event abandonments is that Ricky and I have had to go and do some dressage to avoid getting cabin fever at home. It’s also a good excuse to use an arena, as we don’t have one at home and the field in which I normally school is too wet. We have been out 3 times and gained good scores between 66-71% coming home with 2 red rosettes. It’s also fortunate that the 2 venues I have been for dressage at have gallops on site or close by, so after the torment of dressage I have been cheering Ricky up with some fitness work.
I have also been over to Kelsall Hill equestrian centre to pop round a course of showjumps. I had to badger my glamorous assistants/grooms/course-builders (dad & boyfriend) to put the fences up as I didn’t think they were at intermediate height. It turned out we were popping round an advanced height track in the end with only one pole rolled! Bodes well for the future….!
Due to the lovely ‘drought’ we are suffering in the UK at the moment the NRF that Ricky was entered into was cancelled, meaning we were straight onto Catton intermediate. The weather was once again terrible on the run up to Catton and the first day was abandoned resulting in a case of will it or won’t it run for the second day. We found out late on the Saturday that the second day of competition would go ahead as planned, so I had to pack in record breaking time (half an hour) and head off to work. A late finish in work resulted in just 4 hours sleep and then we were on the way to Catton for our first intermediate together.
After Ricky’s naughty antics in the dressage at Brand Hall, our last event, I had moved him into a double bridle and decided to work him twice before his dressage test. The first time I got him out he was super; he worked softly and didn’t throw a single strop! I put him back on the lorry and went to walk the XC. On getting him out the second time for his ‘proper’ test working in he was nowhere as well behaved as the first time, but significantly better than our previous event. The test itself contained errors, mainly in the simple changes, but he had no naughty moments so I couldn’t grumble too much. I was hoping for a test around 40 so I was very pleased to find we had a score of 36.4.
The showjumping going was lovely and couldn’t have been better. The fences were up to height and I thought the course was fairly tricky for Rick as it contained lots of related distances. He’s generally difficult to ride after fences as he throws his head, so riding a line on a set distance is a challenge. As soon as we entered the arena Ricky decided that the fence judges umbrellas were incredibly scary but I managed to wrestle him past to the first fence. Our round went really well, the bigger fences made him concentrate more and although we caught a few poles, they stayed up and we finished the round clear, just inside the time.
The XC was big and bold with a couple of difficult questions; the water was the most challenging fence on the track, right at the end. The going was soft and very boggy in some areas of the woods but I wasn’t too concerned as Ricky ploughs on regardless of the going! The beginning of the course was made up of big galloping obstacles which really got Ricky going, but when I had to go down a steep decline to a double of skinnies on a turn, I had to fight quite hard to keep him steady so we wouldn’t miss the fences or the turn and wasted quite a lot of time setting up. I managed to anchor him and he locked on and nipped through the combination. Again the middle section of the track consisted of big bold fences that I could keep riding forwards at. As Ricky had been so backwards at the trakehner at Brand Hall (he practically climbed it) I decided to give him a smack on the neck on approach to the trakehner at Catton, just as a wake up, this caused him to jump absolutely huge but at least he was bold this time!
Fence 15 was a kind rolltop on the brow of a steep hill, followed by a downhill run to a triple brush. I once again tried to anchor him on the decent but he was fighting too hard and throwing his head; so, 4 strides out I gave up fighting and just tried to keep him straight. As I stopped fighting him he relaxed, focused on the fence and popped it! I must remember next time to not fight, let him see the fence and back himself off as it results in much less arguing. The water complex was in over a large hanging log, a right hand turn to a large brush box followed by a positive 3 turning strides to a second brush box. Caz, Ricky’s owner had warned me that he doesn’t brush through fences but goes over them, and as promised, at the first box fence he jumped so large I lost my right rein. It’s proof of how good a cross-country horse Ricky is that I just pulled on my remaining rein to make the turn and he locked on and jumped the last element beautifully. We kicked on to the last and the whole team, including myself was jubilant at our double clear at our first intermediate together.
Courtesy of Tim Wilkinson
Courtesy of Tim Wilkinson
Courtesy of Tim Wilkinson
I didn't wear a watch on the XC as I wanted to focus on a clear rather than chase the time, so we had no idea on how we had done. We ended up with just over 11 time penalties which was very respectable looking at the whole class and I know we didn’t hurry at any point. We wasted time on the downhill sections and the muddy sections in the woods, so it can be much improved next time out.
