As promised, here is an update on my trip to Saumur as part of the Nations Cup GB junior dressage team.

We set off in beautiful sunshine on Sunday evening towards Portsmouth for the overnight ferry. Although it is a long ferry journey, it makes the road journey much shorter and we feel that is easier on the horses. Kaja travelled well, merrily eating hay and drinking her full tub of water overnight on the ferry.

We arrived in lovely sunshine to a quiet showground and really enjoyed time to get the stable and equipment out and settled with time to stretch Kaja’s legs with a hand graze.

Next day was again bathed in glorious sunshine and we rode in the morning, hand grazed and then it was into the books for my AS exam revision in the afternoon as the rest of the team were arriving for trot-up the next day.

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Benjamin Clark Photography

On the day of trot-up it was still bright and we had high hopes for a sunny Saumur. I rode in the main arena in the morning as I was doing my first test in there. Then I walked Kaja off in the arena I would be competing in after the first day — this was a good chance to let Kaja get used to her surroundings.

It can be very busy on days like this and it has taken a couple of years to really understand my horse, what she copes with, what she likes and what she dislikes. I now consider this in all my preparation for shows. It has taken a while with a sensitive mare like Kaja, but we are getting there.

We have also received a lot of help from Equifeast with tailoring her supplements in a flexible way, which has been tremendously helpful. It all takes time and attention to detail and I was hoping we had got it right for Saumur.

The trot-up was a success for all British riders and then the rain came! When I say rain, I mean torrential, persistent rain.

saumur 2015 trot action

Continued below…

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Team test day in torrential rain

The team test is the only test that counts for the Nations Cup so you have to be ready on day one to be at your best.

Benjamin Clark Photography

Benjamin Clark Photography

The rain was not helpful and all competitors were warming up indoors to avoid the 10 minute arena, which was a little boggy. I know my horse has a great movement and rideability if I can get her to the arena in a calm frame of mind so I took to the wet, outdoor arena to avoid the crowds and go solo!

I had already got up early before competition started at 8am to ride in the indoor arena and do 20 minutes work so I did not have too long to warm up in the pouring rain.

I am delighted that Kaja did the clear round I was hoping for, despite the puddles in the arena and we ended in fourth place in the whole class and had the best British score.

Naturally, I was delighted that the work I had put in in every aspect had paid off. The team came third overall so it was great to be on the podium.

Prize-giving was a wet affair and I laughed at the state of my mum holding my horse with wet through hair and clothing. We had come together with mum as driver, groom, chef and general everything, but we are a good team.

Benjamin Clark Photography

Benjamin Clark Photography

Thankfully we had a day off next day so had the chance to dry everything as much as we could. Due to the driving rain the main arena was abandoned and tests moved indoors for young riders, small and big tour, but sadly juniors and ponies were still fighting the elements.

The individual test was in a pure sand arena which had a splashy surface that felt like a gel sucking at every step of your horse. It was difficult to have the best cadence you can deliver, but I was so happy with a fifth place to make the prize-giving again.

Every prize-giving is an education for my horse. She can get over excited and it’s a worry that she could damage herself, but she was remarkably calm amid the clapping and cheering. I felt like she knew she had done well.

On the last day, the kur was in the afternoon and it was still raining! Kaja had stood up well physically to the elements so far.

We had been rained into our stables everyday, but Saumur gave us free shavings as we had to redo our beds a few times a day to keep them dry. This was exhausting for me and mum, who had now taken to wearing her waterproof trousers at all times.

The kur was in the same waterlogged arena and Kaja was still feeling very enthusiastic. She gave me an energetic ride and I was so delighted to find I had scored a personal best of 72% coming third in the class. This gave us a rapid turnaround of mounted prize-giving and whirlwind pack-up to make a quick dash to catch the ferry in Caen on time.

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Benjamin Clark Photography

Exhausted, we arrived home Monday afternoon after dropping Kaja straight into her field at the yard.

There was no time for rest as I had AS exams starting two days later so I had to make up for lost revision time.

To finish a great week off nicely, I returned home to find I had been long-listed for the European team in July, so I am delighted.

Wish me luck in my exams and I will let you know how they went when I am out the other side.