2022 has thankfully started rather well for my team and I.
A winter’s worth of training came to fruition at the end of February, although in typical horsey style, it was not an ideal week leading up to it!
Alberta’s Pride managed to injure himself in the field during the week leading up to it, so it was touch and go whether we would actually make our British Dressage Advanced debut.
Thankfully, my amazing physio managed to squeeze in a treatment at very short notice during the week to rebuild Alberta’s Pride and make him more comfortable. A couple of non working days and box rest followed with only being able to sit on him on Friday for minimal walk, trot & canter to test the waters. Thankfully he was feeling a bit better so I managed another sit on him again on the Saturday morning & after warming up managed a line of 3 & then 4 time canter changes, then I called it a day and let him rest again until Sunday evening.
The journey up to Wix EC wasn’t straight forward after finding out the A120 was completely closed from the A12, so a long and very busy diversion made our what should have been just over an hour journey turn into a just over 2 hour journey!
Fortunately I had allowed plenty of time so we weren’t rushed when we did eventually get there.
Alberta’s Pride warmed up very well to start with however, just 5 minutes before my test time, he completely and utterly “lost his shit” and exploded repeatedly where it all became a bit much for him. There was a moment where I thought I would have to withdraw as I couldn’t see a way past his melt down. Fortunately, years of experience dealing with my previous superstar Crystal Ka before dressage paid off as I was able to calm him just enough to still be able to ride the test, albeit on very sharp egg shells!!!
The test itself wasn’t perfect and we did make mistakes, but we gave it our very best shot considering what had just happened in the warm up and our training or lack of it in the week leading up to it.
There was a huge amount to like within the test and Alberta’s Pride really did try to hold himself together. There were bits where I know we have and can do better so to be rewarded a score of 65.29% in our very first BD Advanced debut is very exciting as without those mistakes I can very easily see those scores nearing the 70% mark; a vision I never previously dreamt of at this level.
This score also means that we have done enough to both now be qualified to ride at FEI International PSG level going forward.
This is an absolutely huge achievement for both myself and Alberta’s Pride; who remember is my full Thoroughbred Novice Event horse who is certainly not blessed with big moving paces and is not a big built dressage warmblood.
So with the dressage aim completed, it was full steam ahead towards preparing for our first Eventing weekend of the year just two weeks later. This meant a trip out to the cross country course for a tune up was required; something I had been putting off until after our Advanced dressage debut.
We headed to Tweseldown for our first British Eventing of the year. As Alberta’s Pride finished last season on such high form, I decided he was more than capable of running straight into a Novice class.
We had an absolute blast round Tweseldown Novice track to produce an immaculate double clear earning a very well deserved 7th place, meaning our Event season was off to an incredible start.
I hadn’t actually planned to run him again until mid April, however I enjoyed this event so much that I snuck a late entry into Great Witchingham two weeks later; a venue I don’t go to very often as the weather is usually absolutely hideous, especially in March!
However, with the glorious early spring weather we have encountered this year, never ever have I competed in Norfolk in beautiful sunshine and glorious temperatures!
After getting rather excited in the dressage warm with lots of horses around, lorries driving in and the Xc warm up nearby, we managed to hold things together for a fairly safe test which left us in the top ten.
The showjumping was causing problems, was up to height and tricky.
We made one mistake between us just running through the treble and tipping the final pole, but a nice round nonetheless.
The Xc was old fashioned, in fact I don’t think a single fence has changed since the last time I was there, many moons ago with Wonderboy!
It was big and solid and a little bitty going in and out of wood copses etc, which is not good when you are running for the time!
We didn’t have the smoothest of rounds, there were a couple of fences where the Super Champ had a little look before jumping from light to dark and then dark to light again, but that’s Xc for you, and it’s those little hesitations which become extremely costly.
I don’t think we could have gone a lot faster round there, we were shifting, but sadly too many time penalties pushed us just outside of the top ten today. Alberta’s Pride will have learnt a lot from the day which will hopefully stand him in good stead for later in the year, so definitely an educational day.
A four week wait until our next event due to me coaching at a Riding Club weekend camp on the date of our next planned event, meant lots of time to continue the training before heading to Horseheath Horse Trials towards the end of April.
Here Alberta’s Pride warmed up comfortably for the dressage and probably produced his best and most relaxed test of the season so far, only to make one very costly mistake in the canter work which obviously lost us a couple of makes. So to find out the score of 31.5 made sense that it really should have been just in the 20’s as it felt.
The showjumping was a nice flowing course and after being freezing cold in the wind waiting around for over an hour between phases we jumped most definitely our best round of the season. However, it was such a shame to lightly rub the final rail of the treble and for it to fall, we didn’t deserve that.
And so forward to the Xc…OMG there were some ENORMOUS fences out there to jump, mixed with some smaller but technical questions made more interesting with the new mounds making the ground in front and behind the fences more interesting.
