I spent last week in Saumur, France, for the international dressage show. I’ve been before and always love the show — there’s a great atmosphere, it’s a wonderful place, really well organised and everyone is very friendly. It’s the French national training base, home of the Cadre Noir, and being set in acres and acres you can go hacking off road for hours.
We knew before we arrived that it was going to be wet, but the first day we got away with it on the weather front — there was just a little drizzle. I rode Abira first and wanted to give him a confidence-building ride after things had not gone so well at Addington international two weeks before. We did a safe test for about 66%. It was a hot class, with lots of young rider team contenders there. There were 36 competing which is unusual for a young rider international — normally there’s about 15 or 20, unless you’re in Germany or the Netherlands where there’ll be hundreds! Merlin Nemorensis (Nemo) had another good day, finishing sixth.
On the second day I rode Abira in the dry and he was better, though the judges still gave us roughly the same mark. Then, in the afternoon, the heavens opened and I was drenched in this monsoon while warming-up Nemo. The surfaces in Saumur are sand, so when it rains that hard the water just sits on the top for a while. In the 10-minute box he was jumping all the puddles. My reins are made of nubuck and when they get that wet they just slip through my gloves — I was holding on to the curb rein for dear life! I did really worry what was going to happen in the arena. Nemo was still bothered by the puddles in there, so I just had to guide him through as best I could.
The whole competition really taught me that you can’t help the situation you’re in sometimes and you just have to get on with it, cope with what you’ve got and make the most of it. It was interesting to watch how the other riders in the senior competition dealt with any problems, too. The trick is to cover the problem up, so only you know it’s happening. A lot of the best riders do that really well, which is why they gain marks when they might otherwise be lost.