Preparing for Hopetoun
After my technical 20 penalties at Fontainebleau earlier on, I needed to regroup and find another CCI2* to enter. We all sat down in the kitchen perusing the calendar. These events are not as common as the CCI1* and in fact are quite short on the ground.
Hopetoun was the only event that was feasible, giving apple 6 weeks in between the French and Scottish event. It was also familiar hunting ground for me as I had done the 1* there when it was first introduced with Millie, or the white witch of Narnia, as she was often affectionately called at home. A master plan was formed and I started working towards that goal with all my coaches.
Roll on 5 weeks and it was time to prepare the lorry, load it with food and all the paraphernalia associated with a three day. The French federation had asked us to look after another young rider, currently on work experience with Ben Macclumpha. I was pleased to have a new friend and was looking forward to meeting Lucie Saint Nicolas.
On the road
The long journey north started on the Wednesday. It was quite uneventful. Apple came off the lorry her usual fresh self, high tailing it and passaging down to her stable. The queen had arrived and was making sure everyone looked at her. What a diva !We had also entered Denver for a CIC1* and he was completely unphased by all this fuss.
Thursday passed in a blur, mainly due to the fact that they both needed to work three times if I was to get a dressage test out of them. It was literally on one, off the other, FOOD, repeat and dodge the showers.
Soon enough it was dressage day. I had Apple first and she did a lovely test even though I went wrong in my canter work (sack the jockey!), I still managed a 44.9. This put an immense smile on Sam Ecroyd’s face who was following me in as he crept in front with a 44.5. We have had a friendly rivalry since pony days and it was fun telling him that he can only get in front when I make a mistake!! This prompted quite a few laughs on both sides. We are good friends. This left me in 5th overnight.
Next came Denver. I had no expectations as he has only done three novices, is big, gangly and a bit cocky (a bit like Sam really) Wonder whether this is why he wants to buy him? He was a little tense but I was so pleased with him. It was a first time in a big arena and he gave me a good indication of what a class horse he will be. We scored a 52.2. It was good enough to be 4th overnight with more dressage the next day. I was a happy bunny. Time for a quick change and course walking. I always course walk on my own first but this time I went with Lucie.
walking the course
It is fair to say that it was big, it was bold and I am glad Mum no longer walks the courses. I went and looked at it again on my own. I did not look at the 1* track as I did not want to confuse myself. I was very fortunate that our friend, Chris Otty the irreverent commentator, had asked Matt Ryan (3 Olympic Gold medals for Australia) if he would walk the course with Lucie and I first thing in the morning. We all had a lovely supper and went to bed early. We did not sleep particularly well as we were parked two lorries down from the Irish. They had some sort of drinking game going on.
Note to self : check before you park next time dad.
time to jump
Saturday dawned, jumping day. Denver was show jumping at 11ish but before that it was course walking with Matt. It took two hours. Amazing. A bit like walking Belton with my mentor, Cutty Cohen. His advice was invaluable. I had to rush back to SJ Denver. He warmed up fantastically but I did not know how he would react to the big arena, flags, kiddy ride and bouncy castle. He was fab. We went in, he jumped the first fence and everyone went quiet. He was at the top of the wings! Needless to say we went clear. He finished 5th overnight.
We had a bit of lunch that Mum had prepared and we got ready for the cross country. I was first to go and Lucy followed 30 mins later. Mum went to the finish with all the buckets and sponges and dad saw me off. Apple was quite fresh in the warm up but once we were on course, she gave me a foot perfect round. I also was on the optimum time. OVER THE MOON! We did all the usual things and waited for Lucie. It was not long and we saw her beaming smile. We did not need to ask how it had gone. Two very happy girlies. I also found out that I had crept back up and was lying in 4th overnight. All to play for on Sunday afternoon.
finally cross country day had arrived
Sunday arrived soon enough. I was out walking Apple at 7.30am and gave her a little trot on the road. She felt amazing and I was very pleased with her. Both horses flew the trot up and we returned to have breakfast. We had competition mix. That is egg and bacon. Well Dad had a bit of extra. Mum gave him the biggest boiled egg thinking it was a double yolk. No. As he started taking the top of it. We saw feathers ! Well that was it. Mum starting heaving and I could not stop giggling.
It had rained heavily during the night and this coupled with all the sharp showers demanded a rethink. My main objective of the weekend was to get a qualifying score for the Europeans to be in contention for selection. With this in mind and knowing that there are not many CCI2* around, I decided not to run Denver XC. He is quite a big horse that I would need all my strength to keep balanced on a hilly, slippery ground. He is going so well at the moment that I only want him to have good experiences.
The showjumping was in the afternoon, starting at 2.45. I was so bored that morning. I just wanted to get on with it. Eventually we all got there. Mum and Dad held the horses whilst we course walked. Lucy sj before me and went clear. She finished 15th overall. She is delighted with her score. That little horse is amazing and so kind. Never put a foot wrong all week.
Sam the man jumped clear and that made me determined to do so too. Apple did not disappoint. She was pure class and I understand why Di Lampard said to me that she would come out of retirement for her. We ended up 2nd as Olivia Craddock lowered a fence.
Last word goes to Sam’s mum : “We just can’t beat you”. You’ll have your day big man. Everybody does.
I have now been invited to the final trial at the Haras du Pin in Normandy, first weekend of august with Apple.