Unfortunately, I’ve just had some enormously disappointing news. After two years of intense concentration, planning and hard work from my team and my horses, we have just been told that we won’t have funding to go to the World Equestrian Games.

With three horses qualified, and with Maggie on top form, it is soul destroying to think that in three weeks’ time we could have been flying out to Kentucky. But it is reassuring to have the new chairman of the Chinese Equestrian Association’s commitment for support in the future, especially with the qualification period for the Olympics starting next year!

Heading for Hartpury

Hartpury has always been a popular event, but no-one expected the number of three-star entries it received. I have to congratulate the organisers for managing to (seemingly easily) fit everyone in. This was to be a final run for Fiddle before Burghley and Maggie before Blenheim.

To accommodate the hundreds of three-star combinations, Hartpury ran two different sections: one that did their dressage in the massive and shiny indoor school competing for money and a first prize of a brand spanking new Mitsubishi; and the other competing just for money, who did their tests in the outdoor international arena. Considering I still don’t have a functioning car, it was unfortunate that Maggie ended up in the wrong section, but we all told ourselves that the non-car section would be far less competitive!

Fiddle had an 8:30am dressage time on Saturday morning. Warming up as he usually does — cranky and crabby — we trotted into the spooky indoor school pretending to be confident. Fiddle did his best ever test for a 56pen score! Considering the horse has never had a score under 60pen at three-star, for him to get a 56 against a field full of World Games horses was quite a feat. Either that or the Ground Jury had had a late night and were still a bit bleary-eyed!

Maggie’s test was soon after. In preparation we have been practicing our halt to extended trot transition! Having had a couple of average tests simply because we lost all of our connection and forward momentum in the first halt and salute, I decided enough was enough and that she would just have to get over her laziness and try a bit harder!

With a pinch of winding-up and shaking-up, Maggie went in and performed her best test to date for 46pen. Apart from a couple of small mistakes (nodding slightly in the left shoulder-in and half pass, where she lacks a bit of balance, and cantering after her reinback instead of trot) it was all active and smooth, something I’ve struggled to balance before.

Fiddle misses out again

Unfortunately due to my little mistake at Chatsworth earlier this season, Fiddle needed a qualifying result here to qualify for Burghley. I should have reminded myself of this as I went into the showjumping! Fiddle was jumping his socks off, and I felt comfortable with how things were going, until I jumped the wrong fence! I couldn’t believe it! It seems poor Fiddle was destined to never get a qualifying result at CIC***.

Sufficient to say, I felt like a complete and total fool and gave myself a kick up the backside as I cantered in with Maggie (having walked the course again just in case!). Maggie jumped cleanly and superbly as usual, just tapping out an upright going straight into the early evening sun (7:30pm). It seemed that an equal number had similar problems as I remained in 9th after dressage.

With just one to ride cross-country in the afternoon, Sunday suddenly seemed like a very quiet day. I walked the course again and watched the morning section jump around the course. After walking the course I felt on the comfortable side, but after watching I was anything but! For some reason, the first water (two upright rails on two strides with a small drop into the water) was proving a nightmare for some combinations. There were falls, legs being left behind and a lot of very wet and soggy riders! I have managed to avoid falling in water so far and it’s something I don’t want to sample at all after seeing some of the riders’ expressions as they came up for air!

Then again, I was sitting on Maggie, the safest horse in the world. There was absolutely nothing for me to worry about and we cruised around like I was going for a little jaunt across the countryside. Maggie finished well and in a respectively good time of 6 penalties to put us in seventh!

With Fiddle still lacking a qualification, we popped him on the lorry last week to go to Haras du Pin, a new competition in Normandy, France, where I was doing the two star with Rodney (Willow’s Accent). Hopefully third time lucky!

Alex