Cholmondeley Castle Intermediate

On Sunday we made our way north and with very sociable times didn’t have to leave until 9am!  We hadn’t been to Cholmondeley before but it looked like a stunning venue and that it was


Having walked the XC course when we first arrived, Donovan felt good and very keen to get going when I first got on but relaxed and performed well in the dressage scoring 29.5 – a little tension at the beginning of the test and me forgetting whether we were meant to be doing extended or free walk and trotting too soon up the last centre line (meant to me X not D…) meant we weren’t quite up there with the leaders!  Our times were quite close together so it was straight onto show jumping – I watched a few to get the course in my head then started working in – this part didn’t quite go as planned as Donovan was not enjoying the very hard ground in the warm up.  I decided to stop jumping and just get him with me in the canter moving him forward and back to get him listening.  He felt better in the ring over the first 2 fences and despite awkward jumps at the 3rd and 4th he tried so hard to keep his toes away from the poles and jumped a fabulous clear round!!

Onto the XC – the fence that worried me most was a big brush corner at fence 11 on the top of the hill with the ground sloping away from it – luckily it was quite close to the lorry park so I went to have a 2nd look and watch a few horses over it before I got on!



To see the rest of the course photos click here.

He felt great in the warm up, really listening (with our recent new set of brakes firmly attached!) Early on the course I was really pleased how well he settled into his rhythm and was jumping all the “plain” fences beautifully out of his stride.  At fence 8 he maybe had a half thought about going right – likely as I didn’t pick up his right shoulder enough on the left turn but stayed straight and jumped the triple brush really well.  I got a nice deep stride into the rail before my bogey corner fence, went on a straight line keeping focused on the commentary box (see it!!!) and he flew over!!!  Big pat and onto the rest…    To see a video of us through fences 8-11 click here!

He was just great the rest of the way round including through the rail-ditch-rail that was fairly steep and had been causing a few problems.  As I landed over the second last I had 15 secs to get home so knew I would be close, steadied up for the last (probably a little too much but my fall with Ali at the last a couple of years ago still haunts me!) to finish just 4 secs over the time for 1.6 time penalties.

So we finished double clear on 31.2 to get 3rd place –  so happy with him and now fingers crossed we get to Somerford 2* in one piece…  Can’t wait for the professional photos to go up, hope there are some good ones 🙂




Flicka’s first jumping outing!

Today we took 4yo homebred Flicka (by Parsons Rasputin) to her first ever jumping outing ~ we have taken it steady with her so far, partly due to time and partly because she has had a mild version of Ali’s darned cough as well so we wanted to make sure she was over that!  Anyhow… she was a star!!  She really seems to enjoy her jumping and took all the fillers (including a water tray in the 2’6”!), big arena with viewing area and people watching etc. totally in her stride.  She is just so chilled in between as well and loves meeting new humans!!

See a video of her round the 2’6”  here.  Some photos below ~ not great quality as stills of video but you get the idea!





In other news….

Ali  is on the mend (fingers crossed) ~ after continuing another set of antibiotics we haven’t heard her cough for a few days and I have started short hacks on her… we will very slowly build up work again and she will hopefully get to some events towards the end of the season.

Unfortunately I took the difficult decision (once again) to withdraw Donovan from Aston Le Walls (meant to be today) as he felt slightly under the weather.  I have given him a week of hacking and judging by the spooking and bucks when I schooled him today he is feeling VERY well again!!  So hopefully we will make it to the Intermediate at Cholmondeley next week ~ never been before but looks like a lovely venue!

Skinnies, corners and grown up baby hacking!

Donovan has had a fairly quiet week since Barbury but schooled beautifully yesterday – I was working on getting him to take the rein forward more and especially soften and go into the outside rein.  I really tried to keep my hands forward and soft plus use my outside (not inside!) rein and leg aids to turn and keep his outside shoulder “up” more.   He was fab and I was really pleased with how he settled and relaxed while keeping the forwardness.

Today we did some more skinny/corner practice, which I am trying to do more regularly at the moment to keep us both on the ball.  I like to do this in the bit that I am using for the XC so that we both get the same feel.  I had a few single fences out, which I jumped straight and at angles to warm up.



