I was so excited to be heading to Stafford for Annie’s eventing debut. She was entered into the 4yo class and as the weeks counted down to the event you always start to wonder have you done enough. With her being 4 you don’t want to over do it so I had tried to plan carefully where and what she would be doing in the run up. We had a few dressage lessons and kept running through parts of the test, each lesson she got better and better. I took her to a BD show for experience as well as some local show jumping. We stayed the weekend at Holly’s for more training while taking her to a busy show just to get more experience in the warm up without having to compete. She is a very switched on horse so we wanted to keep her as calm and make the whole thing stress free and going to a show and not competing seemed to really good idea. I could judge how long it would take her to settle and plan a warm up which suited her. It wasn’t long before we saw a huge difference and instead of it taking an hour to settle her it only took me 10-15 minutes which was a huge break through! She went round Somerford Farm ride with Lady as well as to our local cross country schooling paddock. A few days before I booked onto a BE coaching session with the EHOA vouchers I won. This was held at Speetely with trainer Jeanette Brakewell. We had 2 hours of guidance which involved us jumping round a course and then going onto the cross county field. Annie was going well, however she soon became cocky and started to run at the fences, something I had just started to get her out off after returning from Holly’s. At the minute I have to ride her with a lighter seat than you would usually because as soon as you sit up into the saddle she grabs hold of the bit and runs to the fence. Keeping her calm and round letting her use her own stride really seemed to work and something I went back to the day before Stafford. We started with poles again on the floor using the same exercise Holly had shown me to get her to soften and be brave enough to chip in a stride if she needed rather than taking strides out just to get over the fence. It was out of control and a bit scary at times to start with but she soon remembered what we had previously done and picked it back up very quickly. It wasn’t long before we had a few fences around 80cm in the menage and she was popping them lovely with me in control at last! Lots of praises later I was pleased enough to give Stafford ago and take each phase at a time.
We got to Stafford with plenty of time to spare. The plan to warm her up for 10-15mins first to settle her and get her used to the surroundings. This seemed to be a good idea and worked a treat! She was calm and relaxed so I took her back to the lorry then I went to walk the course. The course was fab and beautifully dressed. There were a fair few questions which would definitely test horse and rider especially a 4yo! Fence 5ab was the one I needed to watch early on and my plan was to bring her back to trot for the first element to make sure I could turn in time for the second. Down the hill fence 7 was the water with a house a few strides before I knew this would require some positive riding with a step into the water and a fence on the other side. Back up a steep incline in the woods was the trekenher followed by another combination on a dog leg. The line was nice the only thing that worried my was the football shirts pinned across the fence which would definitely be spooky for a baby horse. Back down the hill was the corner off a right hand bend, further up the hill the last question was the pheasant feeder placed cleverly at an angle off the fence line, two strides to the quarry which consisted of a step down then a step back up before two straight forward fences to finish.
I went to get back on Annie to continue the warm up which went even better then before, she was calm and relaxed ready to go in. I was a little disappointed in the trot work as she became really tense at the new surroundings, the canter and walk work however was pleasing as she started to settle again. We scored a 39 going forward to show jumping. The course looked challenging with lots of bright fillers and changing direction often, I knew I would have to come back down to trot to set her up for the corners and fences on the sloping ground especially with no studs. She coped really well for just 4 faults. I was upset to see on the internet results 8 faults when clearly on the video the judge announced 4 which she picked up at fence 7.
Going cross country I had no expectations just wanted to take our time and have a really nice educational run to set her up for the future. I’m pretty sure she turned into a snake for the first 6 fences on the course but willingly listened to me and jumped them all including the first combination from trot. The water step did challenge her but after a little persuasion she popped off it and walked through the water lovely. I was so pleased at this stage she couldn’t get enough praise from me! The hill started to take it out of her a little but she carried on steadily to the next combination with the football shirts and although jumped twice the size of the fence she grew in confidence taking on the second part straight as a dye! Back up the hill to the corner she jumped beautifully I was so pleased. I knew we were only 3 from home so let her tootle up the hill as she pleased, she took her eye of fence 15 spooking at a lovely portaloo... I was gutted, she was tired and had quite clearly had enough for one day. Despite picking up an E which I don’t think stood for excellent it really was a class round up until then. I was so pleased with how she took on the majority of the course and I can’t wait to get her back out again.
Here you can read Becci's Eventing Diary