Before I start, I want to apologise for missing last week’s blog. The internet in China can sometimes be a tad quirky, however, I do admit if I had been more organised and done it earlier, there wouldn’t have been a problem. So, having spent the past week overseas, it’s time to catch-up on the excitement from two weeks ago.

Aston-le-Walls heralds in the Autumn eventing season with a competitive but confidence giving advanced track. So on the Saturday, Mark and I made our way up to Washbrook Farm with Maggie and Fiddle in tow.

Maggie did a nice enough test to put her in the top five after dressage. It’s nice to feel that she still has more to give. Fiddle on the other hand tried his guts out. We have yet to break the 40 penalty barrier at advanced so with a respectable test, I thought this might be the moment we get a 30+. Unfortunately not, but at 40.4 penalties, at least we’re getting close!

With the showjumping the next day, I had a quick wander around the cross-course and was interested to see that the organisers had spread some sort of wood chip over the track. Walking on it I was concerned that it would move and shift under the horse’s hooves. However, it certainly cushioned the bone dry ground underneath! The course was very similar to the past few years with a couple of tweaks and, as it’s always ridden well for me, I felt confident with both of my horses.

The next day, crack of dawn, Maggie and I quietly made our way down to the showjumping. As we walked past the arena, it became very apparent that the course was causing quite a few issues. A combination of slightly sloping ground and light thin sticks for poles meant quite a few penalties for the majority of competitors. Maggie, however, as she does best, quietly popped them all with no hassle, leaving them all up! Fiddle also made very little of it, just having an unfortunate one down.

I knew that both Maggie and Fiddle were in competitive positions; only Mary King on Imperial Cavalier could beat Maggie. So off I galloped with Fiddle letting him take the bit, but taking my time to gather him up for the fences. Still we came back with a rapid time on only 8 or so time penalties.

Maggie on the other hand needs no help from me! She absolutely burned around and hunted all of the fences without hesitation. With only 1.6 time penalties I knew the pressure was on Mary! Fortunately, Mary obviously made a conscious decision to school Archie around and so Maggie won giving us our first advanced win!

Regrettably, there wasn’t much time to celebrate, as next day I found myself at Heathrow boarding a flight to Shanghai! Last week was the half way point between the two Olympics. I was thinking on the flight that although Beijing 2008 was my home Olympics, London will be eventing on the sport’s home turf. I believe that with the educated spectators and crowds coming to watch all of the familiar names competing, we will have the most electrifying and intense atmosphere possible.

Anyway now I’m finally back home with the horses, preparing Maggie and Fiddle for Hartpury in a couple of weeks time. My car is still in the garage and having failed to win the Jeep at Express Eventing, the pressure is on Maggie to win me a Mitsubishi!

Alex