So fence 5 the first REAL question…a sodding great big Log drop on the lip of the water complex. You didn’t actually land in the water itself but the horse couldn’t see that until just about take off!
It was a very decent ask, made even more difficult with it being at only fence 5!
Then at fence 10AB, what else could be said other than they were absolutely ENORMOUS!!!
I have no problem with jumping BIG fences out on the Xc but when they are both big and set as an AB fence and on just a 5 stride curving left handed line, then even I had doubts!
I have to say I was very glad to be sat on an experience Novice horse in the start box at this event rather than a first timer at this level!
Fortunately due to the layout of Horseheath, I was able to watch a number of people boldly jump into the water over the log (although it did cause it’s fair share of problems) and pop through the double of tables with ease so when it was my turn I was quietly confident!
I need not have worried about anything, as per usual, Alberta‘s Pride was simply awesome.
He remained calm and confident throughout the entire course and made it a thoroughly enjoyable round; probably too enjoyable as although I was up on the clock at the halfway point, I managed to lose 5 seconds somewhere on the second half resulting in 2 time penalties pushing us just outside the top ten to finish 11th.
Never mind, we had a superb day and came home in one piece.
I was especially pleased with our Xc round following our not so tidy round a few weeks prior at Gt Witchingham, so to come and just keep running and jumping round a much more flowing track made me very happy.
So the next step for Alberta’s Pride… he will be making his International Debut at Rockingham Horse Trials next month. I am so excited to have finally a horse to return to the International Circuit on. It’s been 5/6 years since myself and Wonderboy were at this stage.
Rockingham Castle is one of my favourite event of all time, so here’s looking to a super debut in the 2* class.
Alberta’s Rose has been ticking along over the winter too, although she didn’t feel quite right again in January so she had a vet visit and further treatment to help her along. This did improve things, but less than a month later I decided to have some X rays taken resulting in more treatment, which I am very happy to say had finally made an enormous difference to her way of going. I am feeling pretty confident now that I have finally managed to compete the long and complex puzzle that I have been trying to do for the best part of three years now…phew!
So her start to the season has been delayed due to this continued veterinary investigation.
Never mind we seem to have got through it in the end!
During April she headed out to a local venue to jump round a couple of showjumping classes to test the water. She warmed up very well and produced two double clear so that was a positive start.
Next up was a trip to a local Xc venue to see how she coped back on the grass again.
It didn’t go smoothly as within 5 minutes of being on board she managed to pull a shoe off!
I did continue as I had actually already entered her in her first event back the following week and this was the only opportunity I had to Xc school her.
For her to jump round as boldly and as confidently as she did minus a front shoe, proved to me to was more than happy and feeling very much the old horse I used to have before all her problems started; so onwards to her first event.
She gave me a fantastic feeling round Chilham Castle BE100 Open, making it all very easy indeed, finishing on her (a little harshly marked) dressage score of 33.5 for 8th place. I was absolutely thrilled with this result; we were finally back on the up, so much so that I had already entered her next event the following weekend but had moved her up to the BE105 class already!
We headed off to Horseheath, for our second time in as many weeks, as they were running another event soon after their first one.
Alberta’s Rose warmed up well for her dressage, however I felt in the test itself she was a little distracted by the Xc being so close resulting in a lose of attention a couple of times, including the first halt.
Still she managed to redeem herself to lead the section on a score of 27.5 penalties (72.5%)
Then on to the showjumping which was up to height and included some nice distances and a treble to finish. She gave me a nice ride round, even if she does still need to improve her technique again. I mean for the last 3 years I’ve been happy that she jumped and didn’t say No, so technique has been the last thing on my mind. Obviously we can get back to training to improve that again. In the meantime, a clear round is a clear round so no penalties to add and heading out onto the Xc in the top spot.
The Xc was another very decent track, as we are now coming to expect from Horseheath these days. I’m not complaining at all, they are very bold, technical and require some riding but give a good educational trip round.
On walking the course, I realised that half of it was made up of the fences I jumped in the Novice track 2 weeks before with my other superstar. However, the difficulty had been toned down a little as the combination weren’t so tough and the A/B/C fences became separately numbered.
Overall a great track which I felt would suit her well, and it certainly did as she made very light work of the questions asked, crossing the finish line some 11 seconds comfortably inside the time, for a double clear to win the section. I won’t deny, there were tears shed as I came over that finish line; a situation I never expected to happen again at some points over the last three years.
My amazing Alberta’s Rose led from start to finish to pick up our first Win since returning from being off games; I simply could not be prouder of her grit and determination. I knew she always loved her job and this has just proved it to me that she does having battled against the odds to return to the limelight.
The plan now will be to head back up to a Novice section at Little Downham next month and hopefully continue our ride back to full stardom.
Here’s hoping our season continues in just as good form as it has started.
Until next time…