So that is it, my 10th season with BE and probably the biggest roller coaster of a season that I have had. Although I can't complain after having nine fairly faultless seasons. I have competed at 22 events with three different horses and recorded my best ever results at International level.
But before I start recapping some of my highlights of the season I will go back to our last event of the season. We made the journey down to Aldon, one of my favourite events on the calendar and a venue where I have always had brilliant rides over well built and cleverly designed courses. An early start on the Saturday to get there in time for Smarty's dressage. We have had a few lessons with Sally Andrews to help me really improve my test riding technique, which from a rider and someone who judges eventing dressage up to Advanced level as well, it has really paid off. He performed a beautiful test and was rewarded with a leading score of 42.6, the test can be seen by Clicking Here. Unfortunately I think the early start and long journey, and then working really hard in the dressage made him a little tired and flat for the show jumping. He jumped beautifully and as the pictures show he was clearing them by miles, unfortunately he had three down which was very disappointing. However that is horses and there was nothing I would have ridden differently if I had a second chance, some days they stay up with a bit of a rub and other days they don't! Smarty then went to bed for a rest whilst Coco came out for his test. He was clearly bored of having had to wait around all day and to say he was wild was an understatement. I did my best to settle him outside and he went in and really tried for me, unfortunately we had a change in one of the counter canters but otherwise it was mistake free. His two half pirouettes were super and the marks agreed, with a 7 & 7.5 for one and 7.5 & 8 for the other. This was good enough for a score of 50.8 which was 22nd overnight but within a fence of the top ten so all to play for! We then had a lovely course walk with Katie Davies and her mum Francis and Peter Greenaway who had come along to support before heading back to the rugby club for a lovely dinner and catch up! We had to shout over the music a bit but plenty of people provided entertainment with their dancing and it seemed to be a good night. We left about 11 to go and check the boys and get ourselves to bed.
We had a lovely relaxed Sunday morning where I went and walked the course to make sure I knew all my lines before getting on Smarty who proceeded to jump round like a total pro (again). Finishing 14 seconds inside the time without me pushing him at all. He is so genuine and brave and I am going to really really miss riding him across the country as he is something very special. Unfortunately the show jumps proved costly, with 2 down he would have been 3rd but with three down he finished 8th. However he tried his best and it just wasn't meant to be. Have a look at his jumping by Clicking Here. I have also bought the amazing video of his cross country from An Eventful Life which can be seen by Clicking Here.
Then it was time for Coco to show jump and it was causing plenty of trouble, we were more than capable of a clear round if I rode him well and he was able to relax - which sometimes he finds a little challenging! He was definitely a little over excited in the warm-up but the bigger the fences got the better and more relaxed he jumped. The problem in the ring was that the course wasn't big but very cleverly built. However with years of jumping lessons with Ernest in the back of my mind I went in determined to give Coco every chance to jump his best and he responded beautifully. He jumped the most amazing clear to pull us up to 7th place! On to the fun bit and it was the type of course that Coco loves (although I think Coco loves every cross country course if I am being totally honest). I went out with purpose and made up so much time I could just let him cruise home, which he did! You can see the video compilation by Clicking Here. I have also got his cross country from An Eventful Life which can be seen here. Unfortunately the cross country was relatively straightforwards so he finished 7th but I couldn't be more proud and what a fantastic way to finish the season with two such incredible horses that try their best for me with everything I ask.
So onto my season review:
Events Started: 22
Events Completed: 19
Oscar: 7 events, 4 placings (1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th) BE90/BE100
Coco: 10 events, 4 placings (4th, 5th, 7th, 9th) (Intermediate/2*/Advanced)
Smarty: 5 events, 3 placings (8th, 10th, 12th).
Average dressage score (National): 31.9
XC Clears: 18/21 (including pulling up when clear at Great Witchingham)
So as you can see it has been a fairly successful season and once I stopped riding Coco for 20 time faults cross country he has started to pick up regular placings.
Oscar started the season very green but quickly made the step up to BE100. He was the first horse I got back on after I broke my collarbone and carried me round Rackham for a win in the BE90 at BCA at my first event back. He was a pleasure to have and together we had so so much fun, from fancy dress to bareback and bridleless riding as well as being such a talented competition horse. He has been sold locally to a family friend who has already won a BE90 at Littleton Manor and helped his Pony Club Team to a win in the show jumping arena, proving what a lovely and talented boy he is. I think there are big things to come from these two in the future and I wish Luke all the luck in the world with him.