Then onto the skinny blue barrels that I had built on a 4/5 stride curving line.   I built the skinny corner so that we could jump it both ways – he was great with it as a left hand corner but although staying between the “flags” with the right hand corner he didn’t keep as straight – we practiced both a few times.  I finished with stringing a few fences together to make sure we can go forward and back and get the turns (as much as possible in our 40x20m arena!!)



Flicka has spent most of the week hacking out and is being very grown up going everywhere on her own – meeting lots of scary things, cars and even a big lorry… taking it all in her stride!  Today we went back in the school and although we had a tiny bit of stroppiness, she softened and moved beautifully.


Then we played over a few fences and popped over the blue barrels on their other side.  She has quite a ping!! I was pleased that she settled to being more conservative with her jump after the first couple of times over though.  I’m looking forward to getting her out to some small shows.


Barbury CIC** Report

This was the first time we had been to Barbury for an international event (only done the Novice previously and not for a few years) and what a fantasticly run event it is!!  The cross country viewing is just fabulous, courses great and rider/owner hospitality etc. brilliant too.  We thoroughly enjoyed our few days away even if a slightly disappointing (but in many ways very positive) end.

The stunning views at Barbury - well worth a visit! Almost whole course visible from one point!

The stunning views at Barbury – well worth a visit! Almost whole course visible from one point where you can see main marquees and arena.

It was both Donovan and my first time at 2* level and he performed quite well in the dressage arena – as usual he was spooky at the flowers (he will obviously never grow out of this) but stayed soft and rideable most of the way through.  His lateral work went well too keeping good forwardness and mostly better bend, which he finds difficult and can be quite lazy in.  He scored 51.9 to finish 29th after dressage out of nearly 100 starters.

Shiny boy!!

Shiny boy!!

We then had a break until Friday so time to get him settled in to the stables.  I took him for a walk, trot and canter round the all weather gallops and popped him over a few fences on Friday – he was feeling good!!


This morning I fed and sorted him quite early then went over to walk the show jumping, which was in quite a spooky arena up above the trade stands and also had a strange ending with the last 2 fences up a steep hill on another level and heading away from the entrance (see video later)  I then had plenty of  time (not always a good thing) to watch some jump SJ and XC.  The show jumping was causing plenty of problems, especially the second last fence.  Donovan jumped a brilliant round, just clipping the last – I was so determined to get over the fence before that I then didn’t sit up and steady quickly enough for the last!  Oh well, very pleased with the way he jumped and was listening to me – see a video of our round here.

I was quite apprehensive about the XC – not because of the size but the technical combinations, especially after my lack of brakes and control at skinnies at Salperton – see XC course photos here.  I was trying a tom thumb bit for the first time in competition and as he was feeling rather bright I put the leather “curb strap” of my NS Universal bit I use show jumping on the tom thumb – I was glad I had as he was very keen in the warm up but one reminder that he had this bit on and he was with me!!  He felt fantastic and was just brilliant through the first few combinations, especially the tricky corner to skinny brush at 5 and corner on a tight left turn at 10.  He jumped the “crocodile” in the first water really cleanly and well into the 2nd water – where I decided to go long on the out (looked too similar to the fence he ran out at after the water at Salperton only 2wks ago!).  After skipping through the quarry and sunken road really well, we came down to the last corner at 19 – having walked the course a few times and watching many horses over this fence earlier in the day most were going the right hand side.

RHS of corner at 19

RHS of corner at 19

Donovan took a disliking to this and had a rather naughty run out taking the red flag with him, I retired him as he just didn’t feel like he would go.  In hindsight I think one of the problems was to get to the RHS you had to turn away from “home” and the way you were travelling – this seriously put him off and lesson learnt – I would really try to avoid this in future.  Looking at the fence again I think he would have jumped the slightly wider narrower LHS of the corner better as you could see where you were going and the next hedge was in view.

LHS of same corner, which in hindsight I think he would have jumped.  See next fence in the distance - he knew that's the way we were meant to be going...

LHS of same corner, which in hindsight I think he would have jumped. See next fence in the distance – he knew that’s the way we were meant to be going…

Click here to see a video of our XC round up to fence 18 after which Dad lost me behind the hill!! Unfortunately couldn’t see what happened but I think after our assessment we know why…

Thanks Barbury for a fab few days and thanks also to Nick Gauntlett for help and support as always!  A bit of a disappointing end not to get a qualifying result as hoped, when we had got all of the tricky combinations nailed and control so much better – but so many positives to take away from all 3 phases. Onwards and upwards….