I spent last week in Aachen. Corlato (Ruby) hadn’t jumped in competition since Wales and the West [10 days earlier] so I used Monday’s training class to take her over some jumps and she was fresh…she was wild! When she’s like that she’s like a bull and wants to run into the fences. To be honest, I was a bit disconcerted, wondering if she’d be like that all week.
You get 60 seconds, which is not a lot long, but you are able to turn again to fences and rein back in this class, all it costs you is time. But, she finished up really good and jumped the last two fences beautifully.
On the Tuesday we were in a 1.50m competition. I remarked to [British team manager] Derek Ricketts that there was only one fence under 1.50m, and that was the first. It was 1.45m with a 1.48 back rail. Every one of the remaining 15 jumping efforts was 1.51m-1.58m.
I jumped clear, but in fairness I wasn’t going foot to floor. However, it was good enough to qualify for the next big class. At Aachen, you are always competing to qualify for bigger classes.
Ruby jumped super, she was really controlled and did a beautiful round.
I decided not to jump in the competition I’d qualified for on Wednesday as Ruby had jumped so well the day before and she was jumping in the Nations Cup on Thursday. I thought it would be a bit hard on her to jump her three days on the trot. She was there to jump the Nations Cup and so I saved her for that.
When I walked the course for the Nations Cup, I thought it was tough and uncompromising, but I felt confident Ruby would jump well. In the warm up, she felt sharp and manageable. She can sense an occasion and felt sharp and crisp.
As she jumped the first fence, I thought this is it, she is going to jump clear.
I had a split marker, but was three seconds down when I got there, so I moved quite quickly to jump last five. But I was still just over the time allowed and was very annoyed with myself. There was a difficult line and I jumped that faster than I wanted to. I was cross with myself to give her that much work.
In second round, I decided to be a lot quicker on first part of the course. When I got to my marker this time I was three seconds up. I then concentrated on jumping the last six. But, when I looked at the clock going through the finish it was on 87.07 seconds, the time allowed was 87.
It was unnecessary fault. She jumped the most fabulous two rounds.
In the first round she was jumping so well that maybe I took my eye off the ball, in the second I got lulled into false sense of security — perhaps I could have ridden a quicker finish.
As a general rule, I’m usually pretty good at making the time, but I’ll look at this as a wake up call before the Olympics.
The best 18 from Nations Cup qualify for the grand prix, and my result also qualified me to take Roland in Saturday’s Aachen Munchener class. So all of a sudden, I’m qualified for all the big classes. My prime aim was to jump Corlato in a big ring, with a big crowd and under floodlights. After the Nations Cup, I could have stuck her on the lorry home and been more than happy with her. I sat down with Derek and Corlato’s owner, John Bosher, and we decided to run her in the grand prix. There’s always a risk in jumping that you’ll pick up an injury, but you can’t wrap horses up in cotton wool.
In the grand prix track, there was a tricky early line, which she jumped superbly, but it was a double of water ditches at eight that caught me. The first part was a 1.55m vertical with 10ft of water on the landing side. Then it was 14 yards to a 1.50m high and 2m wide oxer with 10ft water. It walked two and a half strides.
I went in forward, and landed and kicked. She must have thought “he’s over-riding this” and backed off. From where she took off, she was about 18 foot away from the back rail, and still only just had it. For me it was a bit of an unfair double for the horses, but I know Ruby will learn from it.
After that, I pressed on to try and make the second round with a fast four faults. I moved up a gear quite quickly and was there until the final line — the first part was a big, wide 1.50m high and 2m wide parallel with a crosspole in the middle of it, it was a strange looking fence. Unfortunately had it down. We then jumped the last double, which followed.
We’d had both of the notoriously difficult fences on course, but from a performance point of view, she jumped super. I certainly wasn’t going home with my head in my hands after the grand prix. It was a very, very tough course.
When the horses got home on Monday afternoon, Ruby came off the lorry looking fit and well. This week we’ll move onto fitness work and I’m hoping we’ll get some good weather so I can get her used to the heat.