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Review of 2011

Are you sitting down – my season warts and all (it could be very long!) I have to say I won’t look back at 2011 with the fondest memories but I mustn’t let the disasters of the year cloud some of the very positive aspects that came out of it!

At the start of the year Sarnie was being aimed at a CIC*** and hopefully qualification for a CCI***, Rosie was being produced to start her eventing career, I also had the ride on another horse Pippa who we planned to event at BE100. Looking back nothing quite turned out as planned!

Winter preparation went well with a few weekends training at the Wiegersma’s with Caroline Creighton and plenty of indoor show jumping and dressage. Sarnie had the latter end of 2010 off due to Sacroiliac joint issues had regained full fitness and the jumping spark had returned.

The season kicked off with runs in the OI at Gatcombe and Weston Horse Trials, two double clears but time faults at Gatcombe and a characteristic tantrum in the dressage at Weston when she could see the xc put us well out of contention. However seeing it was 10 months since our last run great to know she was right back on jumping form.

Rosie meanwhile was progressing well although not ready to start BE she started BS quite successfully and was doing the occasional hunter trial. It was quite a contrast one day doing an OI and the next a 2’6" hunter trial!

Pippa meanwhile showed her talent winning a 90cm Pony club event making the jumping seem tiny. However there was sad news there as her owner decided she was not the horse for her and put her up for sale. I wasn’t planning on 3 horses and financially it was a big decision but after about 6 weeks of indecision I took the plunge and made the offer which was accepted.

Sarnie’s plan was the advanced at Withington and then the CIC*** at Houghton. Having started two previous CIC*** and never made it to XC due to various niggles I was excited to finally be taking her fit and well. The prep run at Withington was missed due to the dry ground and not wanting to jar her up before Houghton which we were gearing up for. Even the dreaded dressage seemed to be improving!

The weekend before Pippa made her debut at BE in the BE100 at Mount Ballen, very promising a 33.5 dressage(pic left) (little did I know with my dressage demons this would be the best mark all season) 1 down SJing and clear XC finishing 11th

So we headed to Houghton (9hr journey) in great spirits. I was concerned to find ground at Houghton rock hard but to be fair with the little rain they had and the hard work they put in the ground was more than acceptable by the time we came to jump.

Dressage in front the main house was lovely and our test started really well the walk and trot work setting us up for a sub 60 test which at that level would have been a huge improvement. Unfortunately the little ‘dear’ decided the canter work was the time to throw in unwanted changes and in the medium work take off down the side with a few bucks thrown in.

Dressage test for your entertainment if like me you find dressage being boring and just want to see the naughty bits they start not far after 3 minutes. We ended up with a 71.5 and comments from the judge of ‘You tried horse didn’t’

Next day she did redeem herself in the show jumping which was max height 1.25+ and causing cricket scores not helped by a very tight time. She jumped a superb round for just 2 time faults.

Review 2011 1Cross country had been beefed up and was not as in previous years and the reason I travelled so far a soft CIC***! Sarnie set out well but the size and width of the fences caused her to jump higher rather than forward and wider. In a way her honesty got her into trouble as if she had stopped I would have retired but on a clear round I kept going despite her chipping in strides and jumping higher and higher. At fence 12 the worst happened she chipped in and was unable to make the width causing us to fall badly.

I was so lucky that my vet was at the fence and took immediate care of Sarnie and she was put in the horse ambulance and taken back to the stables. I although sore was relatively uninjured. Although her physical injuries were relatively minor (few cuts and a haematoma between her chest) she was badly shocked and a few hour later needed a drip to counteract the shock. On advice of our vet we travelled home the next day but it was a nightmare journey with Sarnie uncomfortable and throwing herself around, we gave her more painkillers and I spent much of the journey sat in the back with her. At home she wasn’t eating or drinking so she was again put on a drip and a scan showed some internal bleeding.

It took about 5 days to really turn the corner and start eating and from there she made a good improvement although she was given 2 months to totally recover before starting ridden work again. Meanwhile the sad decision was made to retire her from advanced eventing, she is just too careful, I hope we can have fun at Intermediate and 2* level but I will not be asking her to go advanced.

