Welcome to my second blog for Saracen Horse Feeds.

Aston le WallsSince my last blog, Pops and myself completed our first Intermediate at Aston le Walls. We’ve been running Pops at Novices this season, and felt it was time for the step up. He did a lovely dressage test to score 37.1. We was a little disappointed with his mark as we thought he did a better test than that, but looking at the score board the marks were quite high in his section generally. He went on to jump an amazing clear showjumping round on a course which I thought looked huge. He felt really good cross country making light work of most of the combinations, he had a couple of little blips, but we aren't concerned.

With this being mine and Pop's first Intermediate, it's nothing that a little training over the next couple of weeks can't iron out. Overall we are so pleased with how he coped with the step up, he is more than ready, and after we get a few more miles under our belts at this level, we can start to be a little bit more competitive.

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Hartpury CCI*

So Wednesday the 10th of August we made the 4 hour trip to Hartpury NAF 5* International Horse Trials for mine and HollyPark Royale's first CCI*.

It had been a little bit stressful in the week leading up, trying to make sure we had everything we needed and 5 days supplies for 1 horse and 4 people. It wasn't until we arrived that the excitement really set in. We was ushered off to a parking bay where we unloaded Mitch and he was checked over by the vet and signed in to his new home.

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We arrived in enough time that we could get unpacked, Mitch could have an hour to settle and rest before tarting him up for his first fashion walk. He flew through his first trot up with flying colours, looking very smart sporting the Willberry Wonder Pony stencil too. We managed to get a nice quite workout and a hand graze afterwards before settling him in for the night and us crashing out shortly afterwards.

Thursday was our easy day as we didn't dressage until Friday, the plan was to school him a couple of times during the day to make sure he was really settled. This didn't quite go to plan, Mitch has an extreme phobia of other horses coming towards, so sometimes him it makes it extremely difficult. Some days he is worse than others today was one of the worse days!! So we aborted mission during our workout in the morning after he became rather unsettled at the 10 other horses in the arena and took him for a nice hack instead. Later that afternoon we managed to sneak in when there was only 4 other people working there horses, and got a decent 45 minute workout before heading down to the international arena for arena familiarisation. In between working and hand grazing Mitch, we watched some of the 3* dressage which was lovely to see and walked the cross country course for the first time. First impressions were that it was nice up to height course with plenty of fair questions.

We had a nice early start Friday to make sure Mitch could have an hours hand graze before getting him ready for dressage. Our test was at 10:43am so our aim was to get on just after 10, we was right after the break so the warm up was nice and quiet. John Bowen helped me warm up which was a god send as I was struggling with nerves a little bit, why I was nervous over a dressage test I don't know. 10:43am soon came around and it was time to put my best smile on a go show off my new tailcoat, Mitch did a nice accurate test although struggling with tension which unfortunately caused a little jog in his free walk. As the test went on, he got more and more relaxed and became more rideable and by the time the canter work came around, he was back to how he was in the warm up. He scored a respectable 55 FEI mark I was naturally a little bit disappointed only because I know there is so much more in the tank for him but for his first experience, I was so proud of him.

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Later that afternoon I went on a course walk with John and we walked through all the lines that I was planning on riding. John has helped me train Mitch since I first got him so knows him very well and knows what we are capable of doing. I found the course walk very beneficial and he made me think about how the course builder had used the undulations of the ground with the fences, this is not something I had taken too much into consideration the first time I walked it. A nice early night all round to make sure we were well rested for the tasks in the morning.

Cross country day was here and after our early morning ritual with Mitch, I set off with my dad to walk the course one last time. I walked every line and pictured myself riding it. I came back feeling really happy and more positive with everything we had discussed the day before.

We set out the start box at 10:20am and boy was he feisty, he ate up the first 5 fences with ease. Fence 6 was the water, this is something that has been a bit of a struggle this year as he leaps in and lands back feet first, we have put in a lot of hours water training and it really showed. It was an upright rail, a forward two strides to a log drop. We rode for a small three strides and Mitch dropped off nice and calmly, and if anything, a bit normal. The rest of the course Mitch flew round with ease, there was a couple of fences where he did have a little look but he kept straight on all of his lines through the combinations. We came back clear with 22 time to add!!

It was now cool down time where we all stripped him and I walked him while Mum and Lisa sponged and sweat scraped water off of him to try and get his body temperature down. After walking backwards and forwards through the fan tent for 5 minutes, the vet came over and checked his heart rate, he was back down to 64 and free to go back to the stables so on went his ice boots and me and Lisa made the 20 minute walk back to the yard while mum, dad and sister Amy took our gear back to the box.

Once back too A block, we look his water boots off and replaced them with tubi grips and filled them with ice. We repeated this a further 3-4 times over the next hour and a half to make sure all his tendons and ligaments where cold. For the rest of the afternoon, we let him rest periodically checking on him to make sure he was alright, whilst we cleaned tack and collapsed for an afternoon siesta.

Early evening we re-iced his legs and took him for a walk and graze. After towing me about and jumping around, it was clear he didn't feel like he just did a 7 and a half minute cross country that morning, and he didn't look like it either. I did another late night check on him, he had no swelling or heat anywhere so it was time to let him sleep and rest for showjumping the next day.

Trot up was at 8am sunday morning, so we was up at some awful time I don't even want to think about, I took him for a hand graze while Lisa mucked him out. Me and Mitch had a good walk around and a little jog and he looked fighting fit for the day ahead. He flew through his second trot up again looking very handsome and smart.

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The showjumping was in the international arena so was lovely and big with plenty of space to keep them moving. Mitch jumped like a pro, this is by far the biggest track he’s had to jump so far and he made it feel so easy. He rolled two poles but this is the first time he has ever had to jump after cross country and the first time I have ever had to ride him slightly tired.

He finished in the middle of the table and I couldn't be more proud of him, and me, for our first international event. No we might not have been in the top 10, but we more than held our own and Mitch put in a super classy performance. We went with the aim of getting experience and to complete which we did. He has got plenty of time to come home with the rosettes, he is a horse for the future and at the moment, we are still learning our craft.

A big thank you to Saracen Horse Feeds, Mitch looked so fit and healthy and recovered so quickly from the strain of the event. He is back home now and will spend a couple of weeks hacking and doing some light work before our next adventure.