With just five days until the inaugural Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships we continue to meet the riders taking part and find out their stories…

Find out all you need to know about the championships >>

In the run up to the competition we take a look at the stories of the entrants who can’t wait for the event in our new ‘championship contenders’ series.

Meet Jo Harris and Rooney

Name: Jo Harris
Horse’s name: Roundbush Go Go (Rooney)
Class entered: 90cm

Why you have decided to enter the Championships?

Rooney and I have been doing one-day events for the last 12 months or so and we absolutely love them, so when I saw Horse & Hound’s three-day event advertised I absolutely jumped at the chance. I’ve always thought you had to be a seriously good professional to do three-day events, so I wanted to make the most of this opportunity.

What you are most looking forward about the championships?

The cross-country – I’m 33-years-old, but when walking a cross-country course I’m quite often bouncing like a kid… I just get so excited. There’s nothing better than being stood in that start box waiting for the countdown. And also, if I’m honest, the hog roast sounds amazing!

How have you been preparing?

We’ve been training all winter for the one-day events – doing a lot of dressage as neither of us really enjoy that. We will have done three one-day events at 90 level by the time we get to Keysoe. We need to work on having more power in the canter, so have been doing lots of raised canter poles and transitions to help strengthen Rooney’s back end.

How have you altered your training specifically for this event?

Fitness is my biggest concern for both of us. Rooney is part-cob and unfortunately is still quite front wheel drive with a weaker back end (he’s only six). If I were a horse, I’d probably be a draught horse and I also have a love of red wine and cheese that is hard to control!

Rooney is being hacked out during the day by a friend and then ridden by me in the evenings, six days a week, to improve his fitness.

I’ve started the couch to 5km running app, going out three times a week (on top of two fitness classes and a personal training session every week!) I’ve even been getting up and going running at 5.30am before work — possibly the craziest thing I’ve ever done!

Any top training tips?

From a flatwork perspective I always like to start work by spiralling in on a 20-metre circle in walk and trot, and then leg-yielding back out. This really helps to engage Rooney’s back end and get him to step under more, which I find helps him relax through the neck and maintain a more natural outline (tenseness in his neck is his biggest weakness in the dressage).

I also really like to put two poles out at opposite ends of the school and then canter between them, count the strides and then come round and add strides in, or take them out. This really helps control the canter and is good practice for lengthening and shortening.

Any tips to aid recovery so you are ready for the final day?

I feed Rooney salt in his feed every day and have electrolytes for when he’s been working especially hard. I also have a massage pad that I put on before and after exercise to help either warm up or cool down his back muscles.

What’s your morning routine on a show day?

On a normal show day I get up to the yard first thing and quickly skip Rooney out while he eats his breakfast so his stable is all ready for him when he comes home. Rooney is a skewbald with white legs and tail, so the next task is trying to get him looking clean. I then like to plait him up while his mane and tail are still wet, as he’s got so much hair and it’s a lot easier to plait when wet. Then it’s a quick change to my show gear, load Rooney on the wagon and off we go!

Do you have a secret weapon?

This is probably not a secret I should share, but I tend to be most nervous about the dressage and if I’m tense then that makes Rooney tense too. So to help me control my nerves and relax, I sometimes have a can of cider or a glass of Pimms before the dressage — I always make sure the wagon’s stocked just in case!

What is your must have stay away show item?

Our massage pad — I wouldn’t be without it.

Tell us a fun fact about your horse?

Rooney is by the showjumping stallion Vivaldi IV, who is a 16.1hh Dutch Warmblood. His dam is a 14.2hh ride and drive coloured cob mare called Sparkles… and still Rooney is already 17hh and may still grow some more!

The Horse & Hound Grassroots Eventing Championships is being held at Keysoe (27 – 29 May) and offers riders the chance to take part in a three-day event with their horse. This unaffiliated event has classes from 70cm – 100cm.