Olivia's career began with the amazing and tiny cob Patris Filius, who she competed from Pony Club to Badminton '08. She has since been successful at 4* level with double clears at Badminton and Burghley on Axil!
26 September 2016
Why we love horses...?!
The last few weeks were a bit crazy and full of ups and downs but that's why we love horses, right?! We arrived at Burghley and got the boys settled in, then got our camp set up for the week. I sometimes seem to forget how far north we live and that it takes us longer than I expect to get places particularly in the lorry. I can't cut time off the sat nav like you do in the car (obviously, I don't speed but); you know what I mean, sat nav usually overestimates the journey time when you're in the car; however, you can add at least an hour when you're in the lorry!!!
Kerin, who groomed for me at Badminton, came to Burghley which was really nice as she knows me and the horses and it means the home set-up doesn't need altering if I don't take staff with me. I had Zebedee on the truck, as well as Axil, so I could keep him fit and get some help from Ian before going on to Blenheim; I think people feel a bit sorry for Kerin when they see 2 grey horses arriving!
Axil was feeling good, quite perky to start with at Burghley but I wouldn't want him feeling less than great at the start of the week though it was a little testing at times! Burghley is beautiful estate and we had some lovely hacks there. Because I had Zebedee my mum came out on him so she had a great time too, she thinks I should take two horses to all the big events so she can ride in the beautiful settings!
Axil had a late draw, so I knew my dressage would be on Friday afternoon. On the Wednesday, he passed the trot up and I had my first walk around the cross country which is always a little daunting but Saturday still felt far enough away, so I wasn't too worried! I had a couple of lessons with Ian and Axil got better and better after he gave me his trade-mark 'talking to'. I sometimes seem to forget how to ride simple things like corners and counter canter. It's not that I feel nervous, it's more I focus so much on something, for example, making sure I'm sitting straight and Axil is even in the contact, that I seem to forget I can also still ride!
He worked in well for his test and I felt he tried really hard in the arena, especially as it was Friday afternoon and the stands were busy. He even scored his first ever 9s - what a time and place to do it! Unfortunately, I didn't ride the counter canter into the flying changes so well, so we lost some marks there but he scored 52 which is he best mark at 4 star. After his dressage I like to give him a wee jump. And walk the cross country course again having been round with Ian and discussed lines, he's very good at settling my nerves and giving me confidence.
Being a late draw, meant Saturday was a long day to wait, but luckily I had Zebedee there so I could keep myself busy, including working him until it was time to get ready and go down to the warm-up. Axil felt great once we set off around the course. The harder and tougher it got the better he went. I do find shouting at him seems to make him go better! It's definitely not something I do on Zebedee as he gets a bit scared! Axil was really flying and we were taking all the straight routes! I was so delighted we jumped straight at the Diary Mound, in particular and we were only 20 seconds down on the clock which for me is very fast!
We came to the Trout Hatchery and he jumped in well, took a stride and then seemed to trip and start going down, definitely not something Axil has ever done before. I tried to stay on but sadly I eventually slipped off the side luckily onto dry land, so I didn't get soaked but that was it - game over, a fall and out. I was gutted! Axil was flying and didn't deserve it, neither did the whole team who had helped us get there. It was so frustrating but, unfortunately, these things happen. Axil had a graze on his knees and nostril but was ok, I think he was a bit confused though. So near yet so far. I've gone over it in my head and watched the video and the photos but I just have to learn from it and move forwards - it happens and I must get over it! It's very frustrating having to wait until next season to give it a go again but next year will be our year – I feel it in my bones!
Luckily I managed to get a friend to take Axil home from Burghley so I could straight on to Blenheim with Zebedee. It did mean we were the first ones to arrive an Blenheim and there a day early but that was better than driving all the way home to do a quick turn around. John and Hamish arrived at Burghley after the cross country and came on to Blenheim, so it was good to have a few quieter days.
It was very hot to start at Blenheim, I am really not used riding or staying in the lorry in the heat – we are far more used to the cold! Zebedee had an early draw which was good, as we were there so early. Zebedee was working really well and I had Ian's voice in my head. He worked in well for his test but I felt he was a little tight once we were in the arena. He did some really nice trot-work but frustratingly in the canter there were a couple of mistakes. So I was disappointed, I feel I need to up my own game in the arena over the winter.
The cross country seemed to be have been beefed-up a bit from last year but I believe in Zebedee and knew he was more than capable. Having the 'day off' the following day (which was the second day of dressage) meant I could hack and jump Zebedee but I also went around some trade stands (not many)! Hamish is loving playing golf so he had his golf clubs with, and we found a quiet area away from lorries and horses for him. Our lorry may have had a couple of balls hit the side! Whoops, I won't mention it to my parents!
Both Burghley and Blenheim cross country days were wet! Zebedee was out early so I didn't get a chance to watch anyone, not that I like to watch but the occasional good one (as long as you pick out a good round) can be helpful. Zebedee warmed up well and was feeling great. He started out over the first few fences fantastically. Fence 5 was a big ditch brush which he had jumped at Blenheim previously but both times, near the end of the course. I was ready for him to do one of his slightly spooky jumps as it was early on which he did but then he settled down and jumped better and better the further we went.
We made a turn to a hanging rail under the trees, I made sure I steadied him in case he slipped but he was fine. However, about 2 strides out he seemed to lose his footing behind and slip and skidded into the fence. It was really unlike him. I circled and he popped it but the next fence was the big main water I could feel he wasn't happy. I tried to keep him going but he wasn't feeling up for it, so I decided to retire. Again, absolutely gutted but he wasn't happy so I wasn't going to keep going and risk things going wrong. When I got back I notice he had cut his knee and his lip so I think that just knocked his confidence. He's a sensitive boy. So, at least, I'm hoping I now have all the bad runs out of the way now. Not quite the end of the season I had hoped for but onwards and upwards. It's particularly disappointing when you have a good support team - I had some many friends and supporters who come to Burghley and Blenheim and it's such a team effort. So it's now time to reflect on the good and bad from this year, what worked and what didn't and how to be better next season.