It’s always a bit nerve-wracking when you make the big step up to go to a three-day event. I was confident that Splash (Drumbilla Metro) and King (Traveller Royale) were ready for a CCI2*, and Houghton International Horse Trials in Norfolk seemed the most obvious choice with both sets of owners (and myself) having strong East Anglian connections.
The first trot-up is always a little buttock-clenching although it’s a great excuse to have the horses looking as smart as possible and showing them off.
Both passed with flying colours (phew) and so it was on to the dressage, where both did good tests for where they are at at this stage in their training. However I was a little disappointed with their marks when I know how hard they had tried.
Cross-country day dawned with fast ground and good weather. King stormed round the course (pictured below). He is a big lad, and I only have wee legs, but we made it with a couple of time faults to add.
A quick lunch and catch up with the enormous support team followed, before I was off again on Splash. This horse really is a superstar. He went clear and inside the time and was an absolute pro all the way. It was wonderful to enjoy the fruits of all the hard work that we’ve put in, and savour the moment with a glass of fizz afterwards.
The following day both horses trotted up sound and jumped well with Splash moving up the leaderboard, although not quite troubling the top dogs. It was fantastic to watch Bettina Hoy win, following up her brilliant result at Badminton.
There was no rest for the wicked with six running at Little Downham Horse Trials the following weekend. We went cross-country schooling and showjumping the preceding week, so I felt well prepared.
The prep payed off, as we had a lovely weekend enjoying great weather, numerous placings and a super event, with the horses going well. Organiser Tina Ure makes very good use of a small site at Little Downham and the courses were great.
Polly Taylor, who owns Freddie (Mr Fahrenheit III), lives across the road from the event and is secretary. Freddie has his own fan club and Facebook page (Freddie Fahrenheit the fabulous five-year-old). It was apparent that his fans were all out in force at Little Downham, as there were numerous videos and photographs of him all over social media following his seventh placing in the competitive five-year-old class. I definitely feel like the agent and he’s the pop star! Well done, Freddie (pictured above).
So near yet so far
Next up was Catton Park Horse Trials. I decided to take ‘the old bag’ (The Loudest Whisper, AKA Chatty, pictured above at Burnham Market earlier this year), but unfortunately there was only space in the open intermediate class which meant she was up against horses with a lot more experience.
Despite this she came up with a 29 dressage – fantastic! Catton is a great event and it’s a lovely setting showjumping in front of the grand house, where Chatty jumped a lovely clear round. I was convinced that she wouldn’t want to know on the cross-country and down tools like we all know she can….
….but, not a bit of it. She flew out of the start box and was on the case the whole way, jumping fantastically, politely and accurately which allowed me to be quick. We jumped the third last and I looked at my watch. The time was very tight, but we had 25 seconds to get home with just the water and the last to go – we could just about make it. So, we turned to the water, an imposing hanging log in, three short strides to a chest in the water, followed by two further strides to a skinny brush out.
She jumped in boldly like she was unstoppable. Maybe I was too quick, maybe she was too bold, or perhaps it was a combination of the two. But we landed took a stride and I could see there wasn’t enough room for three. She hit it all ends up, how she didn’t fall I’ll never know, but I just couldn’t get her back to the skinny, and so we picked up 20 penalties. “B******ks” may have slipped out of my mouth, so apologies for that, but what else can you say? She was on target for the win, and I felt as though my horse had been punished for being bold.
So, incredibly frustrating, but what a load of positives to take away. I couldn’t help but play the “if only game” for the whole two hour journey home – but I’m positive her day will come.