So much has happened this week, I don’t know where to start! Unfortunately not everything has quite gone to plan.
I started off this week with dressage lessons with Jane Gregory with Jeans and Maggie (Magenta). It’s been quite a long time since she’s seen them both and although they were both very well behaved and worked well (Maggie surprisingly well), Jane never fails to challenge us to raise us our game.
I also had a lesson on Chico with David Hunt who trains Jane. He immediately pointed out all of our weaknesses and made a really good point, which Jane summed up rather neatly in the following analogy.
My training and knowledge is like a jigsaw puzzle. Most people start with the edge and work in, but for me with my experienced horses, I’ve suddenly started from the middle and worked outwards. In other words, I essentially know which buttons to press to get which movement, but my basic understanding on how to improve the horse and take it to the next level on the flat is slightly lacking as I’ve never started a horse from scratch.
Back in the jumping swing
I also popped across the road to have a jump on them all with Lucinda Fredericks. Cheverell, our village, really is quite unique and very convenient having the Fredericks a 5-minute hack away and Jane 20. Also, it must have been some kind of a record having four people from one small village competing at the same Olympics for three different countries!
Cinda set up a testing course as always and by the end of it I felt confident that I could see a consistent stride and that the horses were really jumping — I was a bit worried that I’d be a bit useless after a couple of months off!
However, disaster struck when Maggie went hopping lame behind. Luckily it was only lymphangitis, so not major or long-term, but sadly this meant that we had to withdraw her from Barbury. So, from having all three horses chomping on the bit for a course they can get their teeth into, suddenly only Jeans would be flying the Chinese flag in the CIC*** at the weekend.
Off to Barbury
So, the day we had all been looking forward to finally arrived, and Elodie, myself, Jeans and Jonti (Elodie’s dog) found ourselves in the Team China truck on our way up to Barbury.
Jeans has a habit of being a bit fresh at competitions and so I’d worked him rigorously over the previous few days to try and knock the edge off him. However, I didn’t have to worry. He did a lovely test where he stayed relaxed. We were on track for a very good mark until he did two very overexcited (and so low marked) flying changes and to try to make up for those he performed a stunning change in his counter canter when he wasn’t supposed to. So we ended up with a slightly disappointing 55 penalty score.
Next up was the showjumping. Cinda very kindly agreed to help me warm up and again, I was pleasantly surprised with how relaxed and quiet Jeans was. He went in to jump what ended up being a nice “schooling” round (as Cinda put it), where we had one down and a few time-penalties. Next time I just need to remember to be more forward around the corners.
I jumped 1.75m!
Between the show jumping in the morning and the cross-country in the afternoon, Barbury held a high jump competition called the Malvern Masters to raise money for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and I had been invited to compete! This was perfect, as although Chico wasn’t ready to do the whole three-star, he was desperate to have an outing and I thought that this would be brilliant fun for him (and me).
It was a “Chase-me-Charlie” competition where competitors jump a single large triple bar which continues to grow in size. The fence very quickly got very big indeed and soon we found ourselves jumping 1.60m — and it still kept going up! Finally I was knocked out in the 1.80m round (5ft 11in) but we had cleared 1.75m (pictured above), which was quite enough for me! Julie Tew and Bumble Thomas (riding a grand prix show jumper — unfair!) went on to jump 6ft.
Anyhow, I dread Chico’s next outing as he got very overexcited about the whole affair.
More positives than negatives
Not long after, with just enough time for a morsel of lunch, I hopped onto Jeans to go cross-country. The course this year was very similar to last year’s and he jumped a lovely round then, so I was quite confident that, if I wasn’t too rusty, we should come home with a nice clear. Jeans can be a little bit looky across country and so in the past I have had to be very positive with him, but he felt wonderfully keen and forward. I had an absolutely fantastic ride on him.
In the water, out of habit, I gave him a bit of encouragement off the very large drop and so he launched himself in. Unfortunately, he jumped left, away from the whip and also away from the little hippo which was the last element of the jump. I failed to pick up my right reins in time to turn him (pictured left), so unfortunately we had a run-out.
Even though the competition hadn’t gone quite to plan, I felt there were more positives than negatives. Maggie is sound again and Jeans felt far more positive and grown-up than he’s ever felt before and so hopefully, next time, I’ll be able to ride him with being competitive in mind. Next week is a quiet one, which will be nice but I’m certain that I’ll find more than enough to write about. In fact, I will shut up now as I’ll be in trouble with H&H for writing more than my allowed amount this week!