The low down from Down Under
Updated: Apr 16
What a week! If I had to sum it all up it was the most stressful week of my life and the best week of my life all wrapped into one!
The less-than-ideal lead-up
Poor Toby really did have a S#*$ of a trip:
Week 1-2: Right from the beginning he got bitten on the head by Bekham in the plane and was headshaking from poll pressure for a week and a half (which meant schooling was out of the question). Luckily he came right just before Goulburn to pull out his best test yet!
Bekham was great.
Week 2-3: The Friday before Goulburn Toby got a really hard lump on his upper lip, it didn’t bother him for the event but soon after turned into a very painful face abscess which later that week burst out of his lip, which meant another week off riding.
Bekham was great.
Week 3-4: Once I was given the all clear to ride Toby after his face had cleared up, it turns out he was lame! X-rays revealed there was a crack in his hoof separating the wall and the sole that went up quite far. We put a bar shoe on but it didn’t seem to be helping.
Bekham was great.
Toby was still not right.
And Bekham was not great.
All of a sudden on Sunday evening before we left for Adelaide on Monday Bekham was suddenly lame, we had no idea why and couldn’t block to even work out which leg because of the withhold times leading up to the event.
And so we left for Adelaide on Monday morning with two lame horses.
Sam dropped us at Megan Jones’s place on Tuesday and what a lifesaver she was! We were there for two days and during this time we attacked the horses with chiropractor treatments, heat lamps, Equissage treatments, red light therapy, acupuncture, and more shoeing! We went in with the mindset that if everything fell apart and we weren’t able to compete, that at least we had done absolutely everything possible to get there!
It still wasn’t looking good, I thought we had about a 5% chance of getting one horse through the dressage test.
However Anton (Megan’s farrier) really did do a magical job on the horses; he ‘floated’ the heel on a custom made bar shoe for both Toby and Bekham (after we found a similar crack in Bekham’s front foot) which means that the shoe doesn’t actually sit on the crack. He filed the heel with equithane to equally distribute the pressure and made a toe plate filled with cotton wool for Toby which protected the sensitive part of his foot. Genius. His hard work paid off on Thursday (the day before dressage), when for the first time in two and a half weeks (after his face abscess and lameness), I was able to ride Toby and he was sound – talk about cutting it fine Toby!
Bekham had responded really well to Megan’s chiropractor (thanks James!) and was making improvements over the week but we were still taking it phase by phase, assessing how he was feeling in the warmup for each phase to make sure he felt happy within himself and fit to compete, and thankfully he felt good!
Thankfully I had such good supporters at the event! Penny was like a rock for us, and even brought out bread and dip to eat while we continued our icing treatments!
The event itself
Bekham was first to go in the CIC3* dressage, and he pulled out a great test! We had one mistake where I was a bit bold in my first medium canter, but aside from that it was an accurate test that scored well, putting him into 3rd after dressage on 67%. Toby was incredibly good for the lack of work he had in the lead-up but we made quite a few mistakes which was understandable for where he was at at the time! 16th place after dressage.
So from thinking we had a 5% chance of getting one horse through one phase, to getting two through the dressage - we were on top of the world! Anything beyond the dressage was just a bonus for us really!
The showjumping proved influential in the class, jumping in the evening on the Friday after dressage. We were focusing on getting the horses confident in the warmup and making sure they were feeling happy. Toby went in and was a bit wild for the first half, I made a mistake and got a bit deep to fence 4 and had a rail down but he settled really well and felt very careful so we were very proud of him! This moved him from 16th place to 8th place which was a huge jump!
Becky and I also had one down, but he felt super for the rest of the course and felt great over the fences which gave me confidence for the xc the next day.
Toby's bad luck continued in the cross country when my rings somehow undid at the first fence! I felt like I Macgyvered my way through the course - threading one of the rings through a finger to keep it from flapping around.
I managed to hold onto it until just before the second water (probably 3/4 of the way around). I had lost hold of the rings by the time I got to the fence we had a stop at, and they were flapping around his face, in hindsight the fence had a shadow over it and that might have contributed to the issue. But regardless of the 20 faults it was a great round all things considered.
Becky was a total pro out there! My xc watch didn't start when I pushed the button so we just went as fast as we felt appropriate! And that was good enough for 3rd place behind Oliver Townend and Megan Jones! Toby finished in 11th place as well!
Crazy to meet the people I met, and have done what we did!
While Toby didn't have the best result on paper - I think you'll probably now realise why I am so proud of him, he had only had one dressage school in the 18 days leading up to the event, and hadn't jumped at all (and sure, if we were at home in NZ we would have quit a long time ago but when you have paid $10k to get there we were not going to quit that easily!) So for him to hold it together like he did in his test, to settle in the second half of his sj, and to cope so well with a new course in a new country - I couldn't have asked for any more from him!
I still cant believe it all happened and the result that we got, it is exciting to know that we are competitive over the ditch and that as a team we can pull through when times are tough. We learnt a huge amount - and now time to debrief on it all and reflect!
There were over 100 people that made this happen - so thank you to everyone who helped me to make the most of this opportunity!
Thank you to;
Everyone that donated an item, bought an item, or bid on an item for the #kickasskiwis - we raised $7,500 between the three of us for the auction!
Nicky and Sam Lyle for letting me base at their place in Sydney and really going above and beyond to help us out particularly through the tough times!
Sam's vet John Crowley who was there with us at 8pm on Sunday night helping to get Beckham right before we left for Adelaide.
Megan Jones and her amazing team! Margret (her Mum), Anton (the magician farrier), and James (the chiropractor).
Penny Castle who was a rock all weekend for us - even though she ended up quite sick with food poisoning!
Robin the vet who gave us advice all weekend at Adelaide.
Beck who lent me a truck to borrow for our time in Sydney - you're a star!
The huge crowd of NZ supporters who came and watched the event and cheered for us.
Rachel who lent me a pair of white jodhpurs at the showjumping because I had only brought navy to the day!
Alec Jorgensen from Hamilton Vets who put up with all my stressed phone calls during the lead up.
Nicky for coming over the ditch to give me a hand!
Mum, Dad, Brayden and his family for being there to watch and support!
Maddie for keeping the ponies in work back home for me - I had my first rides today and they're feeling good!
All of my sponsors who made sure I was in tip top shape at the event;
Fenmore Saddles (who have made me a fantastic new dressage saddle which has totally changed my position on the flat!)
Fountain City Saddlery
Ray Burmester Jewellery
Point Two air jackets
Flexible Fit Equestrian
Samshield (keep an eye out for my new helmet which just arrived this week!)
And all of my friends and followers who sent lovely messages and supported us along the way!