The Perils Of Show Jumping Sport - 18

Well another week and another city! After a very cold weekend in Strazeele in France where the horses actually jumped super well (except for one of mine who decided that I should make an audition for the Irish gymnastic team sending me flying through the air as she fell through a jump! I think I passed the audition although I would probably have achieved a better mark if I had completed the movement on my feet whilst flourishing my arms aloft....But I m not planning to work on perfecting this movement again anytime soon!) It was now time to move south again - like the birds- for the winter.

Next stop will be the capital of the country of Rioja in Spain; flamenco and a language which neither Sam nor I can speak - if my gymnastic career doesn’t pan out a big future in mime definitely awaits!! - Ola Madrid!!!

Madrid horse week is held in one of the many huge exhibition halls which make up the Fiera de Madrid area - with a direct metro line to the airport. Everyday there is something happening in one of the big halls - while our show was on, there was also a health and beauty exhibition and several other events occurring.

The horses were all stabled in one of the huge halls and were toasty warm - unlike us having to walk what felt like a mile to the lorries in the rain!!

It was super though having all the facilities under one roof - there was so much going on outside the jumping: we had pony rides, Cowboys, dressage horses and many many other things to keep the crowds amused!

I had just the one horse with me, my new mare Townhead Cassita (as my other horse was still a bit sore after her acrobatics from Strazeele), and for her the whole experience was an extremely sharp learning curve as never before had she seen or heard so many lights, people, and music in such a tight arena where she was meant to jump! It was a fantastic education for her and by the last day I felt confident enough to jump her in the 145m ranking class Grand Prix - where she just had the third last fence down, with a circle to balance her before the last adding to her faults, I was really pleased with how she coped with the whole situation and feel she is now a really fantastic addition to my string.

Sam had a bit of an unlucky four fault weekend with both Pepperpot and Zorro jumping well in the big classes but just always finding an unlucky fence - it was just to be one of those shows.

Our star of the weekend was actually our youngest and smallest entry, Princess Leah, the eight year old grey mare by Douglas whom Sam took over the ride on in Vilamoura in September. Really, just a big pony, this mare has a heart like a lion and jumped in the six bar class to win Sam equal eighth, a bit of prize money and most importantly gained him some valuable Longines ranking points.

Our focus class though for this show was always to be Sam’s first European League World Cup qualifier - and it certainly was a strong one! In this very tight arena the course builder had big oxers out of tight corners and the verticals set at the maximum 160m - a big test for all the entrants.
We were very confident in Zorro’s ability to take on the class and were so disappointed when she had the second fence down and looked to be struggling down the distances and to reach the back rails. Sam very wisely retired as he knew something was definitely amiss. As Sam and Zorro exited the arena I saw that in the haste to go in the ring, her flash strap had been put around the cheek piece on the fulmer snaffle, instead of underneath, completely blocking the mares right side so she was struggling to turn, let alone jump. It was a gutting mistake and just goes to show that in this sport, the smallest detail can have the biggest effect on the result. A hard lesson for us to learn!

It was a very despondent team that left the show that night - but in any competition you have to accept the bad days along with the good - and it makes the good days seem so much sweeter when they happen.

So next stop on our European Tour (which has seen us take in Portugal, southern Spain, France and now back to Spain) will be to the bright lights and bustling city of Barcelona - my favourite Christmas show with lots of shopping to be done ready for the holidays. I will compete (once I manage to wrestle her off Sam!) with Sumas Zorro - just to let her have a play around some smaller courses. Also with Vera and Townhead Cassita in the 2*, and Sam will compete with Princess Leah, my mare Championes (fair is fair I have his horse!) and the speedy Limelight de Breve.

We are hoping this will be a bit of a fun show to let the horses play a bit at a lower level, and us riders relax a little taking in the fab shops and restaurants, before my final show of the year the 5 and 2* of A Coruña in Galicia, Spain - where the prize money is huge and the pressure will be too!!

So I m off for Tapas - catch you all soon! xxx



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