The past few weeks have been about the build up to final selection for the para Europeans. The final selection trial was held at the Hartpury CPEDI, where both Reece and Jorge (pictured at Hickstead) went forward to selection and Jorge pushed Reece all the way.

Reece won the team test with 74% and Jorge came second with 69%. Jorge was a little tense; the last time he was in the Hartpury arena was when he won the medium open at the Winter Championships and he did the prize giving. He improved as the week went on and he came second to Reece in the individual with 72% behind 74%. I decided to take Jorge through to the freestyle as Reece had pulled his hamstring from spooking at Hickstead so he was still recovering and I didn’t want to push him to do another test. Jorge came into his own on the last day to win with 77%; his best score so far!

Noki was there for the CDI Big Tour, which is quite a big deal as it’s senior and at grand prix level. We got a fairly bad draw going just before Valegro and Charlotte, which meant there were a lot of people watching the warm-up as well as the tests. He warmed up well in the snaffle, then we swapped into the double bridle as normal but he started to drop behind me. By the time I got in the arena and down the centre line I had nothing. He really hates the double and always has. If we could go in the test in a snaffle it would be so much easier.

Due to him dropping, it caused a lot of mistakes, particularly in the piaffe passage. We got a good range of marks from zero all the way to eight with every mark in between. It was a bit embarrassing as I really wanted to have a good test in that company. But Noki has taken me so far, and he just doesn’t enjoy the double, particularly outside his comfort zone in the Grand Prix. Anyway we came home and he was very happy to be out in his pen, and picked up well with the work once he was home.

To top it all of it was great to hear that Reece has been selected for the Europeans and Jorge as direct reserve.

Surpassing expectations

A few days later we had Hickstead CDI with Reece, Noki was in the U25 grand prix too, however as he struggled at Hartpury I chose to withdraw him. Reece was a little superstar the whole show, behaving in the trot-up, which has always been a problem keeping his feet on the ground!

I had no idea what to expect as I haven’t done much able bodied dressage with him over the past few years, so we had a bit of a flat but clear round in the PSG on the first day. I was worried about getting in the top 15 to get through to the music let alone higher, so I was so shocked but very happy to hear we came third with 71% behind Maria Eilberg and Alice Oppenheimer, who has dominated the small tour circuit nationally and internationally this year.

So we were through to the freestyle. I love our music; a Hans Zimmer compilation, and we adapted the floor plan from my para PSG to inter 1. I wanted to go for a bit more as I knew there was a lot more in the tank. He felt much sharper and expressive for the music, although with that came a mistake at the end of the two-time flying-changes, which was frustrating as he is so good at this movement usually. A pat the horse, slap the rider moment.

Overall I was happy though. The arena was very buzzy, with tents surrounding it. We came a close third again with 73.9%. One judge had us to win and with great scores and comments throughout. He then was perfectly behaved in the mounted prize-giving and danced round the arena which was a big thing for Reece!

Back at home we look towards Bishop Burton CPEDI. We have quite a few horses and riders going so it will be a busy week, as well as the preparation before hand.

In Riding for the Disabled (RDA) news, we were approached by Andrew Done who is a show producer who has just won Mr Staffordshire, and is going forward for the Mr England title! He has chosen the RDA as his charity and is busy selling raffle tickets to win some great prizes including a saddle and bridle from my fantastic sponsors Black Country Saddles.

To vote for Andrew text Mr England01 to 63333 or visit Andrew Done`s Just Giving page to make a donation to RDA or to register for raffle tickets.

Sophie