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Exciting Opportunity

we are launching a new syndicate structure.

Team Bragg at Jardy 2018

We are just returning from what can only be described as an awesome trip to France. We headed over there as quite a small team. Just myself, Simmone and the super groom that is Heather. Percy, Alcatraz and Zagreb were all on board. They travelled well and were soon settled in. All of them were feeling good from their prep runs at Barbary last weekend. The sun also followed us from the UK and we were soon enjoying the amazing facilities.

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2018 Year So Far

Its been a very patchy start to the season with a lot of the events being abandoned due to the excessively wet spring.  As I write this another competition, Withington has fallen to the bad weather and we’re all wondering what might happen with Badminton.

I didn’t feel as though I hit the ground running this year.  I know it’s down to the weather and ground but it’s still hard to accept when you don’t get the results you hope for.  We haven’t been able to turn our horses out at home because the fields are so wet.  Turn out with event horses is crucial in helping them balance their fitness levels and temperament.  Our horses have remained on their fitness programs yet haven’t had the events to go to or have the time out in the fields to blow off a bit of steam.  This always effects their performance when they do get a chance to compete as they’re very excited and feel extremely fresh.  Hopefully the weather will turn and the sun will shine, maybe we can then start our usual event season routines, after all, isn’t eventing a summer sport.

I have plenty of new rides this year ranging from BE100 through to advanced level horses.  It’s very exciting in the Team Bragg camp as we’ve got so many talented horses and so many enthusiastic and supportive owners.  I feel the next couple of seasons could see Team Bragg make a real stamp on the world event scene, the journey continues for world domination!!

Badminton is just around the corner and my two horses, Zagreb and Redpath Ransom are feeling well.  They haven’t quite had the smooth preparation that we’d planned but they’re both experienced horses and feel more than ready to take on the challenge.

It’s so exciting for me , the owners and all who’s involved with Team Bragg to be going to Badminton.  It’s a huge event and the aim for most of us.  I really hope I can do everyone proud and put in a solid performance.  It’s anxious times when you’re this close to the event, you can’t afford the horses top pick up a small injury or you may not go, will the horses comfortably gallop the distance on the xc, especially if the weather and ground is bad?  All these things run through your mind until you get there.  Once I’m there all of that anxiety and pressure goes and I really begin to enjoy myself.  If I’ve turned up I know my horses are ready, I know I’m ready and it’s now time for the other riders to watch out for me as we will be there 100% committed and me and my horses will push the other competitors to their max if they’re going to beat us.  It’s GAME TIME!!

Bring on Badminton!  I look forward to seeing everyone there, and don’t forget, if you see us on the course give us a cheer.  We love it!

2017 Round Up

After finishing well at Pau 4* with Zagreb in 2016 there was a bit more expectation on our shoulders for the 2017 season.  We were aiming for our first Badminton, the GB set up were beginning to show interest in us and we were hoping that we could spring board ourselves in to the top flight of eventing.  If you don’t know me very well this may seem quite ambitious but for those who do, this is my general mind set.  Aim for the top and at least you stand half a chance getting there.  We started off our training in the winter with a clear goal to make this happen, and with the hugely committed team of staff, owners and family around me we were going to give it a damn good shot!

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Pau 4* (France)

Pau was to be our second 4* experience and our first trip across into France to go eventing.  We were only taking Zagreb so we thought it best to travel with another rider to share the travel costs and the driving.  Kate Honey was very generous and offered us a spot on her lorry for the trip, and even better, her mother (Ruth Honey) had packed the food and happened to be a dab hand at the cooking.  I think we landed on our feet here!

Pau is situated in the south of France, it’s a lovely town with a beautiful back drop of the Pyrenees mountains and we were hoping for a bit of Autumn sunshine.

We arrived at the showground late afternoon on the Tuesday.  Zagreb travelled really well but I think he felt very happy to have a little hack and have a proper leg stretch and look around the event site.  We unpacked the lorry and got ourselves organised at the stables before settling down with a well earned glass of wine and dinner before an early night.

I was doing my dressage late Friday morning so I used the next couple of days to settle Zagreb and get his body really well stretched off so he would feel in the best condition possible for the competition.  He trotted up well and was feeling great, it was soon time for business!!

The judges weren’t throwing marks away, and all of the combinations were having to earn every point.  For most people, the trot work at the beginning of the test went well, but the last canter serpentine that included a couple of flying changes was dropping their mark down considerably.  It seemed the accurate mistake free tests were achieving solid scores.

