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!