On Saturday was the day I had been counting down for since I had qualified for it at the Merrist Wood 1 competition in January. The British Eventing JAS Final! I had Lily and Punch in the BE100, Lily in the Novice and Coco in the Open, so a busy day ahead!
We set off at the rather civilised time of 9.30, on time and without drama! We got to Bury Farm with enough time to have a look round before walking the course, as we hadn't been there before. The arena was nice, but not as big as I was expecting and the jumps were very tightly packed, which made it quite spooky. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th fences were on a dog leg across the middle of the arena which I thought would be quite tricky, especially on Punch as the striding was 4 strides and then 3 strides so not much room to fit an extra one in.
Punch was first to go and he warmed up well, I went in feeling positive but also aware of the fact that he is a cheeky Connemara pony at heart and could take a dislike to any one of the 16 numbered fences! I attacked the course and he responded, jumping a really lovely double clear and finishing inside the time which didn't happen that often as the time was really tight. We waited for his style score to be read out, and were slightly disappointed with the mark of 18 that he got as he couldn't have gone any better, but he tried his best so I couldn't ask any more of him.
Lily was next to go in the BE100 and she was feeling very pleased with herself in the warm up, bouncing around all over the place. Eventually it was her turn and she trotted in to the arena with her ears tightly pricked ready to go. All I can say about her round is that she really was awesome. She has got such a quick brain and tries her very best - especially now that we have such a good partnership and she really trusts me. She skipped round really for another double clear and inside the time. A round totally different to Punch's so I was hopeful she may get given the marks. We waited nervously for her score to come out, and when it did we were ecstatic! She had got a penalty score of 6! Which is 54/60 and went into the lead by miles with a few horses left to jump. While we waited nervously for the class to finish I was asked by Jenny Rudall if I would give my Top Tips for JAS for Horse & Country TV which I willingly did - the JAS Final episode is on the 4th of March at 8.30 - so keep an eye out! Eventually the last horse had jumped and the scores came through. Lily had won the class, and it wasn't even close! The next best score was 13 - 7 marks behind. It turns out we were the first combination to recieve a 6 all day (we got 4 in total)! Punch wasn't to be outdone and finished a very credible 8th in a class of 45! As you can see from the picture above Lily and I won a lovely rug (which is now on my bed until we next compete!) A sash, a gorgeous rosette and some very generous training vouchers. A huge thank you to all the sponsors that help towards giving the classes such great prizes - it really is appreciated! After a quick Lap of Honour and an interview for Horse & Country TV for our win - we were back in the warm up to prepare for the Novice track. It had gone up quite a bit, but Lily was on form.
She was just as fab in the Novice but unfortunately our joint enthusiasm going into the double of arrowheads on a short two strides led to her having the out down and we had 1 time fault. We still earned a style mark of 9 - being awarded another 6 in the process and it was good enough to put us into the lead at that point. However we thought nothing more about it and swapped her for Coco who needed a decent amount of warming up after being on the lorry so long. As the class started to come towards the end, Lily was still in the top 3 - who had to be mounted! So we went and got her tacked up again in the hope we may get placed again! We did - she finished 3rd! What a superstar pony. Without the time fault we would have been 2nd and without the fence we would have won - but that would have been greedy and if someone told me last week I would have won one class and finished 3rd in the other I wouldn't have believed them!
Soon it was Cocos turn and I was asked if I could wear a hatcam! Of course it was always going to be a curse to something going wrong but was a risk I was willing to take! He warmed up beautifully and went in and jumped the best he has ever jumped - miles above every fence and no tapping at all - we have come such a long way as a partnership this winter and I can't wait to go eventing! Unfortunately we had rather thrown him in at the deep end, having only done one JAS ever before which was in January - the twisty turny cross country section confused him a bit. Resulting in two run outs. The first of which was slightly caused to having a flyer into the double of arrowheads and my reactions not being quick enough to turn him to tell him to jump the next fence - Doh! The second one was at the corner - but it was very acute and aiming straight at the wall and I just think at the last minute he saw the wall and went 'I can't do that' but once I told him he could he came round the 2nd time and jumped it beautifully so it was a shame really. However I am not too disappointed as he jumped fab and we are still getting to know each other really.
I couldn't have wished for a better day. A huge thank you to BE for organising another great series. Baileys and all the other Sponsors who allowed the prizes to be so generous and mum - who kept the horses exercised and in one piece whilst I was working in London last week. And when I got home on Friday had ridden two of them, got them all ready and cleaned their tack! So thank you Mum!!
See the video HERE
With the snow gone I was ready to crack on with the preparation for the eventing season, 3 weeks today and subject to the ballot, all 3 horses should have had their first runs of the season - eeeeek!
On the 27th January we headed off to Royal Leisure BS to give the horses an outing as we had managed to keep them ticking over whilst the snow was around by using two giant rolls of bubble wrap (50mx1.5m) to cover a track! After just two weeks without jumping I felt really rusty, its amazing how two weeks off can make such a difference especially considering I had still been riding! However the horses went brilliantly. Lily just had 4 faults in the 1.05. I then had Lily and Coco in the Newcomers and they both jumped beautiful first rounds so I had two into the Jump Off. Lily jumped another fab round, good enough to leave us in 2nd place you can see her rounds HERE! Coco just had one rail down but jumped really well. On the Wednesday (30th) we headed up to Quainton with Coco for some Young Rider Training with Emma Fisher. The flat session was really useful as we worked on getting Coco soft but engaged, as where we have been riding him softly to build his top line, Emma was explaining that for test riding I need more engagement so I came away with some new exercises which will hopefully help. The jumping was also good and Coco jumped fantastically which was really good.
