It seems like a decade since we cantered through the finishing flags at MK3DE my last event of last season so I was excited, nervous, and just keen to get going again as we set off for Moreton BE90. I’m not sure why (I think because I have terrible geography skills, and thought it was miles away till I looked at a map!) but I have never entered Moreton before so was looking forward to competing at a new event. We arrived with time to walk the XC and as I picked up my number they informed me that times were running an hour late for dressage and half and hour late for the jumping phases due to the frost. This gave us loads of time to walk the XC, and fit in a SJ course walk which is a real novelty for me as I almost always miss this opportunity. I tacked and studded up in a leisurely fashion and I was moaning at Soap for not keeping his back foot still as I was trying to screw in a stud when a very sloppy poo whistled past my ear! Seems he was a little excited too and I narrowly avoided getting an impromptu organic face mask!
I asked him for lots of stretching in his walk and trot work in the dressage warm up, and he was softening and using his back nicely, I ran through a few of the test movements and was pretty happy with them. They were running a little ahead of time and asked if I would like to go early and so in I went. Soap tensed up as soon as we moved into the dressage field and decided that he wasn’t going to go forwards and if I dared put my leg on him he would canter. In hind sight I should have done another 20mins of transitions to get him really connected and moving, but it’s the first event of the season and I blame that judgement mistake on me being a bit rusty after the winter! He did a sweet test but it wasn’t forwards enough, and he broke his left lead canter because he wasn’t soft through his back. Despite that he got a good mark of 35.5 which put us 7th in our section after the dressage which is our highest post dressage ranking to date so I was very pleased.
Next the dreaded SJing our weakest phase. We have really been concentrating on our canter and getting the power and popping a few small jumps at the end of each lesson to improve Soap’s SJing which has been going well, but still the site of a full length up to height course made me a little nervous. Whilst warming up I watched a lady go round and her horse basically looked like Soap last season, one minute fast, running through the bridle, but at times under control and clear. Watching this was a real wakeup call and I gave myself a quick talking to about being ‘the driver’ and not letting him get away with going that little bit faster or cutting corners, and it worked. We went in and I asked for soft neck, good canter and brought him to the first fence all the time thinking about having ‘my legs connected to his eye balls’ (thanks go to Lucinda Green for that imagery) and making sure he locked on to which jump was next and kept in front of the leg, and into the contact. He popped the first and 2nd nicely, but I checking him for fence 3 which was on a dog leg too late and he stuck his ears in my face and inverted over the fence having it down. I picked him up collected again, rode my corner to the 4th and he popped it well, then the 5th, over 6a 6b nice wide balanced powerful turn to 7 then picked him up again and over 8 to finish with just 1 down! This is Soap’s best ever SJ result and I was over the moon he had 2 time to add because we had ridden quite wide lines, but I am overjoyed at the improvement he has made. Last season he was averaging 3-4 fences down and on our worst day CR! So dressage of 35.5 plus 4 SJ and 2 time we went to the XC on 41.5 lying about 12th.
XC is our fave phase and the course was lovely they had done wonders with the ground rolling it and laying down sand to soak up the mud, and all the uphill’s and downhill’s round the track made it feel like a ‘proper XC test’. This was the first time we had ridden in our new XC colours and if I was feeling superstitious I could possibly blame the imminent XC gaff on this, but honestly it was just me being blonde. Soap bounded out the start box and got a great stride to the first 3 fences, up the hill past the Novice squirrel fence which he gave a wide birth, and over a house and log then down a very steep hill. At the bottom of the hill was an angled drop to a pheasant feeder this was nice, but to get to the drop you had to ride through quite a tight gap between the PreNovice and Novice fences. This baffled Soap a little as he was thinking about attempting to jump one of them! With him it’s not an issue but with a green horse I don’t really like fences arranged like this as it encourages them to canter past jumps, and the fence they are intended to jump comes as quite a surprise not giving them enough time to asses it.
Off the step over the pheasant feeder and onto a log wagon, then 8a and b an angled sharks teeth. I didn’t get him back and bouncy enough for this so he jumped 8a and popped 8b to the left hand side of the fence not giving us much room to make the 90degree turn to the skinny number 9. Like a wally I turned him tight and he didn’t have enough oomph, and hadn’t quite realised I intended him to jump it until too late so cue Soap’s 2nd ever XC fault in 4 seasons (his 1st one was rider error induced too!) I should have continued to ride out left make a big curve and approach straight but hey ho lesson learnt the hard way and it won’t happen again! Quickly circled and popped it and on we went, he flew the chair, didn’t event hesitate at the water and out over a crocodile! Up the hill to a roll top, down into the woods and over a very narrow chunky log which was catching a lot of people out. It was in under the trees and there was a large tree to the right of the landing which on approach made the gap to land look fairly small. Soap steadied up and popped it without a 2nd thought. Then just 2 more logs and a couple of nice big brushes and home. We picked up 20pens for the stop, and 6.2 time which means he was good on the time and probably would have been on track for a clear had I not stuffed things up!
All in all I was thrilled with his performance, it’s just me that needs to pull my socks up! I can’t wait for Munstead BE90 at the end of the month to get back in that SJ ring and see whether the SJ improvement was just a fluke! I sincerely hope not!