As I walked further round the cross country course this thought popped into my head…. “I wonder if I could ask to move down to the smaller class?…hhhmmm No! Chloe, get a grip these only look big because you normally see all your XC fences from horse back, you’ve not jumped a 90cm course for 6 years that’s the only reason it looks big, they are not big….repeat they are NOT big”
More on that later…..
So Bolly, myself and “Mummy Groom” arrived at Rabson Manor for Swindon Riding Club’s ODE. Starting our eventing debut together in August wasn’t the initial plan this year but cancelled events in June, moving house, Dustry’s KS op and general life admin has got in the way until now. I entered Bolly and I into Class 3 which had BE100 dressage and jumping at 2’9”-3” (91cms max)
Bolly last competed at BE100 in 2009 and I think about 3/4 years ago he went round West Wilts ODE (not sure if 90/100) and then we popped round Larkhill hunter trial together when he first arrived. Other than that we’ve had 1x cross country schooling session together at Rabson last September. To say our preparation for this event was lacking in the XC phase would be an understatement!
Warming up for dressage was a little tricky I had opted to do it in my jump saddle which really isn’t helpful for my position balance when my leathers are longer. Bolly was also the most anxious I have known him to date (the competing on grass effect!). His back was up and he was mouthing his bit a little with nerves. I just concentrated on keeping him chilled and did lots of serpentines and transitions to get him listening and supple. After about 20mins warming in he was much better and producing some really lovely relaxed and forward work.
I made the rookie error of practising my test in the warm up on the opposite camber to the arena. I’m a little ODE rusty having not been out for a while and this sort of silly mistake I wouldn’t normally make. We went in for our test and it was very sweet. Bolly got a bit tense and stuffy in the second half and the scores showed that as they dropped from 7s to 6.5s. I had a total memory black out at the end of our 2nd serpentine when I suddenly thought ‘oh my god I’ve gone wrong and they haven’t beeped me‘. I did that classic dressage brain freeze thing of just carrying on large round the arena and thankfully by the time I approached the E marker I had remembered what I was supposed to be doing! Half circle 10m left onto the centre line and an unfortunate stumble from Bolly just before the halt and we were done. Salute – ta dah!
Pretty pleased with that for a first test on grass, we got a fair 35 and most of the section (22/34 riders) had marks in the 30-35 bracket when the final scores went up.
Quick tack change, boots on, whip, stirrups up and over to the SJ we went. This is where Bolly said ‘oh yeah I got this Chloe, I know what the game is, let me at ’em!!!‘ I asked for canter and B powered forwards almost loosing me out the back of the saddle!!! Such force and power and sheer glee to be out competing again is a joy to ride. We popped 4 warm up fences and he was flying!
Into the ring and bar one rather long stride in the related distance he jumped a lovely clear round spot on the time. That’s our 2nd round of SJs in comp at 90cm and our second clear. I’ve never had a horse this talented and to cruise round the course neat and clear is somewhat of a revelation to me! Smiles all round and as the rain started to fall even heavier we headed back to the lorry to get our XC gear on asap.
By this point ‘full English summer mode’ had set in and it was raining heavily, so somewhat soggy and with slippy reins we set off for the XC warm up. Bolly was ‘in the zone’ he knew what was coming and he wanted to get cracking. Quick pop over the practice fences and out the start box and we were away.
The first fence was a log pile and from the 2nd fence onwards they were up to height. Fairly straight forward course until fence 6 which was a double of oval shaped skinnies. Through these and onto a big tractor which lead to a massive roll top with brush on top. Swapped my whip into my left hand as we approached the corner and rode my line, straight and defensively to avoid a run out. Then on to a big castle fence that was related to a skinny upright. Down the hill over some sharks teeth then on to the rail-ditch-rail.
(To give you some perspective this is a shot of me sitting on the above jump when I went XC one time and jumped it on Dustry.)
It had a big deep open ditch and I haven’t yet ridden B over one of these. He jumped in over the rail and baulked at the ditch. He did that thing where they are considering leaping from a standstill but with the rail after to contend with and now no impulsion I thought better of it and circled him away to represent. The fence judge shouted ‘I hadn’t given you a refusal until you turned away as you hadn’t stepped back‘ ‘that’s ok, thank you‘ I managed to squeak out as I represented him and jumped the ditch and rail out.
Aware we now had 20pens I took my foot off the gas a little as time was no longer an issue. Up a step and towards the water which has a truly huge narrow roll top a few strides before the step into water then step out. This combo was not pretty and I rode for my life through it, but we got through and then had the trakhena to contend with. Positively, defensively and not too quickly given the wet conditions we headed at the Trakhena and he flew it!!
Into the woods over a rail, then circle fence, hay wagon, wonky table and back into the field coming towards home. At this point I was thinking ‘my god we’ve almost made it round that monster of a course!!!‘ and then I remembered the step down to a narrow and tall triple brush skinny. Focusing on keeping him forwards and on his line he flew that combo and I’m sure even people in the lorry park heard my ‘GOOOOOOOOOD BOOOYYYY‘. Just the final Rabson table to clear and we were round.
I was so happy, the track was a massive ask for both of us and with just one genuine blip at the smallest fence on the course Bolly ate up the rest of the fences. Curious to know if I was being a wuss or if the jumps really were as big as I thought I spoke to a few other competitors and they confirmed that most of the course was BE100 fences!!! Oooops!!! Looking on the Rabson Manor website it also states that they have fences up to BE100 and even judging by eye you could tell that the course was using the biggest fences there so we inadvertently ended up jumping BE100 xc.
The final scores went up and 20/34 competitors had been Eliminated/Withdrew/Retired at the XC phase, it was truly causing carnage. So even with 35 dressage, clear sj, 20xc and masses of time we placed 11th!!! If we hadn’t had the stop xc and just average time pens we would have finished in the top 5.
Buoyed by the experience and in the knowledge that a BE90 track will now feel much more comfortable I am looking at taking Bolly on a day ticket for a BE90 before the season is through.
I’m so chuffed with Bolly and how things are going. We’ve managed to achieve some good results in a relatively short space of time. So far in competition we’ve done:
October 2015 1st Larkhill Hunter Trial
June 2016 1st BD Prelim 19 65.45% Cholderton
August 2016 11th Swindon RC ODE
He’s so consistent in the jumping it’s a dream come true for me to have the ride on him. Having tried to ride goats and yaks (eg quirky ex-racers I bought for a song!) round coloured poles for as long as I can remember, whilst they ‘jumped by braille’ or tried to break land speed records he’s a total breath of fresh air 😉 Now we’re off to work on our dressage so that we are in a competitive position from phase one.
Onwards and upwards!