We have had a busy couple of weeks since my last blog and I am pleased to say a few successes as well! First, we went to another able bodied competition at Oldencraig to do 2 more Mediums. Ollie was absolutely amazing in the warm up and didn’t let me down in the tests either. Whilst I can feel there is a little drop in performance in the test, compared to the warm up, it is only in the more complicated moves and hopefully this will come with more practice at this level. We won both tests with 65% and 66% and that means we have qualified for the Regionals which will take place in August.
After a few days, training was back in force as we had the British Para Dressage Championships at Hickstead to prepare for. In training we don’t ride through the tests that often as it doesn’t work with Ollie as he starts to predict them. Instead we ride sections of the test and try and perfect them. Our main focus in training, however, is always to make him wait, straight and more on the hind leg. He is so supple that bending and working over the back is never really an issue. Once he is really through and listening then the moves are easy to ride.
Before a big competition like this there is a huge amount of planning that goes in to try and make sure that we both peak at exactly the right time. I have him checked by the Chiropractor and Physio and make sure the farrier is planned around it. I also see a chiropractor as I figure there is no point in him being straight and me being crooked! We also plan a very strict training regime so that he does not go too tired, but we have trained as much as we can to maximise our performance. As always, with horses, things never quite go according to plan!
The plan was to go to Hickstead the day before to do a couple of able bodied tests, but Ollie had a different plan! He got colic the night before and again the morning of the competition. Whilst his colic episodes are usually very mild, I don’t want to take any risks. He, of course, was not allowed any pain killers prior to an event as they are a banned substance, so we just had to treat him with lots of walking and some antacids. We made the decision, after plaiting, not to go on the Sunday as to not take any risks. After having many discussions with the vet we decided to compete at the Nationals as he had had 24 hours of feeling fine. We watched him like a hawk and fortunately he was fine. The only thing we think it could have been is nerves of going which he must have picked up from us!
The Nationals are split over 2 days and the first day was not a great success. He was just too flat after not being so well the days before and whilst we didn’t make any mistakes, you have to be on top of your game at this level, especially when you are being judged by 2 of the judges that will be at the Paralympics! We finished in third with a score of 68%.
The next day, I am pleased to say, went a little better. We studied my sheets from the day before to try and work out where we lost the most marks and we went for it as we had nothing to lose. Beth came and helped us in the warm up and after feeling very strong to start, he settled into the work and felt brilliant. I knew we were going to have to do something spectacular to be on top, so we gave it everything we had. It paid off as I am now National Champion and won with a score of 73%… Our first score over 70 at this level.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my home team and my sponsors as successes like these would not happen without them.
We only have 10 days now before Hartpury International so we are busy training again to try and come back with the same result!