Holstein Park Leilani at Pau

 (Photos by Calina/HorseJunkiesUnited.com) 

So Close!

It’s interesting how being so close to winning like that can give you terrible writer’s block.  But for those of you who don’t know, Holstein Park Leilani and I were the overnight leaders going into the show jumping at the Pau International Four Star in Southern France. 

The mare did a super dressage test giving me everything she had and stayed with me so beautifully. I was able to ride her flying changes for the 8’s they are. She did everything extremely accurately including the halt-rein back, etc. After I rode it was hard for me to think of something I would have done differently. Hence we shot into equal first place after dressage.

The cross country at Pau initially rode tougher than I expected. Pierre Michellet’s questions really made you think and really made you work hard to ride them well. It rode as one of the toughest Four Stars I have ever ridden.  The chestnut mare answered every question I asked of her, and using her huge gallop stride, that looks slow, she came in the fastest horse of the day leaving me able to casually gallop the last few fences on course. 

Show jumping day was hot, the course was very technical, and the arena surface was… Well there is no other way to say this, crap! Unfortunately Lani and I had 3 rails down and we finished the event in 8th place.

You know I hate making excuses, but I do want to talk about one theory that is out there where horses changing hemispheres are often not quite the same horse they used to be during the first 6-12 months after the move.  Talking to William Fox-Pitt, who has brought many horses from the Southern Hemisphere, he said that a lot of them lose their jump in this period.

This was the last show I will have for a while and I will be using this coming time to reflect on the amazing season I have had over here with this incredible team of horses.  I am very much looking forward to eventing in 2012. Thanks so much to everyone who has helped make this possible.

Link to You Tube cross country footage:


Pau Four Star

Inspecting Fence 1 (photo Paul Tapner)

Getting to Pau

Although France looks pretty small on the globe, with truck speed limiters set at 90 kph it does take a long time to cross with a load of horses. After sitting in traffic for three hours on the Paris ring road, having to do a u-turn at a busy intersection with a hundred crazy frogs blowing their horns and screaming at us, and taking a minor wrong turn (thanks for nothing Tom) our trip was made much more exciting when Elena – groom, co-pilot, navigator, tea maker – discovered which fuse to pull that would disable the speed limiter and release Tania the Scania’s full potential on those French motorways.  This left us with nothing to do but to marvel at the amazing standard of European motorway construction as we flew past other trucks. French motorways are quite amazing; you drive in, take your ticket from the toll gate, then drive dead straight on the smoothest bitumen for miles, before exiting to have a small heart attack when you realize you are up for €120 of road tax. I fail to see why the French economy is doing so badly at that rate.

We eventually reached our destination of Fred Varin’s place in Saumur. We put the horses into the most beautifully quaint French stables with timber shutters overlooking the stunning French countryside.  Lani, Barry, Elena, and I all agreed we could’ve stayed there for a week.
Up early again the next morning and back onto the motorways when the 2 coffees I had for breakfast forced me to make the mistake of pulling into one of the lay-bys. The Jon-Dams, with their blue flashing lights seemed to take more offence to this than I thought they would.  I was not sure if it was the public urination, not indicating when pulling out of the lay-by (a side effect of taking the speed limiter fuse out) or doing all of this while on a mobile phone that saw me fined a further €147.  Fortunately, they didn’t notice the people smuggling we had going on as Elena was hidden in the back under 3 doona covers.

Barry and Lani felt like they were travelling in first class because Elena found a way of extending the dividers allowing them to get their heads down by feeding them on the floor, only possible because the motorways are so smooth. And they arrived feeling so fresh at Pau that they bounced off the truck like the 4-star fire breathing dragons they are.


In apprehension of catching the 5 o’clock ferry to Boekelo, I found myself lying in bed trying to sleep. We have already had a mammoth day getting everything ready, and I have left poor Elena, my wonder Groom, to finish packing the truck at 10:00 at night so I could try and get some sleep. The alarm goes off at 1:30am and I haven’t slept a wink. It’s a 4 ½ hour drive to the ferry at Dover and I did manage to catch some Z’s when we got on. We did have to do some people smuggling though, as Elena was so run into the ground that she forgot her Passport.

Boekelo is sponsored by Grouls and the Dutch really do know how to turn it on. There were parties for the riders, grooms, and owners every night with free food and drink being a plus. Everywhere we went the organizers were very accommodating, especially towards the riders.

Underdiscussion drew first to go of our horses on the Thursday and didn’t disappoint to shoot into the lead on a 43. I do believe that if my top boots and saddle weren’t quite so slippery due to the torrent of rain that fell on us during the warmup, I could have been able to better sit the trot, hence not have skipped in that medium trot and been able to ride for more in the extended trot.  Whilst I was happy with him, I know this horse can do a much better test.

Harry warmed up beautifully for his test and just as we finished our trot work in the ring the heavens opened and it bucketed on us.  He rightfully turned his bum into the rain at the halt, and to show that he was equally disappointed in the weather as I was, he shook his head and squealed all through the canter work, costing us valuable marks, so unlucky.

Although Mel had a few little problems on course, his gallop and endurance were quite outstanding on the 10 minute 30 sec track through mud.  He finished the course full of running and when we pulled up he wouldn’t have been able to blow a candle out.

Haruzac’s bad luck with the weather continued, this time with rain and hail in the warm up. In fact, as I galloped towards fence 2 I couldn’t even see where I was going. Luckily Harry had seen it and by chance there was a distance there. This horse/machine made light work of Sue Benson’s stupid cross country questions and finished the course 3 seconds inside the time, although on screen people commented that he looked as if he wasn’t going fast at all.

Elena was very pleased with my day’s work as both horse pulled up unscathed and needed minimal treatment on cross-country night.

Mel had a beautiful show jumping round showing everyone how careful and clever he is. We did pick up a few time penalties for jumping a flowing controlled round, something I believe should be abolished in our sport as they have already demonstrated their speed the day before.

Biggest disappointment of the weekend came when Haruzac had two verticals down in the show jumping. This is so devastating on such a careful jumper after he worked so hard to gain a good position after cross-country.  All I can say is I’m sorry and wish it hadn’t had happened. I do firmly believe that these two superstars will get their moment of glory.

Osberton 2Star

We’ve started the first of our string of three-day events. Osberton lies in the Sherwood Forest, real Robin Hood country. Kinordy Rivaldo showed exactly why he is a tough little three-day event horse in the British heat. In fact they had the hottest October day on record. At the risk of sounding like a whinging Pom, it was really hot, but Ken loved it. He did a super test and got a string of 8′s for his eye catching canter work to lay in second place after the dressage only to Germany’s sweetheart, Ingrid Klimke, who did a test we all thought should have been in the 30′s

Ken stormed around the 8 minute 50 track and really showed me that he is a 3* horse for the future. Still in second place going into the show jumping we unfortunately had two rails, one of them being unlucky when he just breathed on a breakaway cup. However, we were not the only ones having rails as we finished in 4th place.

Now the  really begins as we make our way home to make a 24 hour turn around to pack up and go to Boekelo, Holland tomorrow night.

I’ll keep ya posted.


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