I entered the main arena feeling very calm and Zagreb felt relaxed, it was up to me to remain composed and ride the test as if we were running through it at home.  It felt like it was going well and as I was riding through my right shoulder in I looked up to across the arena and caught sight that my score was trending in 1st place.  It was quite strange that this didn’t make me nervous but it filled me with more confidence, it was my time to show everyone what we were capable of.  The test continued well and we completed on a score of 43 that put us into 1st place!  All I remember is standing at the edge of the arena and seeing my wife jump on Yogi and give him the biggest hug ever.  I think she was definitely as excited as me!, and Yogi wasn’t complaining either!

Michael Jung did perform a few horses after me and put his European winning horse into 1st leaving me in 2nd going into the cross country.  A little annoying, but hey, I was lying in 2nd place in a strong field of horses and riders in only my 2nd ever 4*.

 

The cross country was very twisty, the fences weren’t as big as Burghley and maybe the course wasn’t as intimidating, but the turns and the technicality of the combinations were going to test the best.  The resounding feel as you walked the course was that you were being asked to commit to a combination over a big wide fence or large drop then be able to have total control to turn and jump an steeply angled or skinny fence.  This is where you need your horses to stay focussed and really want to get between those flags for you as there were so many opportunities to have a glance off.

In all honesty, being sat on a horse who is nearly 18hh, this wasn’t a course that was going to suit us.  Zagreb has a huge stride and is full of scope so he would prefer to have rolling terrain to gallop over.  This course was going to feel like you were on a scarelectric’s track and I wasn’t expecting it to feel nice to ride with all of the kicking and pulling that was going to be needed to negotiate it.  I was certainly grateful for all of the training exercises we do in the arena to get the horse supple and athletic.

Off we set, Zagreb settled well into a rhythm and he was jumping for fun.  He flew through the first water on a forward 3 strides and 3 strides. Many people had a run out here at the skinny fish place on an angle in the water after a big drop in but Zagreb locked on and skipped over it like it was a cavaletti.  It was a relief to enter the race course on the far side of the track as there were a few opportunities to open the horses up.  Zagreb was not liking me slowing him down all of the time for the turns, he is usually a very polite horse to ride across the country but he did feel as if he was getting a little frustrated at times.  He continued to jump really well and didn’t give me any concerns at all.  As we entered the main show ground area again Zagreb managed to catch the back of his front shoes while taking off over a fence and pull both of them off.  This was going to make it very difficult while galloping around the final twisty part of the course as he no longer had any grip in front.  I could feel his front feet slipping every time he landed from a fence and I knew I was going to have to step off of the gas so we could get home safely.  This again made it very frustrating for Zagreb as he is a bold and enthusiastic horse who always wants to get on with the job and there was me nagging him to be cautious and slow down before the turns.  He jumped home superbly but I could see my final timing markers slipping away from me which I knew could be quite costly to my final score.

We came home having incurred 12.4 time penalties which was a bit frustrating but importantly we were clear, the horse hadn’t had any awkward moments and he seemed well in himself.  We stayed inside the top 10, which was my aim for this weekend so over all we were very pleased.

After cooling Zagreb off we took him back to the stables for a well earned rest.  I replaced his front shoes and he received a soothing message and stretch before having some quiet time.  It’s really important to not let the horse stiffen up, so we returned later in the evening to walk and hand graze him and give him a short trot up to check he was comfortable and sound.  He seemed great so we rugged him up nice and warm and let him get some shut eye.

 

With Pau being so near the end of the season there was a really relaxed feel in the lorry park and everyone was in good spirits.  It’s such a lovely sport when you see all of the competitors, from several different nations all enjoying a drink and a dance together.  Some were celebrating a clear round and some commiserating a stop or a fall, but everyone was smiling!

It’s a hive of activity at the stables on a Sunday morning, the grooms are up at the crack of dawn feeding then walking the horses, vets are checking and trotting horse up and riders are working the horses.  I always give my horses a little hack and stretch off before the trot up so their muscles are warmed up and they can shake off any stiffness from the previous day.  Zagreb felt very perky and in super condition and seemed to have recovered really well over night.  It was safe to say he sailed through the trot up and we turned our thoughts to the show jumping.

The show jumping track was very big.  The distances were forward, the oxers were wide and the time was tight.  The first few riders struggled to make the time and there were plenty of rails falling.  This was a track that would suit Zagreb as he has scope to burn, and in general he’s very careful and wants to leave poles up.

