Dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer has had a busy few weeks - with a trip to Italy, a successful competition at a famous indoor show, a masterclass under some very watchful eyes, a new puppy and a new sponsor!
“Last time I wrote was just after my holiday to Tenerife. Just as soon as one holiday was over, another came along and I was straight off to Venice with my friend Kerri. We did lots of touristy things like catching a water taxi into St Mark’s Square and visiting the Basilica. We also went on a bike ride to one of the nearby villages to visit Villa Pisani in Stra. We had a very enjoyable ride and the castle was amazing - though when we were walking around the rooms we heard a child screaming, even though there was none around. I'm sure it's haunted! We also tried some wine tasting and shopping, but unfortunately the weather ruined our last couple of days and meant we couldn’t go on a planned boat ride. I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back to Italy.
When I got home I had another quick turnaround as Del (Headmore Delegate) and I had been invited to compete in the Mount St John Future Dressage Elite Championship at Bimingham’s NEC. There was a lot to take in, from scurry ponies and the King’s Troop, to miniature horses in their tiny rugs and bandages. We even saw one competitor straightening her Fell pony's feathers with a pair of hair straighteners! We were drawn second to go and I just wanted to get in the arena and enjoy it. I'd decided I was going to go for it with a difficult Freestyle test and, although Del was nervous, my trusty Nupafeed helped him to stay with me and he answered every question. We were rewarded with 74% to finish a very close second behind Michael Eilberg. I couldn't have been happier with Del.
With the winter now drawing in, it means less competing and more time to train and teach the horses new things. Though I did have a small outing recently when I was asked to be a guinea pig at the List 1 and 2 judges seminar with Del. It was being taken by Stephen Clarke, our most renowned international judge. I was a bit nervous having to go in front of all of our top judges, but didn’t have to ride the entire test, just some of the movements. Stephen gave me some good advice on improving the canter pirouettes and piaffe and passage, and he praised our changes. He was very complimentary about Del, and said he was very exciting for the future.
Kate (my sister) and I also picked up our puppy. As we have moved to a new house, we didn't have any pets with us as Stitch and Hector (the dogs) and Ricky and Spot (the cats) had stayed next door at our parents’ house. Stitch had had a litter of puppies with a very cute Norfolk terrier, so we had decided to get one and opted for 'his first born son'. Charlie is mega cute and looks quite a lot like Stitch. Hector thinks he is fab and plays with him, but Stitch is a bit nervous. I think he didn't want the responsibility, he would rather be an absent father!
Finally, I am pleased to announce that I have a new sponsor. Hampshire Stone is based in Lasham which is not far from us at Headmore. They produce granite and marble work tops for kitchens and bathrooms and they wanted to support a local, up and coming sporting talent, having been inspired by the London Olympics. In their words, they are “proud to recognise all of the hard work that goes Alice puts into achieving her goals and she has proved to be just as passionate as us in pursuance of excellence.” I look forward to working with them, and have my fingers crossed for a lovely new kitchen in the future!"
Alice reflects on a fun-filled girls' holiday in Tenerife...
The end of the Nationals also marks the end of our summer season and with it the opportunity to give the horses a well deserved break. This also means that I have a chance for a bit of a break as well. We had organised a girls holiday to Tenerife so on Monday lunchtime, straight after the Nationals, myself, my sister Kate, my best friend Amy and Charlotte Dujardin made our way to the airport all packed and raring to go.
We spent a fair bit of time sunbathing and lounging by the pool, although we did also organise some activities for the rest of the week, we - Char and I particularly - are so used to being active and riding all day that we struggle to sit still for too long!
We decided to take a trip to Playa Das Americas on the Wednesday to do some watersports. We started off by parascending, which I hadn't been so keen on, but actually wasn't too bad. Following this we went onto the flyfish - for those of you who don't know, this is basically a massive inflatable that you have to hang on to while it is towed by a boat at speed. We laughed so much and Amy accidentally kicked me off, but karma came around as she did a rather unceremonious dismount not long after. It was a wonder Char hadn't been 'bucked off' as well as she was laughing so much at Amy she was crying! The final activity was the jet ski and I was sat behind Kate. It was a bit hair-raising as the sea was very rough, and I got a fair few facefuls of sea water, but we had an absolute blast.
