I know I say this almost every time I write a blog, but seriously.. We are now in September and I have graduated from University and starting to come face to face with real life. Well I would be if it wasn’t for the fact I am undertaking the optimum level of real life avoidance and playing ponies all day every day!
I left off before we were heading to Great Witchingham where the two bay boys were running. We had a great day with Oscar performing a super test in revolting conditions for 25 then just added an unlucky pole and a faultless clear cross country to finish 2nd in the BE100 Open. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8VmZqBp0jw
Meanwhile Coco was rather overexcited to be back out eventing so performed an enthusiastic test for 32.5 (somehow!) then an unlucky pole SJ before storming round the cross country to fence 16 where I pulled him up to save him for Barbury 2* the following weekend. His photo is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN9Uv6JCwEI
Onto Barbury and I was so excited to still get there as it has to be one of my favourite events with such an amazing atmosphere. The disadvantage being that the atmosphere slightly got to him in an already harshly marking section to score 59.5. However we put that behind us and went into the show jumping full of confidence to perform our best, he jumped a brilliant round and was so unlucky to roll the last fence but I was pleased with how he jumped. Cross country he was awesome, we had definitely put our blip at Withington well and truly behind us and he just cruised round, eating up all the combinations with his ears tightly pricked at all times, I never asked him to gallop so we finished 20 seconds over the time for 8 time faults. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELhmusZ0syc
The following week it was time for my graduation, it was an amazing day with the obligatory pictures but I am so glad I went and got to spend the day with two of my closest friends Morganne and Dan and I would never have got through my degree without them. You can see the pictures in the album at the bottom of this post!
The next event was Eridge with Oscar in the BE100. He pulled out another great test for 26 – Mr Consistent. The ground in the show jumping was a bit false and holding and it just made him lose the shape of his jump and his confidence a bit so he had four down which was a real shame as he didn’t deserve it. The cross country start at Eridge is not very friendly and he started off lacking a bit of confidence but by fence 4 he was on the job and jumped a lovely clear. I just let him take his time and build his confidence so he picked up 7.2 time but the course and show jumping caused so much trouble he still finished 13th!
I then had a week teaching at The Vine Pony Club Camp which was brilliant fun. They were a fantastic bunch of kids who improved so much over the week and it was a pleasure to get to know them and their super ponies. I took Oscar with me for the experience and he even played a bit of polocrosse whilst we were there, which we both thought was great fun! Mum had been lunging Coco in the equi-ami all week whilst I was away which allowed me to get back and head to Hickstead on the Saturday for the 1.20m and 1.30m. He jumped an awesome double clear in the 1.20m to finish 8th out of 90, then just rolled a couple in the 1.30m but tried hard. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh6UO7yaJ2s. I feel the equi-ami made a massive difference in Coco’s core strength, particularly in the canter and definitely helped him to jump as well as he did at Hickstead.
However the following week the news came through that everyone had been dreading. That the inspirational Hannah Francis had lost her battle with cancer. She was so strong and so brave and she fought until the end, but her legacy will live on in what she has created with he charity, Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony and you can find out more and donate money here: https://www.willberrywonderpony.org/
Our next outing was with Coco to Pyecombe to jump the 1.20m derby. It was an amazing course which ran out the arena and all the way up a steep hill and over a fence on the top of a bank, it really was a mini derby. Coco jumped brilliantly and there were only 3 clears. He would have been one of them if it hadn’t been for the slight miscommunication at a rustic oxer jumping out of the arena, he was making up a lot of ground so I took a strong half halt and I think he suddenly thought it was the fence round the arena and he shouldn’t jump it, so he stopped in front of it! I was cross with myself but I never expected it and I was so delighted with how he jumped so just one of those things! Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCDH3ygSU8M
Oscar then headed to Smiths Lawn BE100 for his next run, and another lovely test for 27.5, just one down show jumping in a tight arena that wouldn’t naturally suit him. The an amazing clear cross country well inside the time for 4th. He should have been in the Novice the way he jumped round as he was so bold and so straight. I never had to even put my leg on, he just cruised round! The video of Oscar is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1lIoM4kK0o
