Steff and I set off for Le Touquet with Doonaveeragh Emma and Benny at 3.30 last Wednesday morning in the pouring rain. In spite of the fact that it was very windy in Dover we had a pretty smooth crossing and following Alex Hempleman, Dan Moseley and Clare Whitaker (Louise and Joanne) we arrived in a very wet Le Touquet at about 10.30. The horrible weather meant that all the temporary stables were flooded, necessitating a thick layer of lovely free French straw on the floor, and then three lovely free bales of shavings on top, before we could put the horses in and settle them.
The next priority is always getting the lorry hooked up to the electricity so that the fridge and hot water work as soon as possible. French hook-up is always a little bit dubious and especially in the rain. My French is far from good, but my vocab for "l'electricite ne march pas" and how to get it all mended and working without is now pretty serviceable. I have loads of spare cable and adapters to avoid any chance that English cables or adapters get blamed for tripping the system.
After lunch Steff and I took Benny and Emma for a quiet hack before trotting them both up and declaring Emma to jump on Thursday. Le Touquet has one of the nicest grass rings to jump in, and by Thursday afternoon it was drying up nicely and Emma felt as if she was jumping off a trampoline. She was extremely fresh and just got a little bit close going into the combination, and I then added one in the next distance which was a poor decision.
Benny didn't jump until Friday. He also was very fresh in the warm-up and then did such an enormous buck between fences two and three that he sort of fell through fence three. I relocated to the saddle from his ears and he jumped very well to the end of the round.
Mark arrived on late on Thursday night, which was lovely. We stayed in the Hiphotel apartments just by the showground so that Steff could have the lorry to herself. Luckily the weather cleared up and we had a beautiful weekend, having two delicious meals out in Le Touquet, one of which Steff and I definitely earned by the time we had walked to the restaurant by a very roundabout route.
The freshness of Thursday and Friday meant that everyone got ridden twice on Saturday! Benny jumped a great clear round in the 1.20 to win 10 Euros and Emma jumped a really fantastic round in the 1.30 just touching the second last fence - I couldn't believe she had it!
Emma was drawn early to go in the 1.35 Grand Prix on Sunday morning so we had a delicious meal in the showground restaurant and an early night. When I walked the course I thought it was big and very technical, with very forward distances, and that the ground was now pretty firm. Emma takes a little while to really get into her stride and I had to be forward down the first distance, but she jumped it well and jumped the next few fences really well. Watching the video I think I just took a little pull in the distance after the first double leaving Emma a little bit off the oxer where she had the back bar. She jumped very well through the combination and just ran a little bit to the next oxer having it in front. She tried her little heart out really and I was hugely disappointed in my riding.
We then had a long wait for Benny to jump in the 1* Small Grand Prix. When I walked it I thought it was definitely not small and it was pretty technical. Benny jumped absolutely brilliantly just having the last fence which was entirely my fault.
My assessment of the weekend would be that the horses jumped well, but I just didn't ride them well enough. For learning more about Benny it was a constructive weekend. It was his first trip out of England since he arrived as a 3 year old; he seemed to love the show, happily watching the jumping, and being a little bit friskier than I had anticipated. He also managed to spend significantly more than 10 Euros with the vet as he got Lymphangitis so we will have to be extra vigilant with cleaning and drying his legs in the future.
We packed up quickly, got on a ferry very quickly and were home by 10.30, tired and a little bit disappointed.
I have had a lovely week with my sister Polly, her partner Vincent and their four lovely children. The English weather did its best, so that there was lots of swimming and barbequeing. I have had a brilliant day today with Anna, having our first look at wedding dresses. The Pantiles Bride provided Anna with so many lovely dresses to try and she looked beautiful in all of them, we are having a proper "wedmin" weekend with caterers today and tomorrow and another wedding dress shop tomorrow - it's all very exciting.
Shane is now in Rio helping Greg Broderick for ten days, so feeling my training needs to be quite urgent I took Emma and Culana for a lesson with Michael Duffy on Thursday. We had a lovely and very helpful afternoon. Both horses jumped really well and I came away feeling a little bit more confident about my riding. Michael has also worked for Shane and seen Emma and I as we've progressed and I admire his quiet ability to bring out the best in horses, so hopefully this will work well in addition to my normal training with Shane, and Michael will hopefully be at some of the same shows as sometimes I could definitely benefit with walking the course with someone else.
I am always so excited by the Olympics, and so proud to see Millie Kruger fulfill her dream of representing Zimbabwe at the Olympics. Millie is an amazing example of someone who has worked so hard to realise her ambitions, and she turned in a fabulous performance. I was also thrilled to see Jonty Evans, a lovely eventing friend, do so well for Ireland, finishing 9th individually in his first Olympics. As always Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro have delighted everyone and Great Britain are hauling in the medals. Roll on the weekend and the show jumping which starts on Sunday.