Zagreb is a very big horse and I pay a lot of attention to warm up body as much as warm up him up just for the jumping.  By the time we actually start preparing for his competition round he is already worked in and I only jump about 8-10 fences.  If you can warm up well and save their energy for the arena I think you give yourself the best chance of jumping a clear round.

The main arena was jam packed with spectators and there was a super atmosphere.  This works in my favour with Zagreb as it lifts him and he is definitely one who likes to show off.  He felt great from the moment he left the ground over the first fence.  He popped around the course giving every fence plenty of air and jumped a fantastic clear.  I have to say I was ‘over the moon’ and a commenced a lap of appreciating punching the air as I went.  One of only 7 double clears and better still with all of the rails dropping we moved in to 5th position.

Overall I am very pleased with how the show went.  Of course I’m thinking that if Zagreb’s shoes had stayed on and we could have gone just a fraction quicker we could have been at the top of the leader board but he performed faultlessly in each discipline and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

What a way to close the season out.  I’m already looking forward to the 2017 season!

Again, a huge thank you to everyone involved in Team Bragg, our owners, staff, the horses and of course my family.  Without each and every one of you this wouldn’t be possible.  It’s now time to celebrate and enjoy all of our success in 2016  Bring on the party!!

Burghley

Well, we’ve made it to our first ever 4*.  Amongst the build up of training, getting the horses fit and competing all of the other horses of the yard, it hadn’t really sunk in where we were going.  It’s been a very long journey having started with these horses right from the beginning as 5 year olds through to now.  The ups and downs, the successes and the disappointments and all of the time spent riding these two guys in all weathers has brought us to this stage.  We are finally dawning upon one of the most prestigious competitions in our sport.

The most common question was ‘are you nervous?’.  My reply was ‘not at all’.  Whether it was naivety, but I was more excited.  Competitive people will be able to empathise.  You always want to excel within your chosen discipline, that is what keeps us driven, ambition keeps you striving to improve and succeed.  To actually get to this stage was a huge goal in my career and I was relishing the challenge.  I was going to make the most of it, I had nothing to prove, nothing to loose just lots to gain and plenty to enjoy so Bring It On!

Redpath Ransom and Zagreb were in the best shape of their lives and their preparation had gone really well.  I have an amazing partnership with both horses and they were coming here full of confidence so it was all to play for.

Once we were settled in we took the horses for a gentle hack and this was the first time we had chance to take in the size of the showground.  The park was stunning and as we were hacking passed the house I really felt that it was a privilege just to be here let alone be part of the main attraction.

Day one of dressage started with Zagreb.  He was drawn number 3 so we had a pretty early start.  As much as trying to put all of your schooling in to practice you are trying to make sure the horse is relaxed in this buzzing environment.  I had ridden him several times the previous day and I’d given him a light stretch and hack first thing.  Now it was game time!

My aim was to ride a mistake free test.  I wasn’t going to go all out and risk blowing his mind as this was his and my first time at such a high profile event and this was my opportunity to give him a great first experience at 4* of which we hope will be many more.  He coped brilliantly with the crowd and the cameras and gave me a fantastic ride.  He remained focussed and relaxed producing a fluent and pleasing test.  I know there is more expression in there and I could have ridden for a bit more but I was thrilled with his performance and we put a competitive mark on the board.  We were off to a good start.

Redpath Ransom was drawn on Friday afternoon which is probably when the show is at its busiest on the dressage days.  He has a history of getting flustered in an atmospheric environment so I knew I was going to have to work hard to keep him relaxed, this is a bit of a contradiction in itself but we were going to try.  He had put a great dressage performance in at Hartpury during his build up to this and he warmed up really well so we were hoping for the best.

To paint a picture for you as you enter the main arena and you get passed all of the officials and cameras to get to the dressage arena you have a huge smack in the face by hundreds of faces with their full attention on you.  It’s quite daunting as a rider and you know what’s coming so you can imagine what it must be like for the horses.   Redpath Ransom did unfortunately pick up on this and became a little anxious.  I started the test and tried to ride as normal as if there was nothing different and hoped he would settle but he made an early mistake where he broke in his extended trot into canter.  This was hard to recover from and I was riding a bit for damage limitation.  It was such a shame but I’m sure he would have learnt from this experience for the future.

