Prepping for the Cotswold Cup Championship with KBIS Executive Director Lawrence Gill

This season, I decided to step up to 100 out eventing with Daphne. We had done one and a half seasons at 90cm (since mid-2021) so were both feeling confident and ready for the next step up. We started the 2023 season by heading straight out to the Cotswold Cup event at Offchurch Bury. We did a good test, went clear cross country and had two down in the showjumping. I was happy overall as it was our first event at 100 and we had not show jumped since the previous summer (2022) so it gave us plenty to work on and hopefully an easy fix. My target was to qualify for the Cotswold Cup Championships which I had got so close to in 2021 with one SJ rail at Crown Farm costing me the place.

After a few events, including a double clear at Hazelton Manor(!), I was walking the Badminton Grassroots course and thought that I would register with British Eventing (BE) and see if I could try to get there too. I needed two double clears to qualify for a Regional Final which I thought seemed doable and then thought I would cross the bridge of getting a top 20% score at the Regional Final once I got there! Unfortunately, the season did not go to plan!

We have posted several dressage scores that I’ve been pleased with and whilst there is always improvement to be made, in general I have been happy with the results we have had in this phase.

Cross country has been excellent, Daphne has really started taking me into the fences and it feels like we are a real partnership out there on course (apart from one blip at our first BE event which was 100% rider error, made even more frustrating by the fact that we had jumped one of only two clear showjumping rounds we’d had all season!).

You have probably worked out by now that showjumping has been our nemesis. We have consistently had two fences down and it seems to be a vicious circle where each time we have our rails, the next time we go out I get more worried going into the arena, then I override, then I have two down… you can see where I am going with this! I had some great lessons with Lucy Jackson who is a local event rider which really helped and at Wellington at the end of August Daphne jumped her socks off. We still had two down (of course!) but I was actually pleased as they were caused by my greenness rather than the usual issue of me fluffing up my canter. I had also done a lovely dressage that day (apart from it featuring a couple of over-excited moments from Daphne, pushing our score out further than it needed to be) and we had a cracking cross country round around our most difficult course to date. With all of that in mind, I decided that as I could not have qualified for either a Regional Final or the Cotswold Cup Championship I would give Daphne a well-deserved holiday.

Ten days later I came home late and thought I would just see how close I got to qualifying (it would have been so frustrating to be one point away) so had a quick look on the Cotswold Cup website and to my surprise I was 15th on the leaderboard and as the top 50 go through, I was in! My partner was not happy about being woken up with the good news at 11pm!

Thankfully we had three weeks until the event and Daphne had been coming in every day to go on the walker so not lost masses of fitness as it was suddenly all systems go! We have been schooling, doing a LOT of showjumping and getting plenty of gallop work in. The Championships is long format so we have roads and tracks and a steeplechase to contend with, as well as a longer than normal cross country course so fitness is going to be key. Before working at KBIS, I spent seven years working in racing so a lot of what I learned in those days is coming in useful now! I also need to be spot on with my timings so I have been doing a lot of reading up and watching videos on speeds for roads and tracks and what to do in the ten minute box. The dressage test is in a long arena too and requires us to do some slightly more complicated movements than we have done previously so I have been out to hire a 20mx60m arena a couple of times and had at least one lesson a week, it’s amazing how much bigger the space feels! Fitting it all in around work now that it’s getting darker has not been easy so there have been many times I have been schooling with a head torch.

It is now the day before so there is not much left to do other than one last gallop and jump, pack the car, and iron my trot up outfits. We head down the drive to Cirencester tomorrow morning at 08:00 ready for 10:30 trot up and 14:00 dressage before walking the cross country course for the first time. I’m aiming to walk it twice as, having been last year as a spectator, it looks rather complicated and the last thing I want is to get lost, there will be plenty more to think about on the day!

Wish us luck and we’ll be sure to update you on how it goes!