Prepping for a show in Belgium has been a big focus for us here at Puttenham Place since we finished our summer campaign, and the first two weeks of training and jumping have not disappointed.
Lier was our first stop in Belgium and what a super-friendly set up with great facilities, including lovely permanent stables.
To start with we focused on training and it was time well spent. We looked at single fence training, working through double set ups and an exercise on a diagonal line. This was really beneficial for us as it involved moving around the corner and keeping up the pace through the turn. It took a bit of time and a few puzzled looks from my end to get the gist of Belgium training lingo. They often say gallop and you think ‘oh my goodness, gallop!’ But they just mean more canter and to move, which I did get my head around and for me and my horses it makes such a difference to get that good canter tempo.
I always love going to Belgium as they have the showjumping set up so right out there. You can totally see why people are into the sport and get really involved. There is such a huge selection of fantastic shows that are all easily located. The training shows they have out there are also hugely beneficial with extremely well-built courses. They give lots of options to either hire the course or buy a clear round ticket, and it is all reasonably priced — a great system for training and educating horses.
The actual show in Lier started on the Thursday and I jumped the horses through until Sunday. They both felt super. A highlight for me was stepping Felix back up to 1.30m level, where he felt happy and confident, which is always a great feeling for a rider.
After the show, we headed straight to stable in Bree, where we based ourselves between shows. This was another great set up, where people can rent stables and be part of a community with shared indoor and spacious outdoor arena. It had a great laid-back feel and was the perfect stop gap for us, along with providing an opportunity to do a bit more training — nothing too intense or big as the horses had already done a fair bit of jumping, but it was a good opportunity to get re-focused.
We continued to work on the diagonal line exercises we were doing at Lier — so moving up in the canter with a cavaletti on the diagonal and then two strides away from the fence sitting up and asking the horses to wait slightly, so they sit on their hindquarters, to help get that closer shot.
We also worked with one fence at cavaletti height and then a placing pole three strides behind, meaning you have to focus on gaining control to get your three-stride distance. The basis for all of our training was to continue to move around the turn and not to take away from the canter.
We then headed to Sentower on the Wednesday, which was conveniently located, 10 minutes down the road. In normal circumstances this should have been, by all accounts, pretty straightforward, but unfortunately Scarlett the Scania (my horsebox) came up with some rather alarming flashing warning lights, which made the whole thing a lot more stressful than it should have been. However, we did make it!
Sentower, is another really lovely show venue. Everything is under cover, there is a huge warm-up for the indoor, and the main arena itself is fantastic. Classes started on Thursday and although technical, they were good, flowing courses. With everything I have mentioned so far, it is perhaps unsurprising that Sentower is hugely popular, with 100+ in some classes making for great competition.
This show puts on a one-star competition, starting at 1.20m with 1.30m classes along with a three-star too. This meant that there was always lots of jumping to be watched throughout the week.
The way the showground is set up, is another thing that works very well. They have a great viewing area and a restaurant in-between the warm-up and main ring, so all the action is incredibly easy to watch. They also run things through the Equipe App which makes it super straightforward in terms of declarations, start times and keeping in the loop with results.
Turning attention to my two grey horses, I was really pleased with how they went. I always jump Timmy (pictured top) in the smaller class on the first day, as he is sometimes spooky and can be a bit of a monkey. We then went back into the 1.30m on the second and third days, and I was so chuffed. I have been slightly struggling with jumping the bigger tracks on him, but he was virtually foot-perfect. Our recent training definitely kicked in as I worked on getting a strong canter, and he felt awesome. I also really focused on getting a distance out of the corner and riding forwards to it. It felt like it all came together with him and the way he jumped was a great result. This was his last show before he went on holiday, so it was a perfect ending to finish the year on such a high.
With my other horse Felix, it has been quite a long road to get him back jumping and aiming him for a one-star grand prix. He jumped really well and narrowly missed qualifying for the grand prix. He jumped his socks off in the 1.30m consolation too — I had a few small jockey errors, but we are certainly getting back in the swing of it.
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Overall we had an awesome two weeks. I had a such a giggle and met so many lovely people. The shows in Belgium are always fun, nice and social with great competition and showgrounds.
We headed home to Puttenham after Sentower for a week’s re-group and to swap horses before heading back to Belgium for a final two weeks. Felix is coming out again, this time accompanied by the lovely Fleurie and Cambridge, who will be doing the training shows. Fingers crossed it will be as fun as our last trip (minus the lorry dramas!) and I will let you all know how we get on with Belgium take two in our next blog.
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