With all of the boring stuff done we could now turn our attention to the cross country.  I walked the course 5 times in total, and I needed every one of them.  I’m not going to lie to you, the first time I walked it I thought it was HUGE!!  You get 2 fences to warm up then the fences are just massive from there on.  There were two water crossings very early on in the track which I knew would slow me down so I was going to have to be aware of this when I was thinking of how I was going to pace my way around the course.  After the crossings the next 2 minutes were all up hill, and when I say up hill I mean UP hill.  This was my first visit to Burghley and I would say that the TV cameras never do the hills and undulations of the park justice.  The climb through winners avenue up to the infamous Cottosmore Leap is relentless and gruelling.  We are not even 4 minutes into the course and the horses will have worked really hard already just to get to this point, oh, and then you have to jump the Cottosmore Leap, the biggest fence in our sport, in the world!

Next was the Dairy mound where you had to rise up the mound and jump a big corner set at a steep angle with no ground line.  The ‘B’ element was on a long 2 strides on top of the mound, you jumped a roll top table which landed you on to the slope down the mound and you had a curving 4 strides to a massive corner to finish.  There was a nice ground line on this one which I think would help the horses a lot.  Although the final corner was very big, I think the key to jumping this combination well relied on getting a good jump over the first corner.  You couldn’t afford to be tentative otherwise you wouldn’t make the 2 strides to the next element which would consequently give you a bad jump over element B and leave you running down the slope beyond out of control.  This was one of the toughest fences on the course.

If we skip passed some humungous jumps at about minute 7 you were at the trout hatchery.  There were so many options to jump through this water complex but my choice was to go the straight route.  You had a big log with a drop in to the first pond, a curving line to a brush corner and a continued curving line to a skinny brush in the second pond.  This was going to need balance and bravery from your horse to make this look good.

Nearing the end of the course was the Leaf Pit.  This is a massive drop and the ground runs steeply away on landing.  As you approach this it really looks as if you are asking your horse to jump off the edge of a cliff.  It is a very impressive looking fence and you should get some great photo’s here but I think it’s more of a rider frightener and most horses will probably make this look quite text book.  Its then onto the main arena for a straight forward combination, I know if I’m going through here I’ll be punching the air to get the crowd going and then it’s your run in to the finish.

So it’s as easy as that!!

Being 3rd to go didn’t give me any chance to watch any other riders go before it was my turn.  Sometimes this is a good thing as you have a plan and you have no reason to be distracted from it by seeing other people rounds.  As I left the stables the butterflies were whizzing around my stomach and I could feel my adrenalin pumping.  It’s really important to keep the horse calm so he can conserve his energy and to do this I have a very structured warm up.  As soon as I got into the routine I felt settled and calm and the excitement was building.

They called me quite late to the start box which gave me little time to take in everything and as I approached I was already on my 10 second countdown.  The buzzer went and we were off!  I jumped the first fence and as I turned the corner and jumped fence 2 all I could see as I galloped down our alley were hundreds of people ranking the edges.  They were all cheering and screaming good luck and It’s safe to it was one of the best feelings in the world.  I couldn’t help but smile as I was trying to take it all in.  It’s a memory that will stick with me forever, I was loving this show sooo much.  Zagreb did get a bit starey eyed going under the lions bridge when he seen all the people on the exit but once we were passed this he was off and it was game on.

At the next water crossing I was given advice to get in and kick on so to get ahead of the splash.  As I jumped in I was getting ready to kick and didn’t quite judge how steep the landing was and got thrown a little forward.  It was a bit of a rooky error but we were fine and the horse galloped through the water and jumped out like a pro.

We were into the course and Zagreb was travelling well.  We got over the Cottosmore Leap and this was the first time I’d ever felt Zagreb feel his legs a bit as we started our decent towards the Dairy Mound.  I think this is when you really know you are at Burghley and both you and the horse are going to have to work hard and dig deep to get around.  We had an amazing jump into the Dairy Mound and even if I do say so myself we had a great ride through and Zagreb showed his athleticism for such a tall horse.  We were growing in confidence and all was going to plan and the straight routes were all riding well.  We were straight through the trout hatchery and galloping well, all was going great and the horse felt fab.

We made our approach to trout hatchery and jumped in well, I made the six strides to the middle element well and had a super jump, I’d decided to ride for the acute line on 4 strides to the final skinny and this was our undoing.  Zagreb shortened his stride to balance up the slope and we didn’t quite get to our point of take off and he chipped in a small stride which caused him to hit his leg on the fence.  This sudden impact shot me out of the saddle and unfortunately that was the end of what was a super round up til that point.  Several emotions are running through you at that moment but the main thing was both him and me were fine.  It was more of a trip than anything else which shouldn’t affect his confidence in the future, it was just a frustrating incident that will take me a little while to deal with.

