Apologies everyone for the delay in getting this blog to you. One thing about eventing in England is that with a handful of midweek and weekend events to choose from every week we tend to be away a lot. Anyway, as a result of being busy this is quite a long blog and full of some quite exciting news. Graf Liberty and Underdiscussion picked up wins in Ireland at the Tattersalls in the CCI* and CCI** classes, Underdiscussion won the CICO*** at Aachen in Germany and of course Holstein Park Leilani and I were selected as part of the team to represent Australia at the London Olympics. It’s fair to say that I’m having a pretty good run at the moment. Eventing can be full of ups and down and I’ve learnt to enjoy the good times when they come.
Winning on both horses at Tattersalls after just coming home from a 1,2 result at Saumur almost seemed rude. But the truth is that at the moment I am just very lucky to have such a nice team of horses. The win in Ireland was very welcome following a much less than desirable journey to the show. We left the yard bright and early in the morning, drove seven hours to Holyhead and as a result of ‘unforeseen circumstances’ missed the 2pm ferry. The Irish Ferry company were (thankfully) very accommodating and allowed us to board the next ferry… at 2:40am! As it turns out, there is not much to do at a ferry terminal for ten or so hours so we did what any respectable team of horse people would do and ate the weeks worth of snacks and watched movies. Time well spent.
It was onwards and upwards from here and we arrived at Tattersalls at around 7am the following morning. Although very confused as to what time of day it was Elena and Lizzie did a great job sprucing up the horses for the trot up and they were both accepted. The facilities were amazing. Tattersalls is a big sales and racing facility and we were very lucky to have great undercover stable blocks. Graf Liberty (Danny) looked very impressive in the trot up and it left me feeling like he had been there before. As it turns out he had. He was Irish bred and sold at the ring right next to the trot up. Both his breeder and first owner were at the event and recognised him straight away. Talk about a small world.
Both Underdiscussion and Graf Liberty did outstanding test and proved that going near the beginning of the class isn’t always a disadvantage as they both went early and did the only sub 40 tests in their class. Tattersalls is quite a flat cross country course with its fair share of ditches. The going was perfect and they both ran extremely well, jumping clear and under time to hold on to their first places. It was a true credit to Danny’s honesty to jump around this 1* track as he is still very short on runs at this level due to all the event cancellations this year. Mel gave me a beautiful ride around the 2** and showed what a galloping machine he is as he ran down the nine minutes easily. I was surprised to see the going on the show jumping arena held up so well despite the heavy rain the night before. Mel did another one of his beautiful foot perfect rounds to finish first, after which I had to rush to the other arena to jump Danny in the 1*. He also held on to his first place by jumping clear. It was a very exciting few hours.
This was my first time in Ireland and I think it is fair to say that it is one of the most accommodating countries I have been to. It wasn’t just the event staff who were fantastic and helpful, but almost everyone we came into contact with wanted to go out of their way to help you. We will be back for sure!
After Ireland we had a few small events for all the horses. Teddy, Charlie and Hugo, the babies of the team, went to a combined training day at West Wilts. We went to the new event held at Nunney. This was a great show for a new committee. Graf Liberty kept his winning streak alive by winning the Novice, Kinnordy Rivaldo enjoyed his first event out in a while due to balloting and cancellations and ran around the Intermediate. Teddy, Charlie and Hugo all got some extra miles under their belts in the Pre Novice, all three showing big improvements from the last show. After Nunney was Salperton. This was a beautiful event. Haruzac, Leilani, and Kinnordy Rivaldo all had a good run around the Open Intermediate on the Saturday and Underdiscussion ran around the Intermediate. Due to (more) heavy rain, the rest of the event was cancelled and the babies had the weekend off. Following Salperton was the very impressive Barbury Castle. This has to be one of the most beautiful and spectator friendly courses in the UK. With the course set in a valley, the crowd can see every jump from the tents on the hill. Graf Liberty once again won the novice, making it a trifecta. Underdiscussion had a nice slow run around the intermediate in preparation for Aachen, Leilani did the 4**** Olympic combined training which she led after the dressage! Hugo (Dancing Hugo) did his first Novice run, he showed what a horse he is by leading the dressage and jumping around the cross country clear. Kinnordy Rivaldo did his first Advanced and really showed what he was made of. He did a great test in atmosphere, jumped a good show jump round for one unlucky fence down and answered some very tough questions in the cross country. He had a green run out at some big open corners, but with that being the only issue I was very happy with him.