The 5th of February we headed off to Addington Manor for some more Show Jumping. Lily just had an unlucky fence in the 1.05m. However she was awesome in the Newcomers and jumped a beautiful double clear to finish fourth, beating Tim Stockdale and Helen Treadwell amongst others! You can see the video by clicking HERE. Coco had 3 down in the Newcomers but not through carelessness of mistakes. Afterwards I think the problem was that he had been on the lorry a long time and I hadn't given him time to warm up sufficiently which was silly. However I worked him in a bit longer and took him in the 1.15 Open where he was a different horse and just had one down. You can see his video HERE.
On Saturday 9th we took Punch to his first jumping outing and only his 2nd outing since Dauntsey in September! We went to Felbridge show jumping and as he hadn't been out for a while I just jumped him HC in the Discovery. He was great and jumped a lovely double clear which was really confidence giving for both of us.
I had an Ernest lesson on Coco in the pouring rain and sleet on Sunday 10th as after Addington I felt I needed to consolidate my riding and stabilise what we had been working on before. He was mega! I think Ernest was really impressed with how he had come on and how he was jumping. I felt it was the best he has ever jumped since I first got him which is great as we are really starting to become a partnership now.
After my lesson went so well we headed off to Addington again on Pancake day to put what I had worked on in my lesson in to practice. We took all three horses together for the first time ever but they all behaved themselves. Punch hadn't jumped indoors since this time last year so was a bit spooky for 4 faults in the 1.05m, however he tried really hard and I was very pleased with him. Lily was also great, she had an unlucky fence in the 1.05m as I was trying to get a quick time, but that is a risk you take when riding against the clock! In the Newcomers she jumped even better and was unlucky to have the planks out of a 3 stride distance as I saw a very long one on the way in!! If she had jumped clear she would have won by nearly a second! You can see her video HERE. We jumped Coco in the Newcomers too and made sure I gave him enough warm up this time. He was perfect from the start of the warm up to the end of our round. I was working on sitting really still and letting him jump as I had worked on with Ernest. It really payed off and he flew. He was jumping amazingly and we really are ready to crack on! He went in to the lead but finished 3rd in the end. Still a great result. You can see Coco's video HERE.
Yesterday (16th) we headed to the second of the Merrist Wood JAS competitions with Punch & Lily hoping to qualify Punch for the final too. Punch was just jumping in the BE100. We had a perfect warm up and just gave him a breather before jumping a couple of fences before we went in. He took exception to the spread at this point for some reason! However with some firm persuasion that it was not a good plan to stop and that jumping was easier and more fun than stopping, we were in. It was almost a blessing in disguise that he was cheeky in the warm up as it reminded me to ride him positively. He responded and jumped a foot perfect double clear and inside the time, which very few people were doing! When we went to check the scores he was on 0!! A perfect style score and 6/6 for everything with the comment on the bottom of 'Well Done'!! He was the winner in this class and a qualification for the final! Aim 1 of the season achieved! Lily was up next in the Novice and she was feeling very pleased with herself. She was bouncing all over the place and generally trying to prove that she was the best horse there! Unfortunately her enthusiasm cost us with a fence in the ring as I wasn't riding in a rhythm and ended up missing her at a fence which she tried very hard to jump but couldn't quite get her legs out the way. We still got another style score of 0, but with 4 jumping and 5 time to add we were on 9. It was still good enough for 4th which shows how tough the competition was! I thought I would enter her in the Open to see what she made of it and to make her think a little bit. She did think but she was seriously impressive. The corner was so skinny but she thought nothing of it and flew the whole way round but was a bit tired by the bounce at the second last and just had it behind which was a shame. So we finished with 4 jumping and 6 time to add to our style score, which again was 0! She finished 5th which I was so thrilled with as she has come such a long way.
I have also taken her and Coco cross country schooling and they were both perfect. Jumped everything they were asked with their ears pricked! So just Punch to go now and then it is Eventing time! I can't believe how lucky I am to have three such lovely horses to compete this year and all with such exciting aims! A huge thank you to Liz & Kari for getting me such an amazing horse to ride and for letting me compete Punch. Also to Mum for driving me round the country and for schooling Lily for me - she is going really well! I am counting down the days until the season starts now.
It was great to have a catch up with my Sponsors from Simple System this week too and get some advice on the horses feeding coming into the eventing season.
Tasha also took Ozzie cross country for the first time and she rode him amazingly and he went so well for her! I am so pleased he has gone to such a lovely home - it couldn't be more perfect for him! You can see the cross country schooling pictures HERE.
I am in London working for the next two weeks which is going to be a bit of a shock to the system but hopefully it should make a nice change and will be interesting. My first aim is not to get lost on the train as I am useless at commuting and public transport in general!! I have the JAS Final next weekend and Munstead Combined training the following weekend, so we shall see!
Sorry for the essay..