Mattingley Horse Trials: intermediate novice blog

  • Now we’re talking! I hadn’t realised how bored I’d been with my competing since my previous horse Deco’s retirement, until today. It was the first time in ages I’ve been scared and thought “I’m not sure I can do this”. Then when you do it’s the best feeling in the world!

    The CIC**B dressage test involves lots of sidewaysness, some interesting counter canter, a simple change etc. All stuff that William can just about get his head round on a good day without too much pressure at home. The same things that we have been having major clashes about at home during the last four days. So I decided to put him in a double bridle and then pretty much leave him alone. I hoped that by riding for a 6, not an 8, we might actually have a chance of getting a 6, rather than a 4 — and it worked! He behaved the whole way round, apart from one turn about the haunches when he slammed on the brakes, lifted the forehand into small rear and whipped round in one. We got 3s from both judges and “resistant” as their comment. Both judges described him as “calm, rythmical, but needs to lighten forehand” and gave almost identical remarks in the collectives, which was very fair. He got 41, which I was actually fairly pleased about.

    Off to the cross-country, much to his surprise and delight. We had a bit of a wait so I had a cigarette, which I shouldn’t have done as I ended up very out of breath by the end of the course! I had him back in a snaffle for the first time since last year, after having his wolf teeth out. As we set off my heart sank — he was leaning on the left just like he did at Charlton at the end of last year. However, after a couple of fences I found I could keep him off the rein with my weight and legs and by the end of the course he was pretty straight, so I’m hoping it’s just the memory of the pain and habit. He charged round, giving me the most superb round on the fabulous ground. I was seeing longer rather than shorter strides to the fences, which is always so much more fun! We had a bit of a wobble going into the owl hole, as he’s not seen anything like it, but some vocal encouragement saw us through! We finished with just four time penalties.

    I cooled him off, walked him and gave him very small, very sloppy feed with some electrolytes, before going to inspect the show jumping and the running order. I walked the course and my god it was huge *insert green sickly smiley*. I honestly haven’t jumped anything like that since Rolleston 2005, and the spread at fence 6 was truly massive! Certainly wouldn’t catch me over it in cold blood!

    I didn’t have very long warm up. We went in and Mr Dozy’s brain was still on the lorry — he had the first down which was barely 1m! But then he gave me a cracking round (I was still seeing a few long ‘uns!) and left everything else up round a course that caused a fair few problems. I was utterly delighted with his round as I have wondered about his scope in the past, particularly over spreads, but he really rose to the challenge. Having the cross-country first really did help him.

    It was a absolutely cracking day — I have not stopped grinning as I am so proud of him. I forget he’s still only six; I saw someone there I’ve known for ages who asked what it was I was riding. She eventually worked out he was the scruffy three-year-old she’d last seen in the field! Turned out he finished in 28th place, which was in the top half, and which I am very pleased with.

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