August started with a brief trip home to help my Mum with her event ‘Hendersyde’. It’s usually quite an entertaining weekend as the Scottish eventing contingent are a very cheerful bunch, and it’s very much a family affair with my sisters having key roles; George is chief caterer and makes epic picnics for all our amazing volunteers – about 400 rolls, 200 boiled eggs and 300 cakes over the weekend, and Al takes on the more alarming but no less demanding role of Secretary. It was to the latter camp that I was drafted, and realised a little too quickly that I needed a pocket calculator. Embarrassingly, despite the genius magic square that my Dad had drawn up for us of ‘change options’ I still found myself looking blankly at the £40 one lady handed me, as I realised I couldn’t even do 40-12 on the spot… tragic. Thankfully I seem to be able to ride under pressure a little better..! Lloyds had very generously (and bravely!) volunteered two of their extremely swanky brand new Range Rovers as course vehicles, and I had the exciting task of giving the St James’s Place front men and their clients tours around the cross-country! My Mum did an amazing job securing this pro-Eventing company as title sponsors of the Scottish Novice Championships, and despite not really having a clue about the sport, with a little bit of guidance from Team Agnew I think they couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement by the end of the day!
Back in the south, Dumble had his first Intermediate the following week at Aston-le-Walls. I knew he was capable but it’s always a bit nerve wracking stepping up a level, as you can never be quite sure what they’ll think about it. Having chosen Aston as a ‘nice’ one, I was a little surprised to see quite a few of the Advanced fences I’d jumped last year in it, so hoped Dumble would have his springing shoes on! I need not have worried though, as he put in his customary star performance to come home with yet another double clear. He really does remind me of Little Beau!
I’m doing quite a lot more teaching this year which I’m really enjoying, in particular for the North Oxford Riding Club – who never cease to put a smile on my face – and the Old Berks PC, as I have been team trainer for the Novice team. The Area competition was a couple of weeks ago, and I almost surprised myself with how competitive I became! The course was very hilly, and having walked it and given a variety of tips on how to jump things we came to the point of ‘speed.’ Aware of how many time faults people get at the BE event there, I repeated a quote from Ian (Stark) about how if you’re enjoying yourself you’re probably going to slowly, and then realised that possibly wasn’t the best thing to say to group of pony club children…! Anyway, it seemed to do the trick on the day; they were all fantastic and qualified for the Champs, which was a great success.
The following week Cara and I trucked off on the long road up to Blair with all three ‘big boys’ on board. We dropped Zul off at home, had a nice evening catching up with the family and then rolled on up to Perthshire with Dumble and Woody bright and early on Wednesday morning. Blair has been a real family tradition for us growing up, and I have some wonderful memories of competing there – Little Beau and I were 5th in the CCI*** there when I was 18 (that seems pretty crazy now!) and it was also the scene of our gold medal triumph a couple of years later at the Young Rider Europeans. Much to my disappointment I’ve not been able to go for the last couple of years, and I was completely taken away, once again, by how stunning it is up there. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to compete on that up and down terrain in this country – I firmly believe that it does wonders for educating young horses cross-country – and I really hope people continue to support Blair by making the trip. As it happened my boys both loved the course, and despite not getting quite the marks I had anticipated in the first phase, having sped round we moved up quite a few places. Woody in fact finished nearest the optimum time which I was thrilled about, as he’s not Thoroughbred (although he does think he is!) and I’ve had to work harder on his fitness to make sure he was ready for the hills. It didn’t seem to take anything out of him though, as I had one of the easiest rounds ever – he is just so awesome xc.
With my sisters joining the camp later in the week we made the most of Scottish hospitality by getting thoroughly involved with the entertainment. The Caleigh is always pretty exciting on Thursday night, but I think I might have been a bit over ambitious this time, as I could barely hold up my arms for the next two days for the bicep bruises (slightly concerned I wasn’t going to be able to hold my steeds). Thank god they recovered for Saturday, but I think I’ll need to get into training for next year!
The boys jumped brilliantly on Sunday – Dumble popped round clear, and Woody was super having just one unlucky rail. I was so thrilled with them, and with clear rounds few and far between in both classes they moved up to 15th and 7th respectively. I did well in bonus prizes in the 3* too, getting both the highest placed British and Scottish rider, so all in all it was a very successful trip. All that remains is for Zul to follow the fantastic hoof prints of his stable mates and do us all proud at Blenheim.