Busy April followed by busier May! Noki (pictured) and I were selected to compete in Roosendaal, Holland, in the under-25s class which entails the FEI inter II and under-25 grand prix.
It’s our first international at the level, and after a very successful practice run at Keysoe Premier League where Noki and I achieved 68% — definitely our personal best at the level by far — we were all set to go!
So we went to Roosendaal in good spirits, but very aware we were going to a dressage-strong nation so needed to be very realistic. To be honest, my goal was +60%. Noki isn’t a massive fan of the double bridle (and neither am I).
I struggle to hold the reins, and much prefer to ride in the snaffle as I do at home. However, international rules state you have to ride in a double from juniors up.
In my opinion this tradition should be changed, riding in a snaffle is no less skill than a double, especially at grand prix, so I think the FEI should follow in British Dressage’s footsteps and not make it compulsory. Just like spurs, I often ride all mine without spurs at home, and can easily run through the grand prix without spurs and in a snaffle.
Mark Perry generously accompanied Angela and I on the trip. We took the 6-hour ferry out of Harwich, as it was only 90 minutes to the venue the other side, and easier on Noki than traveling by road.
TET were very kind and sponsored our outward journey which was a massive help, as these trips are not cheap!
We got there in plenty of time for Noki to get some rest and have a few leg stretches before the competition started.
Day 1: I was pleased with the test, we got our one-tempis, and passage was much stronger than in previous tests, although the piaffe was a bit weak, the other bits of the test like the extensions I was really pleased with. When we got our score I couldn’t quite believe it, 66%! And still areas to improve and gain more marks.
One thing I did notice was his strength and fitness is so much better than last year, we finished as strong as we started, not gradually tailing off as we go! This put us in 3rd — what a good boy.
Day 2: This was slightly trickier — I think Noki was a bit more nervous and drew his tongue back several times. Thankfully once we got in the test, Noki concentrated on me. The piaffe was better, but we did have a coupe of mistakes; it was very windy and he had a very uncharacteristic spook at a plastic bag covering the speakers in the middle of our passage half-circle, then we didn’t get our one-tempis this time with a couple of little mistakes in the middle, the final centre line is worth up to 70 marks, so it’s an important line of the test.
We got to piaffe over X and Noki thought it was halt, so he halted and then a bit of delay before he wondered why I was still kicking, then he realised maybe he shouldn’t have stopped and picked up in probably the best piaffe of the weekend, but the marks had already been lost.
But despite the mistakes, I am thrilled how far we have come, to think that we hadn’t done our first grand prix this time last year.
It’s a massive step to grand prix, with so much still to learn, it’s a great journey. We came out with 63% which although put us in 8th, so we still did quite well!
I was so pleased that Noki’s wonderful owners, Jackie and Neil made it out to watch us and be with the team, they are the most amazing support, I feel so lucky to have them behind me, and allow me to ride Noki and cheer us on in many incredible places round the world! I can’t thank them enough.
With bad weather from start to finish including hail stones the size of golf balls, rain and high wind we still came home with smiles. To top it all we broke down when we were back in England, but thankfully Mark managed to fix it in an hour and we were back on the road, returning home in the early hours of the morning. Big thank you to Ange and Mark for coming with me and their expert help, all my sponsors who allow me to do what I love, and everyone at home, it really is a Team Wells effort!