Dustry’s eventing debut – Swalcliffe 80

After 3 years away from eventing I finally managed to get back out and have a bash at stringing all three phases together at Dustry’s first ever event!

Mother are I drove 3hrs to Swalcliffe and back the day before to walk the course and as I was half expecting an 80cm ODE to be all roll tops and logs I was a little shocked at the complexity of the course! After the first few easy jumps fence 4ab was a white wall on a curving line to a skinny wall, fence 5 was a hedge that looked like you jumped into space, 6 and 7 were a log pile to a skinny, 10abc was a step down, up, then curving line to a skinny caterpillar, and at the end of the course we even had a duck to jump!

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Bearing in mind Dustry has been XC all of 3 times in his life, and we’d never actually even ridden a course of XC jumps to date I was a little apprehensive but then thought ‘well we have to make it through a dressage test on grass first, one phase at a time, we might not even get to the xc’ positive thinking n’ all that!

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4am arrived and bleary eyed we boxed up and set off, Dustry was NOT amused at having to stay in his stable the night before, and even less impressed about being boxed up and driven around for 2hrs. I tacked up for dressage and as mother went to help me mount Captain Twerp decided it was all too exciting and mid-mount he set off, cue me shouting ‘let go mother’ and with one pedal shooting sideways at a rate of knots – he’s a charmer like that! N.B. next time take food to bribe him with whilst I mount, even at his most excited food will keep him still!

MVI_7662I went into the dressage warm up and didn’t give him a moment to think about having ‘an outburst’, we serpentined up and down the warm up, doing lots of transitions to keep his brain occupied, he had a little attempt at waving at the other competitors with his front hooves, but nothing too dramatic. He was tense, but obedient so full marks to him for listening and doing what was asked and when. When he gets more used to the whole eventing milarky I’m sure he will find the dressage on grass aspect much less exciting, and we’ll be able to produce some more fluid, relaxed, straight and forwards work. He scored 37 (63%) which although I didn’t think it was a great mark the judge seemed to be marking pretty stiffly as it did in fact put us 11th after the first phase.

Back to the lorry for a tack change and mounting challenge take 2! This time we went for a leg up which was marginally more successful! Into the SJ warm up and I popped him over the x-pole and the spread and he jumped brilliantly, lovely big bold jumps. We then had a bit of a wait, and much to my surprise he stood on the buckle end like Mr Chill. I popped the x-pole again just before we went in. He was very green and looky over the first few fences, jumping across them rather than straight, and balooning a few. I totally messed up his lead change in the corner just before a downhill line to 5 6 and 7, and was underpowered approaching the line as a result, which gave us a duff stride into 5 which he had down – my fault. We managed to get through that line unscathed (just!) and then he completed the rest of the course really well, putting in super jumps over the spreads. So just 4 faults to add and we picked up 6 time. I wanted to take ‘the scenic route’ round the course to give him and me enough time, and we can pick the speed up at a later date when he is more established.

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Back to the lorry and I got to don my beloved green and white checkers again – YAY!!!! We went into the XC warm up and Dustry couldn’t have been more chilled by this point, we walked around on the buckle end as the jump judges drove out onto the course. I popped him over the 80 and 90 warm up fences and he jumped them beautifully, just like in the sj warm up. The steward was looking for a volunteer to go first and as we were ready and keen to crack on I volunteered. We went to walk up to the start box and D decided he might have a feint hearted attempt at napping, quick kick and change of bend in the neck and he gave up and we started to circle in and out of the start box, then we were off! He jumped beautifully over 1 a brush type thing, then 2 a pheasant feeder, and 3 a roll top thing, then round to 4, he was fab I got him on his line, up to the bridle and he popped it perfectly, then down the hill to 5, he went very green and wobbly cantering along to 5, cocking his head and , falling out, round the corner to 5 I had to ride like billy-o as he was slowing and slowing on the approach unsure of where he was going to land as the landing couldn’t be seen until you were almost on top of the fence. With all the leg and frantic whip flapping I could muster (carrying my whip in my left hand which is not second nature and as a result I’m pretty useless with it!) I resorted to a bit of good old fashioned shouting of ‘go on, go on, go on, GO ON!’ just to seal the deal!

Lots of ‘good boys’ followed as he bravely jumped into space and we cantered on to 6ab really nicely over the log pile to roll top, and fab over 7 in the next field, then 2 coloured boat things, and on to 10. Brought him back to trot for this, again up to the hand, leg on, riding the line and he was brilliant down, up and over the caterpillar!

Then onto the water, for some reason I swapped my whip into my right hand before the water (I think I thought I could be more useful with it if necessary) which in hind sight was the wrong thing to do as he is more likely to fall out to the left. We came to the water and he momentarily stopped dead about 3 strides away, again kick kick kick and he bounded on and through the water and over an uptured boat at 12. They gave us 20 for this although he never took a step backwards, just stopped, looked then went on. We carried on up the hill to 13 a green roll top thing, and he went very green himself. About 30ft from the fence he bounded sideways a few strides, but again leg on, up to the bridle, riding the line and he cantered positively towards the fence and jumped it sweet as a nut. We picked up another 2o pens for this little sideways manoeuvre, again despite not stepping back wards, or turning/representing, or being within jumping distance of the fence, but not to worry. Up the hill and through a gap into a field filled with fences, over a painted roll top fence, and over the open ditch without a second thought – good boy. We then had to come round to a raised log in front of the water and next to the xc warm up. He went green again and started to boing sideways left at which the fence judge shouted ‘first refusal’ so another 20 pens despite not going backwards or stopping!? Leg on, up to the rein, ride the line and D’s brain clicked ‘oh you want me to jump that! I thought we were going back to the collecting ring’ lovely and positively he bounded over the log and didn’t hesitate for a second cantering into the second water after that fence – good boy!

Up to a duck fence, no problem, and the nicest jump of the whole round over a brush topped log to finish – Yay

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I am SO pleased with him, he jumped all of the fences really positively, and was so brave over a range of obstacles he’s never even seen before. The 3 green nappy leapy moments he had are understandable. If he had ground to a stop in front of a fence or whipped round and needed representing then I would have been disappointed and considered that myself as a negative, but leaping sideways and falling out a good distance away from the jump I am willing to chalk up as inexperience. Every time he went green I rode him more positively forwards on our line and he responded by straightening up and cantered confidently again forwards and over the fence.

Back to the lorry to wash off, de-stud and clay his legs and I noticed that in one of his sideways leaps he had pulled a front shoe slightly out of place. The event vet kindly removed the shoe for me and I poulticed and padded his foot up to travel home in as a precaution against bruising/abscess. We loaded him back up and left him with a feed and his hay to much on whilst mummy groom and I went off to have a bite to eat ourselves, pick up my dressage sheet and check out the photos.

My fantastic farrier is popping by this morning to put D’s shoe back on, and D will get an easy week this week so he can recover from the excitement and exertion of Sunday, and I can go to Badminton and watch some of the Grassroots action. Next up I think we are going to go combined training on grass and hopefully aim for another little 80 ODE in June. Looking at the final results for our section and speculating on the ‘what ifs’ (which I love to do!) if we had gone clear xc we would have been placed 7th! It’s nice to know that when it comes to being competitive give it a few more months and events under his belt and we should be there or there abouts!




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