Another week closer to Badminton and it’s been a busy one leading up to Weston Park Horse Trials.

“Eliot” (Big El) had a canter on Tuesday, which my fiancé Hayden had the pleasure of doing as I was busy teaching. He loved that.

On Wednesday we had a trip to see Hayden’s grandfather, Mark Chambers or “Grampas”. He is a character that you don’t come across too often. He is a true horseman, having sold a huge number of horses in his lifetime, and to the likes of Ted Edgar and Marion Mould, to whom he sold the successful Daddy’s Girl.

The Area 18 show used to be held at “Grampa”, so we got to benefit from his array of fences. It’s a great exercise to jump a set of fences away from home and on grass — and of course it’s helpful to get a few tips from the maestro.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were devoted to concentrating on the flatwork. As I was in the section which used the four-star dressage test at Weston Park, this gave me chance to get the Badminton test into my head. It’s a new test for this year and although we now have to do five loop serpentines, the test has all the usual movements, just in a different sequence. It all flows very nicely and fortunately there are no tempi changes in sight, as has been threatened for eventers.

Chequers Playboy’s first intermediate

Sunday arrived and we had an early start as I needed to walk the intermediate course first thing. “Kenny” (Chequers Playboy) was doing his first Intermediate. The dressage went well, although we were slightly hampered by the cross-country starting as I went down the centre line, which he couldn’t help but notice, so this added a little tension to the test.

I was delighted with his show jumping round. He just rolled a pole, but it was really unlucky that it fell, as he was jumping well.

The cross-country was a pleasure. There was a very strong question at fence four, two large skinnies on a turn from a downhill approach. He was very good here and never moved off the line. Then came a sunken road, which rode well, and at fence seven there were more skinnies on a turn, which again he was very good through.

The next question came at fence 9, which was a skinny on a turning line to a trakehner, then a long one stride to another skinny. On a more experienced horse I would have angled the first skinny to get on a line to the next two elements, but I felt this was a strong question for a young horse and something he wouldn’t have come across before. So a popped in over the skinny and the lesser speed made it easier to turn for the line to the next two elements and it worked a treat.

He was fantastic into the water and at the corner and this left us crossing the finish line with a big smile and lots of pats!

Top hat and tails time

I then jumped off Kenny and adorned my top hat and tails for the first time this season, ready for the advanced dressage test. Eliot was remarkable composed, considering we had to go right through the cross-country to get to the dressage. He managed to contain himself well in the test up until the walk, at which point he just finds it very difficult to keep the tension at bay. Still, I was pleased with him for this point in the season.

He show jumped well over a big track that was causing trouble. A few poles met the floor, but on the whole he jumped a lot better than last time out.

We both enjoyed the cross-country immensely. Fence four was a serious question, a picnic table followed by four strides to a diamond-shaped brush fence, which formed a corner on either the left side or the right, with a very large carved owl strategically placed in the middle. I opted for the right side and he never strayed from the line.

There were four corners in total on the course, which made for good practice. Eliot felt great fitness-wise and he recovered very quickly afterwards.

Hayden also enjoyed an amazing ride round the cross-country on Fernhill Fearless so once again we enjoyed the trip home.

We’re at Burnham Market this weekend, so I’ll be updating you on that next week.

Dee

Don’t forget to buy this week’s Horse & Hound (out today, 9 April) for a full report from Weston Park.