Royal International Horse Show - Hickstead
It was exciting heading to Hickstead with two horses who seem to be improving over the summer season, and especially Billy Arietta who seems to be stepping up to 1.30 with relative ease. The RIHS has it's own special atmosphere, with a 5* nations cup drawing some of the world's greatest riders, and the championships of many showing classes in addition to the national jumping.
However, all this excitement has two little downsides: a week of 4.30 starts, and some serious walking! The number of horseboxes to be parked is bonkers! You learn to appreciate the toll that working on the hard ground takes on the horses' legs! But on the upside, you can definitely eat as many cakes, ice-creams and sweets as you like during RIHS week - 24,000 steps a day is fab for your fitness!
Unfortunately, despite the very early start, I had underestimated the time it would take to get parked on Tuesday, resulting in a cross country run, and a very speedy, and rather inadequate, course walk for Areitta's 1.30 class. She jumped the first half absolutely beautifully, but in my efforts to find a bit of space to the water tray in the jump-off I managed to find half an extra stride with not nearly enough impulsion. Even lovely Arietta couldn't perform the task asked! However, she was very good, and came again and finished the rest of the course clear. Definitely not a moment to be proud of, but it's important to learn from mistakes and move on. I should have walked the distance better, and ridden that turn and distance more smoothly with more conviction. As you go up the levels the course walk becomes more important. Although on paper the 1.30 is only 10 cm bigger than the Foxhunter, it is not a novice horse class, and asks questions requiring more technical expertise.
Next up was BE Khalissy in the Winter Novice Qualifier on the grass in Ring Two. She jumped absolutely beautifully, just to get a little bit quick and have the last fence in the first round. I think if I had known that 11 horses would go through to the main ring I might have been a little bit more "dot the i's and cross the t's" about this, but I thought only two would go through, and that there was no hope of me being fast enough in the jump-off. Actually she's so careful and quick that even with me as pilot she probably could have qualified herself.
Wednesday started with Khalissy in the Foxhunter in Ring Two. She jumped the first part of the course very easily, and appeared to take off perfectly into the combination and then literally fall through it. Very, very unlike her and very disappointing.
Arietta also jumped in Ring Two in the 1.25. She not only found the show ponies utterly terrifying, but also took extreme terror at the fun fair next to ring two. The bell went, and she just galloped off, and had three fences in the first half. She's pretty naive at life, and the atmosphere was a pretty steep learning curve for her.
We had a day at home on Thursday. I gave Khalissy a jump over a small combination, and took Arietta for a hack, and they had a nice couple of hours stretching their limbs in the field. In the afternoon I went to Hickstead to watch the Eventers Challenge. It is always nice to catch up with some old eventing friends, and it was a great competition, won by Gemma Stevens (Tattersall) with a scorching round.
Friday Arietta was in the 1.30 in Ring Three again. She jumped a great first round, and just had two slightly green poles in the jump-off: a dog-leg to a double that she didn't quite understand and the front pole on the turn-back to the water tray.
Khalissy jumped the Newcomers in Ring Four, but definitely wasn't happy through the double or the combination, so we decided to give her a few days off. The horses had a chiropractic treatment from Caitlin McCaffery yesterday, and Khalissy seemed very sore, which may have affected her ability to stretch out in combinations. So we will go gently with her for a few weeks to regain her confidence, and make sure she is comfortable in her jumping. I find chiropractic treatment a very useful health check/therapy for the horses. Caitlin treats them once a month from when they first go into work here. Not only do the horses really benefit, but also Caitlin can take an objective view of anything that has changed during the month.
I just had Arietta for Saturday, another 1.30 in Ring Four. We both felt a bit tired and she had an early fence, but she and I had a very constructive show, jumping some bigger, more technical courses, for just a few unimportant mistakes. It is wonderful to have such a lovely horse with such amazing ability. Especially while Askeaton is having a little time off, it's very good to get my eye back in over bigger courses, and makes less pressure to get Askeaton back. I am a little bit upset that Khalissy was less than her usual self. But hopefully after a few days off, some chiropractic and general tlc and a gentle return to work, she will be back to her super competitive ways.
We got Arietta home as soon as we could, turned her and Khalissy out for the afternoon and rushed back to Hickstead to watch the Queen's Cup. In true Hickstead style it was a fantastic competition, and it was very exciting to see Shane win with the wonderful Haya.
We were back again on Sunday for the King's Cup. What an amazing competition, with the most electrifying jump-off. The top four horses were absolutely beautiful - it's great to see what it really takes to be world class, and the riding is truly something to aspire to.
Ellie, the horses and I are all very tired after a very busy week, with a fair amount of socialising too. We will have a very quiet week this week, and then back to training and jumping next week, moving towards the Hickstead September show to see how far we've all come on.
Congratulations to the team at Hickstead. A fantastic show of world class jumping, showing, shopping and socialising. We have all missed it so much.
Many thanks to Ellie, who has been fantastic, and to Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Premium Equine, NDS Equine, MacWet Gloves and Just Equine, I really couldn't do without you.