Last time I wrote, I was waiting to head off to tackle Gatcombe for the first time and praying for two things; a double clear and a rain-free day! The event was oversubscribed and I was moved into the Open Novice which meant I knew even with a solid performance it would be a big ask to make the top ten, which is always my aim.
Cicero did a cool test for 33 – I was a little disappointed with my score but to be fair, there were some real megastars in our section. I confess to feeling a little outclassed every time I looked around. On to the showjumping – the ground was surprisingly hard and Cicero gave me a difficult time in the warm up. I stood waiting to go in to jump trying to remember all the useful things Nick Edwards had told me in our coaching session, outside leg on, wait for the stride. We went in to jump and Cicero just got on with it. The last line was a large triple bar to a max height upright on a long distance which most people were having down. Just before I went in my mum told me that I should collect straight after the triple bar and add a stride in, going wide if I needed to. I did as I was told and it worked perfectly, with Cicero sticking in a really tidy jump at the last and leaving it up. Finally! It took all season but we jumped a clear round. We went cross country confident and clean. There was definitely enough to jump including a drop into water which I took a bit of time setting up for to make sure I got a neat jump in. We finished with 4.8 time penalties which was enough to slot into 10th in star-studded company!
Onto the real challenge of the day, the prize giving. Out came HRH Princess Anne and suddenly everyone was curtsying. What the hell! I was not prepared for this. I thought about not doing one at all but then I wondered if I’d be beheaded – maybe they don’t do that anymore? More dramatically, my mum threatened to leave me at Gatcombe if I didn’t curtsy. I took Brownie up with me as a distraction technique and did the worst curtsy imaginable, I basically looked like I just tripped over. The icing on the cake was that my mum filmed the experience just to show everyone how ridiculous I looked.
I was so happy with how everything had gone, and how well prepared Cicero for the task in hand so huge thanks to Sarah for treating him and to Nick for the showjumping coaching. Overall I thought Gatcombe was an awesome event, it’s a long drive for us but we’re hoping to be back next year.
We went to South of England on a bit of a high. I really believe confidence is one of the most important ingredients in eventing. It was another new event for us but it’s quite a bit closer than Dauntsey and a week earlier. I walked the course and decided it was a lot bolder than I expected and I would have to just see what Cicero made of it. It started POURING with rain but Cicero absolutely loves wet ground and was bouncing around all over the place.
He did the best test he’s done all year for 31. Again, I expected a little more from his score but clearly we need to work a bit harder on a few things like his medium trot. I got the chance to walk the Show Jumping course which always feels like a luxury – it was quite a tricky course and barely anyone seemed to be jumping clear but the ground was holding up. I tried to pinpoint all the places I might slip back into bad habits.
In the warm-up Cicero was just awesome – he really does enjoy wet ground. We waited to go in and I just thought, outside leg on, wait for the stride. The South of England arena is quite intimidating and when we went in Cicero seemed quite nervous, I cantered round and got his attention back on me. He jumped the best round he’s jumped all season. He was faultless the whole way and I came out with a massive smile on my face. Obviously clear rounds are like buses, you wait all season and then two come along at once.
By the time we went cross country the rain was so bad I could barely see the fences. It also meant we were soaked before we got in the start-box. Head down, grit your teeth and try to get on with it kind of day! I could see from my stopwatch that we finished quite over the time but Cicero was brilliant the whole way round so I couldn’t be disappointed. We had 11 time faults which wasn’t ideal and dropped us all the way down to 7th but I went as fast I could in the conditions. Mission accomplished, another new course and another top ten result.
I decided to finish on a good result and end the season early. This means Cicero has had a proper holiday before getting ready to take on a winter of affiliated Show Jumping. I’m determined to get back jumping 1.20 courses which is going to make it easier to compete at 1* or even Intermediate next year. Sarah has been to treat Cicero and we are so pleased with his condition. He doesn’t get turned away on his holiday because it doesn’t suit him. I’ve just started picking him up again - this winter I will focus on getting him more engaged behind which should help both his dressage and his show jumping.
Because I’m a nerd and Equiratings have made stats cool and sexy, I thought I’d look at my season stats to help assess our performance. From 10 starts we’ve had six top 10 results, we’ve also finished 12th and 13th. We had one non-completion when I withdrew at Barbury due to hard ground. We had one disappointing result which was Farley Hall where we picked up a totally avoidable 20 penalties on the cross country after a lapse in concentration on my part. It shows what an irritating person I must be to live with, that one tiny mistake all season still irks me. To put a totally positive spin on it, we’ve had eight top 15 finishes this season and nine completions!
I think the most impressive part of our season is the consistency. This is where having Sarah on board really helps. I wouldn’t describe Cicero as the hardiest type in the world, but with the support of a great physio he’s been on the road all season, delivering results. In terms of averages we’ve improved in all areas on last year. We’ve averaged 31 in the dressage, I hope this can creep down even more next season! We’ve averaged 4 faults in the Show Jumping, hardly a huge surprise! Next year I’d definitely like to jump more clear rounds. We’ve also averaged 4 time penalties on the cross country which shows his fitness has moved in the right direction.
I’ve really enjoyed this season and I’m happy we’ve both finished in one piece, always helpful. Now we’ve just got to survive whatever the winter can throw at us and hope we can come out fitter and stronger next season, maybe even better looking too. Here’s to a few months of dark afternoons, mulled wine and curtsy practice!