Coral Keen’s eventing blog: I’m so excited after a promising Blenheim

Blenheim Horse Trials is always such a fantastic event and I have to admit I think has to be up there as a favourite for me. I was thrilled that Total Belief (April) progressed so well this season and we were able to take her for the eight- and nine-year-old CIC3* class.

Having had her from a foal, I have always had feature age classes as part of the overall aim, but you just never know if your plans will come off especially as she is only eight this time. Luckily this super mare it did, and she is the first of the Total progeny to compete at Blenheim — hopefully the start of many more to come!

Me, my dad and April – all part of the Total Equestrian Construction team

We headed up to the event on Wednesday morning to get settled. It’s nice go to these big shows with only one horse as you can really focus on them and the week ahead. It was also great to have my head girl Sarah Trenchard with me for the week for her first stay away show. Sarah has a lovely young family at home, so it is not always possible for her to come and enjoy the away events, but because Blenheim is so nice and local, it all worked out. I try with all the team to share out who comes to the big three-day events. I think it is really important that they all get a turn to see the horses they look after so well, do what they do. It is the end result of all of our hard work.

I couldn’t be without my amazing support team including head girl Sarah. Photo credit: Stride

While touching on team and my great group, I am really delighted to announce that I will now be an ambassador for the Equestrian Employers Association (EEA). They are a great organisation, linked to the British Grooms Association (BGA), that makes sure that both employers and grooms are getting the most out of a working relationship. As an EEA member, I have discovered the great online tools to help me to write my staff contracts and create a bespoke yard staff handbook. I encourage all of our team to be members of the BGA; the amount of information and support they offer is brilliant and well worth the membership, as is the case for me by being a member of the EEA.

I loved wearing my new Mackenzie & George Badminton belt at Blenheim. Credit: Stride

Back to Blenheim. After we arrived, the next two days consisted of arena familiarisation, course walks, working April, physio and a lovely drinks party on the Thursday evening. We are so lucky as event riders to be hosted in the most amazing venues. Blenheim Palace is beyond stunning and we enjoyed a great evening in this beautiful location with family and friends.

Friday afternoon was the start of our competition with dressage. In the warm up April worked well, as she has been doing at home — she finds all her lateral work so easy and I have been really pleased with her progress in this phase. Unfortunately, in the arena we made two big mistakes which were very costly. They were errors I didn’t really expect from her and I don’t think I could have planned for.

Photo credit William Carey

Looking back, I think a bit of tension came in, as we all know horses are not machines. You can train as hard as you can to make sure no stone is left unturned, but at the end of the day, they have minds of their own and April this time slightly showed her inexperience. Our mark was still respectable at 34.6, but wasn’t at the top of the leader board, which perhaps it could have been closer to, had it been error-free. It was a shame, but I do think as she gets more confident and stronger in herself (she is only eight and a big mare), she will do a very good test in future seasons to come.

After the slight disappointment of our dressage we were all thrilled with April’s super fault-free round in the showjumping. It is a big atmosphere in the main arena at Blenheim and she coped brilliantly. There weren’t many clears in the class, so to get that under our belts was a real achievement.

Cross-country on Sunday was our final phase. Course-designer David Evans set a good track with the overall opinion being that the time allowed would be a fair challenge. April warmed up well and felt good. Once on the course we got into a good rhythm and she coped well with taking in the crowds and the busy surroundings of this top event. Sadly, we just had one green error going into the lake for the first time. April didn’t quite read the question in time having jumped in so big. However, bar this one understandable error, she gave me a super ride and felt class. I switched off my watch and cruised home steadily, but still only picked up 16 time-faults — a sign that I think this mare will be good against the clock at this level and above in runs to come.

Game Faces! Photo credit: Stride

Overall, I suppose it could be seen as a bit of a ‘nearly week’, but when looking at the bigger picture, I am really excited. April has ticked every box for us this year which is an achievement in itself and I cannot wait to keep on going with her.

Continued below…



I have to just mention one last thing as a closing note, which is to say a HUGE congratulations to the whole GB squad competing out in the World Equestrian Games. To come away with team and individual gold is phenomenal. We were all cheering them on during the cross-country phase at Blenheim and what a masterclass the Brits gave. I think for eventing in the UK, it gives all involved such a boost to know we are part of a nation that are World Champions in our sport. Amazing stuff, well done Ros, Piggy, Tom, Gemma and Tina!

Coral

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