A manic month for Alice
July was always going to be a manic month, and that it certainly was!
Firstly, with the Regionals looming ever closer, we took Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) to Sparsholt to compete in their festival of dressage. On Friday 8th, we had a medium and an advanced medium class, and they were the tests that are the regional tests so we thought it would be good practice for her!
She was very pleased to be out at a show as she hadn’t competed since she had qualified for the summers, but this meant that she was a bit over the top in the trot and she just kept trying to trot bigger and bigger! Unfortunately, she isn’t strong enough to maintain such a massive trot and was struggling with her balance, but she was just so pleased to be out at a party again! The walk and the canter in the medium test was good, but there were quite a few places in the trot work where she lost her balance because she was trying too hard, something that the judge commented on! She still scored just under 68% and finished third, so it wasn’t all bad!
In the advanced medium, there were some losses of balance in the trot work again, and there were also a few green mistakes in the canter work, particularly in the changes. This kept our score down at 67.3% and we finished fifth. However, we won the best turned out prize on Friday (which mum claims was all down to her!) so we have won a photo shoot!
We took her back to Sparsholt on Saturday 9 for the medium music. Percy the pigeon, who Bracks had nearly trodden on twice on Friday, was still flying around the indoor arena and making a bit of a nuisance of himself! We arrived in time to watch my mum’s best friend do her elementary music test on a horse which we had bred, and it was a lovely test which everyone was pleased with. They scored over 73% and won the restricted section, so mum’s best friend was thrilled! It was then my turn with Bracks in the medium music. She was less excited as she had been out the day before, which made her easier to ride, but there were still a few wobbles in the test. We scored over 71% and finished third, which qualified her for the winter regionals, so now both of her music qualifications are done for next year’s winters!
I was then back at Sparsholt on Sunday as I had been asked on the Tuesday before to ride in the pro-am medium elite class as someone had dropped out. It is for charity and the format is that the amateur rider does the test, medium 75, on their own horse and then they get drawn one of the 10 professional riders. The ‘pros’ get 20 minutes to get to know the horse before we then had to ride the same test and, hopefully, improve the score! I got drawn the last horse to go, this was Vorame, owned and ridden by Bryony James. I watched most of the professionals before I was allowed to get on for 20 minutes. Max, as he was known, was a lovely horse and beautifully trained, if I pushed the correct buttons he did as he was asked, which made me look really good but actually he was easy to ride! Bryony had scored 62.57% as he had been spooky in the first round and was lying in joint seventh. I was pleased with the test I had out of Max, we just had one little mistake after the first travers, but the test flowed well and felt good to ride. We scored 70.68%, which was the third highest score from the pro riders and overall with our combined scores we finished fourth! This was an improvement of 8.11%, the joint best improvement of the pros, so I was thrilled! I really enjoyed the experience and it was all for a worthy cause... And I have already agreed to take part in it next year!
The following week, we were at Hartpury College for the CDI with both Wiz (Wurlizer) and Del (Headmore Delegate). Wiz was entered in the big tour (scary stuff) and Del was doing the small tour. We arrived on the Wednesday evening to get both boys settled in before the trot up on Thursday. Amy, my best friend, was grooming for me so both boys looked really smart and, thankfully, both passed the trot up without a hitch. I was drawn very good times for the first day of competition on Friday 15th, Del was the penultimate horse to go in the PSG and Wiz was fifth last to go in the Grand Prix. Del warmed up fairly well for the PSG, but he got a bit tense and genuinely worried in the atmosphere as it was his first International and there was quite a buzz in the ring. This resulted in him becoming tight in the neck which resulted in a test that was very below par for what Del is capable of. He still scored 65% to finish 12th, so it wasn’t a complete disaster!
It was then Wiz’s turn in the Grand Prix. It was my first International Grand Prix and the standard was high, I was just hoping for a test that I was pleased with as we are not yet established enough or confident enough at that level yet. He warmed up very well, my trainer, Erik Theilgaard, was there to help me warm up and I was feeling quite confident as we went into the ring. We had a few mistakes and there is still much more to come in the piaffe and passage, but he stayed with me and he really tried his best! We scored just under 63%, which considering his stage of training at the moment and the mistakes, wasn’t bad at all. A lot of people said to me that they thought I deserved more than I had got, including a number of people who were also in the class, which was very nice to hear!
That evening, we went out for dinner with Wiz’s breeder, Judith Davis, and we organised to go over to her stud on the Sunday to have a look round! Saturday was Del’s Inter I and he was much more settled than on the Friday, he actually went a bit the other way and was too cocky and silly, which meant that we had some very silly mistakes as Del was trying to be too clever! This left us with a score of 64.5%, which considering the mistakes wasn’t bad, but unfortunately we finished in 16th place, meaning that we just missed out on qualifying for the music as the top 15 go through, which was a shame. That evening we went to the gala evening and watched the Grand Prix freestyle, as well as a stallion parade and the young horse championship winners. It was a very enjoyable evening! I just had the Grand Prix Special to do on Sunday, which wasn’t until after 5, so on Sunday morning we went to Wiz’s breeder at Hawtins Stud to have a look round. The first thing we did was meet Wizard’s Mum, Brentina. As you can imagine I was very excited about this and there were some real similarities between the two. Brentina is now 17 and still breeding and she had a lovely foal at foot, Wiz’s half brother, by Sir Donnerhall. In the same field there was a gorgeous Belissimo foal who reminded me so much of Bracks and I wanted to take her home! After that we met some of the other young stock and there were quite a few which really caught my eye! It was lucky that I didn’t have any money as I think we would have been bringing slightly more than two horses home from Hartpury! There were some really lovely horses and I will definitely be going back to buy a few when I have some spare cash!!!!
