It was a rather early start for all involved, and pretty chilly too! They were taking part in the BE90 class, and their dressage was due to start just 8.30, so it was nice and quiet for him. Monty is a typical TB and can get quite hot in certain environments, but he looked nice and calm as he warmed up; not sweaty, just focussed and balanced, but he didn’t fancy standing still for too long. They produced what was, to my mind, a pleasing test in which Monty looked as though he was much less tense than he has been in the past – just with the odd wobble when he had a look at some of the white boards as he passed, but Amber quickly corrected him. We were all pleased with the performance.
After an hour or so back at the lorry and a change of tack and clothing, they went to pop a few fences before the SJ. I was struck by how quiet and relaxed the environment was – much more horse friendly than some I’ve been to, and not jam packed full of people and horses which can be really distracting. He warmed up nicely, and other than 1 Monty classic (if in doubt, take one out!) he jumped in a lovely rhythm, and he ended with a large oxer which really allowed him to use his back and make a nice shape. He flew it beautifully so they left it at that, and went through to the arena to start their round. He completed the course with an easy clear, but we were slightly disappointed to hear that his dressage score was 47.5. I think we’d all expected better than that given the performance, but it sounded as though there were quite a few 40+ scores given so not a disaster.
Another change of clothing before the final xc phase. This mostly involved me running round like a headless chicken; Amber’s dad kindly pointed out where I could watch some of the course, but because I’d not walked the course, once that bit was done I trotted off to see if I could find where they would be going next! I managed to see 3 or 4 different sections of the course which was great, and Monty looked controlled and rhythmical throughout. Amber had been playing round with different bitting solutions as Monty has proved pretty keen across country and thankfully the Tom Thumb seemed to do the trick. They finished clear but with a few time penalties to add making it a double clear that would earn them 15th place, and a Foundation Point – a super effort for his BE debut!
I felt really proud of Monty, and pleased too because I’d always felt he would be an amazing eventer – and this was by all accounts a great start. His jumping is so bold and exuberant that he has plenty of scope to move up the levels, and having spent a year on loan with Sharon Kilminster doing pure dressage meant he now had the flatwork in place too. His main issue would be getting him out competing on a regular basis; having not had the transport, he had very limited outings so sometimes he found the competition environment quite exciting! Having had him out most weekends since she had him, Amber had Monty looking like an old pro and it was a delight to see him so relaxed and taking it all in his stride.
Not only that but I could see an improvement in his SJ too – a testament to the work put in at home. I felt like a very proud mum and was also pleased to see that Amber and Monty had formed a really great partnership. It was an interesting experience spectating; when competing myself I usually end up with my stomach in knots from being excited and nervous too, but I felt completely relaxed throughout; perhaps also a reflection of being around people who compete so regularly that it’s all a very well planned affair! Amber also had a very good groom in her Dad, who was on hand to help; glad I’m not the only one with a superstar unpaid groom or 2!
Bricky was a lovely venue, Monty was as gorgeous as ever, and the result was a good one. Having made his debut and performed comfortably, they will now head to Larkhill to do the BE100. The height of the fences shouldn’t be an issue for him, and Amber actually felt the dressage was a bit easy for him, so a step up would require more concentration for hopefully a better dressage.
My first experience as an ‘owner’ was a good one, and I quite enjoyed running round with my camera in my hand without the stress of competing! I can’t wait to watch Amber and Monty at Larkhill which is my local event, and will look forward to their progress over the winter months as they prepare for the 2013 eventing season. Having said that, I’m certainly not ready to remain a spectator completely, and I can’t wait to get my butt in the saddle and out competing myself. Nothing can give you quite the same buzz as doing it yourself after all!