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GUEST BLOG - The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park

15th August 2013
At the start of the 2011 season I said to Mum that I wanted to take Clock (Winchester V) to the British novice championships at Gatcombe. However, to do this we had to first qualify at a novice and then again at an NRF (novice regional final). Clock was already at novice level, but to enable us to start the qualifying process we needed to come first or second. I spent the next few months trying to get that elusive spot necessary, but alas it was not meant to be. Come the autumn of 2011 I decided to enter the CIC 1* at Gatcombe, however, so did everyone else and unfortunately we were balloted and with no chance of run there I decided to reroute to Burnham Market novice. With the thought that I may not get to qualify I put that dream on the back burner. Clock had other ideas though and at that autumn event in Norfolk he produced one of his bests dressage tests for 26.5, followed by a super double clear which was good enough for us to win the section.

As it was the end of the season I had to wait to 2012 to try my luck at an NRF, but 2012 was not the season to be an event rider. The weather was horrendous and so many events were abandoned due to the rain. This meant that it was getting closer to the championships and I still hadn't qualified. I waited for a while and then chose Stratford Hills for my NRF. Its close to home and I knew the course really well. Plus the rain was actually a good thing as Stratford can get a bit hard. Clock did a good test and jumped a double clear for us to finish 4th. It was the top 25% to qualify for the final and I was just pipped to the post. I was gutted! Thinking I would not be going I entered the CIC 1* at Great Witchingham, which is the same weekend at Gatcombe. Two weeks before the event I received an email from British Eventing saying that Clock had qualified! Hurrah! I was over the moon. I withdrew from Witchingham and entered Gatcombe. However, the great British weather decided that the south west could do with some more rain, it was torrential and just did not stop. It rained and rained to the point where the organisers had to abandon! I couldn't believe it, we had qualified by the skin of our teeth and we couldn't go!

The organisers decided to allow those who qualified in 2012 to roll the qualification over to 2013. So, with better weather at the beginning of August this year we were trucking down the M4. The event is fantastic and we were a bit overwhelmed by actually competing there.

Clock produced a really good dressage test for 32.7 and I was so pleased with how he coped in the championship environment. However, the busy show jumping arena which was surrounded by crowds and shops did mean that he struggled to keep his concentration and towards the end of the round he flattened and had a few down.

The cross country course at Gatcombe is hilly and quite technical, but as Clock is now established at intermediate level, I felt it was well within his capabilities. We headed out of the start box on a mission, I really wanted him to jump out of his stride and be really forward to his fences. He was fantastic and ate the course up, it caused quite a few problems all over the place and I was delighted that he skipped through the combinations full of running. However, things were about to turn against us. The hills on the course took more out of him than I anticipated, he was beginning to tire and it was becoming apparent that I had pushed him too hard on the first section of the course. He made it through the penultimate combination, but I knew he was really struggling. He jumped into the water but had run out of energy. I had to make the difficult decision of pulling up and retiring two fences from home. I was really upset, but Clock is such a special horse that I could not push him to the finish, that wouldn't be fair on him.

Once we got him home I decided to have him blood tested to make sure that there was nothing wrong with him as it isn't really like him to tire so quickly. His bloods came back fine, so I know it's definitely a fitness issue.

It's really disappointing when things don't go according to plan, but I try to turn a negative situation into a positive one. I have put all the horses at home on quite a strict exercise programme and I am confident that the next time they run they will be fitter than ever. I will not make the same mistake twice.

One thing I know for sure is that next time I get to Gatcombe my horse will be fitter than ever and I will be so happy when I gallop through those finish flags!

Hannah

You can find out more about Hannah online via her website.

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