Alex Hua Tian’s diary: Fiddle meets Bramham Horse Trials challenge

Finally, a week at home! After the pressures and excitement of two three-day events on the trot, a quiet week means we can sit back, take stock and make plans. We can’t relax too much though, as we are off to Luhmühlen with Jeans on Monday.

Last week was ESB Irish Fiddle’s first full three-day event for three years. Bramham is known as a particularly stiff and fitness testing track. Fiddle is a very good jumper, making nothing of Chatsworth CIC*** and so nothing could dampen my enthusiasm as I set off to walk the course. Nothing that is apart from two enormous trakehners, a massive Cottesmore leap and a very big ditch and palisade — Fiddle is very ditchy! Ian Stark had built a colossal track on extremely forward strides, in fact, the type of course that hasn’t been seen for quite some time.

But first of all, we had to get through Fiddle’s weakest stage, the dressage. As he was extremely naughty in his last test at Houghton, I was apprehensive to say the least. However, I didn’t need to be! Fiddle seemed to have taken the lessons of the week before and put them into action. Still, the test wasn’t graceful, but he really tried and did everything he was asked when he was asked. So I was particularly disappointed to receive a 64pen mark for his efforts. The same mark he was given at Houghton for a test that was distinctly awful. I really wish there was a way of making the dressage scoring more consistent!

Up to the cross-country challenge?

Cross-country was next, and watching the first 10 or so start, I wasn’t filled with a particularly warm, fuzzy glow of confidence when only a couple (one being William Fox-Pitt) finished! Us under-25s didn’t start until after the seniors and luckily, by the time it came to us, the powers that be decided to remove the second element of a combination at the end of the eighth minute. It was a large double of triple brushes after a long pull up a steep hill on an extremely long two strides. It was a huge relief as it caused big problems with tired horses at the end of an energy-sapping course.

Fiddle set out with his usual gusto. We jumped the straight route at the water at five (which apparently only six had done so far in the day) and managed to scrabble over all of the large ditches we came across. Unfortunately, Fiddle was lacking that deep set fitness a horse gets by running in a three-day event every spring and autumn and so came home more tired than I would have liked. However, we were clear, he tried his heart out and I couldn’t have been more proud of him, which is all that matters! After such a tough track and on such a hot day, there were plenty of horses which finished just as tired as he did.

After a night’s rest Fiddle was ready to showjump. This is by far his strongest phase, however, I have never jumped him the day after he’d galloped for 11 minutes on firm ground. Again, I needn’t have worried. Fiddle tried his guts out once again and jumped a super clear round, around a very square and closely timed track. Even when I took an unplanned short cut to a large oxer, he jumped with all of his effort and cleared it easily. That means that Fiddle, along with Maggie and Jeans, is qualified for the World Equestrian Games.

Over the past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to ride on Grafenstoltz, the Trakehner stallion that stands at Pelion Stud near Reading, including in the stallion parade at Bramham. I have a very limited education on breeding and stallions, but all I know is that Graff makes all my horses look very plain indeed. Let’s just say, poor Fiddle had no-one coming up to me gushing about how spectacularly he moves and what an incredible jump he throws!

Alex

Full report of Bramham in H&H this week, 10th June issue.

Alex’s diary archives

Alex’s website

Action pictures from Bramham

Pictures of all the cross-country fences at Bramham