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Hartpury International 19th September 2016

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!