I’ve been going to Barbury for years and it’s just such a special venue – the landscape is incredible and unlike any other event I’ve been to. I’d hoped to do the Novice there this year, but it’s a stiff Novice so you need to be well established at that level and Blue’s injury from Goring meant we hadn’t been able to step up when planned so it’s on the back burner until next year. When they announced the 90/100 Arena Eventing I was so excited - what a great opportunity to be part of it after all – I got my 100 entry in the day they opened.
Blue’s last outing was 18th June when he jumped double clear at Moreton area qualifiers, but as the ground has been so hard he hasn’t jumped a stick at home since, and my horsebox was in having some work done so we couldn’t even box anywhere to use an arena. Less than ideal but I just wanted to go and enjoy the experience, get some jumping and take in Barbury.
I didn’t realise, but the cross country fences were part of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Grassroots Championships, which was pretty cool! Some of them were quite meaty and there was a narrow brush corner fence which invited run-outs to the left. It was also set on quite a slope with a few twists and turns, so it required some good control and balance throughout.
With so many fences in the arena I had to work quite hard to keep Blue focused so he didn’t lock onto the wrong fences. He was just full of enthusiasm and loving it! We had a comedy moment at fence four when he couldn’t decide whether to chip in a short one or go long. I left him alone to work it out because he’s far smarter than his mum – he opted for the bunny hop, but wanted to leave the fence up so much that he gave it some proper air! Clever horse. He was a little star, and bossed the corner brush I was a little bit worried about. We got a good line as soon as we could and stayed on it.
He was so cool round the whole course – as we reached the end of the cross country he had opened up his stride particularly for the double of houses which were quite wide actually. I tried hard to balance him afterwards, coming round the corner to the final fence – the joker planks which were set 10cm higher than the rest of the track, and on a slope. I was conscious of keeping him balanced and on his hocks as he wanted to run on down the hill, so I held when I should have just taken a pull and left alone again. He just tipped the planks behind – the last fence on the course after a super round, so gutted!
I couldn’t have been more pleased with his attitude and how he jumped, I was just cross with myself for costing him a clear round and a placing at the very last fence. What an experience though, Barbury was beautiful as ever in the sunshine and we had the most fun. I just love riding this horse. Our step up to Novice is in the calendar, and with a bit of luck on our side we’ll be back to Barbury next year…
Huge thanks to my lovely friend Montina who gave up her day to come along with me and was a legend as usual.