Last year there were some challenges for the organisers in the XC phase as they were limited to only one field – this year it was all change! I had seen a course map on their FB which looked quite different - the new course was through three fields and when I arrived to walk the course on Friday evening I was not disappointed. It looked great with quite a few new challenges including a newly build water complex. It was definitely much longer and harder than the 90 I had ridden a few weeks ago at Eden Valley. The fences were larger, and there were a few tricky lines to consider. The 90 course had two elements at the water which involved snaking through in and out, over two jumps in a three loop serpentine – more complicated than our 90 level dressage! It seemed straight forwarded enough but I decided to come back to walk it again on the Saturday in-between my dressage and show jumping just to be sure! There were also two brush fences which I would call rider frighteners on the course – a ditch brush at 5 and another brush at 15. The top of the brush at 15 came up to my boobs which is way too high in my book! See photos below!!
Onto the day – all was going to plan, got on for my dressage warm-up giving myself 30 mins as at Eden and used the same tactics – lots of canter, transitions, leg-yield and varying the speed of the trot. He took longer to relax as there is a lot going on in the warm up at Dalkeith. I think I was more nervous as we had such a horrific test there last year (48.5) and I felt pressure to ride well after our 33 the other week at Eden. In the end he warmed up really well, accepting the contact and working forward…….till we entered the arena. He tensed up, taking everything new in. I think I was too soft and just let it happen. Rather than being strict, having a mini fight and making him accept the contact I just sat there and rode scared. Backin to my old habits and therefore got all our old comments – “needs to accept contact, needs to work forward, lacks more impulsion”. Very frustrating that I was not brave enough to have the fight as soon as he started to play up. In future I will not be a passenger and will make him work properly. Lesson learned.
So putting the dressage to the back of my mind I headed for my second XC walk – Bella came with me and when I showed her the ‘boob brush’ she just said – “oh, you have jumped much higher schooling, just looks bigger from the ground so don’t be sliiy“ so that was that. She has made me feel more confident so I stopped stressing (as much as I could!). We also walked the water again to make sure I had the line straight in my mind.
Show jumping was next, they were running a little behind time so there was no course walk before my round but it looked straight forward enough, I watched lots of rounds and knew where I was going. There were two little uprights which we always have issues with but I had been working on them with Aimee in the week – lots on canter, jump and then halt so he listened to me and didn’t tank me to every jump, especially the little uprights which he usually flies through! I did the same in my warm up and he seemed to be listening!! Fences 1, 2 (little upright), 3, 4 (little upright on dog’s leg – even worse!) and 5 – all clear!! Then….rider error - 5 to 6 was another dog’s leg and I was on the wrong canter lead. Released too late to correct it, the canter wasn’t balances enough and off went 6….and then 7 too! 7 was the first of a double but clever Corky got us back on track, popped the second part clear. 8 and 9 were two red uprights on 5 strides. I managed to correct the wrong canter lead this time – almost holding onto the speed and ‘deep breath’ over them clear. Picking up the 8 faults for my wrong canter lead was frustrating but I know what I need to practice. I have some lovely photos of the show jumping from Action Replay Photography LTD and a video Bella took below.
End result was still way off where I would like to be but getting better (I think).
I then spent the Sunday jump judging which really opened my eyes up to how much organisation goes into running an event, and how much time people give up to let us run. We were really well looked after all day - lovely breakfast, packed lunch and Louisa's Dad was on the bun run so kept us fuelled up with coffee and cakes all day. It’s something I think all competitors should do if they can, and something I’ll definitely set the time aside to do again.