It seems rather a long time since we came back from Fontainebleau, somehow the days flick past so quickly - I don’t think it’s only old age.
Mark, Izzy Pennington, Twiglet, Emma, Askeaton and Kvint made the journey to Fontainebleau. It’s a good five hour drive from Calais, but we arrived in very good time and were parked very near our lovely permanent stables. We got the horses settled into the stables with thick beds, haylage, water and a good lunch and then got the lorry and some lunch for ourselves sorted out. It was very hot so we waited until early evening before taking the horses for a lovely quiet hack round the woods surrounding the show ground.
Le Grand Parquet is the most beautiful showground with two big grass rings, a big all-weather, all-weather warm-ups for all three rings and also a lunge pen and another all-weather for flat work. As we were so early to arrive we also managed to have the tiniest bit of grass next to the lorry to put up our dining table which was a big luxury.
Jumping didn’t start until Friday, so on Wednesday morning I rode the horses early, then Izzy and I trotted them up and then we let them have a relaxing rest during the hottest part of the day and then had another very quiet wander through the woods and let them have a lovely graze on the watered grass next to the rings.
Emma was first to jump on Friday morning in the 1.25 speed. She thought that was a brilliant idea and finished 5th which in a small class in a French 1* is no mean feat. The French make the Irish look slow!
In her middle age she knows exactly which surfaces suit her best and she absolutely loves the French sand.
I then jumped Askeaton in the six year olds which was a very meaty 1.25 in the second grass ring. She jumped a lovely round, just to have one fence near the end, but it was a very good performance for the first day. Kvint then jumped a great round in the 1.30 two phase to finish 9th, so we were off to a pretty good start.
On the second day I jumped Askeaton first in the main grass ring. This is an amazing ring in that not only is it huge, but it is also incredibly undulating - even hilly. I was thrilled with the way she jumped the first eight fences, but unfortunately for the first time in her life she said absolutely NO to the permanent open water fence. Slightly perturbing, and maybe I took her boldness a little for granted, but she came straight out of the ring and jumped some ditches outside so that’s just something we need to practice for the future. Kvint then jumped in the biggest 1.35 I have ever seen in the lower grass ring. If someone told me it was 1.40 I would have thought it was a big enough. He actually took the course on well, and did some really nice things, but did have a few fences down, but I love his attitude and it was good experience for him. Last of the day was Emma in the 1.30 speed class - she was very wild in the warm-up and the situation didn’t improve too much in the ring, and in her silliness she had one down!
We had very heavy rain overnight, and so I was glad that I’d decided to jump Kvint in the 1.25 rather than the 1.40 (I already had Emma in the 1.30 and I could only have one horse in it). We were second to go and he jumped a lovely quick round just to have the last fence.
When I got back to the stables Mark was already there and didn’t think Emma looked very well. She seemed to have mild colic and the vet at the show was very quick to treat her, and she was soon her happy, greedy self much to our relief. Askeaton then jumped a really great round in the 1.35 six year old final. Luckily there was no water jump in it, but it was truly huge - the last fence was up to my collar bones. She jumped fantastically well, and if I hadn’t pushed a little bit at the second last fence she would have jumped clear. What a very special horse she is, so like her father Golden Hawk, and so brave and careful and she tries so hard for me. Nothing is more special that the excitement of producing a good horse from the beginning of their careers, they reward you so many times over for the time and care you take, and I always hope that they are rewarding Camilla and Steff, who have been so important in their production as well.
As Emma had all day to feel better, and had been very much her normal bouncy self when I took her for a short hack we took the decision to jump her in the 1.30 at the end of the day. Unfortunately she just was a bit long going into the double and had the back rail, otherwise she would have had a very good placing. But at least she was well and thoroughly enjoying the show.
We then settled down to watch the 2* Grand Prix which was tremendously exciting especially with three Brits in a seven horse jump off. Charlie Jones did a fantastic job only to be pipped to first place by the last horse to go - the Marseillaise was played again. This is actually a two week show, and we did rather wish we were staying for the second week. I felt that with a little bit more experience on the grass Kvint could have jumped the 1* Grand Prix, although it was pretty big, and that Askeaton could have had a bit more water practice which would have done her the world of good, and maybe Emma would have settled a little bit better in her little speed classes. Early in the week I took the decision to come home on Monday morning to avoid driving so far when I was tired, and to give the horses a chance to rehydrate properly and to travel before the day got too hot. We had a great run home and it was lovely to have Steff to greet us and for the horses to have a couple of hours in the field in the afternoon.
I hope Izzy had a good experience at her first international show - it’s certainly very different to English Shows and was a pretty impressive show to start with. It’s definitely a show to visit again and I hope I might go in both May and July next year - especially as the prize for the leading young horse over the three shows is a holiday in the Caribbean.