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Victoria Bax reflects on her season

We caught up with Victoria Bax as she makes the transition from full-on eventing season to some time off. Needless to say, it's a struggle for our usually beyond busy rider to adjust to a period of no riding! 

"The last few events of my season seem a distant memory now as it has already been 3 weeks since we finished, which means 3 weeks of no riding, which equates to a very bored me!"

"Crystal Ka headed to South of England as his final event to contend the CIC2*. I was very pleased with his dressage test, with just one mistake resulting in an average score leaving us mid way in the leader board. Showjumping followed the next day round a huge and very technical track. I felt this was one of the best rounds that we had jumped to date, albeit the technicality of the course did actually catch us out for 2 rails, but still I was pleased with our effort. The cross country course was of a very very decent standard having been improved somewhat since last year. There were plenty of accuracy questions to be answered. Things started well, but sadly by fence 8 we ran into some difficulty. A combination of two angled brush fences on a downhill slope 2 strides apart followed by a skinny triple brush offset to the left a further 2 strides away. I was rather disappointed with Crystal Ka here as he is usually spot on when it comes to lines and combinations, but sadly we had a glance off to the left at the skinny. I represented and off we went again. As we made our way round the course, I forgot about the earlier problem and started to really enjoy it and we just kept answering the questions, including a decent step up to a bounce straight off over a huge log drop, then 2 strides to another skinny triple brush. I was worried about this combination due to the fact that it was pretty much a replica of the log drop which caused us problems a few weeks earlier. However, I need not have been worried as we took the most enormous leap off the drop, pecking on landing but somehow we kept the line and we sailed over the skinny triple brush this time with problem."

"Onwards to the second water, another decent drop into a murky water fence then up and out the other side. We approached the final combination on the course, the quarry. A roll top in and down into the quarry followed by a solid wall on the way back up and out with 2 strides to a corner fence. As we jumped out over the wall, I kicked on as much as I could but for some reason we just couldn't make the distance to the wall and as we took off I knew as much as Crystal Ka did that we weren't going to make it and so another glance off occurred. Again I picked myself up and represented and popped over without further problem. So onto the penultimate fence, a huge timber wagon which we have jumped many times before at various venues in the South East. I'm not really sure what happened here, maybe we were both tired, maybe my mind was no longer on the job following our unexpected problems, but whatever it was, I felt that I was about to spectacularly "Miss" at this huge wagon and so I made the split second decision to pull out and retire instead of crash landing on it and maybe even tipping over it. This is something that has never ever happened to us before, but something just wasn't right and as we weren't in for the win, there was no real reason to try to make it happen. As much as it pains me to see another "R" on our record at this level, it was the right thing to do at the time. I was pleased with how we answered most of the testing questions on the track which was definitely the most decent 2* track we have encountered to date and we did answer all the combinations so it wasn't all bad. Crystal Ka has been turned away now so is enjoying time off in the field while the weather is still being kind. He will have 6 weeks off before coming back into his winter training schedule. He deserves the time off as its been a fully packed year and being the age that he is, he doesn't really lose too much cardio or muscle fitness."

"The two girls were up the following week for their final event of the season at Little Downham. Neither really settled well for the dressage. I think maybe as at this venue everything is very much on top of each other and you can see everything so they were so busy watching everything going on around them they didn't concentrate as well as I would expect them to. Somehow though both managed fair scores in the low 30's. The showjumping at this venue is known to be pretty difficult and cause many problems. This it did for Alberta's Elegance, who again lost attention which cost us a rail or two and plenty of time faults, still she completed so that is still progress. Alberta's Rose was keen so managed to take the second last rail out with her leaving her with 4 faults."

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"The cross country was going to be testing. Everything you could possibly ask for on a xc course was in it; steps, coffins, drops, corners, waters and trekhneur . Alberta's Elegance gave me a confident round until we approached the corner having jumped the skinny log on the hill just prior to it. To be fair to her she has not actually jumped a proper solid corner yet. I have improvised and jumped plenty at home in training, but she just had a green moment and didn't understand the question immediately. Once represented though she was off again. Towards the end of the course was a decent trekhneur under some trees. There was an alternative but my views are that at this stage in their careers they need to face everything to gain experience while the fences are small so when they face them again when the fences are bigger there is no problem. I was very pleased with how she coped with this having previously at the last event stopped first time at the trekhneur, this time there was no hesitation at all and soon we were home and through the flags having completed another event."

"Alberta's Rose has definitely worked out what this eventing lark is all about as she promptly took off out the start box and completely ignored every single thing I asked of her throughout the entire course. Somehow and I still don't know how to this date, but we came home clear and well inside the time. This was the first time I have ever gone xc on a horse where 10 strides away from a fence when I start asking them to come back to me nothing happens and by 3 strides away still nothing has happened and I am still asking them to come back to me as we take off. Frightening stuff that's for sure so plenty of braking/biting/noseband trials to be done over the winter."

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"Still I am absolutely thrilled with both of these girls this year, after a slow start as neither of them were ready at the start of the seasons for different reasons but we certainly nailed it by the end. They too are both on holiday now for 3/4 weeks to digest what they have learnt over the last few months of competition and do some mor growing. Depending on how they behave in the field and to be handled will have an influence on when they come back into work to start their winter training."

"So with 3 horses now on holiday, I have had plenty of time to pick up the pace with the baby of my bunch, Frankie my 4 year old. I don't believe in pushing them too much at this young age especially when they are good ones. I think an awful lot of this boy and could have very easily got him going eventing this year as he is so well developed and just finds everything so easy. However, I have chosen to give him the extra time and although we are playing with schooling, jumping and hacking 4/5 days a week it is only ever for about half an hour. He has progressed extremely well over the last few weeks so I have no doubt whatsoever that he will be up and running joining the rest of my team on the eventing circuit next year and I just can't wait. I have serious high hopes for this boy, so keep your fingers crossed!"

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"I have also started up my regular winter training clinics again now concentrating on riding dressage tests, grid work, course jumping and arena xc for my many clients which are going down very well indeed, so although it may be my off season for competing, it is definitely my on season for coaching!
Until next time..."