Since the last blog we’ve had a pretty busy September trucking to Blenheim and Osberton — not that we really had to truck to Osberton, it’s only five minutes down the road!
The journey home from Blenheim though was a mixed bag of emotions on reflection of how the week went. I was early to go with Pom (DHI Paparazzi) on the Thursday morning for the dressage and was buzzing after finishing the test. He tried so hard from start to finish and the test was a huge improvement from the one we did at Bramham. Mark-wise I was a little disappointed when I saw I had only scored a 32, having made mistakes at Bramham and coming out with a 30. But you can’t judge your marks based on the scoring system from a previous event. You have to look at the judge’s ranges of marks and the way that their scoring on that particular day — so in hindsight I shouldn’t have been too disheartened.
Obie (OBOS Colombus) was next to step up for his test on Friday and considering we made some mistakes and my flying changes were crap, I was happy to score a 36.
I walked the cross-country course each day, with my final decision making walk with the dog (this is a standard procedure) on the Saturday morning. I’ve thought every three-star course I’ve walked this year so far has been bloody huge, so after walking the Blenheim track my thoughts were no different. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve ridden these bigger tracks, so I was a little out of practice looking at them from a non-armchair jockey perspective.
After feeling quite nervous and, as Jenny and Tor described, “Casper the friendly ghost-like” beforehand, the nerves soon disappeared after jumping the first fence on Pom and he felt class the whole way round. At Bramham I set off far too quickly and this unsettled him early on, which was the wrong way to ride him. He got really quite strong and it didn’t look particularly nice, nor was the feeling, so as a result we ended up with loads of time penalties.
Having learned a lot from him there, I changed my approach and kept him on a loose rein and tried to settle him into a rhythm the whole way around. He was much more adjustable and rideable than before, so knowing I will be able to up the tempo next year and hopefully be closer to the time has left me feeling very positive.
I made a right royal cock up with Obie at fence four, a large parallel table to a right handed skinny corner. I kicked the flag out and was unsure if we’d gone through it or not. Almost certain I’d heard I’d been given 50 penalties, I took my foot off the gas and cruised round at a snail’s pace to get Obie home confidently. He’s had a few eliminations at this level in the past, so the last thing I wanted to do was retire. When I completed and the scoreboard showed I was clear, I felt a right tit.
The final day of showjumping wasn’t perfect for us though either, having four down. We’ve certainly not gelled yet nor found our feet as a combination, but I rate the horse highly and I’m looking forward to bringing him back into work after a couple of month’s holiday in the field ready for next year.
At the start of the year, I think we’re all that keen to get going that the 3am alarm clocks and dark, cold mornings are manageable because we’re all a little bit excited. When it all comes to a close and it’s only the last few events to go, you start feeling like a kid looking forward to the six weeks school summer holidays. So when the horses all go out for their winter holidays, my wife didn’t need to ask me twice to see if I too wanted to go on a little holiday.
We then headed to Osberton with three horses; two in the CCI* and one in the CCI2*. I think it was the closest scoring I’ve ever seen at a three-day and I’m still not overly convinced about the new scoring system.
At the end of the week before Osberton, Jane Duncan’s Treworder (Rocky) arrived for me to ride — she also owns Monbeg Maximus (Mumbles). Rocky had an intensive few days of boot camp before the event to try and get him onto my wavelength. He did a great test on the Thursday going into the lead and holding onto it until the end of the dressage. Mumbles was close behind him with only two penalty marks difference throughout. The Corn Crake (Herbie) also did a great test for Sir John Peace and Charlotte Cole, lying in 15th after dressage overall.
Cross-country day came and both Mumbles (pictured top) and Rocky maintained their positions finishing clear inside the time. I had an ‘oh sh*t’ moment on Herbie taking the first stride I saw to a box, resulting in me having to take a long route and gaining 12 time-penalties, which dropped us down significantly. The final day came and the showjumping was that close that only two fences at the start of the competition separated first to 75th! Luck was not on our side on the Sunday and each of the horses rolled poles dropping us well out of any placings. It did seem a little unfair to move down so much having done so well throughout, and I feel sorry for the owners who must have had their adrenaline pumping, but that’s the sport. Overall I was delighted with how the horses performed. It’s certainly been a September of nearly moments.
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Most importantly throughout Osberton, it was great being so close to the kids’ school which meant I didn’t get to miss the highlight of September… the school singing competition. William stood at the front of the stage scowling on the end of his row like a statue, and very noticeably didn’t do a single action along with the other children. It was even more noticeable when all the other kids laid on the floor. I’ve never laughed so much, along with the majority of the other parents, at my child. The other highlight surely has to be Jonty Evans putting in an appearance at Osberton, one of the most truly inspirational guys I know. I don’t think many could have overcome what he has!
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