All About Osberton International Horse Trials
The beginning of the week was getting ready for Osberton - packing, cooking and sorting the lorry. Robert from Rossdales came out for Dom’s annual jab and we also got him to scan Vinnie’s legs to check all was OK after Blenheim.
We do this so that we do not carry on working a horse if it has a small niggle. Nothing worse than getting to the end of the winter ready for the season and then realising you shouldn’t have been working them!!! Anyway, Vinnie was given a clean bill of health and will now just be walked over the next month before starting to pick up again for next season!
Final Big Competition of the Season
We travelled to Osberton, one of my favourite events, without any expectations. The plan was to have a good solid educational ride on 6 year old Ballycoog Breaker Boy(William) as he has had a short inconsistent season due to his lack of strength, having grown so much. The aim was to build on his run at Gatcombe. The Partner (Conquer) was going for the CCI**. With his recent lack of form we really didn’t know what to expect and what we would have to work with in relation to his anxiety and stress. He last went to a 3 day at Houghton where he tied up and this has had a detrimental effect on his mental state.
First Day Set Ups
I am pleased to say that Conquer behaved in his trot up - no antics like we had at Blenheim with VInnie!! We had decided to manage Conquer differently to how we usual manage our horses at a 3 day. We had to work on keeping him relaxed and familiarise him with all areas as much as possible. After the trot up I did a mixture of schooling and the arena familiarisation. He definitely wanted to get tense but I kept relaxed myself and let him mouch around trying to get him to chill which he did eventually. We had requested an end stable and we were very appreciative of being given this and also being put in a small barn so he was able to relax more when in the stable. We had arrived at 12 and we eventually got everything sorted by 7pm - it never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to set up camp for the 5 days. Wednesday night was an early night having just had a quiet drink at the lorry with some friends.
Conquer was ridden first thing on Thursday as he had his dressage late morning and Mum needed to plait him, also we wanted him to be hand grazed and generally kept chilled. I was very pleased with his test despite it being tense at times and he was not as rideable as at Gatcombe 2 weeks before but he did do some nice work inbetween. Plenty to build on and better than his test at Houghton which was his last 3 day. He was in the top 3rd after two days of dressage which was great and a nice surprise as he is usually in the bottom, 3rd!! Definitely an extra treat was given. William went for a hack and he behaved appallingly. So full of himself and came back in a hot sweat and a hacked off rider! Dad had joined us so he and I took the horses out for a long hand graze after we had walked the XC courses to get a general overview and feel for them. My initial thoughts were that they were good courses with enough questions. I was disappointed with the ground at this stage as it was quite rutted in places but work was done on it before the weekend.
Never a day of rest!
Friday was Day off from competition. Somehow the day still was full and all thoughts of being able to watch everyone else never really happened. I took Conquer for a hack on a long rein and mouch about and he remained relaxed which was nice. I rode William in the dressage field and having done some canter work to get rid of some freshness he then actually worked really well which was a relief after his antics the day before! The horses both had hand grazing before we had our lunch and then off to walk the courses in more depth and sort the minute markers which I now do using an app. I felt comfortable with both courses and felt if they were on form we could have good rounds. Late afternoon we took Conquer into the jumping field and jumped him both SJ and XC training. I never do this usually with any horses at competitions as all their work is done before they arrive. As this was in the XC warm up field I thought it might get him relaxed for the following day. He worked well at times and would then go through a tense period and then back again. I kept giving him relaxation breaks where we wandered around. At the end of the session I felt a little more confident about going XC. That evening we all had supper with Dad’s parents who only live 20 mins away. Mum’s mother and Missy, my sister, had come up for the weekend and were staying there with Mum and Dad so it was nice to all have a catch up. I then went back to find I had missed Jonty Evans at the Equestrian of Sport. It had been a well kept secret and If I had known I would have gone back earlier. It is great news that he is recovering and long may it continue.
Saturday was our full on day with William doing his dressage test in the morning and SJ in the afternoon and Conquer going XC in between. As it turned out it was a REALLY GOOD day. William performed a nice test - a little unbalanced at times but he does love being in the big arena and rises to the occasion. He still gave his customary neigh half way through!!! His SJ round was hard work but we managed to pull out an unexpected clear to leave us lying 9th going into XC on Sunday - a nice surprise.
We had quite a long wait at the warm up for Conquer’s XC as the course had been held twice close together, due to incidents on the course. I think this landed up benefiting conquer as I spent 80% of the time walking around with as friend chatting - she also needed to do the same thing so the horses kept each other company. As we went over to the start box Conquer almost thought about napping back but I encouraged him over and he went out of the start box with his ears pricked. He was a little unsure over the first few fences as they were in the woods but throughout the course he built in confidence and gave me a good ride. We were actually up on our minute markers but this was because he was taking me not because I was pushing him. We jumped the combination where we had a fly past, last year, well and I was very relieved to have not made the same mistake! I must have learnt something! We lost some time on the homeward leg so finished with 4 time penalties - I wanted him to travel at his own pace but I know that if I had wanted to I could have pushed him so we were inside but that is not what the day was about on this occasion. However, I was SO pleased to have completed and it was great to have him back to the XC machine that he has been. I hope this will encourage him for next year. Lots of icing of legs and feet followed and more hand grazing and then a good evening at the bar!
Trot up wasn’t until 10.30am so having checked Conquer I then took him for a stroll around the park. He felt really good and relaxed. He sailed through the trot up. His SJ was after lunch and we went out of turn as William’s XC was soon after. I felt he was a bit tense over the back and holding himself a little but despite that he jumped a seriously good round which pulled us up from 42 to 19th!! There had been 91 starters and if I had pushed for the time we would have finished 7th!! - I was delighted that he was back in double clear form and finished his season so well. Lots to build on during the winter, once he has had his break.
William’s XC was in reverse order being the 6 year Old Championships so we were 9th last to go. It was getting quite exciting as everyone was so close in scores and any marginal error would be costly. Nevertheless William did a cracking clear inside the time to finish 8th. More importantly he felt so much more confident and capable than at Gatcombe where he certainly wasn’t ready to go for the time. This result really made up for his inconsistent season and show’s how much he learnt from the other competitions. A great way to finish a very good weekend in so many ways. Lots to look forward to for next season. William is now having the pressure taken off but will be kept ticking over as he has had such a short season.
Only 3 more competitions to go with Vino and Dom and then hard work during the winter ready for a good season next year.