It seems quite a while since I drove off to Portsmouth with the lorry stacked to the roof with enough shavings, haylage, food and wine to last Doonaveeragh Emma and I for ten days in Auvers. We could have had a very peaceful night crossing, as there was relatively little freight on board and I had a cabin to myself, but there seemed to be wild elephants (untamed children) stampeding overhead. However, we were out of Caen by 7.30. As we left the port I noticed to my horror that Abbie Summers' lorry was following me, anybody who has known me for more than a fortnight will know never to follow me, even on foot - I am a directional ditz and can get lost between here and Uckfield. However, the sat-nav that resolutely refused to work on the way to Lummen has been reprogrammed and took us to within 1 km of the showground where my very limited sense of direction kicked in. Big sigh of relief when we turned into the showground at 9 am.
Having nabbed an electric hook-up and settled Emma into her box it was great to have a quick catch up with the O'Dwyers, Steven Franks & Karen Guest, Anna Beck and Rosie Moss before taking Emma for a hack down the railway line and trotting her up.
The plan for shows with Emma is always to jump a small class on the first day, so I jumped her in the 1.20 two phase where she jumped fabulously for a minor placing. The next day we graduated to the 1.30 two phase, 8th place, and Emma's first ever mounted prize-giving. I was very lucky in finding lovely Louise Alston who was also in Auvers with one horse and usually doing a different class to me so we could help one another work in. The next day was the 1.35 CSI1* Ladies Grand Prix where Emma jumped fabulously, but I just had her a bit too close going into the combination, and the very technical lines meant that I ended up with three down. However, no disgrace and she finished feeling fabulous and ready for the two day break between shows.
My sister Polly, who lives in Normandy, very kindly gave Mark a lift on her way back from England and not only delivered him to the showground on Saturday evening, but also came back and took me to the supermarket in Carentan before joining us for lunch on Sunday.
Monday saw the weather turn from summer to monsoon and week two started on Tuesday with the 1.30 speed class in pretty wet conditions. Emma jumped clear to finish just out of the placings. Wednesday was the 1.30 two phase, the first 40 horses jumped on lovely drying ground, I was 54th to go and the rain was so torrential that I had to stop jumping the practice fence to try and preserve a little dry spot on the saddle. Emma actually jumped the best of the horses that went in the rain for four faults when she got a little bit stuck. Thursday was the Ladies Grand Prix again, and this time an even stronger course, with difficult lines and turns. When I went there were only two clears, and as Emma cleared the third last I was thrilled. However, she never seemed to lock onto the second last and ran straight past it which was desperately disappointing, but she came round and jumped it well the second time.
We stayed to watch the Brits in the 2* Grand Prix, before heading back to Caen for the night ferry to Portsmouth, and were home by 10.30 the next morning, ready to ride the three five year olds in the pouring rain.
Overall we had a really enjoyable show. Auvers is always friendly and has a great range of classes and top class courses. The format of two shows over nine days is fairly intensive, but for me means less time away from home and a lot of practice over bigger courses in a short time. I left the show feeling more than ever that I had a little super star with me, and that if I could just get the hang of her a little bit better we could actually win a CSI* Grand Prix. Emma is keen and strong and only seven. This is combined with the fact that I am also very green at anything above 1.30 and in my efforts to always have her forward enough to give her as much scope as possible I did have some less than perfect distances in Auvers. I need to refine my riding to ensure that I am always riding forward on a really good distance. However, both Emma and I are very determined and I have the best trainer, so with a little bit of luck and some very hard work, we will get there.
Overseas shows are always a great opportunity to make new friends and this time it was lovely to meet the Summers family, Claire Hansen, Rikki Gradley, Lana Craker and Louise Alston, and rather weirdly to entertain my step-mother, Zandra and Debs, her head-girl and my sister to dinner in the lorry as they were in Caen to watch the WEG Dressage.
As always many thanks to Deborah Coles-Vincent of Diva Equine & Country who provide me with lovely bridles and saddle cloths and Cavalor supplements to keep Emma at her smartest and fittest.