Our journey to Tyrella in Northern Ireland was much better this week. We didn’t get lost and luckily Ian [Stark] was on the same ferry so I managed to fit in a dressage lesson when we arrived.

Filius was foot perfect, which you think I would be happy with, but I’m so used to him being really cheeky that I wasn’t convinced by his behaviour. After my lesson I took him for a walk along the beach, which I though he’d like but he wasn’t keen on the sea. I think he thought it was going to eat him. I couldn’t even persuade him to put a hoof in the water!

I also had Fortunesnight and Cool Dancer with me so I rode them before quickly running round the novice course so I had time to walk the three-star course with Ian. The course was quite challenging with a few “rider frighteners” thrown in. There was a huge ditch and brush at fence 2, while the second water was a bounce in, five strides through the water then up a step to an angled brush on one forward stride. The next fence was a corner over a ditch with a nice(!) drop on it — I told myself it was good practice for Badminton’s Vicarage Vee!

Later on the course was a double of skinny hedges with an open ditch in front on a related distance, followed by a double of narrow triple brushes that were pretty big and had been designed so you could jump the corner of them on a straight line of four strides. With so much to take in I thought I had better go round again to make sure I had all my lines right, then it was off to the stables and bed!

Filius had an 8.30am dressage the next morning so we had an early start. He warmed up well and performed quite a good test, although I felt he was lacking a little sparkle. He scored 48.1 which left us in third place. Then I had a quick swap onto the other two for their dressage and show jumping.

Filius felt really raring to go when I warmed him up for the cross-country. He gave me a great ride, jumping clear through all the straight routes. The more difficult fences he jumped really well, but a couple of times he put in shorter strides over the straightforward fences which isn’t really like him — normally he loves taking a flyer when the opportunity appears! He picked up 18 time faults which I wasn’t bothered about as the aim was to clear over all the straight routes so mission accomplished.

After a couple of hours rest for Filius (not for me, I had to go cross-country on the other two) it was time for the show jumping. The course looked quite big but Filius has jumped plenty of big courses, such as at Kreuth CCI*** last year. We were lying seventh after cross-country, so I had time to give him a good walk about and watch a few competitors jump. Filius is normally easier to show jump after cross-country but he felt really flat — not tired, he just didn’t have enough spring in his step — and the show jumping turned into a bit of a disaster. I was worried that that was it; maybe he’d reached his limit, although I knew he had jumped courses as big before.

So back to the drawing board — what to do next? I decided to get him checked out to make sure he didn’t have any sore bits that would explain his unusual behaviour. It turns out he has picked up a muscle strain on his right side of his quarters, which happily explains why he lacked a bit of sparkle in the dressage, why he was chipping in short strides across country and why we picked up such a cricket score in the jumping.

So the plan of action is a week of long hacks, treatment with a magnetic pulsed boot that goes over his back and no turnout — which he’ll be sad about but at least he will get grazed in hand! And he is super fit already so he shouldn’t lose any fitness, and fingers crossed he will be back on form in time for the big B!

Bye for now, Olivia

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