Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. I have just got back from my first ever European Championships in the young riders and as you have probably already seen by now, the team came home with GOLD!
As usual there has been a lot of travelling and plenty of heat for us. We all headed out to Fontainebleau, France on the Friday evening and were out there for a week. Team GB vet, Mark, kept the horses feeling healthy; a week in 30 degree heat, jumping so many rounds can be a lot for them, but they all looked and felt great. This is so important at these kind of events as the horses need to be really consistent in their jumping. Every score counts towards your final result, so an off day can cost you the competition.
When taking your horse abroad there is so much you have to think about — packing the lorry is a whole event in itself! I actually write myself a little checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything, but that doesn’t always mean we don’t. It would be very embarrassing if we arrived and I realised I hadn’t packed any of my Redmills feed or Foran supplements, so Cash Up’s breakfast, lunch and dinner is always first to be loaded. After that, I make sure I’ve got all my gear; my Kaval kit, Charles Owen hat, brand new Filli Fabbri boots (I’m a little obsessed with them, as you can probably tell!), and all our CWD tack.
This year was the first of the new format, which was really interesting to be a part of. One of the biggest changes is that medals went to five members of each podium team, rather than four. This is because the first day is run as table C, where each horse goes against the clock with four seconds added for every pole you have down. Each of the five riders have their turn in the ring and the best three scores count towards the final team score. This new format is great — it means everyone has more of a chance at being counted than they would have done in the old format. After this, normal service is resumed and four of the riders jump two more rounds with the top three of each round counting towards the final score. The fifth rider (me!) also jumps in these rounds to try and qualify for the final individual round, although no matter their score, they cannot be counted in the team total.
I’ll give you a minute while you take some time to re-read that and take it in…!
As with any championship, the courses were cleverly built with lots of areas that needed serious thought and precision. Course designer, Gregory Bodo, was creative with his designs, incorporating the gradients that the Fontainebleau grass ring is renowned for and using the nature of the arena to his advantage. One particular area that caused a lot of trouble was right by the gate into the arena. During one round, he built a combination where you had to ride up a hill and come back down just as you were turning into it, an element that a lot of us weren’t particularly used to, but a great rider learning curve to take home with us.
Z7 Cash Up and I sadly had one down in our first two rounds which put us out of contention for the individual medals. However, as part of Team GB we still got to experience the UNBELIEVABLE feeling of standing at the top of the podium.
It was such a proud moment for everyone when GB won gold. Being on the podium with my team mates, standing to our national anthem and receiving our medals is a moment that will stay with us all forever.
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This was my first European Championships and the atmosphere among both the riders and Team GB management was amazing. I think this is so important and really reflects in the results that teamwork is a key aspect of success. I have to say a HUGE thank you to NAF UK for supporting the teams, Tony Newbury, our chef d’equipe for everything he did, and the rest of the team for all their support. Everyone contributed to the great atmosphere which completely made my week. Also, a huge shout out and well done to our individual medal winners, Harry Charles and Olli Fletcher.
Finally, I am so grateful to Breen Equestrian for all the doors they have and continue to open for me, and to Team Z7 for all their ongoing support.
Next up, the Royal International Horse Show on my home turf here at Hickstead — keep your fingers crossed for us and watch this space to see how we get on in the ring and behind the scenes!
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