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Ella's October Blog - Mud, mud, mud!

Despite the awful weather this month, I have definitely been luckier than some managing to run at all the events I intended to - just getting a bit soggy along the way! We have been exceptionally busy, squeezing in our last few events to finish the season off, starting at Little Downham at the beginning of the month.

After the unfortunate cancellation of South of England at the end of September, we were lucky to squeeze a late entry into the ONU18 at Little Downham. As the rain continued, we headed off very early in the morning keeping everything crossed for a run. Even with the Dartford tunnel closed due to flooding on the way there (!!!) Little Downham did an incredible job to run in some very testing conditions. Having only ever evented in the summer, Happy wasn’t sure what to make of the mud and sideways rain however, he did a nice dressage test, just getting a little stuck in the mud. He followed this by jumping one of only five show jumping clears in my section. The cross-country course was very big and technical and I was very pleased with how hard he tried. Unfortunately, a green mistake in the last water gave us an unlucky 20 penalties which was a bit frustrating but I was thrilled with how he’d coped in the conditions. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s only seven!

The next weekend we were off to Calmsden BE with both April and Happy. Some more crossing of the fingers and anti-rain dances the week before seemed to do the trick with absolutely perfect ground and we managed to go the whole day without getting wet! Happy was having far too much fun in the first two phases unfortunately but made nothing of a decent cross country track. April and I completed our first Novice since my tumble at Keysoe with a sweet test, a super unlucky show jumping round but a brilliant clear cross country, feeling great. She finished just outside the top ten which was a brilliant way to end her season.

We then set our sights on the NSEA Championships at Addington Manor the following weekend where Happy had qualified for the novice dressage and April the 105 and 115 Jumping With Style individually. Before this, I took Happy for a dressage lesson with my instructor Melissa Beer to have a run-through of our tests in a long arena.

Happy has all the ability on the flat and has been working beautifully at home, it’s just a case of figuring out how to get this work out of him at a competition. We have been trying lots of different tactics to see what works and unfortunately I worked him a little too hard before his tests at Addington meaning we didn’t get the marks we’d hoped for. It’s a little trial and error at the moment so fingers crossed, after a winter of dressage bootcamp, we’ll find a tactic that works as he’s definitely got plenty of winning tests in him yet!

April was the star of the weekend, knocking an annoying first fence in the 105 (after she spotted some very scary wooden foxhound fillers in the corner of the arena!) but getting some lovely style comments. She then jumped brilliantly in the 115 Jumping With Style to be one of only a handful of clears and finish 4th nationally in a big class! Having only competed indoors once before I was thrilled with how she coped in a very buzzy indoor round a decent track. The only thing she wasn’t very impressed with was the fact that her winter’s holiday started when she got home!

With April on holiday, sights were set on the last event of the season and both mine and Happy’s first international at Bicton in the CCI-2*S 6/7yo section. To prepare for this, we went for another dressage lesson on the Tuesday. Happy can get quite tense in new environments so we went right back to basics, to focus on getting him to really push from behind into a softer frame. The next day, we went to Wellington for a jumping lesson with Nick Gauntlett. This was useful to get my eye in over some tricky lines and set us up well ready for the weekend!

After a four-and-a-half-hour trek down to Bicton Arena, we were ready for our dressage on Friday afternoon. We were greeted by some very generous gifts from Bicton, including a beautiful stable plaque. It was very special to be able to ride in my mum’s tailcoat for the first time- it all felt very surreal! Happy warmed up beautifully, producing some of the best work we’ve done away from home, however frustratingly he froze rather in a buzzy arena and seemed to forget what sitting trot was! Despite some lovely canter work this unfortunately meant we ended up with a bit of a cricket score as all the trot work was also done in canter!

I then headed off to have a first look at the cross-country course. This confirmed to me that it definitely wasn’t going to be a dressage competition thankfully, especially with the heavens opening halfway round my course walk, I was absolutely soaked! The torrential rain then proceeded to carry on all night; with a very soggy stable area and lorry park, I lay in bed convinced it was going to be cancelled in the morning, however much to the credit of the team at Bicton they managed to pull off an incredible day.

Happy show jumped in the worst of the rain on Saturday. Thankfully we were on a surface but we had a good few puddles to contend with, for both of our first 1.15/1.20m track. There were a couple of mistakes on my behalf leading to two down but I was thrilled with how Happy jumped overall, considering the problems the course was causing. I was one of the last to run cross country on Saturday, meaning we had very testing conditions to contend with after a solid 24 hours of torrential rain. Because of this, I decided not to chase the time and was over the moon with a nice steady clear round the biggest track either Happy or I had ever seen! I was even more surprised to find out this had moved us up over 20 places after dressage to finish midfield in our first international in a very professional field. It was a great achievement to finish the season on- it's crazy to think Happy and I did our first BE90 together and he started eventing properly only 5 months earlier, at only seven years old he’s very exciting for the future!

With a fantastic season having drawn to a close I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has helped make everything possible this year, from coaches and trainers to vets, farriers, and physios for keeping the horses on the road, and to my parents without whom nothing would be possible. Another big thank you to KBIS for the support I’ve received so far this year. The extra training I have been able to benefit from has been invaluable and I take great pride in wearing my KBIS kit out and about.

Now time for a bit of downtime for myself and the horses to evaluate this year and look at our goals and plans for next, before we commence our winter training. We’ve got plenty of work to do and will definitely be making the most of a quieter competition schedule to train hard and come out even stronger next year!

Until next time,

Ella x

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