Next was the jumping phase. We had been led to believe this was a stadium course. We had also been under the impression that doing this class would be a nice introduction for Solo before he did a Pre Training event. We were expecting something between Entry and Pre Training. What we actually got was nearer to a Training level short course. Solo had to do water, a ditch and a skinny bank. He had to gallop up and down slopes to his fences. He was fabulous but horribly green. He jumped easily over the fences that were set on the flat and were fairly easy to eye up and negotiate including the water, ditch and bank. The ones on the downhill caused a lot of butt swinging from side to side, he really doesn’t know how to collect and balance himself on the downhill never mind negotiate a jump. However, he wiggled his way through and then jumped like a superstar. He had one actual stop. A fairly simple (but large) coop with a rocky promontory ahead of it. Spectators were gathered up on the rock from which you could view most of the course including the water. Solo jumped the jump on the second approach still looking at the spectators who were ahead and slightly above him. He landed in halt but picked up his canter after having had a good look and cantered straight by.
At the end they had to gallop – we have never galloped Solo….he liked that bit.
By now Selena and I are quite relaxed. The other six four year olds in the class have out performed us in both phases but we are rather pleased with Solo since we feel he was not prepared correctly for this class and he has done a great job to get around the cross country, proving himself brave and basically very obedient to the rider. Bruce Davidson told me he takes his horses to a couple of Training Level events to prepare them for the Young Event Horse class. I wish he had mentioned that a few months before.
The last part was a stripped down conformation class in hand. After all our practicing before the Royal Winter Fair, and then never having the opportunity to trot up for the judge, we were both looking forward to this section of the competition.
So….he was seventh out of seven. It sounds like we should be feeling depressed and disappointed, instead, I am now absolutely positive that he is the magnificent performer I thought he was going to be. He was naughty and he was argumentative, but he was not hysterical, not excited, not tight in the dressage ring – just not paying enough attention to the rider’s aids and the jumping, (where he ‘did us proud’ as they say in England), was fantastic. He jumped things he has never been prepared or trained to jump, and although the approaches were not good, the jumps themselves showed his scope, ability and heart. At the end of it all, you can see that both he and Solo feel that they went in and did the best they could on the day.
BTW – we were told by several people including the organiser that Millbrook is by far the most difficult of the YEH classes and the only one with a really testing cross country. We are determined to take a WELL PREPARED Solo to next year’s Millbrook YEH five year old class now that we are more conversant with the format.