Mount Ballan Horse Trials 20th May 2015
Our day at Mount Ballan was sandwiched between two days show jumping at Bicton Arena. I returned from show jumping Friday night to an immaculate yard, all four horses that were competing at Mount Ballen plaited and the big lorry loaded and ready to go. Once again the team had worked exceptionally well to keep me and the horses on the road.
So Saturday morning we left home to make the journey across the Severn Bridge to David Broomes, Mount Ballan.
After walking the xc courses, it seemed that this season they had ‘beefed up’ all of the tracks. I thought the road crossings were going to be particularly influential, with the first having an inviting house to a committed 3 strides up a step to a skinny. This was the first real control and accuracy test on the course that would require a good choice of rhythm, and balance.
The return road crossing came straight after the water. It had an upright rail, which had very little ground line, one stride in the novice, two strides in the BE100, to a drop followed by a committed 4 stride distance to a skinny. This required a great deal of concentration from the horses at the upright rail so they were careful, but they needed to be brave to immediately take on the drop fence. This was a great question, requiring riders to use the gears of the horse well. You needed to collect the horse, yet keeping plenty of energy to jump the upright rail, the rider needed to keep good control of their lower leg and upper body so to keep their body weight off the horses shoulders and allow their necks to stretch longer as they went down the step, then to close the leg to move away up a slight incline to a forward 4 stride skinny. It was great to have such an educational fence at the lower levels to prepare the younger horses for the future
We began the day with Spypark Ferro XS. He was excited in the dressage warm up, I think he thought he was a bit of super star following his previous win. After 10 minutes he settled well and began to give me some lovely work. He went into his arena and performed an accurate flowing test gaining himself a 28.5. Not a bad start to the day!
Quickly on to the show jumping, which is held in the all weather surfaced arena. It makes for great footing, but has some fairly scary banners that some younger horses may never have encountered before. As if he’d been jumping all his life, Spypark Ferro jumped around effortlessly, almost stepping over some of the fences for a clean sheet.
With the cross country causing a few problems, mostly at the second road crossing, I was interested to see how my ride was going to cope. He’s a big horse, and it was a technical and twisty course. Not always the best match! We set off in a steady rhythm so as to relax into the course. Spypark was on super form, he was really responsive and allowed me to turn and adjust him whenever necessary. It made for an enjoyable ride around, for both me and him. I was really pleased to have a super double clear, and finish on our dressage score. This rewarded us with a well deserved 4th place. Another great result for his very supportive owner, Sarah Boon. The pressures on, he’s not finished outside the top 5 this year, lets hope it continues!
The Novice horses were next and Kelsons Limited Edition was the first of them to take to the stage. He was catching plenty of attention in the sunshine as we warmed up for our dressage and he was not going to disappoint. He performed a lovely test showing great suppleness and elasticity. This guy is maturing with each outing and is on track to be a future super star!
In a small, and very busy warm up, we decided to jump only a few fences in our preparation so to avoid all the stress that was building amongst competitors. It didn’t cause Kelsons ltd Edition any problems as he jumped an immaculate round, showing his true class!! Be sure to watch his videos in his profile section.
Cross country was unfortunately not the happy ending we were planning for. With a clear show jumping and a very competitive dressage score of 28, we were in it to win it! The time was tight so we had to keep up the pace from start to finish. Wow, he was giving me an awesome ride, tackling all the questions with ease! We were galloping across the field to the penultimate fence and I could almost see the red rosette. It was a flower potted rail, one stride to an open ditch, then a 90 degree turn to a corner, on 3 strides. In true style, I was confident, and he was going to follow my decisions all the way. I came in a strong rhythm to the rail, which he jumped well, consequently we had a forward jump over the ditch, this left the 3 strides a little short to the corner. On the turn and pushing for the time, Kelsons ltd Edition caught his knee on the fence, this twisted us in the air and he couldn’t get his left front leg out in time on landing. This did not end that well, as you can imagine! So close to being in with a chance to win!
In hindsight, what a wonderful thing, a small half halt from the jockey before the fence would have helped. A hard lesson learned, don’t let your competitiveness over take your judgement. We were both fine, all be it a little disappointed, but we will put things right in couple of weeks at Pontispool I’m sure.
Midnight Ash delivered a dressage test to the best of his abilities. As we’ve discussed before, this isn’t his best phase, but he always tries his hardest. Luckily eventing is not all about the dressage, and this horse is a born jumper.
We had another smooth trip around the show jumps, proving that ex race horses can be very careful!
Ash is one of my favourite horses to cross country. He’s a natural galloper, he sets off in a good rhythm and never faulters. He’s adjustable, careful, brave, and thoughtful. What more could you want. Oh, and I trust him impeccably! He cruised around the xc like a pro. Its such a pleasure being on board what can only be described as a Ferrari in this phase. He even makes me look good as a rider 😉
A great double clear brought up way up the results board and gained him another BE point.
The final class of the day, the Novice Regional Final. This is the qualifier for the Festival of Eventing, held at Gatcombe, that everyone wants a ticket to!
The Night Traveller and I were trying our luck in this class, if you’re qualified, why not have a go. He was one of the least experienced horses in this class, having only completed a few Novices. It was a tough ask but worth a shot!
The dressage went well. He performed the best he could have at present at this level, so we went on to the show jumping in good spirits.
The Night Traveller has a great record show jumping but anything can happen, especially when there’s a qualification at stake! The take off and landings were getting deep, as our class was at the end of the day, so we were going to have to ride with a bit more vigour to get off the ground.
As I was circling to approach the first fence, the commentator announced that we were in the lead with a 19.1 dressage. I know that you’re not supposed to pay attention to out side distractions, but 19.1 and in the lead. Never could we do with a clear round more, NO pressure!
As always, The Night Traveller did everything he could to leave the poles up, and gave me a super ride. We were on to xc with a clean sheet.
As I said earlier, the cross country time was tight. A few horses had beaten the clock, these were more experienced horses that had already done Intermediates, so although we had a small advantage going into this phase, I knew we were going to have to pull our socks up and go for it!
We were trying to save time where ever we could, shaving off corners and setting up as late as we dared. He jumped his little heart out and was giving me everything. We didn’t quite manage to cross the line inside the time but we had done enough to finish in 3rd.
This gave us the all important qualifying spot for the National Championships. Happy Days!!
I think this event event for me rounds up eventing in general. It’s full of highs and lows, when you’re winning, please don’t take it for granted. Appreciate it, and enjoy it, as horses tend to be great levellers. On the flip side, when things go wrong, you can’t allow yourself to be defeated. Success is always just around the corner!!
Please check out the current videos from Mount Ballan in the Horses profile sections.