It was important for me to get passed my ride on Zagreb and concentrate on Redpath Ransom and get ready for his round in the afternoon.  I took myself off with my daughter and watched a few other peoples rounds to kill a bit of time in between.  The weather took a turn and the rain started to fall which was making the ground a lot softer to ride on.  This was important to take notice of as it would tire the horses out more.

The plan from the camp was to get a score on the board with Redpath Ransom, not to worry about the clock and to focus entirely on getting a clear round and getting home.  I set off in a sensible rhythm so to pace ourselves and we were soon settled and travelling well around the course.

I would describe this horse as ‘solid’.  He knows exactly where his legs are, he’s sharp and makes quick adjustments and always seems to rebalance himself immediately if something goes wrong.  This was evident when we came to capabilities crossing.  This is a deep round crossing where the banks of the road are exceptionally steep.  As you rise up the slope after crossing the road there was a double of rails.  He left a ley at the first but he righted himself in the middle and jumped out over the second as if nothing had happened, it’s like he’s got a built in spirit level and just stays so composed.  What a talent.

He jumped his way around all the straight routes with his ears pricked always looking for the next fence.  We approached the Trout Hatchery well and as he jumped in he had a small stumble.  I’d seen a lot of riders fall here, and it seemed as if there was a hole that the horses were catching, so as soon as I felt this happen I cancelled going straight and wiggled my way through the complex via the alternative fences.  This cost me a lot of time but we were all importantly still clear.  I planned to go the alternative at the Discovery Valley after having my little mishap earlier here and we were through this and galloping towards the end the course.  He jumped into the leaf pit and again show cased his adjustability on the approach to the skinny after the drop.  As we jumped through the main arena I punched the air as promised and the crowd responded which gave us a huge lift as we commenced are homeward gallop.  All I was thinking here was, don’t make a silly mistake and make sure you get over the finish line and there it was, the Landrover Burghley fence, the last fence on the course.  Wow I love that fence!!  I jumped that to cheers from all of our team, what a feeling to complete our first 4* at arguably the toughest event in the world.  It was safe to say we were all over the moon and immensely proud of Redpath Ransom.

Dealing with the press is fairly new to me and I’m not one to be able to keep my emotions locked in.  It’s very exciting especially when you’re still pumped full of adrenalin, but apparently that’s all good for TV.

Time a few drinks to celebrate!!

Trot up at a 4* is as much about checking the horses as it is a fashion show.  Redpath Ransom trotted up well and apparently so did I.  I’ve received a bit of ribbing about my tightish pair of jeans that got plenty of attention on Horse and Country TV.  Very funny but also a bit cringe worthy.

The show jumping was what you’d expect but it was noticeable how gruelling the cross country had been as there were plenty of tired horses.  We didn’t jump too much in the warm up as the ground was deep and heavy and I wanted to keep as much petrol in the tank for the main event.

Redpath Ransom tried his heart out and was leaving the ground well but was clearly tired in his lower back.  He tapped a few fences with his hind legs where he was slow to throw his back end away.  Although on paper we would have hoped for better we were all so pleased to complete and thrilled with the horses effort.  He’s proved he’s capable and I’m sure he will grow from this experience and come back next season stronger and wiser.  He has now earned a nice break to recover and chill out.

Zagreb will probably re-route to Pau 4*, and we will be hoping for a super performance there so we can enter both of these horses for Badminton next spring.

I’d like to thank all of my owners, my super groom Chloe Howson and my wonderful wife Simmone.  With out them this really wouldn’t happen and it really is a dream come true for me.  I can’t wait for the next one!

 

Hartpury International

We descended on Hartpury with a half of the team of horses.  We had Dartans Albert and Spypark Ferro XS in the CCI 1*, Swang Crackers II in the CCI 2* and Redpath Ransom and Zagreb in the CIC 3*.  It was going to be a busy week but full of fun.  It’s great to turn up to a top show with a group of super horses all feeling in tip top condition.

Everything went well with the trot ups and we were ready to get started with an epic 2 days of dressage.  It’s not my favourite bit, especially when you have no jumping to look forward to in between, but it is so very important to make a good start in order to be competitive.

