On June 28, 2013 by Sarah Lewis
Horses are great levelers, and I was certainly properly leveled by the end of last week. The Wednesday of the Derby show started with the usual 5 am start as Biscuit was in the first class in ring 2 – the Foxhunter which is a qualifier for the main ring on Thursday. Biscuit jumped a really good round, just having one fence down where I got a a little bit close, and then with 192 in the class it was a long wait for Ferro’s Grade C qualifier. The course walked quite big and I think my first mistake was to move my number down the order to give myself more time to get ready, I think what I actually ended up with was too much time to think about it. Ferro jumped the first three fences beautifully and I then made a mistake at fence four, a big oxer, but this was rectified and she jumped the next fence really well, and we approached the combination on a really good committed stride. Unfortunately she had the tiniest think on take-off causing her to land on the back rail and eject me straight out of the saddle and splat onto the ground. I was upset with myself and think that perhaps sometimes I feel under too much pressure jumping these bigger classes. Having discussed the situation with Shane and David Simpson we decided that David would ride her for the rest of the week to make sure she was really confident. She jumped really beautifully for David finishing with a really good round in the 1.35 open on Saturday. It was good for me to see how really easy she made it look, and hopefully I will ride her less like a mad woman now and we will both find it easier. I finished the day with a really lovely double clear on Emma in the six year old warm up class. She started a little bit green, but jumped better and better as she went round.
The next day had a slow start as my first up was Emma in the six year old qualifier. When I walked the course I thought it was a pretty strong test for us both, with a very big combination as the first fence in the jump-off. However she really rose to the challenge and by the end of the course I felt that I would have been happy to jump her in the main ring. Sadly she was not quick enough to qualify, but she is only six, and a little bit of a hot-head, and certainly doesn’t need to be galloped anywhere at the moment. David jumped Ferro in the 1.25 and I then jumped Biscuit in the Foxhunter in ring 5. Some horses find this a spooky ring but she was fabulous. She is such a genuine and brave mare and seems to do everything with a smile on her face.
On Friday I started with Biscuit in a Foxhunter in Ring 3 where unfortunately she had a spook at the water jump. This is an especially strong permanent water under the trees and I shouldn’t have taken her for granted. She jumped it well, if rather huge, second time and finished the course really well. Ferro jumped a spectacular round in the 1.25 with David to be placed, and sadly the Foxhunter was over by the time I managed to get Emma ready. In fact this worked in my favour as she got worked hard in the warm up without jumping, which was very good for her and paid off the next day when she came out not presuming that she was going to jump, and not only worked in calmly, but also was very rideable and jumped a very good round in the Foxhunter on the all-weather. Poor Biscuit was not quite so lucky on Saturday, as some particularly pathetic riding from me in the torrential rain let her spook at the horrible water jump. She then slipped into the water tray and her legs shot out from underneath her so that she was then stuck on her side in the water tray and couldn’t get any purchase with her feet on the very slippery plastic so couldn’t get up. She had jumped beautifully to that point and it was a very poor reward for her to have a really bad fright. I jumped her over a few little practice fences, and have since constructed several water fences at home which she has jumped without a single backward thought, so hopefully she is none the worse.
Luckily I still had Emma to ride and although she also found the distance to the water awkward she is so confident in herself that she just hopped over it. Malcolm Pyrah had observed that I was seeming to drive Emma with my seat, something Shane has also commented on with Ferro, so I am now trying really hard to ride more like an American with a light seat and just squeeze with my legs. I think this fault has a couple of origins. The worst one being that I do it when I feel a bit desperate – which must make the horses feel really desperate! and the other being that I used to be a bit too forward between the fences and so have worked really hard on sitting up more, perhaps ending up going too much the other way. The answer is lots of practice at doing it the right way – “practice makes permanence” so you have to practice doing it the right way enough to override the memories of doing it wrong. Certainly I could feel with Emma on the last day that keeping her under me, rather than in front of me, made it easier to contain her and keep her in a more even rhythm.
Nothing can take away from what a fabulous show the Derby meeting is. Both the Speed Derby and the Derby itself threw up the usual surprises and poignant results. It was wonderful that Shane and Trevor Breen enjoyed so much success at the show having lost their beloved mother, Mary, on the preceding Friday, and what a very special and long awaited triumph for Phillip Miller in the Derby – an immaculate clear round in the pouring rain – very British! I also had the added thrill of meeting Deborah Meaden on the Thursday of Hickstead. What a very nice lady – and totally agrees with me that nobody over the age of two and a half should wear a onesie – unless perhaps you happen to be a show pony!