Doonaveeragh Emma - Big Tour 1.40 - Friday
I set off with Emma, Benny and Catokyo very early on Wednesday morning for the CSI2* at Chepstow. I arrived on the dot of 10.00, which was exactly what I intended so the horses were in their stables in very good time, and in fact Benny was struggling in the rather little temporary stables and so James Broome very kindly let me move all three horses to the permanent stables. Sadly Steff couldn't come with me to Chepstow so I was mindful of what a long day the trot-up day is on your own. It's only four hours to Chepstow - so nothing like as long on the lorry as a European trip - but I am always keen to get the horses on a proper bed and with water and haylage on the floor so they can sort themselves out after the journey as soon as possible. I got all three horses trotted up by 1.00 and then was able to give them all a nice hack round the fields behind the showground.
Benny jumped first, in a pretty strong 1.30. I had a bee in my bonnet about how big the second fence was, with result that I had a long shot and let him stop, I came round again on the same shot but with much more conviction and he flew round the rest of the course.
Next up was my little pocket rocket, Catokyo. It was difficult to fit in the six year olds with the main ring, but she warmed up like a star, the bell went and she just jumped a clear round, in spectacular, show-off style. All the clear rounds finished 1st equal so £8.50 off the entries!
I then jumped Emma in the Medium Tour 1.35 two phase. As normal on the first day she was incredibly fresh and strong, but jumped a good clear round. I have learnt that on the first day we have to put in all the strides and just go efficiently rather than fast so that she isn't too revved up for the end of the week.
I settled everybody down, washed their legs carefully to get rid of the sand, gave them a massage, bandaged the two grown-ups, gave them hay and water and toddled off to watch the big class, and have a very quick glass on wine with Tracy Priest, Charlotte Flack and Alice Watson. When I went back to feed they had created chaos. Benny had undone his stable bolt and escaped, apparently doing a haylage sampling tour and shredding his top rug, and Bella had decided to wear the massage rug as a bib. Lovely Sara Arkell had straightened them out, but I did go off to clean my tack feeling like I'd won the "worst stable management award"!
Friday started with Benny in the 1.30 Accumulator. He absolutely shot round the course, we had brilliant fun, just running out of space down to the joker which he had, but a great ride and great fun. Once again Catokyo gave a real master class in the six year olds. She didn't have a very long work in by the time I put Benny away and she was immaculate.
I had quite a long wait to jump Emma in the Big Tour 1.40. The first day Big Tour Class spawned 44 clear rounds, so Bernard the course builder was seriously on it for the second day. I have never seen such enormous fences, especially the oxer into the combination (below). Andrew and Emma Saywell very kindly helped me warm up, and probably get the top trainers award as Emma was a star with a double clear to finish with a minor placing.
Shane kindly took the Breen Team and Tracy out for a lovely Chinese on Friday night. Chepstow was absolutely heaving with people, but we had a lovely evening and it is a very pretty town. I do know that a late night isn't the best answer for good riding early the next morning, but even though I'm old enough to know better any sort of party is still completely irresistible. Still I was up and mucked out by 7.30 and walked Benny's 1.35 Grand Prix which was enormous. I didn't have the greatest warm-up on him. Someone expressed interest in buying him just as I started warming up which always knocks by concentration sideways. Shane kindly helped me warm up and Benny jumped fantastic for the first half of the course, then did a really surprise stop at the 7th fence. Maybe I was a bit over confident and should have given him a little more time to the fence, however he came straight round and jumped it, and finished the course beautifully.
By the time I finished with Benny I had sadly missed the six year olds, but she jumped so well for two days, and is still a real baby, so probably there was absolutely no harm done.
I was drawn first to go in the Medium Tour 1.40 Grand Prix, which was scary, so Shane helped me warm up before we walked the course, and Emma Saywell and the FEI stewards looked after Emma! I actually started second, but poor Callum Tusler had an unscheduled dismount halfway round so I didn't learn much from his round. Emma jumped brilliantly, but I am still concerned by the size of the fences and didn't hug the wings enough on the way round resulting in one time fault and finishing in a minor placing. It was a pretty serious Grand Prix course and there weren't many clear rounds. I was very cross with myself, and Shane was a little bit cross too! Needless to say when Julien had his turn he didn't get a time fault!
I packed up as quickly as I could, and was home by 9.00 so I had a lovely quiet day with Mark and Anna on Sunday and a relaxing bank holiday on Monday.
I spent the last two days at another great show at Pyecombe which has proved a useful consolidation. Thursday started rather moderately when Catokyo took a surprise dislike to some grey fillers and flatly refused to jump them. Luckily the judges let me jump again hors concours and she shot round. Proof that horses are great levellers and you can never tell what is going on their heads. Benny jumped a great clear round in the 1.20 for some much needed confidence and Emma jumped double clear in the 1.30. Yesterday Catokyo jumped really well, still with a minor spook at the grey filler! Benny jumped beautifully in the 1.30 but I had a little less than confident moment, but he was very generous to me so I think we are going forward much more happily. Emma finished the day with a fabulous double clear in the 1.40. We were so nearly placed, but this should be renamed the "Phillip Miller Show" as he was 1st, 3rd and 5th! She jumped with such confidence yesterday that I could hardly believe it. It was also great to have Becky Forte helping me yesterday while Steff had a well deserved day off. Becky is a super experienced show groom who has helped me several times and is now thinking of doing some freelancing - I couldn't recommend her more highly.
We have had some serious enquiries about Emma since Chepstow, and so nearly made the decision to let her go, but Mark said last night that he thought I was mad to think of selling her, and I woke up this morning knowing I wasn't ready to not see that pretty, greedy face nickering at me every morning. She has lived in the same stable and paddock every day since she was three and we are still having such a great time together. She feels better than ever this year, so confident, more scopey and maybe I am riding a tiny bit better and I woke up this morning knowing that I am not ready to leave this party yet!