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Nick looks back at the year

Hi everyone,

As Christmas approaches it is a good time to look back and reflect over the past year during which Billy and I have shared some great times. Living so close to Bishop Burton Arena we were able to take full advantage of the winter show jumping competitions and we soon clocked up four double clears to take us through to the British Novice second rounds. With that in mind I tended to focus on show jumping during the first part of the season and one of my proudest moments was competing at Bramham as part of the York & Ainsty Pony Club show jumping team.

Billy behaved impeccably, not put off by the crowds or distractions of the trade stands, and jumped a fantastic clear round which helped our team finish in 3rd place. All in all, that was a great weekend which I spent with the BHF team cheering on other supported riders competing there too.

The long awaited second rounds didn't quite go to plan as the country was hit by a heat wave. Despite being clipped and stuffed full of electrolytes, Billy really suffered. I have to say it was rather like riding a bike with flat tyres and although he tried his heart out for me we just couldn't manage the illusive clear round. It was a weekend of four faults.

Moving on we had the pony club area teams to look forward to and of course pony club camp, the highlight of any PC member's calendar. My shock result (hugely pleasant) was 4th in the Area Dressage as an individual in conditions that couldn't have been further away from the weekend of the second rounds. Just before Billy's test the heavens opened, and it poured, along with hail at one point. Billy, bless him, just tucked his head down, and trundled round. He is such a trier!

Our first one-day event of the season followed the next day which highlighted I needed to have Billy fitter for the cross-country. Expensive time penalties kept us off the top spot so that was something I needed to address.

Pony Club Camp, at Askham Bryan College followed and that really helped with the fitness for both Billy and myself! I really can't recommend pony club highly enough. Over the years I have had so much fun and learnt so much. I would never have been able to produce Billy had I not had such a good grounding from the pony club instructors who have helped me. Camp is just the icing on the cake and anyone who hasn't been you really don't know what you are missing. Thank you Gill Chivers, our District Commissioner, for organising camps and being such a good sport.

At the Area Horse Trials I seriously let Billy down. After the dressage and show jumping he was in the position where only a clear round inside the time would stand any chance of finishing in a qualifying position for the Pony Club Championships. I set off in determined mode, leaving an anxious Mother timing me at the start. I made a stupid rooky mistake at the third to last fence, which was a skinny to a ditch. Basically, I rode into the fence way too fast, not setting Billy up properly. I didn't consider Billy would be feeling tired and had given me everything through the day. I do not blame him in the least for ducking out! How many times did I replay that in my head, how many times have I been told "present the horse at the correct speed for the fence". My Mother was brilliant, just shrugging it off and saying, "learn from it ". I know she would love Billy and I to qualify for the Pony Club Championships as every year she seems to go and support someone else’s child and pony.

During the summer I also had a couple of other horses to ride for other people, which we took eventing with Billy. Lucy Marshes Tilly another coloured from Ireland, took part in her first event at BE80 level. Tilly finds dressage very exciting so can be quite challenging in this phase. Her improvement has been gratifying and while some people might not think 16th in an BE80 is much to write home about, we were delighted when she jumped at double clear at Askham Bryan and finished in that position.

The other horse I rode, for the Burnley's, (yet another Irish coloured called Just Jacob or Wannabe as Billy called him), also had his BE debut at Askham. He came home with an 8th placed rosette which again delighted us. He ran again at Norton Disney at BE90 and made nothing of the cross-country, cruising home effortlessly. Sadly, for me, he has been sold which was why he came to us originally. I wish his new owner, Kath lots of fun and success with him and we look forward to hearing how he is getting on.

Tilly remains with us for the winter and will be out and about taking part in BS competitions and the dreaded dressage ready to event again next season.

Billy was awesome at the three BE100's we took part in going clear cross-country each time, gaining a 10th place at Richmond and 5th at Bishop Burton. His placing at BB means he has qualified for the Frickley challenge next season which we will shall be entering. With this in mind I have to improve my dressage. I know Billy is more than capable and I don't want to let him down, so we will be out practicing.

Our first attempt at area eventing went well with Billy, finishing second in the BE100 at Epworth, so a trip to the final at Aston le Walls in on the cards for February 2018. I can't believe we are already planning the 2018 season, but time does seem to fly, a sign of old age for sure (I think that is rather a Billy comment).

Much of the team's success is due to my parents who help and support me massively, so I would like to say thanks to them. My Mum in particular is a stickler for detail and seems to instinctively know when something is just not right. The horses without a doubt have benefitted greatly from their diet of Fibre-Beet. Billy and Tilly both can become silly and overly excitable, so Fibre-Beet helps produce energy without the fizz. The slow release energy is perfect for their temperaments and the improvement in the foot growth has been noticeable too. The added biotin has certainly made a big difference to Billy and our old show jumping pony, The Matriarch! Thank you Will I'Anson and your British Horse Feeds team for supporting Billy and I, it is much appreciated.

No blog would be complete without mentioning our other coloured cob, the Legend that is Spenny. He looks amazing on is diet of Fibre-Beet and with his 21st Birthday on the horizon shows no signs of slowing down. Although Billy has given me some great moments this season one of my best memories and proudest moments was watching Spenny jump a double clear with a young rider, Lucy Jones, at the pony club junior area competition at Bishop Burton. He later repeated this feat at other pony club competition with younger sister Hannah Jones to win his class being the only clear round. He truly is a legend and will be out and about with the girls next year under my watchful eye.

So Merry Christmas everyone and here's to a happy and healthy New Year.

Nick x