Thursday brought with it another chance to get absolutely drenched as we visited Siam Park, the largest water park in Europe. We went on every ride, even the big one where you drop a vertical slide of 28m, although Amy wimped out of that one! The best part was that you could go on a lot of the rides as a foursome, so everyone got to hear Amy scream like a baby! And considering the size of the park we didn't have to queue for long either, although we did have to walk around all day with no shoes on, so, in Char's words, we were all laminitic by the end of the day. Once we were reshod, however, we were fine! That evening we had an absolutely amazing meal courtesy of the Empire British Steak House. We ate waaaay too much and drank the most delicious cocktails, and they were thrilled to have a double Olympic gold medallist at their restaurant.
It was no rest for the wicked as we had an early start of Friday in order to get to Loro Park as it is situated on the North of the Island. It is essentially a zoo and we got to see some amazing animals, like white tigers, gorillas and meerkats (yes we did call them Aleksander and Sergei) as well as some shows that they put on with the more intelligent animals. We had another lovely meal that night at the Friends Lounge Bar and Restaurant, the highlight of which was the deep fried ice cream! Insane!
On Saturday we had a trip to Puerto Colon to go out on Freebird Gold, a catamaran, to hopefully see dolphins and whales in the wild. We came across the Pilot Whales not long into the trip. It was amazing how close we got to them and there were so many of them. We then found out that the other catamaran had come across some dolphins, which was very lucky as they are migrating south at the moment so hadn't been seen for a few days. They were absolutely beautiful and also very fast and I felt priveleged that we had been able to see them.
On Sunday morning we took a trip to Los Cristianos market, which is the biggest market in South Tenerife, to try and bag some bargains. I did buy a few things but Char was by far the best for bartering them down and between us we got some good deals. We then had another afternoon by the pool before dinner and some champagne to toast our last night and fantastic holiday.
The flight wasn't early on Monday so we had a lazy day sunbathing and going in the pool. We spent a lot of time with the lilo which always creates laughs, paticularly when I'm involved! I think I got dunked more often that I actually got on it! It was a lovely way to end our fab holiday, and we are already talking about what to do next year, any suggestions would be gratefully received."
Alice has had a busy but productive week at the Espayo National Dressage Championships…
“After months of preparation the week of the Nationals finally arrived. We did have six qualified, but unfortunately only four made it to Stoneleigh, as Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief) chose the worst timing ever to throw a splint and Roxy (Headmore Roxanne) overreached badly in the field the day before we were supposed to leave, typical!
We arrived safely on Thursday -in the rain - and settled the boys in ready for the weekend. The younger horses were all rather taken aback by the atmosphere but we did get some super work in the end! I also did an interview with H&C's Jenny Rudall, so everyone could meet our new edition, Hector. I will just say the interview is a must see as puppy Hector was amazing and very funny, but I won't say any more as I don't want to ruin the surprise before you see if for yourself. I also had a go at the heel kick challenge and, I'm very pleased to say, I didn't disgrace myself, although my friend Amy gave it a go and missed, which was hysterical! You can watch it all when Rudall’s round-up: Nationals premieres on October 14.
Robin (Headmore Dirubinio) was first on in the four-year-old class. He had been a bit overawed in the warm up but he behaved in the ring, albeit slightly tense, to finish fourth and qualify for the second round on Sunday. It was then Tank's (Headmore Wimoweh) turn in the five-year-old class but unfortunately due to his tension he missed out on qualifying for the final in a very strong class. I then had to do a quick change to jump on Del (Headmore Delegate) for the Grand Prix. After Hickstead I was just looking for a confidence boosting ride and I was thrilled with him, although I messed up both sets of changes, his piaffe - passage work was much more confident. Pat the horse, smack the rider as Charlotte would say! My final test was on Socs in the medium. He had been most taken aback by the atmosphere and got very upset as Steph Croxford's wonderful horse - Mr. President - had been retired and the noise was immense. Thankfully we managed to settle him for the test but he was so nervous I couldn't go for it.
