We are excited to introduce guest blogger Sasha and her horse Smarty, they have just returned from competing at the European Championships and Sasha is letting us know about everything they got up to while they were away!
If you missed out on Part 1 of Sasha’s blog, you can read it here.
We woke up excited and ready for our first proper day at the Championships and having arrived at the venue and eaten our very French breakfast of fresh pastries, we all had a 45-minute schooling session with Caroline in preparation for the dressage. Smarty felt amazing and relaxed in a very busy arena and worked so well, doing everything that was asked of him. Equally, all the other horses stayed calm in the stressful warm up, where other nationalities were riding very close to us, something you don’t expect in the UK, whether it was a difference in etiquette or an intimidation tactic, but with our horses all keeping calm, our week started to look very positive. After riding, Tuesday was a very relaxing day with not much else to do. We all watched some pure dressage which was so impressive as well as watching some of the pure showjumping which was equally incredible to watch. We spent the day together figuring out where everything was at the showground and supporting the other disciplines. Once competition for the day finished, we had another practise trot-up to ensure that the horses were still feeling great after their long journey. After this, we all took them on another walk to stretch their legs before putting them in their stables for the night. On arriving back at the lorry we saw that we were having a BBQ for dinner with all the parents and the whole support crew. This was a lovely chance to sit down and get to know everyone else who was there supporting us. Again on the way home spirits were feeling very high and everyone was feeling confident about the week ahead. Another early night for all of us in preparation for early training sessions on Wednesday.
After waking early on Wednesday we all headed to the site ready for a very busy day. First, we went for a photo shoot with Adam Fanthorpe. The Junior team is sponsored by Racesafe, they provide us with body protectors, stocks, XC skins and also gave us race safe stable banners for our horse’s stables. On top of this, Musto sponsor all GB equestrian teams so we had some of their kit. As a team we worked really hard before the championships to get other sponsorship and we were so successful getting sponsorship from; Pampeano belts, Fairfax and Favour boots, FMBs therapy rugs, Weatherbeeta cooler rugs, Devoucoux headcollars, SoxTrot socks and Super XC gloves. We spent about an hour with Adam trying to find different places to get shots of these products for the sponsors. After this, we worked our horses individually with Caroline but this time plaited up so that we could see roughly how each horse was feeling competition wise. Smarty, after a day of rest, was feeling very full of himself. The warm-up area was a big arena with dressage boards set up in the middle. Obviously everyone wanted to work their horses in the whiteboards, however, Smarty had his own ideas about how to get the arena to himself and tested my stickability as he bronked and galloped around the arena, scattering other nationalities as he went and ensuring that today, nobody was going to come too close to him. After working him hard in the 30-degree heat he finally decided that life was not all that exciting and did settle into some really nice work. This definitely increased my nerves as I was aware that the dressage arena had a big atmosphere and although I knew he would never blow up in his test, I knew it would make my warm-up routine unnecessarily stressful! Having washed the horses off and had some typical French lunch- bread, cheese and ham, we then had a short amount of downtime where we watched some of the showjumping before going to arena familiarisation on our horses. This is always really exciting to get a feel of the environment and to feel what it will be like when the test is going on. This almost ran completely smoothly until a fly got into Elicias’ horses ear and he shook his head enough that her bridle came off while she was still onboard! Luckily Caroline was not far away and was able to rush to her rescue and put the bridle back on! During all this Darrel went to the chefs meeting and drew us as 18th out of 19 countries, just where we wanted to be as it is never nice being one of the first to go.
After the draw and with the England semi-final game that evening, spirits were rising even more as the team became closer and closer. We finally got a chance to walk the XC course and see what we would be facing on Saturday. I am so thankful that I had done so much training with Caroline as the first 3 combinations were all exactly what we had all practised over the winter, so although the course did look challenging, all of us felt like it would be achievable and that it might actually help our team if it was causing some problems for less experienced nations. As soon as we were back from the walk it was straight into our trot-up gear and off to trot up the horses, all of which looked completely immaculate. Thankfully all the horses flew through the trot up and so we were onto the next phase! That evening we stayed at the event as they were streaming the England match on a big screen. Although it was not the result we were hoping for we decided to turn the negative into a positive- the England boys may not have brought it home but the GB girls will! Straight after the football we were all off to sleep in preparation for the first day of dressage. I went to sleep feeling very ready for dressage and excited to see just what me and my horse were able to do.
You can read Part 3 of Sasha’s blog here!
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