It was a quick turnaround for Soap and I after 10 days at Rosie’s SJ Boot Camp we had just 3 days back at home to get ourselves sorted before we set off for our first 3DE! I met up with my sponsor Jonathan from Equine Premium the evening before and he gave me some promotional flyers to take and an Equine Premium cap to wear so with that and Soap’s ridiculous ‘on tour rider’ (Evian, only the red smarties, and fresh meadow grass) packed we set off. It was a few miles into our journey that I realised the pair of my Mother’s old shoes I had slipped on to load stuff from the house to the car were still on my feet! I just had to hope people were so mesmerised by my new hat they wouldn’t look down and notice the broken pair of docksiders I was sporting!
We arrived, got Soap settled, and did a quick tour of the site then drove off to check into our B&B just down the road glad the whole time that we had scrapped ‘Plan A’ to sleep in a tent! In the morning I plaited up for trot up, and was quite nervous having never done one before or had my horse scrutinised by 4 vets! I needn’t have worried as one vet commented that he looked very well, and he passed so onto the dressage. He warmed up very nicely, and the test started really well he got an 8 for his across the diagonal, but resisted and stepped back into the 1st halt so we lost some marks there. The 1st canter was lovely, but for some reason Soap decided to liven up the 2nd canter by humping his back and honking into the transition like an old goat then carrying on as if everything was normal. His freestyle movements continued as when about to turn up the centre line he put himself abruptly back into walk. I was a bit shocked by this and reacted too strongly with more leg than necessary which made him shoot round the corner and clip the entry box of flowers and send that flying as we merrily went up the centre line to halt! Despite his foliage vandalism and goat impressions we got 33 (and the lovely comment ‘active athletic paces, with much talent shown…’) which put us in joint 14th with 2 other riders out of 34. Pleased with that we went off to walk the roads and tracks, steeplechase, and XC.
Phase A consisted of grass tracks round the edge of fields, gravel roads, and through fields marked out with flags and the organisers had done all they could to prepare the going. Phase B was 2 laps of the steeplechase over 6 fences at 500mpm then immediately onto Phase C more R&T but at a slightly slower pace to cool down before the 10min box and XC. On Saturday we got all togged up, times taped to my arm, Mother prepped with where to be, with what, and when so off we set. Soap found Phase A very confusing and was suspicious of the XC flags but no XC fences so decided to leap a few phantom fences to liven things up a bit. We finished Phase A with a few extra minutes and used these to have a quick drink, adjust stirrups, have a puff on my inhaler, and reset my watch ready for Phase B Steeplechase. Being a tb I was assuming he would be quite quick but I still did need to chivvy him along to make the 2min time, we came in at 1min 52secs so he really was never going to make much of a racehorse at that rate! Straight into Phase C which went right past our B&B through the farm yard and back alongside the XC. The last image is turning into the XC field look at the expression on his face!
The XC had lots of questions, and some up to height fences, but the only fence that I had really marked out for special attention was 2 steps up then 2 strides to a single skinny barrel. He has never done anything quite that skinny or technical before in competition, but I needn’t have worried. After a quick wash off and regroup in the 10min box where I ran through the course again in my head we set off, but not before hearing the commentator mention my blog! Soap gave me the best most fluent round to date, and he was a real pleasure to ride. Easily over the first 3 fences down to a flower box to drop then a right hand turn to a table then an S shape route over a skinny to palisade to skinny he didn’t even blink then onto a trakhena followed by a corner then a quarry, through all that no sweat. After the quarry was a narrow Normandy bank we had a bit of a deep spot up but he flew off it and over 2 more fences before the water. Bold as brass into the water left turn out over a step and 2 strides to another flower box. On up the hill to a brush then sharp right up a bank down, and 1 stride to tyres, next another flower box then the step combination. Straight as an arrow over that and the last 2 for home. I was a bit confused by my watch and steadied him up thinking we were coming in too fast but actually ended up incurring us 1.2 time pens as a result (sack the pilot!) That was all to add for day 2 so we carried on a score of 34.2 to day 3 which put us in 13th place. After our exciting morning we had lots of time to kill once Soap was washed, legs iced, fed, and watered so we went off to veg out by the steeplechase and soak up some sun, I took the opportunity to do a quick repair with my plaiting kit on my dodgy footwear so I looked a bit less like a tramp after that!. Big thanks have to go to the event caterers ‘Chubbys’ who kindly let us store Soap’s ice leg wraps in their freezer.
Day 3 and Soap’s legs were a little filled in the morning as he is used to being turned out so I took him for a short hack round the steeplechase field to walk it off, and by the time we came back they had gone down. I was expecting him to feel a bit jaded after all the exertion of day 2, but he was perky, and trying to spook at some sheep so it was business as usual. With very few clean clothes left I cobbled together an semi-smart out fit for our 2nd trot up, and he passed so onto the SJing! I had all the pointers and tips from Rosie ringing in my ears as I warmed up for our round, and I managed despite the very small warm up area to practise a couple of exercises she suggested, and Soap was feeling great. We jumped about 6 warm up fences and I only put him on a duff stride once so just one down in the warm up. Entering the ring I could feel him tense up and when I asked for canter he shot off hollow and on the wrong leg, I halted him, got the outline back asked again and off he went into a lovely SJ canter. I was so mindful not to let the past 10 days, hard work, and hard earned cash go to waste that I knew the 1st fence had to be perfect otherwise it would all go downhill. Great spot to the first and clear, nice corner to 2, and clear, over 3 a square oxer where I just ‘supported with the leg’ and didn’t fire him then dog leg to 4 and still clear!. Round the back of 8 to fence 5 and clear, then through a long 1 strided double 6ab and still clear! Onto 7 another oxer fab over that, then a nasty wonky line to 8 I checked he stuck his head up and we scrabbled over clear, got it back together for a big white oxer at 9 with just the final double to go! At this point we were on course to scoop 8th place, but sadly my ‘SJ stamina’ ran out and I fluffed the last double and we had both parts down. I was so so pleased with him though I finally feel like we have found our SJ mojo, I know how to ride him, and we are both keeping our cool (over 9 fences anyway!) Rosie has done a fantastic job, and those 8 faults were all my fault not his. So with 8 to add we completed on 42.2 in 14th place. I was overjoyed he showed such improvement I felt for once like I could ride a good SJ round. He was a total star over the 4 days, well behaved, bold, honest, and attentive, I couldn’t ask for a better horse. As we all had such a lovely time, and buoyed up by our SJ improvement my Mother very kindly offered to buy us a Total Recall video of our steeplechase, XC, and SJ so watch this space as it should arrive in a few weeks, and I can’t wait to watch it!
New Sponsors for 2010…
A big thank you also has to go to my 2 new sponsors for 2010. Kan Teq have very kindly provided me with a brand new Kan Teq ladies back protector (which you can see me wearing in my day 2 pics) it’s great for me as I have asthma and find normal back protectors very restricting, and hard to breathe in, but the design of the Kan means it fits like a hug and expands and moves with you as you breath. I am totally sold on the product, and also very grateful as my old back protector was well past its ‘use by date’
Secondly I am now very lucky to be sponsored by Crossgates, they produce natural remedies for animals and humans and I used 3 of their products across the 4 days to reduce swelling, stiffness, and to keep our nerves under control, and will definitly be using them for future competitions.