So the weekend of Olympia finally dawned and on Saturday I had my last ‘practice’ before the big day. Then it was an early start on Sunday to sort out my stuff and ride my other two before heading up to London.

The nerves really started to kick in as I had got up way too early and spent a lot of time sitting around twiddling my thumbs, but I was determined I was going to enjoy the experience and just have fun!

As Mum and I headed up to Olympia, it seemed a little surreal to be driving to a show in London (where I am normally working or going out) late in the afternoon. When we arrived we heading straight to the stables to meet Ollie and Jo. Pop looked very settled with his tinsel and baubles hanging around his stable — it felt great to finally be there and get into the spirit of it all. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed to the Hilton to meet up with everyone and have a few drinks to steady the nerves!

After a night during which I barely slept, I was up early to show Pop the main arena before his class — complete with my new Christmas jumper! I wasn’t feeling very awake when I got on board, but Pop went into the arena like he had been doing it all his life. He barely looked at anything around the edge, and after 40mins work we were ready to go back to the stable. As we wandered back Heidi and Justin from the Popsters Stud arrived, so they were able to give him a quick once over and a good luck pat.

The time has come

The large breeds were first, which gave me a chance to see how things were running and what type of shows were being well rewarded. It was the first time they were showing marks on the big screen for everyone to see, so I was just hoping me and Pop would manage not to disgrace ourselves and end up with single figures.

Then it was time to get on. I had felt quite relaxed all morning, and even managed to eat, but the moment we lined up to go into the arena, I could feel my heart racing in my chest. As we walked in Pop had a look at the arena — it was a bit different now to earlier in the morning and I remember saying to myself remember to actually ride!

Once we got going Pop relaxed into his stride and went really lovely round with the others. We lined up in numerical order to do our shows, which suited me as it meant I was third and didn’t have much time to get nervous. I decided to keep my show simple and relaxed, so we started with a good long walk. Pop felt really nice so we moved up into trot before doing our first change of rein. Then into canter without bucking (!), back to trot with a walk and halt across the middle. Back up into trot and into our second canter, with no wrong legs or bucking. Next was the gallop, in which we can sometimes have the odd mishap, so I did play slightly safe and just rode a smooth extension instead. I finished my show with a nice long trot and walk before my final halt and I got a little clap from the audience!

It all seemed to pass in a bit of a blur and I gave a huge sigh of relief as I trotted straight down to do my in-hand show — the hard part for Pop! As I reached the in-hand section the steward said to me ‘those were good marks’, but I didn’t have time to register what I had got as I was straight off doing my in-hand. This was short and sweet and Pop actually behaved and turned when I asked him to so I really couldn’t ask for any more. I was thrilled with how he had gone and Ollie seemed really pleased too, so we headed back to stand in line with smiles on our faces.

Excellent ride marks

It wasn’t until I was back in line and chatting with the others that I realised I was in the lead with my ride marks. This meant I potentially had a chance to get Best of Breed of my section, but I knew that the conformation marks could swap everything around so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

We all left the arena and headed back to the stables to wait until the presentation at 2:10pm. Coming out the arena I felt so sick, I think from finally relaxing after all the anxiety. The whole team were thrilled with how Pop had coped. We knew we couldn’t have done anything else — the rest was down to the judges so it was off for some Champagne!

Going back into the ring in the afternoon was a totally different experience — the arena was packed and felt about 20 degrees hotter. Although everything was done, I still felt nervous as we lined up for the results. Again Pop surpassed all expectations standing like a rock with all the clapping and cheering, even when others started mucking about.

Getting called forward

I was just sitting there soaking up the atmosphere when the steward came over to tell me to walk forward. ‘What for?’ I asked, then I heard the best of breed for the Welsh Section Cs was Popsters Debutante. I just couldn’t believe it — I never thought this would happen to me. Again Pop took it all in his stride — he will do anything for a scarf! I was presented with my lovely sash for best of breed and got to stand out front whilst the rest of the results were pulled forward.

It was really exciting to be part of it and, although I wasn’t in the final overall line up, I couldn’t have been happier. It was lovely to see the look of sheer joy on the winning rider’s face. And the best thing about being best of breed was you got to do a lap of honour — so off we went around the arena enjoying every moment and then it was all over! Which meant it was time to head back to the stables for more champagne, photos and finally to see Santa in the finale — all of which makes Olympia so special.

A very special day

What a day! As much as it is a clich © to say it, my dreams really did come true on Monday. To think this time last year Pop was not even broken and now he is best of breed at Olympia. It goes to show what a wonderful team and pony can achieve. There are so many people who made my day so special but of course my main thanks go to the BSPS for putting on a fab show, Rowfantina & Popsters teams, my mum and of course Becki Penny, who without her expert riding at the semi’s to qualify Pop we wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

And finally to Pop — a pony who really is a one in a million. Whatever is thrown at him he rises to the challenge! I couldn’t have asked for a nicer pony and I can’t wait for next season!! Bring on 2012, let’s hope it is just as successful and fun!

Chloe