Once we were back at Hartpury it was a case of organising ourselves for the Grand Prix Special. Neither Wiz nor I had ever done the test before and I would have been pleased if I had just remembered where I was supposed to be going! We had quite a few mistakes in the test, the vast majority of them out of greenness, and I hadn’t realised quite how much harder the special in than the straight Grand Prix! Overall I was pleased with how Wiz went, it was far from perfect but I think he did the best he could at the moment, and our attempt was good enough to finish 7th, so not at all bad for our first International Grand Prix!
After Bracks’ rather over exuberant performances at Sparsholt, we thought it would be a good idea if she went to another party before she had her first two regionals. So, we took her to Pacesham on Wednesday 20th to do an advanced medium music. Although she had already qualified, we thought it would be a good chance for her to practice her changes in a test again before she has to do them at the regionals. The show wasn’t until the evening so it was a very leisurely build up! We were hoping that we would be able to stay dry as the weather had not been very kind in the lead up to the show. She warmed up fairly well despite the fact that the warm up arena was quite wet due to the large amount of rain we had had, we were clean when we went out but by the time we got into the test both of us were splattered with manky surface water (yes that is a technical term)! It was quite minging! I was pleased with her test; she was much more under control than at Sparsholt! There were still a couple of places where it could have been improved but she really tried and as she relaxed into it she just got better and better! We got all three changes on the serpentine and there were some really lovely moments! It was good enough to score 70.66% which was good enough to win, and it was also the highest score of all of the music classes! All in all it was a good final outing before her elementary and medium regional finals, which we took her to the following week.
We had a very busy week that week as our season was starting to come to a climax. On Tuesday 26th, we took Bracks to Kingston Maurward for two of her regionals. I was pleased with my times as I was expecting an early start but luckily that was not the case, we didn’t have to leave until 10! We arrived with plenty of time, despite a bit of traffic on the way, and by the time Bracks was ready to go, she looked beautiful! She warmed up fairly well for the elementary test and I was pleased with the test, the trot work was stunning but there were just a few little mistakes in the canter work. We finished with a score of 68%, which was only good enough in the end for 11th place, but I was disappointed as there was such a variation in our marks, one judge had us in 3rd, one judge had us in 4th and the third judge had us in 18th, which dropped us right down the placings and stopped us from qualifying, which was very frustrating as the test should have got us to the Nationals. I then brought her back out for her second test, in the medium. She warmed up better this time and was more with me in the test, there were a couple of little mistakes where she was a bit over exuberant but all in all I was pleased with it and confident that we should have qualified for the nationals. However, I had a very similar scenario to in the elementary, two judges had us in qualifying positions and one dropped us down so we finished on a score of 67.5% which was good enough for 8th, but not good enough to qualify. It was definitely a very frustrating day at the regionals and we now have to hope for a wildcard and keep our fingers crossed for her advanced medium regional in a couple of weeks time, which we couldn’t do at Kingston Maurward as I had to be at Hickstead on the Wednesday with the boys.
We left for Hickstead with Wiz and Del on Wednesday 27th at lunchtime in order to be there for the trot up. We had had a scare with Del as he had had a sore back but luckily Jenny Hadland, my equine physio, had been out on the Monday to try and sort him out for me! Both boys passed the trot up fine and they were both competing in the small tour as the class that Wiz was supposed to be doing, the under 25 Grand Prix, had been cancelled. Del was on first in the PSG on Thursday and he went as well as we could have hoped considering everything. It was a better test than he had done at Hartpury but it was under powered due to the less than perfect preparation we had had. However it scored well, with four of the five judges scoring us over 66%, and we finished overall on 65.5%, so we were pleased. Between my tests I did a video interview for H&C TV, which was quite daunting but I did manage to survive it, and, surprisingly, I didn’t find it too bad! It was then Wiz’s turn in the PSG and we just wanted him to have an easy ride round and take the pressure off having done Grand Prix all year. I was pleased with the test and I actually thought it was a better test than Del had done, but he only scored 64.3% (so I was obviously wrong!) but he enjoyed himself nonetheless.
On Friday, Wiz did the Inter I in the morning. His way of going was better than in the PSG but we had quite a few costly mistakes, which meant that we had a similar score to the PSG. However, I think that it did him good to have the pressure taken off after a strong season at Grand Prix, but next year we will definitely just concentrate on the Grand Prix’s! Del was in the Inter I freestyle in the evening, and there was quite an audience for it and, as a result, quite an atmosphere by the time we got in there. He felt much better than on the previous day, he was more of his normal self, and I was very pleased with the test and how he coped in the atmosphere. There were a few little mistakes here and there and I wasn’t quite spot on with the music as it was the first time we had done the music in competition. It was still good enough to score 68.25% and finish 8th, so we were over the moon with that! I then spent most of the weekend at Hickstead watching the 5* Grand Prix as there were some phenomenal combinations in it. It was fantastic to watch dressage of that quality in this country and our British team could certainly challenge for the gold medal at the European in a couple of weeks time! It was an absolute pleasure to watch Carl Hester’s Grand Prix and Adelinde Cornelisson’s Kur, and watching Charlotte Dujardin compete at Grand Prix in the flesh for the first time was amazing as I train with her some of the time and it was just awesome to see her doing so well.
To sum up July, it seems to be a month where things haven’t really gone my way and we have just kept missing out here and there, but that’s sometimes how it goes with horses. I just hope that I get more luck in the coming months than I had in July!
Riding has been in our family for generations. With my mum, Sarah, competing at HOYS and RIHS it was only natural that, as soon as I could walk, I'd end up in the saddle!
As I was growing up I joined the Hampshire Hun
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A manic month for Alice
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Alice Oppenheimer joins the Dengie Supported Riders