Sunday, 28 October 2018

Catching up! Hartpury 2018 (Musical Ride and Dressage)

OK, so there are lots of excuses I could make for why it's taken me three months to write about July, but they're all poor and uninteresting so let's just crack on, shall we?!
I appeared on the front cover of the Rule Book three times in 2018 - see if you can spot me!
Regular readers or other RDA riders will know that Hartpury is the climax of the RDA. Hartpury College is a top-notch equine college in the countryside near Gloucester, in the west of England. It's also a major venue for international competition - particularly dressage, but it also hosts international showjumping and eventing - and a wonderful venue for the annual RDA National Championships.

This year I had entered a few different classes - this post is about the Musical Ride and dressage...

Musical Ride
This was a new venture for my group. Five of us had teamed up in one ride to do our own version of 'Trooping the Colour' (non-Brits, click here). I rode Rolo side-saddle as the Queen (!) and my four friends were my loyal army. It has to be said that it was not as much fun as we had thought it might be. It turned out to be very stressful and difficult to organise everyone being in the right place on the right day, with all our horses in working order, with the costumes, someone to film the ride, the music sorted and playable, a finalised pattern for us to ride, and whatever other stars needed to align in order for the filming to happen.
Nonetheless, this fortuitious juxtaposition did eventually occur and we took full advantage (albeit with one slight change in the cosmic order, which was Chloe in place of Eleanor - but Chloe was fabulous so that's OK). We knew where we were going (the most vital part!), we had our costumes and they fitted (well enough), the horses were fit and ready, the music was also ready to go, and Gillian had her iPad to film on. Before anything else went wrong, we filmed it quickly and entered it to the competition. At this point, it had become fun again! It felt really good to ride in this way with my friends and it was very satisfying to have it finally come together after so much work.
Apologies for the terrible quality of this still from the video!
It was particularly fun when we won our class at regional level (OK, so there was only one entry, but our score also beat all the rides in the other class too). It was even more fun when we learned that the ride was a finalist for the Nationals, meaning that we were guaranteed a 1st-6th place rosette whatever else happened for the weekend. It was at its most fun when we discovered we had actually won the national prize too!

Dressage at the regionals went better than I thought it would, given severely limited practice. I did my canter test on Rolo and the judge summed it up nicely at the end by saying kindly, 'Another pony who likes to canter!' I'm not sure what gave him that impression but it might have been the moment when we were meant to be in walk but were still cantering, right under the judge's nose, and I was trying to make my frenzied 'WOAH!' as discreet as possible. It was a very hot day and I got very warm during that test!
It was a beautiful day. No filter!
I also did a walk-trot test on Boysie who was in a more stately mood. I'd barely ridden him in months but he was a good lad and tried very hard to be as Rolo-like as possible with me (but with better brakes). It felt strange to be on a longer and beefier horse after the little pocket rocket and the turns and corners definitely felt lumpier! Nonetheless he did me proud and we won not only the test but also the award for the highest score across all qualifying dressage tests.
Trying to keep Boysie's brain busy without overheating the rest of him.
At Hartpury, I opted to do the canter test and wanted to ride Boysie for it - if only because I felt we had a better chance of staying in the arena! Unfortunately, before Hartpury we had an issue: Boysie had ringworm. This isn't especially serious in terms of the impact on their health, but it is highly contagious and so Boysie needed to be fully treated and far beyond the infectious stage before he would be allowed to go to the other end of the yard in Cambridge, let alone to compete at Hartpury with horses from all over the country. The back-up, Rolo, was also looking dodgy, because he just wasn't quite sound. Further back up plans were failing and, with a lot of riders from the Group qualified and hoping to compete, things were looking a bit bleak.
The first centre line with Boysie at Hartpury 2018.
To cut a long story short - Boysie was ready in time. Phew! However, he had been off work for some time and still felt a bit tired and off-colour. I was fortunate to be riding him quite early on in the morning before it got too hot (because it did get REALLY hot) and, as is usual with him, he worked his little heart out. The only moment when I thought, 'oh, really?!', was when he tripped over on our first trot down the centre line - I ask you! It certainly wasn't polished or the best I'd ridden, but it was alright and we'd done it.
I expected nothing from the dressage - it was a big class this year, and I had had so little practice with Boysie. We came 5th which meant we got a pretty orange rosette (it's the only 5th place one I have from all the competitions I've ever done in my life!) Before the event I'd felt that being placed (1st-6th) would have been lovely but I certainly wasn't holding out any hope, so it was a real bonus to come 5th. I was a happy bunny!

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