Red Arrows & “Small Pointies” Going AWOL @ Crown Farm ODE

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Finally after 4 months of waiting (due to my new saddle being in production and then a freak muscle strain he needed to recover from) Dustry and I entered Crown Farm 80cm ODE. It was time to dust the cobwebs off my cross country colours and pack up ‘The Beastmobile’ for a days eventing.

Having not been between the white boards and done dressage on grass since….errrmm….October last year Dustry managed to contain his excitement pretty well. The ground was hard and slippy so I studded up with ‘little pointies’ (yes that’s what all the pros refer to them as I’m sure) and tried to ride an accurate and obedient test. I didn’t ask for too much from him in the paces because he can easily be unbalanced, then start to hollow and run especially on slippy sloped going.

He performed a sweet test, only showing his nerves when tension made him break his right lead canter along the long side so we lucked out with a duff score of 4 for that movement. The RAF Red Arrows must have got my memo about doing a ‘Good Luck GHE’ fly by as they passed directly over our heads mid test. Not ideal for some but Dustry carried on oblivious to this aerobatic display team and its deafening rumble. God love him for some things.

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We scored 34.8 and were laying 11th after the dressage phase. Not too shabby little horse, not too shabby at all.

Back to do a quick tack swap and off to the SJ warm up aka ‘almost certain death for Chloe!’ Dustry does NOT like busy warm ups, but he does like jumping. That heady combination of excitement and fear is quite something to sit on I can tell you!. The warm up was packed so after dipping our toe in the water with a little trot round I retreated to stand and wait outside the ropes at a safe distance until things died down a little.

The wind picked up at this point and it was just at this moment as I was passing the warm up fences that the planks fence inside the arena was blown down making a hollow plastic clatter and the horse jumping the practice jump parallel to me demolished it in fine style, creating another huge crashing noise. Dustry shrunk to about 3 inches long and started to groan and pogo (this is usually the precursor to something rather explosive!!!) so quick as I could I stuck as much leg on as possible and tried to ride forward and out of the situation. Thank fully I lived to tell the tale.

Our number was up and I was relieved to get into the ring where he and I could just concentrate on our round. Focussing on keeping him soft and round in the neck, keeping my hands down (I have a bad habit of raising them like a Kangaroo when tense) and riding forwards but not flat to the fence. He jumped a fab round, only getting a little close to the planks and rattling the final fence as I let him get a little too flat on the downhill approach.

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4 faults for 1 pole down, I’ll happily take that! Again we were woefully ring rusty having not jumped a round in competition since…..October (can you see a pattern emerging here? We last evented at Tweseldown read the blog here) we also picked up 11 time penalties which I thought was a bit odd as we didn’t hang about, but only 9 people in the section did’t pick up time pens so I think the course was measured pretty tight.

Quick wash off and refuel before setting off to the xc warm up. My parents unexpectedly turned up to watch so I handed custody of D over to them whilst I got togged up in my xc gear. Teeeeeechnically Dustry belongs to my Daddyo as I borrowed the money to buy him and haven’t quiiiiiiiiite got round to paying him back…yet….I said I’d re-pay him from our winnings…..he might be waiting a while!

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Dustry gets super excited about XC (which bit doesn’t he get hyped about you ask? good point) and he sweetly popped a couple of practice fences, I presented him to the third and he skidded to a halt and almost ditched me, the beast!

Represented on a perfect stride and over he went. I thought to myself that if he was going to be sticky I would have to really attack the first few fences, to make his mind up for him. We set off and he popped the first log but then took hold of the bit and ran into the bottom of fence 2 slamming on the breaks at the last minute. I circled, gave him a smack down the shoulder and jumped it, and over the wall at 3.

I was having some rather awkward steering and control issues at this point as I tried to ride a good line to no 4. Again he stormed off with the bit and stopped. Somehow I managed to gain enough control to circle and he jumped through nicely. Then the big blue poles at 4 he also stopped at but in a more sticky green goggly way this time. I was beginning to think what on earth’s going on??!!, when he suddenly seemed to switch gear and start taking me towards the fences.

We flew over the castle and up the hill through the woods, over 7 and 8 and I got him back and bouncy for a lovely leap up the step at 9, on to the next double and hay rack. By this stage he was VERY STRONG and I was rapidly running out of strength. By the time we got to the water I was actually glad to have the help of the fence in backing him off, and he popped through it really nicely.

Big thanks to ‘Holly Groom’ for videoing this bit and the commentator for the best sponsors shout out ever – BOOM!

Crown Farm Water Jump 2015Well yesterday was a ‘2 out of 3 ain’t bad’ kinda day!Mid dressage test we had the RAF Red Arrows fly over head!!!!…not ideal, but we scored a respectable 34.8 with one error of test putting us 11th after phase 1 and in contention…SJ was causing carnage and we had a VERY unsettled warm up as D hates busy pre-rings so I was glad to get in the arena on our own. He was clear till the last where I just let him run on downhill a little and he took the top pole off, so 1 down and some time.XC I wasn’t sure how he would be not having evented since last year and he had 3 very sticky, slippy, green stops at 2, 4 and 5 which rocked his confidence. I gave him a kick and got after him and he flew round the rest inc the step up and the water, but I would have preferred a LITTLE more control. Felt like a frazzled fraggle clinging on by the end! Got back to the lorry to wash off and discovered missing studs on one front hoof so no wonder he was sticky at the XC start (He hates feeling like he can’t trust the ground so I stud him for every phase) with that mystery solved I am pretty chuffed with the rest and he gets new holes tapped in a week so no more awol studs!’Holly Groom’ snapped this water jump footage for me. How’s this for a SPONSORS’ SHOUT OUT? Hey Mountain Horse Protexin Equine Premium Kan Teq Carr & Day & Martin??? 😉

Posted by Gift Horse Eventing on Monday, 20 July 2015

Down the hill he stormed off again, all the while I’m hanging on like a frazzled fraggle trying to keep to a suitable speed, over the final 5 fences and home.

I was absolutely exhausted!!! He was not.

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Whilst washing off, claying legs and cooling down I noticed that he’d lost some front studs. Mystery of the sticky start solved! He hates slippy going so I always stud him for every phase. I think the lack of grip from his missing studs unsettled him at the start and resulted in the skiddy stops.

I think in all the time I’ve been riding I’ve only ever lost a stud about twice so I didn’t even think to check this as a potential reason for his hesitance, I will next time…

Despite the eventual cricket score I was pretty pleased with his performance. After a long break and less than ideal prep the 2 phases which I am usually weakest at went pretty well and I’m sure the xc wobbles will be eliminated next time out with a full compliment of ‘small pointies’ in place.

Checking the results and working out my hypothetical placing (as I always love to do, don’t tell me you don’t!) If we’d managed a clear xc inside the time (which isn’t an unrealistic feat for him) we would have ended up 7th, so…..pleasing to see we were in contention until then.

Off to take the beast show jump schooling next to get our eye in, and work on adjustability in the canter, not simply stop and go! I think our next event will be Elmwood which seems like aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages away but having scoured the interwebs I can’t find anything suitable sooner. Waaaaahhh!

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