Ricky and I finished 8th overall which was just the cherry on top of an already fabulous day. As our first intermediate together went so well, we are now hoping for a few more good runs under our belts and then we are going to try our luck at a 2* towards the end of the season. Fingers crossed!
Brand Hall is one of my favourite events and it’s a fairly local one too at only an hour and a half away. I had to withdraw Rocco from his CIC* due to the formation of a splint so we had a quiet day just taking Ricky for the Novice. Due to several event cancellations and my uni exams Rick had a 6 week break from eventing, which was not ideal as he was rather jolly to be out at a party again!
I rode Ricky twice the day before Brand to try to expend some of his energy in attempt to get a decent dressage test out of him. We jumped in the morning and in typical Ricky style he didn’t pay attention until we were jumping the top of the wings. He also got a little shock as I popped him over some blue barrels, representing a skinny– it’s the only time I have ever felt him back off and it certainly woke him up. In the evening I rode through the test in my field, he was such a good boy and went through it so well I had high hopes for the following day.
The forecast was for good weather but I can assure you it was far from it. The rain and the knee high grass was not a good combination and resulted in very wet jeans for everyone. As anticipated, Ricky was rather excited to be out eventing again and spent the majority of his dressage working in going sideways or in passage. I managed to get a few ‘tuts’ from spectators and cleared myself a lovely large area in the working in – I’m not sure how I was supposed to stop his wild behaviour but perhaps I should ask the ‘tutting’ spectators to get on and show me how to do it next time…I don’t think they will take me up on my offer though somehow! Our test was a little embarrassing to say the least; we left the arena backwards on 2 occasions. He was fine to ride unless I told him to do something such as, turn left…or do a trot transition and then he would have a rather large strop! The video is below if you would like a laugh, you can see why his test sheet that sported a lovely 1 and a 2 for some movements!
The ground in the showjumping was firm underneath but slippery on top due to the rain, but the arena was huge and the course kind, if not a little on the small side with gentle sweeping turns. The showjumping working in was chaotic and it took 4 times of asking the steward before I could work out how many people were before me. Eventually, our slot came and Ricky jumped a nice round but just got a little onward bound to a double of uprights that were slightly downhill on a related distance from an oxer. He just tipped the rail on the first part, but on a course that caused quite a few faults I was pleased with him.
So on to the XC, Ricky’s forte! The course was lovely as always and really tests the rider’s XC riding ability as the time is tight and the course twisty. There was also a quite intense section in the middle of the track with technical fences placed close together and minimal galloping spaces. These sections are quite tricky to ride on Ricky as he pulls hard and throws his head about when I take a pull. I set off aiming to keep a good rhythm and get away from the fences quickly, although I knew we wouldn’t be placed after our ‘interesting’ dressage, I wanted to use this round to as a good practice run for our regional final next weekend and our first intermediate the week after. Ricky skipped round the majority of the track but I had one interesting moment when I didn’t think we would make the turn to a skinny barrel combination due to Rick’s head throwing but as soon as he saw the flags he stopped messing about and concentrated. We also had a a slightly scary moment when he really backed off the trakehner and clambered over it with the help of a pony club kick from me! He finished the track really strongly, pulling hard; I’m sure he would have gone round again if I had let him. I was really please to see that we were one of only a handful to make the time over the novice track as I hadn’t really pushed on too much but focused on rhythm instead.
Pictures of the Novice track can be seen by clicking the first fence below:
We managed to drag ourselves up from second to last after the dressage to 15th. I am now going to really focus on his dressage before the regionals next weekend and hope that we don’t have any more diva strops from Rick. Everyone keep their fingers crossed that the weather stays fine so that Llaynymynech will go ahead.
Well it has been a good while since my last blog with the cancellation of Bradwall for Ricky and Chatsworth for Rocco and when the first day of Floors Castle was abandoned I wasn’t holding out much hope for a run in the intermediate for Rocco. The event inspection for the Sunday was to take place mid-morning on the Saturday, so packing the lorry for an event that was probably going to be cancelled was a tough task but we were shocked to find that everything was going ahead as planned. We quickly finished packing and set off for the 5 hour journey up to Scotland.
