“This week started well, and Jasper has had a great run at the gallops and is well on target for Badminton.
Tuesday was spent with Kenneth Clawson, the Team GBR show jumping trainer. We worked on perfecting softness around tight turns and the horse’s technique over a fence. On Wednesday, I took Harry (Azeb) and Romeo (Romeo Z) to Jays to jump in the 1.0m and 1.05 classes. They jumped very nice clear rounds and Harry was second in the 1.0m. On Thursday, I schooled the horses going to Belton International Horse Trials. I tend not to practice the whole test, but work on the more difficult movements. I also took Dave (Mightaswell) and Beanie (Breeze IV) XC schooling at our local course to give them a confidence boost – both were very good
On Friday, I went to Belton and took Harry to do the Novice, Bruno (Ultimate Opposition) and Flo (Charmed) to do their CIC tests and Joe (Jorrocks Curtis) to do his Intermediate test. Harry did a lovely test. He had an uncharacteristic show jump down as he was a little spooky, but went XC fantastically. Belton Novice notoriously causes problems, so to jump clear inside the time was excellent. He finished in eighth place. The CICs do their tests in the main arena and the atmosphere is electric, so Flo did well to remain calm. Bruno had improved hugely since Burnham and Joe did a respectable test.
On Saturday, I headed back to Belton, this time with Joe and Dave in the Intermediate and Kenny (Kenny) and Jasper doing their Advanced and 3*tests. Joe jumped a good show jumping round, but had a run out at a very difficult combination on a tight turn XC and at 17.1hh, these are quite difficult. Dave had the first show jump down unfortunately, but then jumped a great round and was fantastic XC. The course was very testing, so I was pleased with both horses. The Advanced horses performed their tests in the main arenas and there was a tremendous atmosphere. This got to both Kenny and Jasper and they underperformed disappointingly.
When I walked the Advanced XC course for the next day I could see it raised a lot of questions, but I was looking forward to the challenge. On Sunday, I set off again at 5.30am as I had a trot up for the CIC horses at 8am. I watched some of the show jumping – the Advanced course was well up to height, much like the XC. I show jumped my horses with great results: Kenny just had one down and the other three (Jasper, Bruno and Flo) all jumped clear rounds.
Everything was going well, and I thought I would just have a look at a difficult fence on the course because I was unsure of my line. As I approached it, I could see the screens were up and ambulances were there; I think when serious accidents happen you know straight away. I subsequently found out that my friend, Ian Olding, had been killed in a rotational fall. I cannot describe how awful and tragic this is – the shock is unbelievable. The event stopped for a couple of hours – I don't think anyone could ride for a while, but it restarted later. Ian was a very vibrant person and I feel he would've told us to carry on. I was surprised at how it made me focus even more.
Flo and Bruno were fantastic XC and, as it’s so close to Badminton, I only practiced Jasper out of the start box and over the first ten fences, which he jumped perfectly. I finished seventh and eighth in the CIC*** and, although I was pleased, the day was so sad. When I got home, the full realisation of what had happened hit me and I was absolutely devastated - as everyone is.”