Hickstead is always an exciting place to compete, and especially when the weather is good, and this year the anticipation was greater than usual having had so little opportunity to jump on grass at the very wet Derby Show.
At The Royal International the national classes start on Tuesday which makes it a long show. For Steff and I the day started with Catokyo jumping the Newcomers in Ring 2. The team at Hickstead had done a fabulous job working on the ground and the going was perfect. Ring 2 is pretty grown up for a little five year old, and she jumped round absolutely beautifully, just struggling with going through a little gap between fences before a very upright gate and getting a bit close as a result. I then jumped Doonaveeragh Emma in the 1.35 Winter B&C qualifier in Ring 3 where she jumped very well, but was a little bit fresh and just ran down one distance for 4 faults. We then had a long time before Benny's class so I worked Culana Z who was extremely excited to be at a show, and quite hysterical at the sight of so many ponies. The show ponies are an added hazard for the warm-up at the Royal International; a 13hh pony practicing its gallop past a rather fresh youngster can make life unnecessarily exciting. Benny then jumped in the 1.25 in Ring 3 and jumped very well.
Wednesday was another very early start with Catokyo jumping the Newcomers in Ring 4. She jumped very well but while I was making a lovely right turn to the gate she was concentrating on turning left up the funnel, there was a tiny debate and the judges gave us 4 faults. Benny jumped a great round in the 1.25 in Ring 2 - my favourite ring after the main ring - until I got a little bit lost in the jump-off and shocked him by seeing the fence at the last minute. However, I pushed myself back off his ears and he was very forgiving, finishing the course really well. Emma then jumped a fabulous round to be 8th in a very competitive, and rather big, 1.35.
I was on my own for Thursday as Steff wasn't able to come with me. Luckily only Catokyo was jumping on the grass and needing studs. She jumped well in Ring 3 which was very spooky for her with the horse-walk on two sides. She jumped in a different ring every day and will have learnt so much during the week, I am so thrilled with her, she is so easy to jump and also careful and scopey. I then jumped Culana Z in the 1m to make sure she was feeling confident after her little break. She galloped round like an expert little pony, very pleased to be back in the ring. Benny then jumped well in the 1.25 and we had a long wait for Doonaveeragh Emma to jump the 1.35. Both of them had one fence in the jump-off, both my fault where I turned too quickly to the double. Benny had it on the way in and Emma on the way out! A slightly disappointing end to a very long day, leaving home at 7.30 and getting back at 8.45. David Simpson kindly pointed out that I had put Benny's bridle together rather uniquely - so perhaps now I have put it together properly we will be flying!
Because Benny and Emma are jumping in Le Touquet this week I felt that they had jumped enough for one show, and also that three day's jumping was enough for Catokyo, and so on Friday I just took Culana Z to jump in the Newcomers. She felt fabulous and I am very excited about having two such lovely young horses. It is great fun working with them as they progress and they both seem to love their work. Looking back over the week it seems rather full of "if only's and so nearly's" but I think that is just the nature of the game and I don't think I have ever had such a great bunch of horses to ride so hopefully it's onwards and upwards from here.
We took Culana home and put the horses in the field for the afternoon while Steff and I went back to Hickstead to watch the Nations Cup. Sadly Great Britain didn't put in their best performance which has resulted in demotion from the Premier League, but Ireland, including Shane on Golden Hawk, jumped fantastically to finish second.
No jumping for me on Saturday, Mark and I hacked out Benny and a ridiculously fresh Emma, and Catokyo had a little hack before dashing back to Hickstead to watch the Queen's Cup. We were thrilled to see David Simpson, a friend and former Breen colleague, and his lovely little Chessy 17 jump a brilliant and very speedy clear round to win.
We had a lovely day today having lunch with friends and starting to pack to lorry ready for Le Touquet this week with Doonaveeragh Emma and Benny.