Alex Hua Tian’s blog: lorry nightmares and double clears

  • I can’t quite believe that it’s been a week already and that I’m already late for my second deadline. I blame it on the heat wave and I guess time flies when you’re mucking out, not!

    All the excitement started last Tuesday when my ex-groom, Elodie Frost, turned up to take us galloping. Elodie was my head groom for my “Olympic campaign” and has also worked for the likes of Nick Gauntlett and Sharon Hunt in the past.

    At the moment, she’s freelancing and so we’ve booked up large swathes of her time to take us to competitions. So, with Elodie back it felt just like old times and it’s been nice to pass on some of the responsibilities of the horses.

    It really is that big…

    However, when you have a lorry the size of the Team China Truck, and you decide to try out new gallops, I learnt that in future I really must stress the size and insist that I am not exaggerating — it is as large as I say it is.

    Just managing to slip under a 13ft 9in bridge (when we’re 13ft 9in) was just the start of the catastrophe that was Tuesday — I had my head poking out of the sun roof and there were inches in it.

    I won’t bore you with all the details, but once we got to the gallops, we just about managed to get in the incredibly narrow stone wall gate and drive about a mile down the exceptionally narrow and twisty drive with low, scratchy trees and post and rails on either side, only to discover that we couldn’t turn around or get out the even slimmer gate the other end.

    So, it took us over an-hour-and-a-half to back all the way out, by which time we were fed up, it was late and the horses were melting in the back of the truck and so we decided to just go home and regroup to try again the next day.

    Dressage practice

    So, on Wednesday, we went to our usual gallops and had a lovely, event free day! Then, on Thursday we had our first outing since Powderham Castle three months ago. Hunters Equestrian Centre held a dressage competition for competitors to practise their two- and three-star tests as a preparation for Barbury this coming weekend.

    Maggie (Magenta) and Jeans both did lovely tests to show how much that have come on from last year, but Chico was the superstar of the day doing two dazzling tests for 70% and the second for 72.3%, which was enough to win the three-star test class! Such a shame he’s missed two gallops because of his “issue” last week and so won’t be able to go to Barbury.

    Our first proper outing

    Although Hunters was our first outing, Purston Manor on Sunday was our first “proper” outing. I had decided that the ground was too firm for Chico and so I had Maggie and Jeans (pictured above at Purston) in the intermediate novice as a preparation run for Barbury.

    So, having withdrawn Chico, we found we had quite a relaxed and leisurely day, importantly with enough time to watch the tennis. Soon the Team China Truck was full of raucous shouts of “Come on Roger!” from Elodie and Sam Albert and “Hit it down the line Andy!” from myself.

    Jeans was a terror to warm up (having not been out since Marbach in Germany at the start of May) but then went into the test and really concentrated to do a brilliant 27pen. Maggie warmed up beautifully but then forgot to go forwards after I dropped my whip and so we did a slightly disappointing 34pen test.

    Both then went on to jump nice easy double clears but unfortunately they were running HC and so were not allowed to be placed. I’ve never been to Purston Manor, but I was really very impressed with how good the ground was and how organised and well run everything was. Even though the ground was firm, there was very good springy grass cover and so I decided not to hold back too much and let them run on the straight galloping areas.

    Next week I have lessons with Jane and her trainer David Hunt which should make for some interesting reading and of course Barbury is looming ever closer. Meanwhile, work on the website seems to be never ending but new functions and areas are slowly being added.


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