Coco continued to prove what a special horse he really is, cruising round Withington Advanced making it feel like nothing before a slightly tired mistake due to a long distance just 2 from home which was so undeserved. However, he came back to then jump clear in every single other cross country run this season, including four 2* and an Advanced where he was placed. His show jumping has been getting more and more consistent, with several clears at 1.20m level and jumping in the main arena at Hickstead and all aged 17. He will continue to work over the winter and his season next year will be dependent on what he is telling us. After all he owes us nothing and I would love for him to be able to continue competing at a lower level for longer than pushing him until he breaks at a higher level!
Smarty only came to the team in August but quickly settled in become a favourite on the yard. Within just two days of picking him up we were at Aston Novice where he jumped clear cross country and just a week later we were at Bicton 1* with a 6 yr old I had first sat on less than two weeks prior, and another fab but steady clear XC. Our next run was Goring Heath Novice where we had time to get to know each other and I let him run and jump for a clear inside the time and his first BE placing for 10th. From here it only got better with placings at both South of England 1* and Bicton 1*, with clear XC rounds inside the time both times. Not bad for a 6 year old and just proving what a fantastic job his breeder and owner Amy George has done so far. We will be very very sad to see him go next week now that Amy has recovered from her injury as I seriously rate him and think he will work his way through the levels with ease. He is such a kind and easy horse but I know that Amy can't wait to start cracking on with prep for next year!
So that's it - who knows what 2017 will bring but for now I am going to enjoy lots of show jumping and can't wait to get baby Joey out to some competitions ready to start his BE career in style next year!
Suddenly the evenings have become noticeably shorter and early mornings have a certain autumnal chill in the air which points towards the time of the year that us eventers hate.. The last event of the season is fast approaching. Final entries are in and the bay boys have just one more event to go. However, before I get too depressed by that thought I have got to fill you all in with the exciting things that have gone on over the last month!
So since I left off, Smarty has run at Goring Novice and South of England CIC* and Coco has just had a run at South of England CIC2*. I hadn't been to Goring in 5 years so it was nice to go back to an event where I have had some of my best placings and great rides. He started off performing a nice, settled test, but there were a couple of mistakes and it was lacking the real 'wow' factor which left us on a score of 34.8. He warmed up amazingly for the show jumping and rolled an unlucky pole coming out of the related distance and then as I came round to the next fence the arena party ran behind it and it just took his attention so he finished with an undeserved 8 faults. We put that behind us and I headed out on to the cross country to enjoy it and get another confidence giving run under our belts. He cruised round, I never had to take a check I just let him run and jump which he did with his ears pricked. He finished 4 seconds inside the time and one of very few to make the time all day which was good enough for 10th place and Smarty's first ever BE placing! You can see the video by Clicking Here.
The boys then had a bit of quiet time whilst we headed off to the Lake District on a family holiday for a week. Mum and Dad, my brother and two of his friends and Rob and I stayed in a cottage very close to Esthwaite Water and a 2 minute walk from Beatrix Potter's house at 'Hill Top'. The location couldn't have been better and my only complaint would be that we weren't there long enough to fit everything in!
Rob, Mum and I climbed Helvellyn via striding edge and during the first hour Rob and I were getting dangerously close to having to carry Mum who was being overdramatic and convinced she wouldn't make it. But with lots of encouragement and positive re-enforcement we stormed it and the reward was definitely the incredible views at the top.. A classic glaciated environment which my inner Geography nerd very much enjoyed! We also headed to Go Ape and the canopy activities. There were 6 different stations and each one finished with a zip wire which was good fun! The weather was incredible and Rob and I ended the week by heading out Ghyll Scrambling which is basically climbing your way along a river, jumping off rocks into pools and generally pretending to be a kid again! I can't recommend the company 'Crags Adventures' enough and Craig who took us was so much fun and really made the experience what it was. Rob and I only did the short version but we can't wait to head back and do 'the big one' which is 4 hours in the water jumping off cliffs several metres high! You can see some pictures at the end of the post.
