In the morning on April 12th, Jess (Mark’s head girl) was very kind to drive Woody to Georgie’s (Strang) and Jesse’s (Campbell) farm in Marlborough. I followed in the car because that’s where we would be leaving from to head to Burnham Market horse trials. It was more than four hours to get there and I was grateful that Woody could ride in Georgie’s fancy lorry with friends.
When we arrived it was miserably cold and windy on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. I grazed Woody a little to stretch his legs before putting him in his temporary stabling. It was row “V” of the stabling at the top of another hill what seemed like miles away! I had to lug all my kit up there which took ages. By then it was 3:30 p.m. and dinner time for Woody. I went out to the office to get my helmets approved and pick up my number. Which in this country you have to pay a starter’s fee (£25).
I decided to walk the course while Woody digested. At the start box there was an officials’ timer office. The course maps (which there were no copies of I just took a picture of the one posted on the stabling office) had no optimum time or any other details, nor did it have flag colors. So I thought it best to ask seeing as I was in a foreign country and we all know I can mess it up at the best of times.
So I asked an official what colour advanced was. He said “Blue, why what color is it in your country?” I said “Blue, but it’s better to ask than to beg for forgiveness.” Then he proceeded to tell me “The circular blue numbers/letters are for national and the square ones are for FEI.” So off I went with my photo of the map and the knowledge he had give me. I took video of the fences and made my usual course walk video which I posted that night online. I walked the course a total of three times before Saturday afternoon to make sure I had it clear in my head. I also compared the two courses (4* & adv) going through every number/letter/name of jump etc to make sure it was the same.
I rode Woody on the flat in the warm up early evening and he felt quite good.
April 13th, in the early morning when I arrived at the farm it was hailing, that was one of three times that it would hail during my stay. On Saturday morning in warm up he felt even better. The footing was a bit harder than I expected for England this time of year. I decided to ask the farrier to put in the Equi-Pak I had brought with me. The hoof needs to be very dry and clean in order for it to stick in there well. So the farrier came before my dressage. I had left 45 minutes for us to complete this task and me to tack up. Well the hoof packing was putting up a damn good fight! I held Woody’s foot and guided the nozzle while the poor farrier fought with the caulking gun. Took us ages to get his front feet done. Made me a bit tight for time by about 10 minutes. Luckily Woody felt amazing in the warm up and I practiced all the things Christilot had been teaching me before I left. Lots of square halts to get his haunches rotated under him, a few rein back steps to keep him light in front.
Our ring was way at the back of all the others (side by side) and it’s rough grass on a bit of a hill. Woody is used to prepared footing and so we struggled a little with that. Also he got a little excited and tense on the walk over to his ring. The test was no where near the movement I’ve been getting and then at the end we broke into canter on our extended trot. I took Woody back to the warm up on our way by and schooled the extended trot a few more times. He gave me some of the best steps ever so I rewarded him and continued on back to the barn.
I went over to where the show jumping is and was going to watch a few rounds when it began hailing and sleeting again. So I hid in the secretary’s tent with about 90 other people. Luckily it has clear plastic siding so I could watch a few riders. I had walked the show jumping in the a.m. after walking the cross country again thankfully.
I tacked up and headed across the road to the show jumping warm up (on the side of a hill) and warmed up using the same jumps as Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Riding with all these icons still gives me thrills. Woody felt super! I took him in and had a really great round. I was sorry to knock down fence #4 a vertical four strides to fence #5 a HUGE oxer. Other than that rail Woody jumped really well, we had a great pace and got all our distances riding forward.
I set out on cross country about an hour later they ride time. They had a hold in another division. No one was hurt, it just took a long time. Woody was jumping out of stride and felt good. #6 was a hanging log down hill to a skinny brush and I was hurtling down the hill only to find there was a flag laying across the front of 6B. I completely panicked and circled around looking for help from the jump judge. The other hedge jump next to “mine” had a blue and a green square letter on it. So after circling around I saw that the black flag option had no flag in the way so I jumped it and continued on to fence 7,8,9 and the. The water complex 10ABC before pulling up and calling it quits for the day. As it turns out the black flag option I jumped had a circular blue B on it. I went to the TD and said that I had been misinformed about the flags he then pointed me to the steward who was very kind and understanding. I explained what had happened and he tried to help me figure out who had misinformed me. The next day I went back and talked to the TD again asking if I could please be marked down as a “TE” (technical elimination). He told me the British eventing system no longer takes TE because riders in the past had abused it. He also said if anyone questioned my misfortune that he and the other officials would be available to explain over the phone what had transpired. I thought about it some more and realized that the black flag option I jumped should have been flagged off as well because it only had a blue circular B on it which means it was for the 4* course.
I’m left feeling confused. All I know is despite my best efforts not to have anything like this happen to me, it did anyways, so I figure it wasn’t meant to be. It would have been a waste of Woody’s legs to keep going around that course anyways. We all know he is a cross country machine.
The officials were kind and understanding with a sense of humor so thank you to them for caring. I did suggest that perhaps next year they just use normal flags with stars for FEI and none for nationals. The TD said they had suggested they use something other than the squares and circles to the organizers but they didn’t act on the suggestion.
It is a fabulous event (except the weather). It reminded me of Richland park cross country. You have hills, woods and gallop around two huge crop fields to finish. Everyone was really friendly with loads of spectators and a huge trade fair.