When I applied for the CSI1* in Chantilly I didn't think I had a hope of getting in. There are only places for three Brits in the one star, so I was thrilled to get my email from British Showjumping to say that Emma's recent good form had secured us a place.
I had a very necessary training session with Shane before we left - poor Emma, I seemed to have forgotten some pretty important basics such as straightness. 4am on Thursday morning saw us leave for Dover, with Mark on board as well for his first complete trip in the lorry. I had no idea who rest of the British contingent would be, so it was great to see Tracy Priest's friendly face as she pulled her lorry pull into the lane behind us in Dover. The British contingent was completed by Tracy's pupil Christina Gachoud, Joseph Stockdale and myself for the CSI1* and Tracy, Tim Stockdale, James Fisher, Clark Glasgow, Alex Hempleman and Jemma Kirk for the CSI2*.
There cannot be any more impressive venue to arrive at than Chantilly. We drove the lorry up the main drive to the Chateau and then through the town and into the centre of the race course. Having trotted Emma up and exercised her I declared and Mark and I wandered into town where we had the most delicious dinner - no cooking for me at this show! On Saturday morning I even went to the boulangerie after mucking out to bring the "super-groom" breakfast in bed. Having only one horse in big tour of the 1* meant I jumped late on Friday and Saturday, we had plenty of time to support the other British and do a little bit of shopping in the lovely trade stands. All the British jumped very well, and we very nearly got to hear "God Save the Queen" rather than "la Marsellaise" when Jemma Kirk was 2nd on Saturday.
Emma jumped a great clear in the 1.30 on Friday to finish a couple out of the prize money, and then just tipped two in the 1.35 on Saturday which hopefully set her up for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
It poured with rain on Saturday afternoon and overnight making the ground quite sticky on Sunday. It also started to rain about 10 minutes before I jumped on Sunday which made it very slippery. Emma is super careful so she lost a bit of her stride on the slippery going, but she jumped very well in only her 3rd 1.40 Grand Prix, just misjudging one back rail and picking up one time fault. There were only seven clear rounds, so we still finished more than half way up the class.
I had a very quick turn around before leaving for Chepstow CSI2* on Wednesday, managing to fit in a great lesson with Shane for Espirito Santo and Luendi, and a quick jump for Malcolm Pyrah's lovely Positively McGillicuddy who is with me to be sold. I was really lucky that Alison McIvor found me a great groom, Oisin O'Reilly, to help me at Chepstow as we had three very hectic days. I had jumped either three, or four horses by 11.30 every morning and Oisin did a masterly job in getting them all to their rings on time and with the right tack on, in spite of never having met any of us before.
Doonaveeragh Emma jumped lovely clears in the 1.30 on Thursday, the 1.35 on Saturday and was placed in the 1.35 Small Grand Prix on Sunday. Espirito Santo and Luendi jumped very well in quite strong six year old classes in a very tight ring on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with Luendi finishing equal first on Saturday, and Positively McGillicuddy jumped two double clears in the national classes, just finishing out of the money both times.
It is great to be home now until Windsor in ten days time. The poor old washing machine is working over time, and the horses can have a quiet week before hopefully fitting in a training session before the Foxhunter on Wednesday and Six Year Olds on Thursday at Windsor. Emma just has the B&C on Thursday.
As always I owe many thanks to everyone who makes this all possible. Jemma Tester and Steff Gibbs who looked after everything at home while we were in Chantilly, Mark for all his support and super grooming, Diva Equine & Country for their lovely bridles, Shane for his patience and training, and Oisin O'Reilly for his excellent and good natured help at Chepstow.