It has been a few weeks since my last blog as we’ve been so busy.
On returning from Saumur I went back to school, straight into my AS exams. I am doing maths, chemistry, biology and psychology so had a lot of practicals as well as written exams.
I managed a few hours away from revision to watch some of my friends compete at Somerford Premier League which is close to home. I love to watch tests as you can pick up all sorts of different techniques from watching different riders and watching warm-ups can give you some really good tips!
After my exams I caught a plane straight to Florence to work for a couple of days with my sponsor, Cavalleria Toscana. They are very supportive of dressage and it’s important as a rider to be able to help them with promotions so I have again become the face of their Winter Collection campaign.
I then received the all important phone call to say I had been selected for the junior European team. It is a huge honour to be one of the top four junior riders in Great Britain. My horse isn’t a big-moving European, experienced horse. I bought her in the UK as a seven-year-old and have carefully trained her with some of the best. I have also exposed her to different environments such as the BHS convention and BD National Convention to compliment her training and we have made two European teams which I am so delighted about.
After selection we went to the pre-Euro camp. Here we all do a test on day one which is judged by
Stephen Clarke and receive feedback. We also discuss with selectors and chef d’equipes all the
details of the show. Parkers International (horse transporters) and the grooms would be taking our horses and we would be flying out days later to meet them in Vidauban.
The run up to the Europeans is always hectic and stressful. I went to the yard and lived there for the two weeks before we set off to ensure Kaja had all the work, rest and care she needed before leaving. I hand grazed her to ensure she was not too silly in the field and various checks were undertaken which are always stressful to go through leading up to competition.
Mum and I drove Kaja to Parkers International and I waved her goodbye the next morning at 5am. I then went to London for a couple of days with my teammate Erin before flying out to Vidauban. Mum and dad drove out there with Erin’s parents to set up camp before the arrival of the horses and the other parents.
Vidauban was extremely hot ranging between 35-40 degrees and by the time I had arrived Kaja
had been bitten all over, especially on her neck where she had rubbed all her hair off on a large collection of bites — poor Kaja . The vet was working overtime with drips for some of the horses
and the chefs managed by day two to get fans up for the horses. This was a huge relief as they could keep the flies away and it enabled them to be cool enough to wear fly rugs.
All horses passed a very hot trot-up, coping better than the riders in their white jeans and riding hats. We then rode through all the arenas for familiarisation which was really well organised.
Next day, the first two junior girls rode with some steady results and then the day after it was my
turn. I was thrilled with Kaja who put in a lovely performance just losing marks in the walk tour as she was too excited and in one walk pirouette she ducked down to bite a fly on her chest and it affected her marks. But she scored a solid 67.676% so I was very pleased with her. The team came eighth out of 15 but scores were very close and we could all change positions easily.
On individual day I was last in at 1.30pm which was extremely hot. My mum had ice on hand and an ice water spray to ensure I stayed as cool as possible.
Stephen Clarke was there to warm us up and he was such a supportive voice, advising areas to improve in such a positive manner.
We entered a different larger arena this time and Kaja became a little tense round the outside but I was able to reassure her. We then entered and I got my first eight at an international from the C judge for my entry!
My scores were rocketing on the live scoring, according to those watching, and I went up to 73.5% in trot work and earned eights in my extended trots, which used to be a weaker area for Kaja (never give up on your training!).
The walk was not as bad this time but still reduced the score a little but I was on target for a 70% test until Kaja decided she had had enough. She resisted and added extra bits and my score plummeted. I battled on and finished the test but scored much less than I had hoped.
I left the arena to hugs from my friends and a shrug from myself. You have good days and sometimes not so good but you have to treat them the same. My run up to the championships was not as I planned for Kaja and everything counts on the day.
The rest of the team members did lovely tests but sadly none of us made the kur.
Despite the ups and downs I enjoyed the Europeans more than the last as I knew what to expect and it was less nerve-wracking. It does make a difference to have been before. The grooms all worked so hard in soaring temperatures in the stables, walking the horses and hosing them every few hours (with limited numbers of hoses) to cool them down and using bucket-loads of fly spray.
The horses all looked amazing. The return journey for them, after eight days away, was two days, over 20 hours of travel; what special animals! Kaja herself returned in good health, happy to be in the cold of just 20 degrees and time off in the field.
Well it sounds bizarre as it’s only July, but Kaja’s season is over for another year and I look forward to a summer off school, riding Santi competitively again as he is five now and ready to move on, while Kaja has a rest.
Thanks to all who support me on my journey and are there for me when it really counts.
Next blog will be Santi’s progression and some very exciting new changes.