I just had the four-year-old final on the Sunday, which meant that I could watch the wonder horse that is Woodlander Farouche do her advanced medium test. She is just phenomenal and I was a little bit pleased that Roxy hadn't made it there as I would have had to enter as they read out Farouche's ridiculous score of over 79%, unreal!
After the advanced medium class had finished it was Robin's turn.The atmosphere was electric as it was in the afternoon performance but I was thrilled with him and he managed to pull himself up to third, although he did get very worried by the applause so I took him out for the prize giving, but I was pleased as he also tried very hard despite being nervous. We just need to build his confidence now for next year.
The best way to sum up would be pleased with the horses but disappointed with the placing, but it was a good experience for all of them so roll on next year!”
With a break from competition, Alice turns her attentions to a spot of training and judging...
Things have been a bit quieter after all the Regionals, so it's meant I've had more time to do some other things aside from competing.
Dengie Horse feeds came down for the day so I could give the lesson to their Pony Club winner. Luckily the weather was good and I think the winner (and all of her family, who came along to watch) enjoyed it, and hopefully learnt something!
Following the lesson, Mum and I gave a masterclass on how we back and produce our youngsters to get them ready for their first show. We used Roxy (Headmore Roxanne) as a model for the photos as we knew she wouldn't mind me getting on and off, leaning over and being lunged etc for a while as we went through the whole process of backing. It went very well and I'm looking forward to seeing the resulting article. A lot goes into preparing horses for their first show, so hopefully it will be a good read.
I also judged at our local Pony Club one-day event - I started out in the Pony Club and I like to be able to give something back when I can. I really enjoyed it and the standard seems to go up every year, which is fantastic to see.
With the Nationals looming, we have also been trying to get the qualified horses ready to go. Every horse is different - some need quite a lot of competing whereas others don't need to go out very often. We took Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) to Wellington for the Medium music class as he benefits from going to a few parties. It was quite difficult test for Socs as I used Wizard's Advanced Medium CD, but Socs answered every question to score a massive 78% to win and qualify for the regionals. A good final outing before the Nationals!
As I mentioned previously, preparing horses for big shows is a bit of a balancing act. Some horses need to compete quite a lot to stay arena sharp whereas others are better if they are a bit fresher. We took Socs out as he used to get very excited at shows and he has only settled as he has done a lot of competing, while we decided not to compete Roxy as she is on a day later at the Nationals and is more experienced. We would have liked to give Del (Headmore Delegate) a run - as he had a nervous test at Hickstead - but we couldn't find a show at Grand Prix.
The four- and five-year-olds don't compete as much as they get tired, but they have a slightly different format at the Nationals as they don't do a proper 'test', so it's not as important that they have been ridden round some tests. It is a case of working out what is the best option for each horse to try and ensure you get the best test when it matters!
It is also important that the rider (ie me!) is ready as we can get ring rusty and lose confidence as well. Hopefully we are all set, and with six horses there at least I get a few bites at the cherry!"
It's been a busy month for Alice Oppenheimer, with a new home and a new puppy...
"We have been very busy with things that don't include horses. With no shows now until the lead up to the Nationals, we have been able to organise the other things that have had to take a bit of a back seat.
Firstly, Mum and I had a bit of a roadtrip up to Northumberland to collect our new puppy. It seems a bit crazy but there is a story behind it! We had met a Lucas terrier up at Sheepgate earlier in the year and he was a lovely dog who reminded us very much of our dog who we lost early last year, Scrappy. Then when we were at Hartpury having dinner with Tank's (Headmore Wimoweh) owner, Joanne Graham Whelan, we were chatting about dogs as she does a lot of showing dogs and she mentioned that she had a friend who had just had a litter of Lucas terrier puppies. We were lucky enough to get one but it did mean that we had to go quite a long way to pick him up!
