Saturday 20th May
I had intended to do the 80km GER, to complete Chip's final FEI qualifiers at Euston Park but as there had been no rain for six weeks I was really concerned about the ground being too hard. I made the decision to not go at all and also cancelled my farrier who was coming to put new shoes and pads on. Of course, it rained most of the week but you never know just how much rain there has actually been or what effect it had on the ground. So I decided to go and do a 40km as a training ride and just have a fun, stress-free competition. Added to which, this would be Chip's first time staying away at a competition and his first experience at a big busy venue so there would be value to going along anyway.
Sadly we didn't have a hassle free journey down and we eventually arrived at Euston Park on the Friday at 6.45pm after leaving the yard at 12! So poor Chip had been in the trailer a long time so I was really glad I wasn't doing the 80km because we arrived so late. He also knocked the scab of his leg from a superficial injury over a month ago so another reason I was glad not to be doing the 80km though of course he was fine!
Saturday morning my sister arrived to crew for us and we took him up to vetting and also to check in at the same time. Euston is fab but very spaced out so lots of walking! Anyway, they let us vet early but said we had to wait until 9am to start. I was really impressed with Chip's behaviour because even though he was a massive fidget he took the big venue atmosphere into his stride and started on a HR40 so that was good.
He was however very agitated by the time we'd got back to the trailer so we actually put him in the stable for a bit so that I could have some breakfast and he could take a moment to chill out before I tacked him up! After about 15mins he was back to being calm so we tacked up and I jumped on. I would say he was feeling FRESH.
We were the first people out onto the 40km loop which was great because we didn't have anyone ahead of us for him to get excited about catching up so the first 10km went superbly. I just let him bowl along in his canter and that way he wasn't stressed about me trying to hold him back. We got to the river crossing, the first horse of the day to cross it as well! After a fair bit of hesitation he did go through so I was really pleased because I did have fears that we literally would never get through and have to ROC!
The next part of the ride wasn't Chip's finest hour shall we say as he managed to get me off, not once but twice! He did attempt the third time but I managed to sit that one! Silly boy got himself rather wound up at the pigs which strangely chased us - they normally run in the other direction! After that I had a very snorty, blowy, stupid horse on my hands.
At the next river crossing we were once again hesitating at the side but another horse caught us up so we got through there and then rode the next 10km together. They went alongside fairly well but Chip is happiest in a loose canter and the other horse was more of a fast trot and they didn't quite match gaits.
At the crew point Chip did a beautiful display of his best acrobatics as the other horse's crew were further on so he had to be separated by all of 15 metres! Anyway, I managed to get him to our crew and then I decided that I would actually go ahead because I don't want him to learn to get attached to people or horses. To my surprise he bowled off like he'd forgotten about the horse and we completed the last 10km really rather quickly.
I have to say, despite the few naughty bits of behaviour in the middle, I was incredibly pleased with him. He's enthusiasm to maintain canter over a matched pace trot was brilliant and just what you want in terms of efficiency and rider comfort! We vetted in fine and all was good!
In the afternoon, I took him up the pre-ride vetting for the FEI classes on the Sunday because I thought it would be great for him to experience all the 'razzmatazz' but he was not bothered at all and just grazed. I think actually he was expecting to go into vetting himself!
So overall, very proud of him coping with a busy venue, staying away, doing the ride mostly on his own, maintaining good speeds, going through the rivers and eating and drinking like a pro! Just need to work on keeping his rider on board!
Sunday 21st May
Myself, and Coralie and Ollie Holman, crewed Shanti Roos who is a Dutch rider based in the UK in the CEI2* 120km on her rescue Quantock pony Bobby!
This was Shanti's third attempt at a 2* for Bobby so quite a lot of pressure to get him round and it was much more challenging than with an Arab. That said, I was blown-away by his recoveries, the fastest one being 1min 40secs - not bad going for any horse let alone a chunky pony!
It was a long day, with the aim of just completing, poor Shanti and Bobby were alone for three of the four loops! But Bobby just kept trotting along. I was so impressed with his muscle and back scores all day, so incredibly supple and nice!
The struggle was the compulsory re-inspection in VG3 as he was starting to tire a bit at this point - but actually we think he was more just really bored having been on his own for 100km! He also didn't want to eat much which was frustrating because that's what he needed to do so we gave him a fair few Energex syringes too. Nonetheless, we got him through the re-inspection so he was allowed to go on for the last loop.
On the last loop, 160km riders had caught up so finally Shanti had company and so Bobby was much more motivated. As we were all concerned with Bobby's tiredness we worked out was the latest arrival time was to not be too slow and Shanti agreed to come in really slowly so that we could vet as soon as possible at the end. Bobby was such a star and came in on HR66 so we just gave him a couple of minutes and then went in for final vetting. PASS! Shanti cried, I think Coralie cried too, I was just so proud of the little pony finishing 120km! It is a very long way to go! Super happy team! Clever pony! And then finished in 10th place too!!!
Euston Park was great as always!