With Sarnie out of action I focused on the others, Rosie was coming on and starting to show a real talent for show jumping being careful and athletic.

Pippa meanwhile jumped a double clear at West Wilts in the BE100 and the decision was made to upgrade to Novice. Maybe I didn’t pick our first Novice that well as Dauntsey is maybe one of the toughest! The preparation was not good as we fell at the riding club areas when she jumped over bold into the water and then tripped up the step coming out! At Dauntsey a 48 dressage 2 down show jumping and 20 penalties at a turn to triple brush left us hitting the 100 penalties mark but actually she showed again how capable she would be in all 3 phases.

At Nutwell Court and West Wilts novices we had very consistent results with 37/38 dressage, a fence down show jumping and a clear xc. She really started to fulfil her promise.

Sarnie was coming back into work and considering how poorly she had been was looking good, we hoped to get her fit for an Open Novice run at the end of the season.

On a sad note despite massive improvement from Rosie my gut instinct was she was not going to be a eventer probably fine to BE100 level but she was more of a careful show jumper with paces that made her very desirable as a dressage horse, she was put on the market and luckily sold word of mouth from my trainer and went to a lovely family home in Oxfordshire.

For Pippa it was onto to Hatherleigh my local event where I have never had the best of luck! Things didn’t change, dressage was an acceptable 37.5 but after that things went downhill! Pure show jumping we had jumped Newcomers and Foxhunters at home but she was was prone to tension and the closeness of the xc to the show jumping caused a tense round where we were lucky to have only 2 down.

Cross country was a lovely course but quite testing particularly in holding ground. She gave me a super ride all the way round really gaining confidence. Video through first water.

I was just congratulating myself as we came to the penultimate fence the final water, when I went splash big time! Jumped the house in took a good stride and then jumped too boldly in, whether she then tripped or it was just the force of the water but we both took a ducking! No photographic or video evidence but we were both green but apart from the odd graze fine. Luckily I was able to school through later!

So with confidence knocked we then headed for Goring which I think was the most difficult track this season not helped by rain making it sticky and slippery! A good round SJing for just one down was followed by a slow clear xc so confidence much restored!

At Supastuds Monmouth we suddenly hit the jackpot and it all came together a 35.7 dressage followed by a double clear left us in 5th with 2 points! She was a bit green cross country but coped brilliantly on a day the course was causing many problems.

Cross Country (love the way she locks on the skinny)

Sarnie had at last returned to full fitness and was being aimed at Dauntsey Horse Trials in the ON to hopefully finish the season on a positive note. We took her cross country schooling to Bicton and her fall had failed to upset her she felt as good as ever.

Review 2011 2Horses being horses nothing is ever simple and the week before Dauntsey she came in lame behind we are pretty sure it was an abscess, but that ended her eventing season! Pip meanwhile put the Dauntsey demons to rest, although a disappointing dressage score, she jumped a super round show jumping marred by the last fence down and made a tough cross country feel very easy.

Meanwhile another horse was on the way a lovely 4 year old direct from Ireland via friends at Avonmill Equestrian with Cavalier bloodlines that should really jump. Mary had literally been sat on and immediately showed what a lovely temperament she had getting off the Irish lorry and straight on ours in the middle of Exeter services. She settled in at home really well. (Pictured left)

The final event of the season was Larkhill where we finished on a real high (if you ignore the 41 dressage) with another double clear putting us 8th.

Review 2011 3

Robert Pickles has started helping me with Pips’s dressage and feels she has the talent to be very good in this sphere so I am hopeful with a bit of work we can qualify for a NRF and also she is very capable to move up to Intermediate quite soon.

Unfortunately for me the year finished with a bang literally. Mary had been ridden out and I was (still am) very excited about her but on the fateful Monday after Larkhill a spin on the road (which any of my other could have done) resulted in a fall (feel I shouldn’t have fallen) on the road smashing my hip. Prognosis initially very poor but has improved.

As I write this at the end of 2011 I am hoping to be riding again in late January and only miss the first few months of the 2012 season. All the horses are impersonating hairy yaks but hopefully the break will do them good as well.

Please keep up to date with our recovery, progress and return to competition in 2012 via my blog.