We left on Tuesday lunchtime with the sat nav saying six-and-a-half hours! It wasn't too bad, although we were both quite stiff when we stopped to swap driver and then again when we arrived at Joanne's house as she very kindly said she would put us up for the night as it was too far to go in one day. It also meant that we could deliver all of Tank's prizes that he had won at Hickstead in person which was lovely, especially as we could watch the videos of him together after a very enjoyable barbecue where a reasonable amount of champagne was consumed to toast Tank's Hicktead results!
The following morning we got to meet Joanne's other horses, which include her show cob, Vincent, who was lightweight show cob of the year last year, and also Rosie, her event horse. I also had a little sit on Rosie to try and help her dressage as she had an event at the weekend. After a very enjoyable brunch Mum and I left to pick up the puppy and make our way home.
He was even more cute than I had expected and he was so well behaved on the long journey back, he literally just slept! When we got home he fit right in and we christened him Hector! He is exceptionally cute and a bit of a menace, but Stitch is enjoying having a new friend to play with.
My sister and I have also finally moved into the bungalow where our Granny used to live. She passed away in February and it has taken six months and a lot of work from everyone, particularly my Dad, to make it ready for us to move into. It's amazing what a lick of paint and some new carpets can do. We were also lucky enough to get some freebie furniture, a set of matching sofas and a chair and a lovely pine dining room table and chairs, winner!
It is also lovely that Kate and I can have a bit more independence and space, hopefully it will make working with Mum easier now that I am living seperately. Hopefully Kate and I won't end up at each other's throats instead!"
Alice Oppenheimer makes the tough decision to retire her top horse...
"It is with immense sadness that I have had to retire my beloved Wurlizer (Wizard) from competition. Although he is only 13, he has pastern arthritis which is very unforgiving. Hopefully he will be able to enjoy some years as a schoolmaster and a guinea pig at demos. All the while he is happy and comfortable enough, he will continue to enjoy his work until he no longer wants to.
He has given me so much joy and success over the years. from winning at the Nationals and Winters to taking me to a Young Rider European Championships and finishing as my first International Grand Prix horse. All of which I never imagined would have been possible.
It is heartbreaking that he can no longer compete, as he loved his parties more than any other other horse I have known, but I take delight from the fact that his final appearance in the ring was at the Nationals last year where we had an amazing time, finishing ninth in the Grand Prix and seventh in the Kur.
He is an amazing horse and I have said for years that if I never did another dressage test on him he would still owe me nothing and that holds true now more than ever. I don't think I will ever have a bond with a horse quite like the one I have with him, I'm sure everyone who has seen us at shows and at home will appreciate quite how special it is, he is a huge Mummy's boy.
As long as I can keep him happy in his retirement I will be happy. And every horse who I ride now and in the future will have Wizzy to thank for everything he taught me, he has shaped my riding and helped make me the rider I am today. Any future successes I may be lucky enough to have will still be attributed to him in so many ways.
I would like to thank Sara-Jane Lanning, Nicky Barrett, Charlotte Dujardin, Erik Theilgaard and everyone who helped us along the way.
A friend once said to me: "You will never love a man like you love that horse" to which I replied: "I will never owe to a man what I owe to that horse!"
Thank you and love you my gorgeous Wizzy Woo - I promise you will be spoilt rotten until the end of your days."
Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) was reserve champion with Alice in the international five-year-old final at Hickstead
Alice Oppenheimer had some great results at Hickstead, despite soggy knickers...
"We seem to be going non-stop at the moment. It was a 5am alarm call on Tuesday to get to Dressage at Hickstead in time for the Young Horse championships due to us having to tackle the dreaded M25. Thankfully we arrived in plenty of time, but the weather was not so great. We've been rather spoilt with the gorgeous sunshine, but the weather had decided to change. Still, it wouldn't be Hickstead without any rain!
Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief) was first to go in the national Five-Year-Old class and I was pleased with how she has improved since Hartpury, but she is still quite green so finished just outside the placings.
By then we were already drenched and it just seemed to be getting soggier as we got Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) out for his first test. He was slightly nervous in the wind, rain and noise but still managed to finish seventh, so a good result. He also had his international semi-final and I was thrilled with how he coped with the difficult test, although he was a bit tired having already done one test. He still finished fifth and qualified for the final at the weekend, so job done.
It had pretty much stopped raining by the time I got on Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) for the Six-Year-Old classes. He was also slightly unsettled as they have got used to the warm weather, but we manage to finish third despite a couple of mistakes.
We then had a chance to sit down and relax before Socs' international semi-final test, but it also meant that we started to freeze. I literally rang my gloves out, as I couldn't find my spare pair. He was also tired by his second test but still finished second on the same mark as the winner to qualify for the final so, all in all, a very successful day.
I did momentarily contemplate going commando when I got changed afterwards, as I was so soaked, but I thought better of it!
The following day we took Del (Headmore Delegate) back for the international trot up. As ever he sailed through it and we were ready for his Grand Prix test the following day. I was really pleased with him, he felt much more confident than at Hartpury.
Unfortunately I seemed to lose all ability to count and managed to mess up both sets of changes. I got a reasonable amount of stick for this as I have a maths A-level! He still scored 65.6% which, with the mistakes and the fact it was a CDIO, I was very pleased with. Onwards and upwards.
We had a day off competing on the Friday, which meant that we had a chance to wander over to the showjumping side for some retail therapy. Happy days!
It was back down to business on Saturday and we started off with Tank's international five-year-old final. It was in the international arena with the crowd, which is a big ask for the young horses. But he was amazing and did everything that was asked of him and more. He improved by three placings from the semi-final to become a very close reserve champion, which we were absolutely thrilled with.
Quite a few people also came up to us and said that they felt he should have won which was amazing. It was just a shame that his owner, Joanne Graham Whelan, wasn't able to make it down to watch him. Unfortunately I had to miss his prizegiving, as I had to jump straight on Del for his Grand Prix special.
He had a lot more power than we had at Hartpury last month, but got a bit confused as it was only the second time he has done the test and it is a lot harder and very different to the Grand Prix.
Sunday was Socs' turn in the final. He felt a little tired after having to be at Hickstead all week but he still gave me everything he had and we had loads of other riders and trainers commenting on how super he is. He maintained his placing from the semi-final to become reserve champion (at least I'm consistent) with the judges just commenting that he needs more strength behind, but we can't rush that so we were thrilled!
The trainer on the radio commentary also said to me that Socs was her winner – it's a shame she wasn't judging it!
All in all it was a very successful show with my young horses doing us all proud. Looking forward to the future as they train on."
Tantoni Sir Socrates: "I was thrilled with the test even though we had a few green mistakes"
Alice Oppenheimer qualifies six horses for the summer regionals and wonders how she'll manage on the big day...
As the glorious weather continued – with what must be the UK's longest ever hot spell – the summer regionals crept upon us.
Roxy (Headmore Roxanne) was the first to contest her regionals at Sparsholt College. It was the first time that Sparsholt had held a regional, which is fab for us as it is just down the road. So with Merrist Wood for the winters and Sparsholt for the summers, we are sorted!
We were the penultimate competitors in the medium on Wednesday. Roxy warmed up well but became quite nervous in the test as Sparsholt looked different to normal so we finished ninth, which I was slightly disappointed with, but she is still quite young.
The following day we went back for the advanced medium and I was hoping that she would be more settled as she had already done a test. We were second to last again in this class, but it made up for being drawn first three times at Hartpury! She felt much more relaxed than the previous day and we were thrilled with the test, despite a few green mistakes in the canter work, as it was only her fifth advanced medium. Despite this, she finished third and qualified for the nationals so we were over the moon.
Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) was also supposed to be going to contest the PSG and intermediate I, but unfortunately she came down with a bacterial infection and wasn't very well so missed out. I was gutted as it means she will now miss out on the Nationals, but it is more important that she recovers and is fit for next year. Poor Bracks!
We then took Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) to Keysoe for his medium open regional, as we hadn't wanted to put two horses against each other. We knew he was capable of qualifying, but he is still very green at medium so he finds the regional test quite hard. We nearly didn't qualify him as we weren't sure if he would be ready.
He warmed up well despite the indoor warm-up area feeling like an oven! I was thrilled with the test even though we had a few green mistakes and I was even more thrilled with a mark of 72.1%, to finish just one mark behind Michael Eilberg. I have to be honest though, I was also a bit gutted as we would have won convincingly without the errors, but hopefully we can iron those out before the final.
So we now have six out of six horses (excluding Bracks, as she missed her regionals) qualified for the nationals in September. Five of them will be on the Saturday morning, so we it looks like we will be rather busy! I am actually quite relieved that Roxy was nervous in the medium otherwise it might have been six, which does seem slightly impossible! I am very much looking forward to it though.
The wonderful thing about regionals is how the judges are much more prepared to use the whole range of marks. Socs and I were awarded fours (very expensive) for the mistakes, but we were also awarded nines for the bits we did well. You tend to see a much wider range of marks at a championship show than you do at a qualifying show, but I would rather have fours and nines than just sixes and sevens. It's lovely when the judges are brave like that!
Alice Oppenheimer has some good results in the run-up to the Regionals, and explains how she's been keeping her horses cool in the hot weather...
This weather has been absolutely glorious, albeit a bit of a shock - I can't remember the last time we had an actual proper summer!
We started off our Regionals preperation by taking Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) and Roxy (Headmore Roxanne) to Pachesham. Although my times weren't until the late afternoon/evening it was still rather warm so I cut down my warm up as I didn't want to wear them out in the heat. We were pleased with Socs, he is much more established and confirmed at Medium now and he won both his classes. Roxy was ring rusty in the first test as she hadn't competed since she qualified, but by the second test she was more settlled and won the Advanced Medium.
A couple of days later we took Roxy out again to Fair Oak Grange for another Medium and Advanced Medium. She was much better for having been out earlier in the week and won both tests. They were the Regional tests for her and it's nice to know that she can go round them with relative ease, particularly the Advanced Medium which was the hardest test she has done.
Socs also had another outing to Merrist Wood, where he did one of the best tests he has ever done. He was very rideable and we even scored an 8 for a walk pirouette. He was awarded nearly 73% so I think that both horses are now well prepared for the regionals.
With this unusually wam weather, it poses the question of how best to prepare and manage horses in this heat. As I mentioned earlier in the blog I cut down my warm up time to ensure that they didn't get too tired. We also take a bucket of water and a sponge to the warm-up arena so they can have a little sponge off before they go in the ring. But it's not just the shows, we have to be aware at home as well - though luckily our indoor school stays cool. We have added some electrolytes into their diets so they can replace the salts lost through excess sweating as well as encourage them to drink a bit more. The old adage 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink' is so true!
However, I am certainly not complaining and whenever anyone says to me "it's too hot, I want it to cool down" my answer is always the same... "When we have sub-zero temperatures and a foot of show in the winter you'll be saying you want it to warm up"! But then again we are British and complaining about the weather is something we do best, although I must say I would rather be too hot than too cold any day and am thoroughly enjoying the sunshine."
Headmore Delegate made his Grand Prix Special debut at Hartpury
Alice Oppenheimer reflects on a busy week at the Hartpury Festival of Dressage, and considers whether young horse classes can sometimes demand too much of youngsters...
"With the end of the summer qualifying season finally came some glorious weather and also the Hartpury Festival of Dressage, which incorporates their CDI, a Premier League and the Shearwater Young Dressage Horse championships. As a result we were very busy, setting off with six horses, three horseboxes and Jess, our groom, for what we knew would be a rather manic week! Luckily we have helpful and understanding friends who were willing to assist us in transporting the horses, thank you Anne, Nicky and Karen, it would have been a nightmare without you. We really need a bigger lorry!
