Melbourne Three Day event was the third time I have represented New Zealand. The first time was in Christchurch in 2012 as part of the Young Rider Oceania team riding Bekham, we were sitting in 1st positon going in to showjumping however we were vetted out at the trot up after a bump on cross country. The second time was in Taupo in 2015 as part of the Senior Oceania team riding Toby – I was a little too fast into the last water jump, jumped it, and managed to somehow fall off on the other side after unbalancing myself.
So it is fair to say that I was pretty committed about not letting this event end in the same way.
After an early wake up call for a 6.30am flight, humans and horses touched down in Melbourne and made it to the Werribee grounds by 1pm on Sunday the 4th of June. Becky looked very relaxed about the whole thing, and really felt like an old timer the whole week. Our hosts made us feel very welcome the whole weekend which was lovely – we are going to have to pick up our hospitality game when they come to New Zealand next time!
All the horses had Sunday off, with lots of walking and grazing.
Monday we were all keen to get on and see how they were feeling, so a morning stretch ride was in order – Becky felt great, and my goal for the week then became keeping him fresh and happy.
None of us were used to having so much time on our hands – so we made it to a shopping mall that afternoon, and even made it to the zoo the next day in between rides.
On Wednesday afternoon Penny arrived to give us some tuning up before our tests, and by this time we had a vague idea of the team order, so I tried to ride around about the same time of day that I thought I would be doing my test on Saturday, so that I knew what the light was like and how Bekham felt at that time.
He was so relaxed and casual that I opted for a hack on Thursday morning rather than a schooling session – much to the amusement of the rest of the team. Thursday was also the first day that we were allowed to walk the course, so it was great to get a feel for the cross country track after driving past looking longingly at it all week! It felt twisty in the second half with good questions the whole way around the course – and while nothing looked impossible but everything looked like a possible problem so you had to be on your game the whole way around.
Friday rolled around and it was so nice to be able to support the Young Riders and watch all of their tests (since our dressage wasn’t until Saturday), a luxury we don’t usually have! They all did great tests which set the bar for us the next day.
Saturday morning I wizzed around the course in the morning, and then hung about to watch Ginny’s test as the first 3* rider starting at 12pm. It has been SO exciting to see the improvement that she has made over the last few months being in Australia – and what a cracker test! She really got everyone excited about doing their bit for the rest of the day. Andy again had a lot of quality in his test and posted a great score for the team. And after waiting all day it was finally time to get going! Becky warmed up as expected and I knew that he was on form, I was able to ride an accurate, flowing test for a PB at 3* level with 45.2 penalties which amazingly held the lead for the rest of the day – I’ve got to say I certainly didn’t expect to be out in front after dressage! Jock did a great test and I’m sure we broke some kind of record with NZ coming out on top after dressage at Senior level against Australia.
Photo thanks to Diana Dobson - The Black Balloon
However the mood was more of a ‘job done’ feel rather than a celebration at this point because we still knew that we had a long way to go for the rest of the weekend.
By the time cross country started I had walked the track 5 times since Thursday (more to fill in time than anything else!) which by my estimate is about 30km of walking (phew!). 3* was the last class of the day (more waiting and watching) and Ginny was first out. We had absolute faith in her jumping clear and under time – which of course she delivered on. Andy had a bit of trouble early on in the course so I knew that from a team perspective we needed a clear round to stay in the game against the Aussies. It was getting late in the day and I was a bit worried about how the light and shadows would affect the track – but Bekham was on form and didn’t bat an eyelid anywhere.
It was a lovely round and we answered all the technical questions really well. We had a couple of ugly gallop fences which I was disappointed about, but the rest of the ride was on point. I was on my minutes the majority of the way around the track, however I possibly rode a little too safely in the last two minutes, to finish 10 seconds over the time with 4 time penalties. Jock stormed home clear and under time to take the lead going into showjumping.
Photo thanks to Diana Dobson
So NZ went into showjumping with Jock, Ginny, and I siting in 1st, 2nd and 3rd with not a rail between us! It was a loooong day waiting for our turn to come around, finally we were able to coursewalk at about 3pm and get into it. I was pretty relaxed waiting for cross country the day before but the wait for showjumping was a bit of a killer – so it was nice to finally be able to get out gear on and do something productive!
Andy jumped a nice round and gave us a chance to assess the track after walking it. My showjumping warmup felt a little rushed, the Aussies were jumping rather large practice fences which I wasn’t so keen to jump so I just waited and popped over some smaller ones and then it was pretty much time to go over.
Photo thanks to Chris Esh
Sometimes you don’t get the perfect warmup and that added pressure is something that I have had to learn to cope with – and can only do so through more time in that space. I really wanted to finish the weekend well, having had such good performances in the first two phases and with the team doing so well.
Thankfully our showjumping was pretty foot perfect, Bekham tried his heart out and really stretched for the back rail, I gave him good rides and stuck to my plan everywhere. We jumped the last fence and a fist pump was in order to sum up a great weekend.
Ginny jumped a lovely round with just a light rail and a couple of time faults to put her into 4th, and Jock jumped a beautiful clear round to take the win. Very proud moment to sit in line with 3 of our team in the top 4 spots! And NZ took home the Senior Oceania title which hasn’t been done for some 10 years.
(Great) photo thanks to Jenelle Christopher
It was my most successful event to date – and a great experience to be a part of the NZ team. We had a fun thai team dinner that night and I think everyone had a great sleep with the hard work from the past few days, week, year, etc paying off.
Photo thanks to Jenelle Christopher
Ginny and I managed a couple of days of eating-lots-in-Melbourne with the boyfriends (thanks Brayden and Mitch!), before heading home to recover. We are still all on a bit of a high, and it is great to have celebrated the moment and look to the future for more exciting adventures.
I am now catching up on admin and am bringing the horses back into work – so it will be a bit of a weird Winter with no real break for us.
As always there is a massive list of thank you’s to make;
Mum and Dad for their continued support
ESNZ Eventing for their significant financial contribution to the campaign - without them this event wouldn't happen!
Equestrian Entries who sponsored our Senior Oceania team - lets get Equestrian Entries into Australia!
Abby and Maren for all their hard work – my week was 100% stress free with Bekham in such capable hands and Abby doing a great job of keeping everything running smoothly back home
Our coaching and support team;
Dressage – Penny and Tracy
Jumping – Clarke, Jeff and Jock
Vet – Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre and Alec Jorgensen
Physio - Kirsten who also amazingly lent us her AcivoMed rug for bekham to get treated while in Australia!
Diana Dobson who did a great job of keeping all the New Zealanders informed!
Our wonderful sponsors;
Fiber Fresh – Who have just branched out into the Australian market so we were able to keep our feed the same which was fantastic!
Fountain City Saddlery
Ray Burmester Jewellery
Flexible Fit Equestrian
Fourflax and Nettex