Firstly, an update on Keysoe premier league. It was the eighth British Dressage test at any level for Peanut (Le Chiffre) and I was keen for him to make a very positive start at FEI (medium level) in the pony test. I rode him a little in the morning to settle his exuberance at being at a big show and then climbed aboard to warm-up for the test. He was so well behaved around other horses and mares, particularly as he is a rising six-year-old serving stallion.
The test went so well — he is still green in some movements and still needs to become stronger physically, but we had a clear round! The judges differed in their opinions somewhat, but we ended up third in the class. I was so thrilled with this on his debut at the level. The owners travelled an 8hr round trip to watch him and there were tears of joy all round.
I started this blog on my return back from Saumur as I was so excited to tell you all the news. We arrived to a rainy welcome and Kaja settled well from the journey. The vetting was successful for all the British seniors and younger riders — always a big relief! It was fantastic to walk around such an amazing site, with the Cadre Noir training their horses and our Olympic superstars, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, riding right in front of us.
The team test day arrived. It was my first time competing in the Nations Cup as part of the junior team. My team-mates were Gabrielle Lucas, Charlotte Fry and Georgia Davis. I have to say I was looking forward to the test and my horse Kaja was looking forward to it even more! I rode a careful test, but was immediately disappointed with myself as I left the arena. I was too controlled, but had managed to score 66.5%.
All we could do now was watch and wait while selectors and chefs d’equipe were busy number-crunching all the scores. With the last Belgian rider to go we were in gold medal position and when the score of 66.0% came through we realised we had just won the junior Nations Cup for the first time ever! We knew we had it in us, but you still have to perform on the day so we were ecstatic.
On tacking up Kaja for the mounted prize-giving, we found she had a loose right hind shoe. Fortunately my friend Shay removed it so we could be part of prize-giving. To stand on the podium, hear the National Anthem being played and see the Union flag being raised was a moment I will never forget.
The next day was a day off from competition, so the fantastic on-site farriers at Saumur re-fitted Kaja’s shoe first thing. We were then excited to watch the grand prix and our idols Carl and Charlotte winning their classes, as well as some fantastic rides from Nicki Crisp and Gareth Hughes. Add to this my friends on the pony team also winning their Nations Cup competition. You can imagine, Team GBR was buzzing!!
By now the sunshine was with us, bringing soaring temperatures. The individual test was next and I was determined to be more positive and aim to win. I was thrilled to take the lead with 69.4% at the halfway stage. I ended the class in third place by a very small margin and learnt a lot from a new approach to my test riding.
The Kur was on the final day. We both felt a little tired as it was first thing in the morning after a busy week. Part way through I realised I was moving ahead of my music — a mistake I had made at Addington CDI. This time I managed to adapt some movements in order to make sure my transitions were in time with the music, so was delighted to score 71.15% and make the podium in third place behind the French and Belgian riders.
What an amazing show with three podium places. But a week of sun and not one ice cream for sale — you wouldn’t get that in England!