And then came Aachen…
I was so excited to get two horses into Aachen, Haruzac and Underdiscussion. Some of my very supportive owners jumped on a plane to come and see what many consider to be the world’s best horse show. This event really is made for riders and their entourage, with catering during the day, catered parties at night and passes into all the stadiums. Leave it to the Germans with their flair for organisational precision to pull off a stunt like CHIO Aachen. It really has to be seen to be believed. You not only get to enjoy the worlds best jumping horses in their final run before the Olympics but through the week we were also able to cheer on the top Aussie dressage riders and the amazing world number 1 Australian carriage driver Boyd Excel.
For me the show was made that much better by being able to enjoy two great rides on Haruzac (Harry) and Underdiscussion (Mel). Harry, being the reliable beautifully tempered competitor that he is, was obligated to go early to fill his spot in the team. He did a super test, trying every step of the way and with just made a few mistakes at the end in the extended canter and the centre line he finished on a score of 44 penalties. Even a horse as genuine as the mighty Haruzac was taken back by the grandeur of the massive Aachen arena, and had an uncharacteristic rail down, but he was in good company as many other good horses did the same thing on the day.
He was quickly forgiven of this mistake when the next day he was one of only a handful to go clear and under time on the cross country course, showing what a reliable cross country machine he is. Harry, being such the winner that he is, was a bit taken a back when he saw one of his stable mates coming back with the blue ribbon.
Underdiscussion came out in style in the dressage and did a 37. He coped so well in the show jumping arena, jumping clear and showing us he was made to be at such a big show. The big and very testing Aachen cross country course had me questioning whether I was over facing Mel when I saw riders like Ingrid Klimker, Sam Griffiths and Bill Levett have problems. But this little horse gave it everything he had on cross country and I was so impressed with how easily he jumped the big fences and how much gallop he has. For a little half warmblood, he’s bloody fast! Fast was the key in the end with the two horses in front of him after show jumping having time faults, which saw the little speed daemon move up into first place. I have always said that this is a horse that once he got everything right he won’t come second.
It wasn’t until the presentation that it really sunk in what a big thing I had done. I had just shown the world what a force Australian eventing is and that us little Aussie eventers will always be a force to be reckoned with. This has given me a lot of confidence in the wake of the Olympics. I can’t wait to go back next year and see my name on the famous honour board.
The other exciting news is of course my Olympic selection. I have had the dreaded phone call before from the selectors but this time it came with good news, that Holstein Park Leilani and I had been selected to be a part of the Australian team at London 2012. It was not all smiles though, as my mate Sam Griffiths was left off the team on his well seasoned horse Happy Times. It goes to show the depth in talent Australia must have to be able to afford to leave a horse like that off the team. That said, I am very excited to be a part of the team selected. Leilani being so experienced has already had her final pre-Olympic run in an Advanced Intermediate at Salperton. She is looking fantastic, feeling stronger than ever and showed everyone she means business when she lead the dressage in the 4* Olympic combined training class at Barbury Castle.
Unfortunately it’s not all good news. While we were away, the rain continued to drench the UK. While we keep being told it is the worst summer anybody remembers we can’t help but think “why are we living here?”. Although, to avoid sounding like a winging Pom, I have to say that on a sunny day it is a stunning country and you very quickly forget how soggy you have been for the last few weeks.
Let’s hope the next blog is laced with gold!
Before we stop I want to tell everyone that Bek and I are both trying to ‘give up alcohol’ for a while as we are doing ‘Dry July’ in aid of adults with cancer. If anyone would like to donate please go to http://www.dryjuly.com and look for the team ‘Prisoners of Mother England’ – all proceeds will go to adults living with cancer. We thought it was a good thing to do to prepare for the Olympics and so far we are one week in … so far so good. We have substituted to sparkling mineral water and lime, although I have to say winning at Aachen did create an obstacle because it seemed un-Australian to celebrate without a drink!