Piggy March, who won Badminton 2019 and Burghley 2022 and has collected six senior championship medals, looks forward to two weeks of five-star action
As I write, I have two exciting weeks of five-star rides ahead. I’m entering into the unknown with Brookfield Cavalier Cruise (Fletcher) and Coolparks Sarco (Jeremy) both new to the level – I quite like that as there’s less expectation than riding a seasoned campaigner. This will be the first time I’ve ridden at Maryland 5 Star (19–22 October), the US five-star which began in 2021, but I’ve heard a lot of good things.
After Fletcher finished second at Bramham Horse Trials, I discussed his autumn plan with owners John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn. He’s a lovely, big horse – at least 17hh – and low on mileage. However, I feel Bramham is the hardest CCI4*-L in the world and the water jumps are tougher than some at five-star. We felt some CCI4*-Ls might be a step backwards for him and that we should try a five-star when he is fit, well and feeling confident.
It was important to us to find the right terrain for him at this stage – mentally he can cope with any ground, but physically he’s immature so we wanted to give his body the nicest possible trip. Burghley is so undulating and Pau is twisty, so Maryland was an obvious choice and I’m grateful to his owners for taking on the cost of the trip.
The journey to the USA
Fletcher flew from Stansted to Indianapolis on Wednesday (a week before the trot-up). From there, he travelled a couple of hours to Louisville, where he met my travelling head girl, Amy Phillips, who I call Ames. It’s unnerving to think of the horses flying without someone they know, although the flying grooms are experienced and we were kept well informed.
The horses moved to Louisville in trucks that are quite different to ours – they travel loose in a big area so they can move around.
During the horses’ 48 hours in quarantine, the grooms are allowed in for an hour twice a day. I asked Ames to walk Fletcher as much as possible because it’s not ideal for such a fit horse to stand still for so long. One day she messaged saying she’d walked five kilometres!
The horses then have a 12-hour road journey to the event, arriving Saturday evening. Ames will give Fletcher two or three short rides a day – mostly in walk with a little trot. Doing too much too quickly could cause a fit horse to tie up. We’ve also cut back his feed while his work is reduced.
I arrive in the late afternoon on Monday. We’ll go to the venue, but I won’t ride that day. It’s a good idea to keep me away from Fletcher for as long as possible to avoid the temptation to overwork him!
There’s no quarantine on the return journey, so the horses travel a couple of hours by truck to John F. Kennedy airport in New York, then fly to Liège in Belgium and return by road. We’re in good hands with Peden Bloodstock, so as long as we’re on it with the paperwork it will hopefully be a slick operation.
And on to Pau…
I had to scratch my head when packing, because anything that goes to Maryland in the trunk with the horse won’t return until the Thursday of Pau Horse Trials (26–29 October).
We are teaming up with Tom McEwen for travel to Pau – his ride JL Dublin is co-owned by Jo and James Lambert, who own my ride Jeremy, so it will mean a good base for the owners and helps with costs and logistics.
I’m looking forward to the fact Pau is over half term so our seven-year-old son Max can come. We’ll stay in a hotel with a jacuzzi and spa and he had a great time last year when we went to support my sister Nini. I find it hard to leave Max for a long period, so it makes it easier for me as a mum to know he can enjoy one of these two weeks.
Both Fletcher and Jeremy are on good form and hopefully can maintain that through the rigours of travelling, so we’re looking forward to seeing how it goes.
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