I headed up to Thirlestane on Friday, because I had my seven-year-old mare Nottie [Forget Me Not] in the Scottish novice championships.
She went well, doing a nice dressage test and having one show jump down, plus a costly 5 time-penalties cross-country which kept her out of the money in 11th. That was frustrating, but the main thing was that she felt happy and confident, which is great after doing her first intermediate at Gatcombe.
My Burghley ride Dundee [Dunauger] did the advanced on Sunday. He made a great start, earning his best dressage mark at this level, 29.5, which left him second. He’s consistent and established now, and judges really seem to like him.
The show jumping ring was wet and slippery, and after the junior Europeans there wasn’t a blade of grass left in the collecting ring. But there were no concessions — the course was massive, so my one down was pretty respectable.
Unfortunately the cross-country didn’t go so well. I did go clear, but I was trying out a new combination noseband, instead of my normal elastic grakle, and I couldn’t turn Dundee in it.
My first problem came before the second water, where you had to turn through an archway to a simple fence. I just couldn’t turn, so Dundee set sail and jumped the string. I was terrified he’d be taking miles of string with him, but luckily he jumped it neatly.
Once I’d managed to pull up the kind fence judge offered to dismantle the string so I could get back on course, but I thought if he’d jumped it one way he could probably do it again, so I popped back over in collected canter.
I considered pulling up, but went on through a tricky water, a step up with a bounce to a hedge and a decent corner combination. Everything was going all right, until I tried to make a turn to a parallel. Dundee had other ideas and I ended up galloping back up the course in the wrong direction.
It was one of the most cringe-worthy moments of my eventing career. I thought of pulling up again, but I felt he had to learn to listen, so I let the next competitor pass me and then continued steadily home. I had one scary moment going down a huge drop where I ended up jumping the fence afterwards on the buckle end. I got home clear — but with 82 time-penalties.
I’m not sure what to do now. The new combination noseband stopped Dundee crossing his jaw, as he does in the grakle, but he was so perturbed by that he ran through my hand. It’s frustrating to have a horse of this calibre, and to know how great he would be if he would just let me influence him.
Dundee isn’t entered anywhere else before Burghley. At the moment, I’m just trying to pick myself up — I’m pretty tired after two weeks of Pony Club camp, driving 4 hours each way to Thirlestane and riding two horses. Now I’ve got to find time to re-group and decide what to try next with my talented but headstrong horse.