Spypark Ferro XS was first out for us early on the Thursday.  He performed a brilliant test with just one small mistake at the end.  He produced some fantastic work for a great mark of 48.2. This was just the start we needed!

Next up was Redpath Ransom in the CIC 3*.  We had done some pure dressage in preparation for this event and it seemed to really pay off.  He stayed more focussed and produced an accurate test for a great score for him at this level of 50.  I was definitely beaming with confidence after this super start.

With day one of dressage complete there was a few cross country courses that needed walking, and, oh!! A little party to celebrate my Birthday!  I set off to walk some courses and on my return to the lorry everyone had got together, the BBQ was going and the wine was flowing.  It was so nice for everyone to make an effort in the middle of a busy season.  I received some good presents which I was asked to put on and display all at the same time.  This did make for a fantastic photo opportunity which everybody took full advantage of.  You won’t find me posting any pictures of that so if you want to see them you’ll have to hunt out the members of the paparazzi who took them!! lol.

Day 2 of dressage and Dartans Albert was on at 10am.  He began his test well but unfortunately for him it seemed prime time for people to come and get their breakfast from the food area which did produce a fair bit of noise.  I know that the training of the horse should keep them focussed, but for an inexperienced like him it was to much of a distraction and whoop, we were off!  After one fairly impressive spook he became quite unsettled in his canter work.  This is such a shame as this is normally a highlight in his test and to loose marks here was not going to bode well with his final score.  We did complete the test, all be it with several mistakes, but I’m sure this was an experience which  he will grow from in the future.

Zagreb was up next and he was feeling better than ever.  He performed a much more mature test with very little wrong.  He had some super highlights and was rewarded with a fab score of 43.4.  This was his final run before Burghley and it seemed all of the training was coming together at just the right time.

Last of the day and last to go in the 2* was Swang CrackersII.  She did her test indoors which can create quite a bit of atmosphere.  She coped very well and concentrated throughout.  She could of shown a bit more suppleness in her lateral work for the higher marks but she produced a competitive test that actually brought her owner Naomi Roe to tears.  I think the music in the background helped but it shows how much these horses mean to everyone and I was so happy to see how proud she was of her horse.

I was now very much looking forward to doing some jumping and all of the horses were in great positions going in to Saturday.  An early night was in order before a day which would consist of 2 show jumps rounds and 5 cross country rounds.  Bring It On!!

We were up bright and early to show jump the 3* horses over a big and technical course.  Redpath Ransom was first up and jumped a fabulous clear round to kick off the day in a really positive way.  The course was causing a fair few problems and several rails were dropping so I was hoping it wasn’t just luck with the first horse.  Zagreb showed his scope by cruising around the course as if he was schooling.  What a brilliant result to have 2 clears of only 15 in a class of 80+

My attention went straight on to the 1* cross country.  I thought this track was very inviting to the horses and should jump well.

Both Spypark Ferro XS and Dartans Albert gave me super rides and jumped their way around easily inside the set time.  It was great to see them recover so quickly from what was their first long format cross country.  Dartans Albert climbed several placing’s and Spypark Ferro was left just outside the top 10.  This was going to be exciting going into the show jumping tomorrow.

The 3* horses were next up.  This course was on the strong side, and in particular fence 4 seemed very tricky so early on.  It was a double or skinny rails that had large man made ditches in front of them on top of raised ground and as you jumped the second element the ground fell steeply away.  This was an accuracy question but because the distance between the two fences was a long 2 strides you would need to ride fairly forwards into it so you got close enough to the second fence so the horses didn’t have to over jump it and land to far down the slope on landing.  These are a lot of questions to ask of the horse all at one fence so early on.  You would hope your mount had it’s brave pants on and they had plenty of confidence and trust in you as a rider.

I left the start box on Redpath Ransom with this being his first run back after Bramham.  He was jumping everything with huge enthusiasm and maybe over doing it a little.  Never the less he felt absolutely awesome.  We negotiated the tricky combination at 4 well, but it did make him pick his knees up rather high.  I felt the effects from this a couple of fences later where he jumped into the first water absolutely huge!!  We recovered quickly and jumped through the double of skinnies in the water and headed up the hill.  He was starting to settle after the steep climb and became much easier to ride.  He cruised around the rest of the course taking all of the straight routes for a well earned clear.  This was due to be his preparation run for Burghley, as it was for many other riders and horses and I didn’t feel that it was a course that gave the horses confidence.  It would be nice if they altered a few things for next year so that the course rewarded the horses that were jumping well instead of continuingly surprising them.

