The first Nations Cup of the year always brings with it a certain level of excitement as all the team managers meet up, you find out who is not around anymore and get a chance to size up the opposition.
Moorsele was a junior and pony Nations Cup, with individual children and young riders competing as well. At the last count before leaving the UK, I had 14 riders to look after. Now I know it is not allowed, but it’s in situations like this when electronic tagging would be a useful! Amazingly, assisted by my trusted team vet John Killingbeck, the riders were all in the right place at the right time.
At these shows the first day is the trot-up, which is not taken seriously enough in my opinion. If you mess up, you are not going to be allowed to jump and that makes it a very expensive trip. Everyone should practise the trot-up — no-one would think of going to a show without practising everything else they were going to do, so why not practise for the first day? That said, all GB horses were OK, which put a smile on John’s face.
The focus of this show was the Nations Cup, but unusually the grand prix class was before the Nations Cup competition. Now, all I am going to say is that the Nations Cup team did not sparkle in the grand prix, with not a single clear round among them. However, a special mention goes to Mark Turnbull on his delightful mare Ursula, who jumped an amazing double clear and ended up fourth. This was an outstanding achievement for someone at their first international show and they are certainly one to watch for the future.
Any Nations Cup competition is a marathon, not a sprint, and 24hrs and a stiff team talk later, it was time to produce the goods. We had the challenging task of being drawn first to go, so I needed my first rider to be solid. Chloe Aston was my choice; she has ridden at two children on horses European championships, is a prolific winner and her horse was jumping brilliantly. Bingo! Clear round!
Next to go were Abbie Newbury and Laura Robinson. Now Abbie had a blip in the grand prix the day before, but jumped a great round for 8 faults and I have to say she did not deserve either fence. Laura was drafted in at the last minute, so did not have much time to prepare and her 12 fault round was still ridden well.
Graham Gillespie was our fourth man and I feel he has been with me forever! With two children’s championships and two junior championships under his belt, he is an old-timer as far as I am concerned! And the thing about old-timers is they jump clear rounds and that is exactly what he did, in brilliant style. That meant we finished the first round on 8 faults, which only just scraped us into the second round.
But anyone who knows me, knows I never give up. My mid-competition team talk was about focus, not worrying about the others and jumping clear rounds. Well clearly they listened, as both Chloe and Abbie jumped clear! Meanwhile other countries were having fences down. Laura improved her score to 8 faults in the second round, and that just left Graham to go. Once again he was composed and focused, but a toe in the water left him on 4 faults.
We had crept up the leaderboard and knew if the last German rider had a fence down, we would have to jump off against them. The British team were all back on board and knew the jump-off course in case they needed it. Watching the German round seemed to go on forever, but he jumped a perfect clear. So from sixth after round one to finish second — a great result for all concerned! As learning curves go, this was a good one: never give up in the second round, keep yourself focused and let the others make mistakes!
Next week I’ll be blogging from the children and young rider nation’s cups in Bonheiden in Belgium.