6 hours and one small detour after taking the wrong exit from a roundabout later we arrived at our event stabling in a lovely old fashioned farm yard. Unfortunately Rocco was placed in a block of 2 stables on his own and he couldn’t see any other horses which caused him to have a slight breakdown! He was very stressed, running round the stable and barging the not very secure looking door. I was really concerned that he was either going to break out or injure himself overnight and I spent a good while sitting with him to try to calm him down; it didn’t work. Thankfully the yard owner was lovely and so helpful; she brought a pony in from the field to keep Rocco company. Rocco soon settled even though the neighbour wasn’t the friendliest!
It was a nice leisurely start on Sunday morning as my dressage wasn’t until 1.30pm and Floors Castle was only a 10 minute drive from the stabling. We arrived and I gave Rocco a short schooling session to settle him and show him the dressage working in and arenas. I was so glad I had time to do this as the XC was extremely close to the dressage working in; Rocco was a little jolly to see the XC at first but soon calmed down. Working him, putting him away and then working him in really paid off as by the time I came to do my test he was totally relaxed. We still had a couple of mistakes in our halts and a loss of rhythm in the shoulder in but I was over the moon to be leading the class on 26.4 penalties.
I was feeling pretty confident going into the showjumping as it was a lovely course and went in from the final words from my Dad of ‘don’t cut the corner to 6’ a turn back fence. Rock started the round well but I had a real misser to fence 4 which was on a related distance to 5. We ballooned 5 and turned into the treble. Over the second element I heard the bell go and I couldn’t believe it. I had completely missed out fence 6. I was devastated. After such a long drive and such an amazing dressage I couldn’t believe I had completely forgotten fence 6 and ended up eliminated. I really felt like I had let both my horse down along with my Mum and Dad who had driven all the way up to Scotland for me. On the way out the showjumping steward caught up to us and suggested speaking to the British Eventing Technical Advisor (TA) as several people had missed out fence 6 and still been allowed to run XC.
Pictures of the full XC course can be seen by clicking the thumbnail below:
Thankfully the TA was lovely and allowed me to run XC. The track was beautiful as was the going and in hindsight it would have been better for my first intermediate. Kelsall,our last event, was more like an advanced in comparison to this intermediate but it contained enough questions, in particular a huge bounce into water with a step up, stride, triple brush out, a triple brush to skinny brush double and a skinny, ridiculously wide fence as the last. I had a brilliant round and Rocco was super straight and bold even at triple brushes and open corners which have been my nemesis this year so far. He went through the water like a pro and my worry fence – the last, couldn’t have gone better, he locked on about 4 strides out and jumped it perfectly.
I was really disappointed with my error in the showjumping which I can laugh about now and I certainly didn’t cut the corner to fence 6 as my Dad had warned me not to! I also felt a little comforted by the fact that I had chatted to the SJ course builder and I was one of 3 people to be eliminated for missing that fence on that day and last year there had been huge amounts eliminated at the same trick- the turn back. However, Rocco couldn’t have gone any better; he performed his best dressage test with no tantrums and was bold, straight and brave XC. What more could I ask? Floors was a beautiful event in a spectacular setting that was well worth the journey. I’m just hoping if we make that journey next year I don’t repeat my error in the SJ – the rest can be identical though!
Both Rocco and Ricky competed this weekend at Kelsall Hill with mixed fortunes. Its my most local event and a fantastic one. In the run up to the competition I was a little worried about the going considering all the rain we have had, but when I got there the ground was amazing, especially considering that 2 other BE events had to be abandoned overnight. It was a real credit to Kelsall and their team that the event ran all 3 days on super going and very few lorries were being towed on or off the parking.
Ricky, (Ricard Libra) was doing his second Novice. After his wild antics at Weston I worked him hard during the week trying to establish some control and obedience. I also jumped him the day before the event. I normally jump 2 days before, but considering how excited he was at Weston in the showjumping, I wanted him much calmer and thought jumping him the day before would chill him out and increase my control.