I rode Zagreb a bit more confidently out of the start box so we were attacking these difficult combinations from the off.  He showed his experience and didn’t get phased by any of the fences and gave me a thrilling round.

I was so pleased to have 2 double clears, Redpath Ransom finishing in the top 20 and Zagreb in the top 10.  First lot horses finished and the first prize giving attended!

Last but not least was Swang Cracker II.  She was last to go of the day in the 2*.  I thought this was a very difficult course for this level but all of the fences were built well and it seemed if you were brave it should ride well.

I left the start box in a steady rhythm, this was my first ever long format course with this horse and I didn’t know how her stamina and fitness would fair so I was edging on the side of caution.  She settled into the course quickly and I was able to up the pace.  She flew around the track seemingly growing with confidence at ever fence.  She took up the challenge and stormed around for a fantastic clear with only a few time penalties!  What a brilliant day.  Clear all the way for all of the horses!

Sunday morning brings the dreaded trot up for the 3 day horses.  All of the team are up early walking the horses, as well as cleaning and plaiting them ready for the inspection.

All 3 of our horses passed so it was time to focus on the show jumping.

This was the first time Dartan’s Albert has had to show jump after the cross country.  He is usual an excellent jumper but anything can happen the day after cross country with horses feeling more tired than normal.  He didn’t let us down and jumped a very perky clear round to finish his first 3 day eventing experience on a high.  As the class went on it was apparent that there weren’t going to be too many clear rounds.

Spypark Ferro XS hadn’t lost any of his jump from his exertions the previous day.  He powered over the fences giving them acres of space to jump a quality clear, now all we had to do was wait and see how the top end of the class would get on.  I popped him back to the stables briefly when I received a phone call saying we were needed for the mounted prize giving.  The rails just kept falling and he moved in to 7th place.  What a brilliant result in his first 3 day event, he had exceeded all of expectations and to say we thrilled was an understatement!!  Another prize giving.  Whoop whoop!

Crackers was feeling a little fatigued after giving her all around the tough 2* cross country but I feel in her last couple of competitions she has really started to fight for me and give 110%.  She was going to need to dig deep as it was a big and square show jumping track so hopefully my feelings were right.

We started the round quietly and she jumped so high over the front rail of fence one she tapped the back rail off.  This is not a good start when you have 15 more efforts ahead of you.  It did seem to wake us up and she gave the rest of the course her all.  The one rail did cost us a top 10 position but to get placed in top 20 in our first 3 day together was amazing!

To some it all up I would say it was a ‘peach of a show’.  All of the horses performed really well, all of the team involved, owners, helpers and supporters had a fab time, what more can you ask for.  The 2016 season is seeming one of our best so far!

Barbury International

Barbury is a great showcase for eventing.  The showground is set in the middle of a natural bowl shaped depression which creates the feeling of an amphitheatre.  The difference is, as a spectator, you get to stand in the middle and all of the entertainment goes on around you.  This makes it a super event for owners, sponsors and the public as you can see about 90% of the action from one spot.

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Bramham

Here we are at our 2nd 3day of the season.  Bramham is always a huge challenge with its electric atmosphere and tough cross country course.  Zagreb and Redpath Ransom were very fit and raring to take on the task.

With Bramham hosting one of ‘Event Riders Masters’ legs the main arena was full of camera stands as well as all of the usual decoration.  We knew this was going to be a lot for the horses to take in when they entered the ring for the first time, especially with the atmosphere from the large crowds of spectators that Bramham always attracts.

Redpath Ransom struggled to relax in the dressage and although we performed an accurate test, he was tense throughout.  We weren’t the only ones but it did mean we were on a score of 60.1.  We have decided that we will register ourselves British Dressage and compete at some of the bigger venues so to get more mileage with the dressage in between events.  Hopefully this will improve his coping strategies during the test.

Zagreb also picked up on the atmosphere and decided the little gaps in the arena boards were very scary and did put in a couple of spooks.  He performed some really lovely elements in what must be the most electric environment he has experienced..We went forward with a score of 51.8.

On the Friday I gave Zagreb a little jump in the afternoon and he didn’t feel quite right.  It was with huge disappointment that we decided to withdraw him from the rest of the competition.  He didn’t need the qualification and we thought that it was best to save him for an Autumn 4*.  Bramham is not a course to tackle if you are unsure of your horses fitness and well being.  It’s a difficult decision, especially when you are a competitive person like my self, but the horses well being is paramount.

