I haven’t been to Tweseldown since 2009, so it was really nice to take a trip back there for Dustry’s 4th and final ODE of his short debut eventing season.
We had afternoon times so went early with plenty of time to walk the course in the morning. It was a scorcher of a day, not what I was expecting for late September at all! As we walked further round the course the layers came off and when we finished we sat in the shade watching the show jumping for a while with a nice cold drink and bacon butty! It felt really odd to be doing things this way round as the bacon butty ritual is typically a post XC treat!
The XC course was nice but did contain a few rather large fences (eg not 80cms by anyone’s ruler!) and a rather tricky water complex. At the water you had to go in, out, in then on the 2nd bank out there was a 90 degree turn to a narrow left handed brush fence. If anything was going to cause us problems I thought this would. You can see all the course pics on my facebook page, just click this post for more images.
The show jumping course looked lovely and since I last went to Tweseldown they have moved the SJ arena onto a lovely large flat grassy area (I think it is normally the parade ring for the racecourse) the course was fairly simple too with just one change of rein.
Warming up for the dressage Dustry spotted the show jumping from across the road and found that very exciting so we quickly moved to the other end of the warm up away from temptation! After 30mins he was going sweet as a nut and I was looking forward to producing a good test. As we got called to go in the steward informed me that I didn’t have the correct coloured tag on my hat, b*gger! I had to hop off, run to the dressage scorers’ box and get it tagged, then leap back on. All our warm up had gone out the window with this unplanned dismount and understandably the test suffered as a result. We ended up on 36, so fair but not what it could have been, but hey ho.
By the time we got to the show jumping warm up it seemed that all hell had broken loose, and I couldn’t quite work out why all the horses warming up looked wired, and then I realised! One particular competitor was being very vocal into, over, after and in-between the practise fences clicking, whooping, talking loudly, making funny noises and singing which was winding everyone up, especially Dustry! Too busy concentrating on trying not to fall off (and secretly wanting to gag said rider with their own stock!) to politely request they be quiet I tried to channel his excitement over a few fences instead. We jumped 2 actual practice fences and about 5 imaginary ones with bonus kung fu moves at which point I decided that it was best to call time on warming up and head to the ring where it would be quieter.
Unfortunately our vocal friend was the round before mine and seemed to be building to a crescendo as they progressed round the course! Dustry went into the ring like an electrified giraffe (not his best look!) and it took 3 attempts to get the correct canter lead at the start of the round. He was very well behaved and switched on in the ring and once jumping made no attempt to go bonkers after the fences. We had a few fumbles at our change of lead between 6 and 7 which was due to the tension, and that cost us time, and before the final fence he ran on through the bit for a few strides before I managed to channel him back on the line. He jumped a very confident (verging on cocky!) clear and we picked up 7 time faults. Despite the circumstances he did really well and as he gets more experienced we can push the pace in order to get round within the time.
Quick change around and off to the XC with the aim of a confident clear. The course was very twisty and as steering can sometimes be an issue I decided to play it safe for the accuracy questions such as the corner, water, and doubles. Out of the start box and away and D was loving it, he flew over the first 6 fences, getting in a little close to a few but gradually getting into his stride with each jump. 6 to 7 was uphill then a 90 degree turn about 4/5 strides and over a big roll top. We powered on up the hill then on the line I rode positively forwards and we met the big roll top perfectly, and he jumped fantastically clearing it by a mile, I definitely landed smiling after that one!
Over a few more fences and we were motoring on down a gorse lined gully when all of a sudden in the middle of the track in front of me was a family pram and dog!!! Now I know that Tweseldown is hard to navigate, that’s why I walked the tricky lines multiple times but even I couldn’t work out how they had ended up on that part of the course. I shouted ‘coming through’ and pulled up to a trot and the family scuttled to the side as I trotted by. Hoping that that was going to be the 3rd weird thing to happen today (hat tag-gate and playing musical warm ups!) we powered on to the water.
Dustry was brilliant into the water, no hesitation just boldly forging through and out over the narrow brush, getting in a little close but locking on to the question. Up the hill back towards the finish and final few fences and we were home clear – yay! We picked up 14.4 time faults some of which I think will have been due to our “rambling family avoidance measures”, but of the 36 starters only 13 managed a time fault free clear round which tells me that it’s a tricky course to get an optimum time on.
I was so pleased with him when we finished he has grown up so much over his first season and really feels like he’s getting the hang of this eventing milarky. To finish his début season with 2x double clears makes me really happy. Over the winter I am going to focus on dressage, showjumping, gridwork to improve his technique, with maybe the odd hunter trial thrown in for fun! Next year we can push on time wise and hopefully manage some events where we finish on just our dressage score. I think his progress is clear to see from his results below and I hope it continues to improve.