Steve and Ash head to Belton CIC2*
A slightly quieter few weeks, has seen us prepare and head to Belton CIC2*. Belton is one of my favourite events of the season, it's stunning location and perfect going, come rain or shine! We drove through the beautiful iron gates feeling confident, Ash has been feeling great - and with the help from the recently purchased Equi-Med Ag boots - we were getting on top of the mud fever. We were running slightly early - unheard of if you know me! I jumped out of the lorry and headed to declare, pay the start fee (ouch!) and collect our numbers - it was as I walked back to the lorry I had a horrible thought..... Ash's FEI passport was still sitting in the tack room! Disaster, as you have to present your horse with it's passport for inspection on arrival at the vets box, prior to warming up for the dressage. My heart sank, we wouldn't be able to compete.... After a few frantic calls to Heather back at the yard, and Izzy running around to find the appropriate officials, they'd agreed I could present at the dressage phase as long as we got the passport to them prior to the jumping phases. With Heather enroute, I pulled myself together and focused on getting warmed up. After all the commotion, it was not ideal an ideal preparation and I perhaps could have done with a few more minutes, but at FEI events you have to be on time!
We headed to our area which was located in the main show jumping arena, with all the trade stands around the outside. There was a lot for Ash to spook at - including the xc style fences only a few feet from our entrance point.....hmmm, this could be interesting!! With a massive spook at said xc fence, we side stepped and swerved but made it onto the centre line and danced our way to a 48.8 score. I was very pleased with our performance as Ash tried really hard and held it together.
With Heather on her way with Ash's passport, I walked the course. It was fairly tough with a number of tight line combination fences, but it's Belton 2* - it was great and I was really looking forward to giving it a go. I planned to go all the direct routes - there was a really tough angled brush combination which was inviting an easy glance off, and the sunken road towards the end of the course I thought was really tough as it was a difficult question to read. I was really looking forward to giving it go once the passport had arrived.
Show jumping - the low rising sun (we had very early times) made it very difficult to see a couple of the fences and poles seemed to be coming down regularly. We jumped a good round, but a rolled pole when I ended up too close to an easy vertical was frustrating. Before I knew it, I was heading to the xc warmup. During my warmup, I could hear that the course was already causing a fair number of problems.... come on Ash, we can do this.... five, four, three, two, one... good luck!
We were off.... we got into an easy, forward rhythm, the first combination came up quickly - a large box to a double of skinny brushes, Ash made it feel easy.... he kept answering every question easily, the hollow, the water and huge brush skinny corner, the tricky coffin - all behind us and we were galloping so easily.... the tough angled brush combination, then the sunken road next - foot perfect through both.... we were nearly home already! We passed through the finish flags - Ash was simply incredible, he just loves it! We finished in 8th place, the team and I were just delighted. What's actually even more exciting is that he's got so much more in the tank - gallop and jump! Back at the lorry, Ash's every need is catered for - he gets a drink straight away - as much as he wants - then he's stripped of all his tack, boots as quickly as possible then he gets a full wash off and his legs are cooled with ice immediately (we use ice boots which go in the freezer as these are dry, which are better for not aggravating his mud fever). He then gets his studs removed and walked around until his temperature is back to normal. He then has a well deserved graze and lots of pats from us all - good boy Ash!
It's always an anxious wait overnight for me as an event isn't completed until we've trotted our horses sound the following day. So, when he skipped and bounced out of the stable and trotted up 100% the following morning, I was over the moon. He earned himself a few days in the field. He's just so cool.
We head to Withington next for our very first Advanced run. It's been a few years since I competed at this level, so I'm feeling excited, whilst perhaps a little on the nervous side! Full report next time.
Kick on, and stay safe!
**Hot off the press...... We did it - Withington.... we are now an official Advanced combination! It's taken a long time but, I'm hugely thrilled to have produced two horses from complete novices to advanced myself! Full report next time!