I then had some very very exciting news and got to pick up a lovely new horse that I have got until the end of the season. He is known as Smarty to his friends and is bred and owned by Amy George, she had a really unlucky fall and broke her leg and so I offered to take on Smarty for the rest of the season. He is 6 and absolutely gorgeous and I am very very lucky to ride such a talented horse that loves his job. Just 3 days after picking him up we headed to Aston Novice where he did a nice dressage with a few mistakes through miscommunication and a similar story in the jumping where we had a couple down because we were not used to each other. But then he gave me an awesome ride round the cross country for a steady clear. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zywbkPiux_U
Just over a week later we took him to Bicton where he was entered in the 1*. He tried hard in the dressage and I was a bit disappointed with the score but we had a couple of mistakes which brought the mark down. Then we were a little over keen in the showjumping which meant he rolled three but made up for it with a super clear round a tough 1* track, taking all the direct routes. The video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjwcJ8IDi0w
Coco also went to Aston and Bicton but for the Intermediate and 2* respectively. At Aston, Coco could see the cross country and just about held it together in the dressage for 34.8. The show jumping was causing a lot of trouble, but not for Coco who flew round for a brilliant clear. I went out on the cross country determined and aiming to make the time. We had a couple of iffy moments where Coco was definitely right and I was definitely wrong but luckily he is so clever he just ignores me and does the right thing. We finished just 2 seconds over the time which was good enough for 4th! Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5djtMtrGKQ
At Bicton, I was pleased with the test although mum felt the canter could have been more connected. I was really disappointed with his mark of 58 but when we got the sheets back there was 9% difference in the marks with 65% from one judge (which I would say is about right) and 56% from the other which was a shame. He was then ridiculously over excited in the show jumping and decided the point was to complete as quickly as possible which meant finding out how quickly he could get his feet back on the floor after taking off which was not ideal. He had two of the first four fences down and then settled and jumped a beautiful clear! We couldn’t decided whether to run cross country but the course was lovely and the ground fantastic so we thought we might as well. I ran him steady but he loved in and finished with 20 time faults which was still good enough for a top 50% finish! Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEtDudq9ebo
We made a last minute change of plan and took Coco to Wellington Advanced on bank holiday Monday. We had heard fantastic reports on the ground and we were on a bit of a roll so went and had a look at the course, liked the look of it and managed to get a slot where someone had withdrawn. He did a nice dressage with a couple of big mistakes for a respectable 35.9. He warmed up beautifully for the show jumping but I think he just tensed up a bit in the ring for an uncharacteristic 4 down which was a shame as he has been jumping so well, but I put it behind me and knew that it was the cross country I was there for. He gave me an incredible ride and didn’t make it feel like an advanced at all, he just popped round all the direct routes and answered every question. We had 20 time faults but still finished 9th. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vggbz1q7N0k&feature=youtu.be
As if the week hadn’t been exciting enough, we then headed to Hickstead on the Friday for the 1.20m amateur qualifier where he jumped a super double clear for 4th out of 72 and qualified to jump in the main arena on the Saturday. I was really excited to jump in the main ring and there is no better horse to go in to the main arena at Hickstead on than Coco as he is so bold and will always keep going. He had 3 down, all of which I could have prevented by riding better lines, but the main arena is so big it was very easy to cut corners and not ride the lines you would normally ride. We will both have benefitted massively for the experience and can’t wait to go back and have another go!!
So 1,824 words later you are up to date with the last two months of excitement. It is a small essay and I think I have written fewer words for some of my marked coursework during my university career!!
I promise promise promise I really will not leave it so long next time, but I am sure that has been said before. Coco evented three weekends running and then jumped two days at Hickstead the following weekend and is still buzzing and full of energy. So if anyone is worried that Simple System Feeds won’t provide the needed energy to compete regularly at a high level, this is a case in showing that is not an issue. He looks so fit, his coat is gleaming and he is feeling better than ever.
We have got just three events planned for the rest of the season, Coco and Smarty are going to South of England for the 2* and 1* respectively. Then Smarty will head to Broadway Novice before both boys finish their season at Aldon, again for the 2* and 1*. Smarty will then head home to Amy who is recovering well ready to get a winters training in for next season. Coco will have a quiet month of hacking and less competing before being picked back up again as I feel with an older horse it is important for him not to lose too much fitness as it is then harder for them to pick back up again!