I’ve just got back from an amazing time at the European Championships [for juniors and young riders]. It was an fabulous experience and I loved every minute of it — well, almost every minute. It was difficult to see your horse off into the transport; all GB horses travel together and Kaja was first on, but last off! Thankfully the trip from Dover to Compiegne was only about 5hrs.
The venue was great apart from the 10min walk from the stables to the arena, so you really couldn’t forget anything you needed. And after walking it over 3 times a day it felt longer each day.
One of the highlights was definitely the opening ceremony. We all got to dress up in our GBR Union Jack jackets (pictured top) and meet all the other teams, parading in the courtyard of the Imperial Palace — a huge honour.
Throughout the whole week the weather was hot, but of course as soon as we left England it decided to be 30 degrees! It meant lots of pink faces in the tests.
We had a great team of Georgia Davies (called up from reserve position with 24 hours’ notice — WOW), Maisie Scruton, Charlotte Fry and me, who were all friends from pony international days.
Expectations and disappointment
With the help of Carl Hester in the warm up — a big boost to the team — we thought we could be good enough for a medal, but unfortunately we didn’t manage it because of the unpredictability of the horses on the day. The atmosphere was much greater than my horse Kaja had experienced before, as even though we had competed (and won) at the national championships at Stoneleigh. Unfortunately the whooping and screaming for team members who had just finished tests whilst I was in 10min box caused Kaja to become really frightened.
Rearing and throwing herself around the arena, that 10min seemed to last forever. I did all I could to settle her stagefright in the test but sadly came a couple of percent short of my expectation, scoring 66% when I had hoped for 68% at least. It was more positive for the quieter, less forward-going horses, but not so much for the hotter ones.
However, on reflection it could have been a lot worse as I wasn’t sure she would even get in the arena. It was fabulous to see my friend Lottie do so well so we could all share in her success.
In the individual test it was much the same, except that I went for more harmony but less expression and I got a similar score. Kaja wasn’t quite herself as she was still terrified and would not really do the walk tour! She learns quickly though and as she is only 9 she will mature given time and we can build on this for the future.
The young rider team of Pippa Hutton, Olivia Oakeley, Samantha Thurman-Baker and Amy Woodhead were great to be around and on-hand for advice and support, but they suffered a similar fate of highs and lows.
The team is supported by Toggi, Classic Dressage, World Class and an individual benefactor — we are so grateful to them all.
The trip was great fun. It was great to cheer on your team mates and fly the British flag. The entertainment for the whole trip was making helium videos with the team, which made everyone laugh.
Overall the standard was very high, which was great to see and learn from, and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience such a great atmosphere that I’ll never forget.