I am still on a bit of a high from not only getting to my first event abroad but Ali going so well at only her second CIC** especially so early on in the season! I am very grateful to Nick Gauntlett for offering for me to travel with Team Gauntlett and all his support and help once out in France.
After Ali and I arriving to load lorries on Monday, we left Chescombe Farm at 3:30am on the Tuesday morning heading to Dover. Ali settled well in a lorry unknown to her and I am amazed how well all the horses travelled, they were very relaxed as soon as they were in their stables and none of them seemed tired! I had a couple of days to get Ali used to the arenas as we didn’t do dressage until the Friday morning. It was great to watch all the international riders working their horses and meet the other members of the British Nations Cup team, which Nick was a part of.
We had an early start on Friday morning for my dressage at 8:37am! She relaxed well and I was pleased how settled she stayed in the rather spooky arena. She performed a lovely test with just a little tension in the right shoulder in and half pass. I was especially pleased with her rein back, which she has tended to rush in the past. I was thrilled with her score of 44.8 achieving my aim of 70% with room for improvement still!! See the video of her test here. We lay 19th (out of a 103 starters) after the dressage phase!
Final halt with our British Flag on show!
On Saturday we did our show jumping in the morning before the CICO*** went XC in the afternoon. I was slightly daunted with the French show jumping distances when I walked the course, especially through the combinations that were much longer than those in the UK (Nick assured me Ali would be fine!). Nick was so helpful to me working in and I think I was as relaxed as I have ever been going into a show jumping round, she felt brilliant! We were jumping in the huge Grand Parquet, which was a fantastic experience for both Ali and I – she didn’t appear to be at all phased by it and jumped a lovely round with just one unlucky pole falling. See the video of her show jumping round here. Even with our 4 faults we held 19th place going into XC.
Sunday and onto the XC – the track ran on sandy land in and out of the woods. The first major question was at the water at 6, which was quite intense consisting of white rails into the first pond, right turn to a step out to a curving left turn to a triple brush back into water and 4 strides to a fish/brush in the water. See photos of the course here. She set off very keen having not wanted to wait around at the start (she most certainly knew it was XC day) but felt great, I kept her fairly steady so she had time to see the first 4 fences, which were all through the woods. She flew through the water at 6, making nothing of abc and just slightly skewing at the fish but no question at all that she knew what to do and where she was going!! She jumped well through the coffin and made all the other combinations easily on the most direct routes for a fantastic clear 🙂 I took my time with the turns and through the woods, which meant we picked up quite a few time faults but this early in the season and with her slightly scaring herself at Isleham the most important thing here was going clear and we most certainly have our mojo back!! She finished in 47th place and is now qualified for CCI** too. See the album of all our fantastic photos of our week here provided by course photographer Les Garennes Photos (www.ouest-image.com)
Our first event of the season didn’t quite go as planned but many positives to bring away from the day…
We were first into the dressage in our section and she had worked in beautifully. I was pleased with how relaxed she stayed and was amazed with the fabulous score of 25.2, especially as we were first in when I always find judges to be slightly less brave/generous with their marking. I’m so happy with how she is going on the flat at the moment, she’s really starting to find it easier to carry herself and use her shoulder… so I hope it continues!! See a video of our test here.
We then had a long wait before show jumping but I kept busy walking the XC course and watching some SJ rounds. I worked in quickly for show jumping as she felt good so I didn’t want to over jump her and there were no others waiting to jump. She felt lovely for the whole round, keeping a brilliant rhythm but occasionally not quite covering the ground as much as I would like (but still made the time). She made a huge effort at the first fence where she got rather “stuck in the mud” on take off. This didn’t put her off though and she flew through the treble with ease. She just clipped the first part of the double for 4 faults, I think maybe she noticed the 2nd part of the double and possibly the tent behind mid-air and just slightly backed off so touched it behind. See a video of our SJ round here.
Onto the cross country (see course pics here) and she felt really up for it, I had to be careful we didn’t head off before the “GO” from the starter!! She felt great over the first 3 straight forward fences and although keen was easily controllable and listening. At fence 4 there was a rail after an uphill, a few of strides down to 2 decent steps, with a logs on them and then a left turn to a skinny box (fence 5).
She was almost over bold at the rail then shuffled down the bank but was bold again at the first step, rather over jumping but staying balanced for the second then listening really well to fly the box on 3 strides. She felt a little green but I was thrilled with how well she answered this question so early in the course. Looking back however I feel she may have slightly scared herself, which when we had a similar question at the water meant she thought this was too much. I’m not sure it was the water itself, more maybe having a jump on a bank down to a step again… I’m not totally sure but just frustrating not to have been able to jump the rest of the course, which was nicer and more flowing in the second half.
So back XC schooling this week before our next event… Which I am excited to tell you that (thanks to Nick Gauntlett Eventing) will be at Fontainebleau in France! We will be doing the CIC**. It is also the venue of the first leg of this years Nations Cup so I am excited to be able to watch the teams and competition at this level. It is a fantastic opportunity and should be a fabulous experience, I hope Ali goes well too!
Only 3 days until our first event of the season for the Intermediate at Isleham on Sunday, times are up and I am pleased to have middle of the day dressage as it’s rather a long way up to Cambridgeshire!! Last weekend I had a fantastic stay with Ali at Nick Gauntlett’s yard and was lucky to sit on a extra few horses to get some more riding in myself. We had a dressage lesson on Saturday with Nick, Ali felt very fresh at the beginning with a few head tosses and leaps but she settled and worked really well. We worked on getting more energy in the more collected work and using her hind legs to push – by riding a forward canter and bringing the circle smaller whilst still riding forward so she has to sit herself. This improved the canter no end and the trot we had afterwards was wow!
Early on Sunday morning we jumped a full course including a double and treble combination plus tricky turns and dog legs. We warmed up over a couple of fences then she jumped round the whole course really quite well. Then we worked on me riding on after landing and trying not to shorten my reins, this meant on a fairly tight turn from an upright to the treble Ali stayed much more powerful and pinged through the combination even better! I was grateful that Nick squeezed us in before a full days teaching elsewhere.
We’ve been on a few trips to the gallops too for some canter work. I use a 6 furlong gallop at Hanley Swan, which has furlong markers that is really helpful to judge the speed that we’re going and get used to speeds required for the different levels. And so far we’ve been lucky with the weather extremely chilly but the sun has shone!!
So here’s to starting the 2015 season!!