Pau 4* (France)

Pau was to be our second 4* experience and our first trip across into France to go eventing.  We were only taking Zagreb so we thought it best to travel with another rider to share the travel costs a... Read more

Barbury International 12th September 2016

Barbury is a great showcase for eventing.  The showground is set in the middle of a natural bowl shaped depression which creates the feeling of an amphitheatre.  The difference is, as a spectator, you get to stand in the middle and all of the entertainment goes on around you.  This makes it a super event for owners, sponsors and the public as you can see about 90% of the action from one spot.

It is situated in the middle of the eventing season and you will often see a lot of the top level horses making a return to competition after their brief breaks following their spring 3 day events.

This was definitely the case for us, and I had butterflies in my stomach as if it were the first event of the season.

I had 4 horses attending, 2 in the Intermediate Novice class, Swang Crackers II in the CIC 2* and Zagreb in the CIC 3*.

Dartans Albert and Spypark Ferro XS were stepping up in level here in preparation for their first full blown Intermediate later in the month.  Albert struggled a little with the undulating dressage arenas that you get on the outskirts of the showground but still posted a score of 35.  He jumped a brilliant double clear inside the time over what I would consider a very up to height cross country course.  He really showed his class easily negotiating all of the fences and was so adjustable across the hilly terrain.  I feel he is really starting to believe in his ability now and seems to be taking on the cross country with extreme confidence.

Spypark FerroXS performed another nice test for a score of 30.5.  He had a very unfortunate rail in the show jumping but jumped a solid clear cross country.  I am starting to test the water with notching up the speed in prep for his rise to Intermediate.  He is a very big horse and something I have to consider is his balance while I start travelling faster.  I’ve decided that he will only learn by pushing him a little more each time, and he is definitely responding and improving.  One thing you can’t take away from him is his commitment.  He ate up the course as if it were nothing!!  I was thoroughly pleased with both horses.

Swang Crackers performed a personal best in the 2* for a 48.4.  She is not the biggest mover but she produced a relax and accurate test staying very focussed throughout.  That’s all you can ask of a horse and although she may not get too many top, top marks it’s difficult for the judges to mark her down.

She was a little enthusiastic the following day for the show jumping and took control a couple of times during her round.  This resulted in 2 poles down which was a bit disappointing but it is still a learning curve for me with her.  This is the first time I’ve jumped her straight off of the lorry and I think in hind sight I would give her a short bit of work earlier in the day so to settle her before warming her up for her round.

The last time Crackers competed at Barbury she fell with her rider in the water.  This was something I was desperate to avoid, but in true Team Bragg style we were not intending on taking any alternatives and I planned to take the water fence on with plenty of confidence and hope that the positivity would transfer to her.  I set off in a sensible rhythm so we could get a few really good jumps under our belt then I steadily increased the pace.  This is a really good way of getting in to a big course and keep the horses confidence.

She jumped superb around the whole course.  She picked up the fences well and went through both water complexes like a pro.  We flew over the finish line with only 2 time penalties.  Another good round under our belt.

Zagreb was re-routed here after being withdrawn from Bramham.  We had little time to warm up for the dressage on what was a really windy day due to traffic problems on our way.  He was a bit fresh and didn’t seem to think that walking during his test was exciting enough.  He showed great suppleness and expression but his concentration wasn’t 100% on me.  This is always frustrating, but something that does happen from time to time and you simply have to take it on the chin and move on.  He still received a respectable score of 52.8 but this was obviously a bit under par for him.

The show jumping was big and pretty technical.  It was causing several rails to drop all around the course.  The arena is always fun to ride in with the hospitality end being raised as you jump around one of the feature water fences that is in the cross country later.  Zagreb jumped out of his skin.  I made a small mistake and saw a forward stride through a turn back to an oxer.  He jumped the front rail very high to try and help me out which caused him to tap the back rail on the way down.  I think I will have to take responsibility for that one, oops.

We were looking for a smooth cross country round so I didn’t wear a stop watch and decided to ride by feel as to what speed and rhythm suited Zagreb across the terrain.  It’s important to keep your horses enthusiasm and confidence high throughout the competition season, and taking the pressure off like this can really work in your favour at bigger events that you have lined up.

Zagreb had a near foot perfect round cruising through the finish feeling full of running.  He jumped everything direct and made it feel well with in his comfort zone.  We picked up 9.6 time penalties, which actually wasn’t that many considering the undulations and turns that the course consisted of.  It shows that going full steam ahead is not always the quickest way to ride and a smooth, fluent approach can be very efficient and offer a more relaxed yet fast round.

It was great to still pick up a rosette, even when you’re not trying to be competitive.  This shows the class and ability of this horse in what was a tough field of competitors.

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