Wow what a month, I’m absolutely buzzing at how well Prince has done this month and how well he has coped with it all. The month kicked off on the 4th July as we headed to Hatpury for our first International competition together, although I have competed Internationally before it was my first time competing at 3* level and was Prince’s International debut. on the first day all of the horses are presented to the vets and ground jury, where their identity is checked against the passports, then they are trotted up to ensure that they are sound and fit to compete.
We also get the opportunity to do arena familiarisation where we are given a slot to ride in the competition arena to let the horses get used to the environment, with all the flags and flowers which seem to upset some, Prince on the other hand isn’t bothered in the slightest but would fancy a nibble at the plants. the next day was the first of two days of competition where we rode the team gaining 66.67% and a 8 the place, day 3 we rode the Individual test and climbed the results board with a 5th place on 68.76% which was less than 1% behind 3rd and 4th place and 2% behind 2nd place just to put that into context. I was so chuffed because remember two of these riders were reserves for Rio, all 3 riders are on the World Class podium and potential squad, which is the level up from the level I was on previously and each of them had 2 horses there, so for our International debut I think we did pretty amazing, and best of all we qualified to ride our freestyle test the following day. I was super excited that we were going to be allowed to do our freestyle because only the top 6 horses go through, which would have been really disappointing when you have gone to the time, trouble and expense of having a floor plan and music produced and to have to go home without being able to show it. So we danced our socks off and finished in 4th place with 69% in a tight contest once again.
The only problem was that I was in agony by the end of the test with my hip and the steward called the medical staff because I had turned such a funny colour and they were worried, the medical staff signposted me to a sport physiotherapist that was on site and luckily I was able to get in to be treated by him, which gave me some relief. Big lesson learnt in that we work really hard at home with physio and gym work to keep myself as strong as possible to support my hip in particularly because its one of the areas that causes me problems and we know walking really inflames it so I generally don’t walk and great distances. However with the long days waiting around at these competitions we tended to try and break the monotony by visiting Prince at the stables, going outside to watch some of the able bodied competition, or browsing the stands, which individually were only short walks but must have had an accumulative effect on my poor hip. I don’t think people realise how much we para riders have to micro manage our bodies to enable us to do what we do, and then it still isn’t enough and you have to re evaluate things, which is really frustrating because in our nature we want to be the same as everyone else and get on and do things but in order the be at our optimum we have to go against that instinct to preserve ourselves for performance.
So with this in mind and just under 2 weeks between Hartpury and Bishop Burton CPEDI3*, I asked Jane at our yard if I could possibly borrow her scooter to take with me, to solve the walking around issue there, and she kindly agreed, so it travelled in the back of the horsebox with Prince. The journey took just over 4 hours and we arrived early evening, because I had to go to work that day before we could leave. Prince was his usual cheeky self, and had removed his head collar, which is normal practice for him, however after we arrived Leonie had put it back on ready for off loading him, but she hadn’t realised he had slipped it again, so when she opened the partition he jumped off and ran into the stable yard where he strutted up and down looking extremely smug with himself. Luckily it is a gated area so he wasn’t in any danger of getting loose and eventually he let Leonie catch him and take him to his stable after he was vet checked.
I must admit this competition has always been my favourite of the year because I love how light and bright the main arena is at Bishop Burton, and the whole place has a really relaxed atmosphere. Different venue but the same drill as at Harpury, with horse inspections on day 1, no problems as usual, day 2 was team test and we got a 2nd place with 67.41%, day 3 was the Individual and I finished 3rd with 66.82% and we rode the freestyle again on day 4 to get another 3rd place with 68.36%. Again I am personally really pleased with our results even though there are mistakes which actually just makes me even more excited to think what we could achieve if I ever managed to ride a mistake free test. I just hope that Mandy Wright is super proud of how amazing her beautiful horse is and that William Southall and Deryk Law, who are the two gentlemen that enabled me to attend these competitions are pleased with our achievements, I am so grateful to you all, and to Leonie Brown for her continued hard work with myself and Prince, Toby, Sue and Becky for keeping prince tip top along with my supporters: The National Saddle centre, BettaLife, Countrywide.
Although the two competitions have been an amazing experience, and another milestone reached, it has also given rise to issues for us all to reflect and act upon in order to move forward. One of the things I actually enjoy most about this whole experience, is that it is a journey, but never on a straight,flat road, its really hard at times and an uphill struggle, but exciting as you never know what is around the corner. Each thing we do is a learning curve and we constantly evaluate what we can improve upon which helps me not only improve my riding but also to grow as a person too, I genuinely wouldn’t be the person I am today without having had horse in my life.