I’ll start with Ali’s story this season! In the summer I never thought we would get her to the 7yo British Eventing Young Horse Championships this year – after a fantastic start to the season, winning at Novice and then coming 5th and 3rd in her first 2 Intermediates, she picked up a virus and subsequent cough, which proved rather challenging to get rid of. This meant she had a good 3 months of the summer in the field doing nothing. She came back into work properly in August and was feeling good, so I aimed to have her out competing the end of September – with some encouragement from Nick (Gauntlett) went straight back out at Intermediate at Kelsall the last weekend in September. In the run up to this she was jumping well so I bit the bullet and entered Osberton the following week. Kelsall was perfect a reasonable dressage, if not a little tense in places for 30.9, one unlucky rail SJ and a nice steady clear XC round a course, which I still think is the biggest intermediate track I’ve walked all season! She recovered well and felt fit enough to carry on to Osberton the following week.
We travelled up to Osberton on Wednesday and Donovan flew through the trot up.
Donovan and I ready for the trot up on Wednesday
They both settled well and I think Donovan especially liked having his friend in the stable next to him (he ate the best he ever has when staying away!)
Ali eating as usual!
Mum and I took them both for a hack on the Wednesday afternoon.
Happy hacking together
On Thursday I had time to school both horses and took Donovan for “Arena familiarisation” in the afternoon. We also took our first look at the cross country course, which as always was beautifully build and presented. Click here to see CCI** course photos (Donovan) and here to see CIC** (Ali).
Donovan’s test was early on Friday and he was working well, feeling relaxed and moving out to the rein. He did a lovely obedient test with no mistakes but obviously didn’t have the “wow” factor that the judges were looking for scoring a slightly disappointing 51.2 for 48th place out of 115 starters. I was disappointed to get comments that he was too short in the neck from the judges again, as we felt it was much improved – I think because he is so long in the back he looks less engaged and shorter in the neck even when he is working well so this makes it more difficult to get that perfect picture. Anyway all to play for with over 9 and a half minutes of XC to get through!
All smart in top and tails!
On Saturday Ali did her dressage and show jumping before Donovan’s XC in the afternoon. I was really annoyed with my riding on Ali and think I had focused on being ready for XC too early! We still managed a test of 49.1 but I rode her in practice and she was going just amazing the day before… so frustrating. She was still placed 17th out of 56 starters after dressage. She warmed up for SJ well and I felt fairly relaxed but didn’t manage to keep the good forward rhythm in the ring, sometimes with not enough power and other times over-riding causing her to have 2 poles down – again so frustrated with myself and I definitely want to get in the show jumping ring as much as possible over the winter. However, we did only drop 2 places to 19th with our 8 jumping faults, which shows that the course was causing a fair few problems.
Time to put the frustrations of the morning behind me and get back into Donovan mode for XC. I had wheeled the course and memorised my minute markers, something that I had not done before – so time to put it to the test. We started quickly and he felt brilliant, soon we were over the spooky “Witches Broomsticks” at 5. When he turned so well, took on and flew the skinny brush at 11b I was over the moon with him already but still a long way to go and it was the 2 tricky corners towards the end of the course (fence 19 and 20c) I was most concerned about. We lost some time twiddling round to trees down to the water and through the coffin but he flew all the combinations and corners to come home with just 0.8 time faults…. not bad for his (and my) first CCI**!! He moved up to 32nd place after XC.
Flying over fence 9 – photo thanks to ES Photography
After the elation of his round on Saturday, I was gutted that he wasn’t quite sound on Sunday morning and I had to withdraw him before the 2nd trot up. He was going to have a holiday after Osberton anyway so is enjoying lots of grass and I am hoping he will be back next season – he felt so good I would love to see if we could go Advanced together!
I still had Ali’s XC on Sunday afternoon, so had to get myself together and focus on this! I knew she could jump round the course but I needed to be on the ball and wanted to get as close to the time as I could too! She felt good and rather strong at the beginning after me setting off really positively in the woods but flew through fence 5 easily on the 4 strides. We weren’t always getting the best stride to the galloping on fences and this was where her inexperience and lack of competition practice showed but she was just amazing through all the combinations – she bounced up the step and over the brush out of the water fantastically – she had never done anything like this!!
Ali through the Owl Hole in the woods. Thanks to ES Photography for the photo
We came home 4 seconds over the time for 1.6 penalties (her quickest time at this level) and 14th place! Not bad considering the lack of competition we’ve had, shame I didn’t hold it together SJ for a top ten though… (never happy!) We now have a matching set though as 14th in the 6yo Champs last year! See some clips of Ali’s XC round here.
Our 7yo rosette to match the 6yo we got last year!
So my goal of getting both horses to Osberton was reached even if I didn’t quite have the preparation with Ali or the result with Donovan that I would have liked. I cannot wait for next season to start, but first I have a whole winter of practicing!! Keep up to date with more and lots of photos on my Facebook page here 🙂