The cross country had more of a 3 and a half star feel about it.  The fences are always big and the terrain demanding and this course had several very challenging combinations.  It was going to take a brave and genuine horse to continue to jump its way around the course and stay positive.

I’ve had Redpath Ransom from the beginning of his career and I trust him implicitly, but this was definitely going to push us to our limits.  We set of from the start box in a steady rhythm so we could settle in to the course, and I wanted to make sure he had time to make good jumps over the beginning of the track.  He soon picked up the pace and grew in confidence with every stride.  Although he is relatively inexperienced, he has a very thoughtful head on his shoulders.  He assesses the questions that are asked of him quickly and is always thinking forward.  We jumped the straight routes throughout the course and he covered the ground really well.  I was able to keep pushing all the way to finish and we came home with a foot perfect clear and only 6 seconds over the time.  With only adding 2.4 time penalties to our dressage score we shot up the leader board and it was safe to say we were all thrilled with his performance.

We took some time to enjoy the  superb hospitality that Bramham offers with all of the crew involved at Team Bragg.  It has one of the best atmospheres that any show can offer and it’s so much fun to be a part of it and we had a great cross country round courtesy of Redpath Ransom to celebrate.

Sunday brings forth the early morning trot up.  We cruised through, even if I was cutting the time a little close which made the owners slightly nervous.  Oops!!

The show jumping track was absolutely massive.  It was all built to maximum height and spread and was full of technicality.  When you walked it, it looked big and square and it seemed as if it was going to take quite a bit of riding, especially the day after a gruelling cross country.

Redpath Ransom seemed settled entering the main arena this time and was totally focussed on his job.  He started his round very well but towards the end we had 2 late rails.  I’m sure it’s down to experience of him feeling fatigued on the final day and learning how he can cope when his body feels tired.  As much as a 3day event is physically demanding on the horses I believe that mentally they need to be tough to succeed.  This I think he will get better with as he gets more experience.

We know have two 4* qualified horses and after a short break these two will start their build up to Burghley.  Very exciting!!

Ballindenisk International

It was 2 years ago that we first travelled to Ballindenisk, and we had fond memories of the fantastic hospitality and the warm welcome we received on arrival.  We were looking forward to revisit.

We had Zagreb and Redpath Ransom on board and both were to compete in the CCI 3*.  It was Redpath Ransom’s first long format 3* so we were keen to see how he would cope with the longer cross country course and the show jumping on the following day.

This was the beginning of our plans to get the horses 4* qualified for the Autumn.

The dressage went well for Redpath Ransom.  He does suffer with his nerves in the atmosphere of a big occasion and this unfortunately can affect his relaxation in the test.  He did have some tense moments but also showed some of his class in other movements.  He received a respectable score of 58.

Zagreb performed a really good test for this stage in the season.  He was a bit cheeky in his flying changes but everything else was as good as I could of expected.  He was awarded a competitive score of 48.1.

The conditions for cross country were perfect.  They had worked hard on the ground so to offer the best going and the weather was dry but cool.  Redpath Ransom set of first and simply ate up the course.  He settled in to a lovely rhythm and skipped across the course.  The final minute I did feel him tire a little, and he started to jump a bit flatter.  I decided to set him up amore carefully because of this over the last few fences which resulted in us being 4 seconds over the time.  Still, not a bad effort for his first long format 3* cross country.

Zagreb was eager to have his go and flew out of the start box.  He showed all of his class popping around the course as if it were a schooling session.  We did have one little stumble at the final water complex where he slightly pitched on landing.  He recovered quickly and jump on home comfortably inside the time.

I was thrilled with both of the horses but we had to keep our eye on the show jumping the next day. so we went to work walking and stretching the horses off throughout the evening.

It was a decent show jumping track with big treble combination that was off of a difficult corner where the undulations of the ground made it difficult to get a balanced approach.  This caused most of the problems by far and unfortunately the middle element caught out Zagreb for a 4 fault round.  Redpath Ransom was a bit more tired on the final day and I had to help him create a powerful jumping canter.  As always he tried his heart out but the fatigue set in towards the end of the round and he had 2 late rails.  This didn’t really effect the result as the show jumping was causing many problems.

My 2 boys both finished in the top 10.  Zagreb 6th and Redpath Ransom 8th.

Not a bad effort at all.  The long journey home is always easier when you’re travelling back after a success!