At last, it seems that all the hard work is starting to pay off! Before Blenheim I felt that both Jeans and Maggie (pictured right) could do with one more hard competitive run, both for their experience and for their fitness. Also, Chico, due to countless little reasons has only had the one run, at Aston-le-Walls, since I’ve left school.
So we decided, rather last minute, to enter Highclere advanced. Unfortunately, the whole world seemed to have the same plan and Maggie ended up on the wait list. So, on Monday morning, Mark and I made our way up to the stunning backdrop of Highclere Castle estate. We brought Maggie along as well as I had to exercise her anyway but fortunately on arrival, the event secretaries allowed us to take the place of another withdrawn competitor.
So I had three horses in the advanced; something I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing until now. But then again, you see Andrew Nicholson and other riders on five or six a day, yet the way I felt this morning really demonstrated how it really isn’t that easy!
All three did lovely tests. Chico has really built on his dressage form from Hartpury and stayed calm and ridable throughout his test. I think he quite enjoyed being the champ for the day! However, we had Miners Frolic and Toytown in our section and so we were thrilled with a fourth place after dressage.
Jeans has been making leaps and bounds at home and showed it in his test and my new tactic with Maggie looks as if it’s also working out (no spurs or whip, just pony club kick if she’s not off the leg, then spurs as I go in for the test).
A great atmosphere
The last time I was at Highclere was two years ago, and although they did a great job, it was the same as any other one-day event. This year however, with the advanced classes and big names, the atmosphere was fantastic. At one point, there was at least a 50- or 60-strong crowd watching the dressage, something you often don’t get at an international and it definitely made Chico point his toes!
The show jumping also had an excellent atmosphere, but unfortunately I had one of those ‘one down’ days. All three jumped well and each was unlucky to rub a pole. I was especially happy with Jeans who had had a torrid time at Aston with me making his life near impossible. Luckily for both of us, Lucinda was on hand to make sure I had my mind on the game and we jumped a smooth and confident round.
Maggie was jumping terrifically in the warm up, but then I let her cool off and didn’t have her wound up enough (as she needs to be) and so she felt a little flatter in the arena itself. Chico was himself again, and was just desperately unlucky at an oxer I got a little close to.
Time to go cross country! First up, Maggie. Lately, I’ve been getting a bit of stick for being more than cautious across the country and so I decided to prove them all wrong. Maggie stormed around (pictured above and right), pulling to the last and we ended up in third place!
Chico was next and unfortunately we got ourselves into a bit of a pickle coming off the step going into the water and had no canter when we got to the base of a very upright salmon. Anyway, I was a bit disappointed, but we kicked on and finished. Finally, Jeans, at 7.30pm! Like Maggie we thundered around into 10th place! So it was very much a successful day for Team China and I’m feeling confident going into Blenheim!
Barbury photo shoot
Earlier on in the week we had a photo shoot at the Barbury estate with Bob Martin, a top award-winning sports photographer, who coincidentally was invited by H&H to take the photos of The Princess Royal for this week’s anniversary edition.
Bob had been commissioned to take some portraits and action shots of my little brother and me. My brother Jamie has been selected to play for the Chinese cricket team at the Asian Games next year, which means we will both be in the Asian Games in China next November! So Sports Illustrated China wanted us as their cover feature!
At one point Bob had five cameras on me; three automatic on the floor under the fence, plus his and his assistant! If you have a moment, you should have a look at his spectacular sports photos on his website at www.bobmartin.com.
We have also put up the photos of the shoot on our website. They cannot compare with Bob’s originals but are a lot of fun, especially the shots where I throw a large red 3 at my brother and Bob tries to get a shot of it up the right way (for the 3rd year celebration for Sports Illustrated in China). Bob nailed it, where as we did not!
Next week it’s a quiet one getting ready for Blenheim!
Visit Alex’s website: www.alexhuatian.co.uk
Pictures kindly supplied by Wu Ming.
Don’t miss H&H’s report from Highclere Castle Horse Trials in 10 September issue