Home from Blair with Team Silver

Blair was quite simply amazing. We finally got back home at about 6am this morning, got 2 hours of sleep and then back out on the yard for several dressage lessons before spending the rest of the day re-packing the lorry to head to Blenheim!  Thankfully I remembered to record the highlights of Blair that were on BBC earlier today, so I’m going to settle down and watch them this evening.

Basically we had a crazy week at Blair. It was a super result and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of Percy. I’d gone to Scotland with no expectations as I was selected as pathfinder. It’s an incredible honour to ride first for your team as it’s a huge responsibility and I was so proud that Yogi chose me to be first out for the team.

The downside of being early is that the dressage judges tend to be more conservative with their marks. Generally early competitors don’t score quite as well on the dressage, so I was delighted with my score of 36.9.

As I was first out on the cross country on Saturday, I was instructed to go the long route at the second water fence. We knew this fence would be quite a test and it turned out to be extremely influential, claiming many notable scalps. So, riding under team instructions I went the long route.

The rationale behind this was to see exactly how much longer it would take. If it didn’t take much more time than the straight route, the team was going to play it safe and opt to go long. Unfortunately for me it turned out to be quite time consuming. I was exactly on my minute markers at minute 7, but after taking the long route at the water I was then half a minute down at minute 8 and I just couldn’t make this time up again. The decision was then taken for the team to go the straight route at this water as it was just too slow to go long and every penalty would count.

I am pretty certain I would have been inside the time if I hadn’t gone long at this fence, which was quite something. I was on time before it, 30 seconds down after it and then finished about 20 seconds over the time. It’s unfortunate that I missed out on individual bronze by 0.1 of a penalty – less than a second and going the long route definitely cost me time and probably an individual medal. BUT as I said, I went to Blair with no expectations and finished 4th and as the best British rider. The Bronze medal was never mine, I never had it, and so I didn’t lose it. If someone said to me at start of week that I’d come home with Team Silver and Individual 4th I’d have taken it. So there are absolutely no regrets and who knows what would have happened if I had gone the straight route!

Everyone saw the rain that battered us all day on Saturday. It actually only started raining a couple of hours before I set out on the course, so I thought it wouldn’t change the conditions too much, but it really did. The ground was extremely slippy and the course rode like an ice rink rather than it being hard work for the horses. For the downhill segments where I wanted to let Percy run, while making up time and taking a second breath, I could feel him sliding a bit and so had to keep a hold of his head. The stags head fence and the oxer into the woods in particular were very slippy and I had to be very careful – it was like a skid pan!

However, fortunately  Percy loves mud; he really enjoyed the challenge and was amazing all week. He’s a feisty horse and was looking for the flags the whole way around the cross country. He jumped out of his skin in the showjumping too! He’s a proper jumper – he hasn’t had a pole down all year, so I was quietly confident going into the ring.

We did a little jumping on Sunday morning and he was excellent. Just a few exercises to get him thinking and ensure everything was under control. This also meant then that I didn’t have to do much before going in the ring and he jumped a super clear round. The ground was actually really good for the show jumping and held up well. It was possibly a little tacky, but given the rain we’d had in the previous 24 hours it was far better than we all expected!

There were many highlights of the week, but being presented with my team silver medal by the Queen was quite amazing… verging on the surreal! We’ve actually got a picture of my mum from years back being presented with a prize by the Queen at Windsor Castle. It’s not very often that the Queen presents prizes, so it’s quite special that we have both now experienced this incredible honour. Absolutely amazing!

Even though we won Team Silver, we know we’ve a lot to do for next year as the Germans are so, so strong. We need to keep improving our dressage – it’s better but we’re still not close enough. Michael Jung is just extraordinary. He’s quick and slick around the course and makes it look so easy and he’s so strong in every phase. The Germans are completely amazing as individuals and as a team – awe inspiring actually! And we’ve a lot to work on to catch them up. I hope we can do it, but we won’t fail through lack of trying.

Percy will have a break now before I bring him back in to prepare for next year. He’s come home lovely and fresh and is in great form – I wish I had his energy! I know there are more marks in there, so we know what we have to work on, which is exciting and hopefully next year we can go a place (or two or even three!) better.

I’ve two horses running at Blenheim this week – one in the 8 & 9 year old section and one in main class. I love Blenheim and hopefully the weather will be a little kinder than at Blair last week. Thanks to you all for your support at Blair – as riders, it means a huge amount to see and hear everyone cheering us on every step and every stride of the way. Thank you. We couldn’t do it without you.

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