Ok I’ll go back to pre Belton first. I got to gallop with Mark and Raps. Woody enjoyed galloping with another horse and I enjoyed galloping with Mark. Win, win! Might even be the highlight of 2018 so far.

We did a jump school on Thursday and Woody improved over the course of the lesson. We started off a little rusty having not jumped together in ages. On Friday we headed to Belton. I had to drive Mark’s two horse van. I’ve never driven horses in the UK before. It was easy to drive but as always with manual gears I have to get used to 1-3 gears. The round abouts have to be taken very slowly as well. There is a camera in the truck looking at Woody. Sometimes I had to turn it off as I felt bad for him as he braved for gear shift. No matter how smooth you do it the horse knows and prepares. I’m sure he misses my automatic. 😉

He felt quite tired when we arrived at Belton so I didn’t ask too much of him. Mostly I got my bearings of Belton. Right away Woody and I bumped into Mike Winter and Katherine Robinson. Go Canada! Then we saw Madeline Bakus in the warm up. It was a great pleasure.

I took him to my dear friend Boogies yard “machin yard” and he had a lovely big stall facing out. Made sure to give him Omega Alpha BCAA and wear his electro magnetic blanket for 20 mins after his long trip.

In the morning, at Belton, he looked ready to rock. I braided him and headed to the event. We were at 9:30 a.m. and upon arrival we got stuck on the mud. I had to unload Woody and use shavings under the wheels. A kind person helped push me out while Ella held Woody. Once parked we slowly takes him up. I found out you have to get your helmet “tagged” for national levels, which means you have to hand it in to a steward and have them make sure your helmet is approved. Then the put a sticker on it and it’s good for the year, different coloured sticker each year.

I warmed up surrounded by people I watch on TV. Andrew Nicholson, Alex Bragg and so many more I can’t even remember. It was a totally new test for me so I was concentrating. When it was my turn Woody was a little distracted by the atmosphere at first but soon refocused before entering the ring. I can’t believe after all my collecting and halting straight on in front of a mirror that he swung his hips right in first half but there you have it we did.

Woody was a good boy. We stumbled twice in the test once before halt rein back and once before a change. He was so clever to execute the movements well afterwards. Sadly we did break to jog for a few steps of the medium walk between pirouettes. Otherwise I think we could have been in the 20s! In good company though and finished fourth with a 32.8.

On Saturday after watching Mark on a few he walked the course with me. We actually started at fence #7 because it was close to the parking lot and then continued on at the end for the first six fences. (It’s ends where it starts.) I was sweating quite a lot at all the uprights and a bounce into water. I was actually pretty confident at the coffin and angled hedges because Woody is so straight. I worried about how tight the sunken road was. It looked tight when I walked it, it looked impossible from on top of Woody at the edge. No wonder the poor guy didn’t believe we could fit a Woody stride in there. 😳😱

The going had obviously been boggy in the a.m., but in the early afternoon when we walked the horses were pretty much galloping in top. The problem the footing was ruined, it looked ankle breaking. Luckily they rolled it over night plus it dried and was pretty great by Sunday.

I watched some of the 3* show jumping on Sunday morning and was mesmerized by the talent. So many clear, in fact, I think all the ones I watched were clear. Then I went to walk the cross country again and video it for everyone. It was causing havoc in the 3*. The shoes hedges, coffin and sunken road seemed to be the major struggles. I tried to watch the good ones for confidence. I did see a few bounce the sunken road and noted I needed to trot if at all possible.

Woody on the rig at Belton.

Woody on the rig at Belton.

When I walked the show jumping (which was the same as 3*) I was aware of how many verticals were on the course. I also realized after watching in the a.m. that the triple was a long one stride to a short two stride down hill.

Again it was great to be surrounded and watching such fabulous riding. It made me remember to stay up with my shoulders and not move my hands. We did our practiced warm up and he felt pretty good and I kept it short. In we went and had one rail. I remembered not to be too bold into the triple but he made such an effort over the oxer we reached for the one stride to the vertical and hit it. Mark says they do that a lot here so I know what we’ll be practicing. I was very pleased with him.

It was a quick change over at the van and on to cross country. Woody was foot perfect everywhere except the sunken road where I knew I would have to basically trot to fit a one stride in the bottom (having seen a few bounce and generally cause carnage). I said WOAH loudly and repeatedly, he came back pretty well but not to a trot. Then I had to soften my reins in order for him to jump down (not out) and what does he do..? He decides it’s impossible to fit a stride in, jumps out not down and bounces it but because I had collected him so much he missed a bit bouncing out so he tripped up the bank which put us way over to the left heading straight for the left side of the corner. I had no time to collect my reins after he tripped up so I held him straight and rode the line we were on and he felt he couldn’t do the corner so he went right. I did a 10m circle and jumped it straight on and galloped home. I’m disappointed obviously but I felt I tried my best to explain to Woody what had to be done and he just misunderstood the question being asked. We’ve never done one before so there you have it something Woody needs to work on xc! Check out our run below.

Good news is Liz Halliday has that exact sunken road. Bad news is it’s in Florida!

More good news Mark says they won’t have anything like that at Badminton. More good news, Woody felt fantastic and hardly broke a sweat. I’m pretty sure we would have been second without our misunderstanding. Note to self “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn” and “there are no mistakes only lessons.”

Silver lining is I’m madder then a hornet and I always ride better miffed. Thank goodness the rehearsal was the place we made our mistake and not the big event! GO WOODY! GO CANADA!