Wow, what a weekend. Firstly no rain in Wales for the viewing trials. Secondly, a great turn out and, to top it all, brilliant jumping. Every year the standard gets better and better and that is why the viewing trials are so exciting.
The first thing that happens is the team meetings the night before we start jumping. So, picture the scene… Nibbles and bubbles and we are just about to start when a shout went up from downstairs — one of the course-builders had fallen over and he could not get up.
Now, I know at this point you have all pictured a stricken turtle, but what actually happened is that he had bent down to pick up a pole and both his legs had gone into a cramp and he could not move! So we left the vet with him and we started.
A speedy start, but stay consistent
Day one for all my squads was a speed class but, the night before, we had emphasised that consistency was the key. The standard was superb and the new combinations moving up from ponies proved that, with a little experience, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Day two is a Nations Cup format so every rider gets the opportunity to jump the full course twice. This is one of the most important tests the riders have and is the first step towards being a team member. They have to prove they have the temperament to jump two rounds under pressure and, if they have fault in the first round, they can ride even better in the second.
Team pressure is a whole new experience for some and hopefully competitions of this format help with that.
Grand prix day
The last day of jumping is grand prix day. The juniors were on fire so their course was 1.45m the whole way round. And what a grand prix it was! Although Pippa Goddard won the class fair and square, all the others proved they deserved selection for a Nation’s Cup this year.
I love the children’s trial every year. New faces, new combinations and all that talent ahead of us in the sport. I thought they were very young to cope with this type of competition — how wrong could I be? Day after day, they jumped higher and wider, showing me they were capable of technicality beyond their years.
There are some great new partnerships to choose from this year and good luck to the first Nations Cup Team in Bonheiden. Millie Allen, a veteran of the children’s (if that is such a thing) shone in the grand prix with her best friend Amy Inglis hot on her heels.
If anyone thinks jumping young riders is only a little step up from juniors they are wrong. This year, with some combinations abroad at 3* shows, you might have thought Mark McGowan would build a slightly softer course. Well the short answer is NO he did not!
The speed leg was very jumpable with a fair few riders jumping a clear round while the Nations cup course the next day had championship track written all over it. It walked straight forward and not so difficult… to those who were lacking a little experience! Many watching thought that the combination line was too difficult. You might have agreed until you saw the young riders ride the second round. All raised their game, thought about the line and jumped the whole course a whole lot better than the first time.
That is the key to a clever course and talented riders. They have to ride the course and get into the builder’s mind. What Mark wanted down that line was ride ability and scope — exactly what we were looking for in a championship partnership.
The grand prix was big — there’s no other way to describe it. Abbie Squires and her busy partner Enrique showed the form she had hoped for all weekend by setting a blistering pace to win the jump-off.
A special mention to Donald Whitaker and Harriet Nutall who jumped clear with one time-fault. However, time-faults cost medals so we will have to lose them — the time-fault that is, not Harriet and Donald!
My next blog will come from the junior Nations Cup in Moorsele, Belgium. We are taking a young team there, but everyone needs to start somewhere and I have every confidence in them. Also out there are some individuals who need to be brought into the fold, so let’s hope we have a successful trip!