First of all, I’d like to apologise to everyone for missing out a week! No one told me that Houghton Hall in Norfolk is a total black hole for any signal! People also neglected to mention that Norfolk would be about 10 degrees colder than the rest of the country, so leaving Hampshire in glorious 30 degrees sunshine; it was a severe shock to the system arriving at Houghton and having to don layers of jumpers and coats.
Apart from the minor temperature shift, Houghton is a beautiful event on stunning parkland. Jeans was entered for the CIC*** for a nice confidence giving run after his fall at Badminton and we brought Fiddle up for the combined training and the Eventer’s Grand Prix for a bit of fun and as a preparation for Bramham this week. However, nothing can start at a big three day event until after the champagne reception! With a momentary break in the clouds Houghton Hall looked particularly picturesque basking in the sunshine with the who’s who in eventing congregating on the lawn.
First up was Fiddle’s combined training on Thursday afternoon. Fiddle has been getting naughtier and naughtier in his tests recently, and so I was looking forward to having the opportunity to really confront him in a competition that didn’t matter. Well it didn’t end up being a confrontation as such; more like full on world war three, four and five broke out! Fiddle went into the main arena looking for an excuse to spook. Unfortunately, he chose the judges car, reared and nearly came down on top of her bonnet. As I looked over, the judge was pretty much sitting on her writer’s lap! At this point, looking for the positives in the situation, I thought, “oh well, at least it can’t get any worse”. Regrettably, that was just the beginning! I won’t go into all of the details but, I am pleased to report that I won the battle and Fiddle did a correct canter down the centre line and halted, albeit rather sullenly. He then went on to jump a super clear round in the showjumping. I just wish his natural athleticism and grace over a fence would somehow embrace his dressage!
Friday midday was the Eventer’s Grand Prix. I had been lucky with the draw and was picked last. The course wasn’t particularly big, but the course designer had been very clever and given rider’s the opportunity to take the time consuming outside line or the very tight but fast inside line. Fiddle is such an incredible jumper that I was very confident pushing him around the tight turns and god he jumped! The better he jumped the more I pushed him and we ended up going faster and faster… and winning! So redemption for his badly behaved dressage test!
Jeans did a really nice test in the three-star for a fair mark of 50.5pen. Unfortunately, an incident in the show jumping soured the weekend for me somewhat. Jeans was jumping beautifully, giving a big track miles of room. However, as I was on my way around the corner to the treble, the course designer was still adjusting the fence from the last competitor! So I took a few pulls to make sure he was out of the way and ended up being under powered to the fence. Consequently I had the first two fences down in the treble. Jeans then went on to jump clear over the remainder of the course, which was very frustrating indeed. However, to add insult to injury, a couple of fences later, the arena party ran across the back of an upright I was three strides away from. It’s annoying when episodes like this happen at a normal BE one-day event (when they have hundreds of horses to get through in a day) but it’s particularly frustrating at these big three stars, when the horse and rider’s careers are determined by such results. Furthermore, it wasn’t an isolated occurrence and happened all day!
Anyway, less whinging from me! Jeans then jumped clear around a relatively stiff cross-country track with slippery and greasy ground from the last minute rain. We only started slowly to try and get each others’ confidence back after Badminton, but after the water we put our foot down and galloped home. We ended up 12th, just out of the prize money. Without those two fences down we would have been 7th! Oh well!