The first day held an Inter I for Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) and the temperatures were already rising. She warmed up fantastically and I was confident going into the ring. Unfortunately Bracks had other ideas, but that's horses, particularly chestnut mares as Erik Theilgaard, my trainer, says! Del (Headmore Delegate) sailed through his trot up that evening so was all set for the start of the international competition the following day.
Friday brought with it even warmer weather (not that I'm complaining) and a very early start, as we had been told that arena familiarisation for the young horses was 7am. You can imagine our dismay when the stewards told us it had been changed to the evening. Thankfully they were understanding and said we could stay out there that morning as long as we didn't bring them back out in the evening, to ensure that everyone had the same amount of time in the arena/
I had been drawn first to go in the Grand Prix, which was Mum's fault as she had been pulling the numbers out of the 'hat' at the draw. I asked for a bit more expression and had him more jazzed up which meant that we scored some 9's. Unfortunately we also had some very costly mistakes which kept our score down at 66.5%, for seventh place. I was thrilled with the scores from the foreign judges, nearly 70% from the German judge and nearly 69% from the Polish judge, who was president for the Grand Prix. I think I need to be brave now and take Del abroad as I think the judges will love him!
That evening we had a lovely meal with Tank's (Headmore Wimoweh) owner, Joanne Graham Whelan, and her friends that also came down to wtch him. We hadn't seen each other since Hartpury last year so it was lovely to catch up and fantastic for Joanne to see Tank again, we had sent her some videos but they never look quite the same as in the flesh.
We had another early start on Saturday as we had four young horses to compete, the first one (Robin, Headmore Dirubinio) was in the ring at 7.30 am. We were thrilled with how Robin went but were very disappointed with his score. He is not yet strong enough to really show himself off, the judges wanted them to be more established. Nevertheless we were thrilled with how he went and he had a good experience at his first sleepover party.
Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) was on next in the Six-Year-Olds. His owners had also been able to make it and we were thrilled when he finished third, especially as he is not as established as some of the other horses. I finished with the Five-Year-Olds, first was Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief) and her owner, Becky Hulme, had finally been able to make it down to see her as well, third time lucky as the last two times they have been intending to come something has come up so they couldn't get there. We were pleased with her but she is not very established so struggled a bit with her balance in the test, but that will come with strength.
Tank was the last to go for me and he felt super in the warm up. Unfortunately something spooked him as we turned off the centre line but he settled well and the rest of the test was super. I thought the judges may have forgiven that as it is a young horse class, but they didn't which was a real shame as Tank showed some lovely work throughout the test.
By the final day we were all shattered. We had to change Bracks' time in the Prix St Georges as it clashed with Del's Grand Prix Special, which meant that we had to go right at the beginning of the class which kept our score down. It was like riding a different horse to her previous class and, despite a mistake in one pirouette, finished sixth. Our final class of the show was the Grand Prix Special. It was the first time Del had done the test and only the second time I had ridden it, so I was just hoping to get round. We had some better work than in the Grand Prix but there were also some mistakes due to our inexperience, and I went wrong which didn't help, although only one of the five judges noticed! We scored just below 65% for fourth, so when he is more established and we can iron out the mistakes we should be capable of really good scores.
Following Robin's disappointing result in the Four-Year-Old championship, it begs the question of what young horse judges are looking for. Robin has scopey paces and a natural loose way of going and shows all the ability for the higher levels, but due to his size (17.1hh, although I keep telling myself he is only 16hh!) he is taking time to strengthen up. He is not as established in his way of going as the smaller and naturally more advanced horses that did well in the championship. Some judges look past that, as every horse matures differently, but the judges we had at Hartpury seemed to prefer those who were more advanced in their way of going. It will be interesting to see how Robin gets on at the Nationals as he should have more strength by then. It is not worth rushing a talented horse for the sake of a young horse championship as, when they get to Grand Prix, it is irrelevant."