Ricky was running first and was completely finished before Rocco even started. In the dressage, I didn’t think we would manage to even stay in the arena on our trot round the outside before the judge had rang her bell for us; there was a ‘horse eating’ tent and caravan that was very scary for Ricky and he wasn’t keen on going passed it. However, he settled well and I was so pleased with the improvement in Rick’s dressage. He remained calm and relatively obedient throughout the test. I think there are still lots of improvements to be made so I was pleased with our mark of 34.5.
On to the showjumping; Ricky was so much calmer than our first event at Weston, we had no leaping or sideways action and it made his round much easier to ride. We were very lucky at the oxer at 3, which Ricky caught behind causing the pole to completely jump out of its cups – but fortunately it landed back in its cups and we had a clear round!
The XC was very beefy, but not overly technical. The time was going to be difficult to achieve due to the tight, twisty nature of the course, and the fact that there isn’t really any places to have a good gallop and make up time. I set off strongly and cut corners where possible. I knew that I could bring Ricky back under control, so I was much braver than our last event and left setting up much later than I had done at Weston. He was once again so brave, straight and honest. I totally missed coming to a large table after the double of corners, but Ricky took control and helped me out! We finished 1 second over the optimum time to get 0.4 penalties.
Pictures of the Kelsall Novice course can be seen by clicking on the picture below;
I was absolutely overjoyed and amazed to see that Ricky had won by almost 4 penalties over Oliver Townend. Ricky is so capable, but doesn’t always work with his jockey , but it was a case of everything coming right on the day and luck going our way!
I couldn’t really celebrate Ricky’s win as it was on to Rocco’s dressage. I was overall really please with his test. He performed most of the test really well, his mediums were bold and he was submissive throughout most of the test apart from one little tantrum after the free walk when he did not want to be pick up to medium walk, so he threw in a little hop about! He also had a little wriggle in his halt, so I think that 2 movements could have been dramatically improved, but overall it was good. I was really disappointed and frustrated to see that Rocco had scored 40, especially considering a professional rider had gone in just before me, broke in 2 mediums and also had several tantrums and scored 31… I wonder what mark I would have got if I had a British flag on my hat? My mum was so un-impressed that after reading the test sheet she ripped it up and threw it in the bin!
The showjumping was up to height but a nice course. Rocco was jumping his socks off and was clear until fence 7 where I let him drift left on approach, we ended up a little underneath an maximum height upright and caught it in front, but 4 faults for our first intermediate was not a bad result at all.
It was a quick change and off to the XC. I was fairly nervous! The course looked huge and some of the fences were seriously wide. I set off positively and tried to establish a rhythm straight away. I wasn’t concerned about making the time, but if I ride too cautiously Rocco becomes a wary of the fences and a bit girly! He was eating the course up and I was so impressed by how easy he was making it feel. I was having a fantastic ride up until fence 15 a,b. Fences 12, 13 and 14 were huge galloping fenced but fence 15 was a double of corners. I came round after fence 14 and set up far too early. I shut the canter down completely and Rocco never locked on the first corner. We got the fence on a non-existent stride with no power and Rocco ran out to the left. I quickly made the decision that we both need to be educated and tried the direct route again. He jumped it fine on our second attempted but I panicked coming to the second corner, shut the canter down, didn’t see a stride so didn’t ride and Rock ran left again. I circled round and rode more positively but Rock had learnt to run left at this point to we had our 3rd refusal and elimination.
Photos of the Kelsall Intermediate course can be seen by clicking fence 1 below;
Rocco was amazing and I’m so pleased that he coped with intermediate size fences and made them feel easy, but I’m annoyed at myself for riding like an idiot! Looking back I can’t believe I rode the fence like that not once, but twice! I should have woken him up after the 3 straight forward fences, kept the power and rode it – instead of sitting there hoping! Our canter was far too small and weak to jump a fence of that size, so I have most definitely learn a lesson. I did have a wobble and think maybe I’m not cut out for intermediate as a rider as I cope with Novice tracks fine and feel I ride the courses well, so perhaps I should just stick to what I’m good at, but people have been so positive and reminded me that Intermediate is such a step up for both horse and rider and I just need experience. So there is only one thing for it – I’m just going to keep trying at intermediate, gain experience, learn from my silly mistakes and hopefully one day soon it will all come right!