It appears through general miscommunication I pretty much missed last week’s blog and it went up rather late — sorry! Though, to be honest, we had a weekend off and there wasn’t anything interesting to catch up on. However, this week has been very much the opposite.

Burnham Market in sunny Norfolk was our first international outing this season. Both Maggie (Magenta) and Jeans were entered for the three-star and Fiddle (ESB Irish Fiddle) for the intermediate. We arrived in semi-darkness on Wednesday evening with both three-star dressages the next day.

As Jeans had been overly excited at both Tweseldown and Aldon, I hopped on straight away to give him as much of a grilling as the lighting would allow and to give Mark a chance to get the beds and lorry sorted. We here at Team China always look forward to the competitions where we stay away for a few days. You’re always too rushed and manic at one-days to really get the opportunity to catch up with friends.

Maggie warmed up very well and trotted beautifully around the arena in her big floaty trot. The bell went and we cantered down the centre line to halt and salute. Unfortunately, Maggie decided that trotting properly was too much effort and refused to go forward. We did everything correctly but flatly.

Jeans on the other hand found the Norfolk wind too much. That coupled with flags meant a tense and animated test. However, as they didn’t make too many mistakes, they were both still in a competitive position.

On Friday, Maggie and Jeans had a nice relaxing and quiet ride while Fiddle did his thing! Fiddle did a correct test once again, however, dressage will never be his strength and I’ll just say we weren’t in the lead. The showjumping was a nightmare. Having to showjump in the same muddy and deep arena after all of the hundreds of BE100 and novice horses wasn’t a pleasant experience. Fiddle tried his heart out once again and only had the one down, a clear round in my mind. A slow cross-country then followed with J-P Sheffield following hotly on my heels!

Three-star jumping

Finally, the jumping day for the three-star, Saturday. I was quite concerned about the cross-country course. Fence four was a very big and upright table combination, fence seven was three very narrow and angled hedges and fence 10 was two big open corners (something I haven’t seen for quite a while). Furthermore, it was decided to keep the showjumping on the grass arena rather than the smaller all-weather.

The showjumping caused big problems for everyone. Not only was the going deep, the time was very tight. This meant we couldn’t take our time to find the best take-offs and landings. I found that I was winging my way around corners and taking more risks than I otherwise would do. Both Maggie and Jeans jumped very well considering the circumstances. Maggie was unlucky to have two down and I got Jeans a touch tight to a big oxer and so had the one down. Still, no time-penalties with either; quite a few people were notching up nine or 10!

Finally the cross-country! Maggie (pictured above) was an absolute gem. We ended up taking out a stride at the table combination and she didn’t hesitate for a moment at the angled hedges. We went quite quickly without me chasing her; I had to keep reminding myself: Badminton, Badminton, Badminton!

Once Jeans (left) decided he didn’t need to spend a penny in the warm-up (fifteen minutes of standing off his back) we were off and boy was he strong! Luckily, I decided to try Chico’s gag on him. So as he tried to gallop flat out at fence one, I immediately shut him down with the bit and from then on, he respected my decisions a little better.

Both were clear and so I was at the back end of the money, 11th with Maggie and 13th with Jeans. Most importantly Jeans is now qualified for the World Equestrian Games.

After another five-hour drive, we made it back to base. We all had a great time and the horses all went well, but Burnham Market marked four weeks until Badminton. It really is closing on us like a bullet train.

Alex

Full report from Burnham Market including colour photos and Tina Cook’s comment in the H&H on sale now (issue dated 8 April).

Alex Hua Tian’s website