I really can’t believe that the autumn eventing season is just around the corner, and we are now prepping for our final competitions — where has the time and summer gone!
I find that at this point of the season (i.e. three quarters of the way through), that it is useful to have a review of where the horses are at, how they have gone and set some final targets.
Before I give a bit of a write up on Team Keen’s 2018 so far. I must firstly start with some really gutting news. I am unbelievably sad to announce that due to a re-occurring foot injury, we have had to retire Wellshead Fare Opposition (Derby) from top level competition. I don’t hide the fact that this horse means everything to me, he has been such a huge part of my career and so to say that I am devastated, in all honesty, is putting it mildly.
The thought of not being able to go cross-country on that horse again is really heart-breaking. But I think it would be way worse if we had to stop doing anything with him all together because he was too sore. The original foot injury was always going to be a very difficult one to get him to come right from, let alone to be out competing at the top level like he did this year. I am incredibly grateful to my whole team for the successful comeback we had with him and especially to Andre Buthe, our vet, who did an amazing job to get him back on the road. It sadly just isn’t going to be sustainable and I want to quit while we are ahead.
Knowing him as I do, he would never be happy as a field ornament, so hopefully this way I can bring him back, when he is ready, for some showjumping, dressage and fun classes (I think he would love the Hickstead eventers grand prix). With this plan he should have a job that he will enjoy and get the semi-retirement that he totally deserves.
So, while I have been picking myself up for this news, I have been reflecting on how the rest of my lovely team of horses have been getting on.
Total Belief (April) has really excelled herself this year. She was the runner up in the CCI2* at Renswoude (aim was for top five), stepping up to advanced level at Aston and then putting in a classy performance in her first CIC3* at Hartpury. It is such a funny old world with competing horses. Just as I was coming to terms with the prospect of losing Derby as my top horse, April almost simultaneously gave me the most mega round at Hartpury, giving me real hope and vision that she could make it to four-star level. It really was a case of as one door closes, another one opens. But as we all know, I can’t let myself get too ahead and am now focusing on April’s main season aim, which is Blenheim’s CIC3* class for eight- and nine-year-olds.
Moving onto Total Darkness (Ted), and like many horses this year, he has slightly fallen foul of the hard ground. I have always thought a lot of Ted, but I would never want to rush him. However, with the great performance he put in at Hartpury CCI* (he did a lovely double clear for sixth place), I feel he is now ready to step up a level. So, we are planning to take him to a couple of nice intermediates this autumn and hopefully have a positive finish to the season for him.
The young horses have also been doing well with learning all about the eventing game. Osberton Young Horse Championships is always a good event as a main season aim. I am looking forward to going there with both Midnight Chill, owned by Clare White in the six-year-olds and Quintessential III (Chilli) in the five-year-olds.
Chilli made my life super easy by qualifying for these championships in July, which was my only real goal with her. Since then, she has gone on to win her section at Firle (which you can see in the video at the top of this page), so we are heading to Osberton aiming for a top 10. It is always a hot competition in these age classes, but all has gone well so far, so fingers crossed we can pull off some good results.
It is very rare that any aspect of life totally goes to plan, but with eventing it really is a case of learning to be completely adaptable. You need to have back up plans to deal with disappointment and most importantly work with the horses you have.
Horses can throw a whole host of things at you. As shown with my current situation; I’m in the process of overcoming losing my best horse that has given such an incredible run at the top of our sport, but at the same time, April has stepped up in every way this season and really feels like a she could go all the way. One side of my plan has come crashing down, but the other side has gone like a dream, it can all be so unpredictable.
I am a great believer in everything happens for a reason, so don’t worry if you are not where you feel you should be quite yet. There is always time to put new goals in place and have different aims. And if you are on track, do not take it for granted – enjoy every moment!
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