Whilst we were away Theresa hacked the boys and my cousin Katie schooled Coco a couple of times for me which I think they both rather enjoyed (Katie and Coco that is!). After getting back there was just a week to fit in some practice before South of England, both boys felt on great form and I was excited about the performances I knew they could pull out of the bag if it all went to plan! We started off with Smarty's dressage on the Friday and it was really lovely to have his owner Amy down for the weekend to watch and help! He performed the best test we have done to date for a very respectable 52.5 but a big discrepancy between the judges, however he was in touch and all to play for. On the Saturday it was Coco's turn to do dressage and Amy and I were left to our own devices as mum was taking my brother up to Uni where he has just started a Geography degree (clearly runs in the family!!). He warmed up brilliantly but unfortunately a bit of tension crept in at the beginning of the test. He then settled into it for another respectable score of 54.5 with some of the best quality work we have ever had. Sunday was jumping day and a bright and early start with Smarty jumping just after 8am, luckily we are local. I realised I needed to ride him a bit more forwards in the show jumping as he prefers it like that, stop trying to protect him and let him attack the fences a bit more and do his job. I was rewarded with him rolling a really unlucky pole coming out of the combination, but there were very few clears in a section of 60. Onto the cross country and I knew a quick round would leave us in with a shout. He flew out the start box and never looked back, every combination he was switched on and listening to me and aside from a horrible moment coming out the water where thankfully he jumped me out of trouble, the round was faultless. He is such a bold and scopey horse you do feel that you could aim him at anything and he would give it a really good go! He was the first horse of the day to go inside the time and by the end of the class, just 3 more had managed to finish inside the time. All this and he is barefoot, which is how he came to us, he very rarely slips and happily hacks on roads and bridleways without any problem at all. He finished 12th out of a big and competitive field and it is so hard to believe he is just 6 years old. The video edit I have made can be seen by clicking here. I also bought the video of his cross country round from An Eventful Life which can be seen here: https://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/ride/georgina-wood-touch-optimistik-south-england-2016-2
Once Smarty had finished Amy and I stayed at South of England whilst Mum drove the lorry home to swap him for Coco as we didn't want them both standing on the lorry all day as it wouldn't benefit either of them. Coco was not jumping as well as he can do in the warm up as he was a bit tense, but as soon as he walked into the ring and saw everyone watching it was like he took a deep breath and went 'these people are here to see me and I am going to show off'. He absolutely flew round for a great clear which moved us up the leader-board considerably. I went out to attack the cross country and see how much further we could move up with a quick clear round. He was absolutely flying and making good time when we were held just before fence 10 due to a fall further round on the course. On this occasion it definitely worked in our favour as Coco got five minutes to get his breath back about half way round the course. I made sure he was awake before we restarted and we continued where we had left off. I crossed the finish line with the biggest grin on my face at how lucky I am to ride two unbelievably talented horses who give everything and bring me home safe. Coco finished with just 4.8 time faults, 4th fastest and only one horse made the time which was Chris Burton on Adelaide winner TS Jamaimo so not too bad. Not only this but we had pulled right up to finish 5th and receive the award for the highest placed South East Eventers League combination in the 2* which was so so exciting. Coco's video can be seen by clicking here. We also bought the video of his cross country round which you can watch here: https://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/ride/georgina-wood-sjapo-le-sursaut-south-england-2016-2
There was yet more excitement as we had a new arrival to the team just before South of England. A 5 yr old Irish pony that Mum and Dad have bought for me from Rapkyns. He was bred on the farm that we picked him up from and he had never left the farm before we picked him up to bring him home. Yet he is so laid back and is one of the kindest horses I have ever had the pleasure of riding and caring for. He learns unbelievably quickly and just wants to please. We have taken him over to Littleton to have a jump with Ernest where he excelled himself and proved what a lovely temperament he has so I have got big plans for him.
We also said a very sad good bye to Oscar this month. He will be very sorely missed both to ride and to have on the yard. He was a seriously special horse who really turned his hoof to absolutely everything and I wish his new owners all the luck in the world with him. A huge thank you to his owner Peter for allowing me to produce him for the past year as I have loved every minute of it.
It must be some sort of record too because I have managed to write my blog within a month of writing the last one.. This is what happens when your boyfriend goes back to Uni and you find yourself with free time in the evening that you didn't have before! So the next blog will be my seasons summary but if I can have a run at Aldon anything like that of South of England then I will be extremely happy!