What a good weekend we’ve just had, well and truly laying the ghost of the European championships in Brussels to rest.
This was to be our last competition of the season which had always been the plan. Originally I had hoped to do a two-star with Chiara at Euston but with all the preparation for the Europeans, attention was firmly focussed on Fantom. So I made the decision to enter the one-star, to go a little faster and consolidate her experience at this level before moving up next season.
With this in mind, I introduced some sustained canter work into Chiara’s training schedule and was lucky enough to be allowed to use the stubble fields close by to do both this type of cantering and to do interval training using a sharp hill. She revelled in this type of work, getting stronger each time until I was happy with her level of fitness for our intended goal.
Because of the holiday traffic on this, the last weekend of the school summer holidays, we decided to set off early on Friday and had a straightforward journey of about seven hours to Euston Park on the Suffolk/Norfolk borders. On the journey, unlike Fantom two weeks previously, Chiara managed to demolish a large haynet, several apples and carrots and at least a few gulps of her fibre beet tea that she likes.
It was good to be back at Euston again, not having been able to compete there yet this year. Again everything was so well organised and competitors and crew alike were made to feel very welcome with excellent hospitality provided.
It was a slightly misty start for us (pictured top), but it went without a hitch. This time I decided to start with everyone else, finding space and setting off slowly through the park. However, as the pace built up and we moved up the field, Chiara got more and more excited. While I really appreciate her will to be in front at all times and at all cost, she still needs to listen in these circumstances and take care around corners as balance seems to go out of the window.
I had no choice but to turn her off the course for a few minutes to let the leading pack go on and then slotted in some 300 metres behind. This transformed the first loop and I again had a manageable, careful horse.
Although Chiara’s behaviour in the vetgates was much, much better than at her first one-star in July, she took quite a long time for her heart rate to come down to below 65bpm (about five minutes). This obviously cost us somewhat but it is still a learning curve with her and this was the fastest competition she had done.
The second and third loops were lovely with a fast, responsive horse and we were on our own most of the time ultimately crossing the line in sixth place at a really good speed, actually rather faster than planned. The icing on the cake was to come fifth in the best condition award immediately after we finished.
Because of the Europeans being held two days before the endurance masters at Euston, we were logistically unable to compete there but followed the event closely via the live streaming. Whatever the rights and wrongs of accepting prize money from Euston Park’s sponsors, the sheer volume of entries, including many Brits, can only do good in encouraging first time suitably qualified FEI riders to start on the first rung of the FEI starred system with some, hopefully, progressing through to championship qualification in the future.
This event, the last of the season, was a much quieter occasion with only about 50 entries over the three classes. It was, however, good to again see a good entry from Britain in both the one- and two-star competitions.
Well, this being our last competition of the season, the horses will have a break for a few weeks before coming back for the initial conditioning and schooling prior to next season. It is time to catch up with all the jobs around the yard and essential equipment repairs and upgrading.
Although we have finished our competitions, the endurance season continues in this country until mid-October with one of the last competitions being the national championships held this year at the Red Dragon ride at the Royal Welsh Showground. I might go up there to crew or help as it is always such a good competition, with a good atmosphere, well organised and great facilities, we’ll see.