We had a good drive out there stabling in Calais en route to break up the journey on the Monday night and arriving Tuesday afternoon with Derby feeling a lot perkier that I did!
It’s an amazing facility at Luhmühlen including a riders’ lounge with free drinks and sandwiches all day for riders and owners which is a wonderful touch and one that is really appreciated.
Derby settled really well and was stabled next to his half brother Barney – they are both by Fleetwater Opposition – who is ridden by Kirsty Johnson from Hampshire. He trotted up well on Wednesday, which is always a relief, and then on Thursday I had a lesson with Nick Burton in the morning. Derby was quite fresh and loving the whole occasion!
On Friday morning I had another short session with Nick before my test at lunchtime and I felt I had him really where I wanted him. He did become a little tense for the first couple of minutes and then he got better and better. We got all of our changes which I was thrilled with and achieved an excellent mark of 71.8%, with 42.7 penalties putting us into 17th place.
It all started to get a bit real then for the cross-country. I walked it three times and then on Saturday I walked it by myself with my dog Phoebe who has a pet passport and really enjoyed the trip although I did catch her twice up at the canteen helping herself to breakfast.
Going cross-country in the morning meant I didn’t have long to dwell on it and get too nervous. I was slightly napping at that point thinking I didn’t want to do it, but as soon as I got on him, my nerves subsided. For me it’s important to have some level of nerves as it makes me ride better across country.
He warmed up well and off we went. There were no surprises as such, except we were ten seconds up on all our minute markers. We had a super round and he felt exceptional everywhere. He was fantastic through some very tricky accuracy lines and he loved every single second of it, looking for the next fence and wanting to jump between the red and the white flags. It was as smooth a ride as you could hope in a four-star and we ended up coming home 12 seconds inside the time and the best of the Brits which was just an incredible feeling. I went into 11th place overnight.
My dad greeted me with tears streaming down his face. It was a very proud moment and quite emotional for all of us. I was so elated and proud of Derby. Yogi Breisner came up and gave me a huge hug. It was such a great moment and you have to savour them as you don’t get them very often.
My groom Emily Kelly did such a super job looking after him, making sure he was washed down, iced and grazed. By the time he was walking back to the stables he was marching my dad back as if he was ready to go again.
On Saturday night we had a barbeque at the lorry with Emily, dad and my step mum who flew out to join us. Nicky Roncorni and Emily Lochore and their friends and family joined us too and it was a lovely chilled evening.
Derby was fine on Sunday morning and he really showed himself off at the trot-up, deciding he couldn’t go near the ground jury and their flapping blue table cloth although if I’d have asked him to jump it he’d have flown over.
I then walked the showjumping course and I thought it looked more like a grand prix track. The time was very tight so I had that in my mind, and when I went in, he was very nervous as the horse in front had received a standing ovation having jumped clear and it was incredibly loud. The bell rang very quickly which meant I didn’t have time to get him relaxed.
We started out really well, but we lowered poles and with hindsight perhaps I should have ridden a pace slower, given the fact he felt quite tense. But I’ve learned from it and I won’t make the same mistake again.
Overall I am so pleased with him. At the start of the week I was dreaming of a top 20 place so 17th is a great springboard for our future. We have learned so much and I feel full of confidence about our future together at four-star level including Burghley this Autumn. I thought after Luhmühlen I would want a holiday and need a break, but I am even more driven to get it right. It’s like a drug and so addictive.
Derby will have two or three weeks off in the field where he’ll relax and then I will gradually build him up again for Burghley with a prep run before that. I will also try and go to some big showjumping classes on a surface where there is an atmosphere.
Cascadelle was on super form at West Wilts where she did a super test in the novice to score a 25.5 miles ahead, went clear showjumping and breezed around the cross-country to win the class. She goes the novice regional final at Purston Manor next week where I hope to qualify her for the novice championships at Gatcombe.
April (Total Belief) did a really lovely test, had one down showjumping and I had a super ride cross-country. Jake (Highmead Proposition) was super too and he’s really starting to feel quite special and is trusting me a lot more. He did a lovely dressage test, had one unlucky pole showjumping and then I had a really nice ride across country and it was the first time he jumped in a beautiful rhythm. Jake and April will both go to Purston Manor for the BE100.
Pluto (Aphrodisiac) is now back in trot work and I really hope he comes back to good form after picking up an injury to his hip in the spring. I hope to have him back to compete in the Autumn.