Rabson Manor ODE – Two 3rds BRILLIANT!

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It seems to me that if I’m at risk of frost bite or heat stroke then it can mean only one thing….I’m competing that day! Now I’m not just doing that typical British thing of bemoaning the weather, it really was an absolute SCORCHER, and the prospect of slipping on a tweed jacket was making me want to weep.

Off we set, cool box, sun cream, isotonic drinks and sunglasses in hand to Swindon Riding Club’s ODE at Rabson Manor. This was Bolly and I’s first ODE together back in October (refresh your memory here if you like) and so we had a fair idea of what to expect.

The XC last time was HUGE and very tricky with loads of people retiring or being eliminated so it was nice to walk a much fairer if still very up to height course this time around (props to Swindon RC for a fairer test). Sadly the further round the course we went the more my heart sank as I made the mental note that I wouldn’t run B on the ground. Credit to Rabson Manor as they had done a great job with the fences all of which had artificial surface on take offs and landings, but there really is nothing you can do about the weather (and it’s not feasible to water an entire course for a RC comp) and as a result the rest of the fields were parched, cracked and hard. I weighed up my options and given the fact we’d already stormed round a harder version of this track last year, neither of us needed the XC experience, and with our sights set on Tweseldown ODE next month I decided to treat it as a combined training exercise instead…..*sigh*…because XC is my fave bit.

Our dressage and my riding has been revolutionised of late thanks to the expert eye and incredibly attentive teaching of Karen Shepherd. I can’t go into all her accolades (there are too many), but in short she’s bloomin’ brilliant! We began training with her last year and she’s helped unpick years of bad habits and bad teaching and now you might even go so far as to say that at times, if you squint, during a leap year, with a following wind, I could possibly pass for a dressage rider! With her words echoing in my mind I tried my best to “be more William” (can you guess who my riding position inspiration is?) “suck Bolly up in-front and swing”…yes I know it sounds odd but it worked because we scored 27! Yes 27!!! 73% in dressage speak! Off the back of last month’s combined training score of 29.5 I was over the moon to get another great score and best of all I got an 8 for my riding. Sorry I should really re-phrase that…..Karen got an 8 for my riding 😉 So looking at the score board after dressage we were in joint 1st position, what a way to go into the show jumping, and definitely not a situation I have encountered before! 20170618_173008 20170626_212205 Several wash downs later it was time to show jump, and so we made short work of the warm up just popping 3 fences and then going in to tackle our round asap so we could escape the increasing heat and flies. “My old mate” event rider and instructor Stephen Way has been helping us with our jumping and his words of wisdom were also ringing in my ears (although I can’t tell you precisely what words they are because they’re mainly rude!) as we started our round. Trying hard to keep my shoulders off Bolly’s shoulders, soften my hands, and ride positively towards the fence we took on the course. Just breathing on a pole over the second part of a down hill double at 9 but we went clear!

Bolly jumped great and that clear kept us in 1st position heading to the final phase. Although it was SO tempting to run XC given the position we were in I had to put my competitive ambitions to one side and head for home. Better to save it for another day than incur an injury at the start of our season, and rule us out for the rest of the year. Being sensible however is not the same adrenaline fix as blasting round the XC 😉

Back home and beaming I’m so pleased with how Bolly is going and how my riding has improved. We’ve got a great team around us now and it’s working wonders I just hope I can take all this positive experience and learning onto Dustry when he is back in ridden work.

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