Where to begin?
It really was very VERY nearly the dream weekend.
Our preparations had gone well, with this season’s results setting us off on a high.
We picked up the lorry from Haynes Horseboxes where it had some final touchups done internally (looking smart thanks Tom!).
I had a last minute Sam-changes-her-mind moment and we went for a final xc school the day we left with a couple of them – which in hindsight was actually a great idea to feel like I had done everything I could in our preparations for the week. Fran was very accommodating as usual, and we bundled off with x4 very early before getting them back into their paddocks by 11am for a stretch in the field.
7.30pm Monday evening we left the yard and headed towards the port, which you would have thought with all my lorry luck that it would have been a smooth journey. Psych!
11.10pm we smelt burning rubber and our wheel hub was on fire – which was less than ideal.
At this stage my luck with lorries is comical, I’m pretty convinced that I must have REALLY pissed off a mechanic in a previous life.
After a very long night the horses were transported to some stables and we managed to get the lorry checked out in the morning – turns out breaks were too tight, frustrating having got a pre-journey check done on the Friday.
Anyway, 12 hours later we were on the road again, and got into Millstreet at about midnight Wednesday morning, with the kids tucked up in bed it was time for a well-earned rest for all involved! Everyone seemed to have travelled well except Cookie (who was on his first international trip) who seems to fear small buckets and refused to drink whilst on the move. As they say, you can lead a horse to water…
Thankfully he got over this as soon as he got settled in properly!
We settled the horses in and got to work – stretching their legs for a look around the venue in the morning and checking our dressage buttons in the afternoon. With so many entries this year the timetable was a little unusual – I ended up with x4 trot ups on x4 different days! That is quite a lot of attempts at stylish outfits! You can check out a couple of our efforts here helped by Fairfax and Favor and Latham and Taylor.
Thursday our tribe of owners joined – we were so lucky to have Annabelle, Jules, Marts, Grov and Neil (and Jeremy) with us for the week. Their enthusiasm was second to none and wherever they went it seemed that joy and mischief followed!
Our first day of dressage really couldn’t have gone much better – first up Cookie absolutely smashed out his first 2* test in the young horse class for 6 and 7yr horses, I felt like there really wasn’t a lot wrong with it - He was relaxed, accurate and expressive.
There were some problems with the computer system so we had to be patient with the scores but it was well worth the wait – we were all sitting around the table reflecting on the day so far when Neil hit refresh for quite possibly the 1028th time, and there it was – a FEI personal best score for me and Cookie’s FEI debut for a 20.2, over 5 points ahead of 2nd place! Wowee!
Quantas backed this up with another lovely test for a 26.3 to also take the lead in his class (CCI2*L). Sooty did a super test in the CCI4*S as part of the New Zealand Nations Cup team, a little sadly sitting on a 30.3 which still had him in a good position in the class but just not the scores we expected.
With four different courses to remember and the timetable being so spread out, most of my days usually started with an early course walk for whatever cross country I had coming up – trying to only focus on the next one at hand, memorising our plans and minute markers and trying to forget the previous one!
Having got that out the way on Friday morning it was time for Cookie’s show jumping – a foot perfect clear round meant that he maintained his strong lead in the class going into cross country that afternoon.
Charlie did some stunning work in his dressage for the CCI4*L – pulling out a PB of 27.2 even with our usual mistakes in the flying changes – it will be very exciting to see the scores once we finally do get those sorted in the ring, as he even collected some 9s for his trot work.
Quantas did his cross country next – clear jumping in typical unicorn fashion to retain his lead but no rails in hand going into show jumping! Pressure on!
Cookie dawdled down to the cross country start in his usual labrador-like style. We waited in the shade watching the live stream until it was his turn. It was a big ask for him – having only done two novice courses before it is certainly a step up on every level. We were over the moon with how he responded, finishing with a handful of time faults to take the well-deserved win and plenty of loot to fill the boot!
Saturday morning begun with the focus on Charlie for his first CCI4*L, I wasn’t sure what to expect if I am honest, having only managed to get in x2 runs this year, and with this being our first long format together I didn’t know what horse I would have at the end of the course. Turns out he exceeded all my expectations! We did an extra circle early on, unrelated to the fence I felt I needed a bit more control, having got that out the way he got better and better as we went – listening to me and really nailing his lines, he has a fantastic gallop and finished fit and strong with a clear round in the bag!
I rushed off leaving him in the capable hands of Fran and Christiana and went to walk my 2* show jumping - with a bright red tomato face! After watching a few ride in the class it wasn’t long before I was saluting the judges and heading towards the first fence… about a minute and a half later I was ecstatic to clear the last and head through the flags with Quantas having tried very hard, leaving them all up to take the win. So much fun to have our tribe of owners there to represent the High Flyers Syndicate and to collect our bounty of prizes! What a class horse he is for the future.
A couple of hours in-between to celebrate and it was time to forget all of that and focus on my next job – Sooty’s show jumping in the Nations Cup. We needn’t have worried though, in the words of Burto, he “busted a gut”, and jumped a brilliant clear round to help keep Team NZ in the lead after day 2.
Having got our final trot up out of the way I found myself with some rare spare time and enjoyed watching the 4/5yr young horse final – always interesting seeing the next generation of horses and imagining what they will be like in years to come!
Sooty’s cross country was the only blip in an otherwise immaculate weekend, it was heartbreaking to watch myself on replay sit a bit like a sack of potatoes at the top of the Irish bank and as a result have him jump off-line to the final element. You live and you learn, and always just wish those learnings were easier pills to swallow. Team NZ still took out the win thanks to Clarke, Tim and Jonelle and it was fantastic to soak up the experience of being a part of that team this week.
On to our final ride for the weekend and it was down to Charlie, even with a bunch of xc time faults for his first attempt at this level he was still sitting handily going into show jumping after such a good dressage on the first day. I couldn’t have been prouder of how hard he tried on the final day! Making it 4 from 4 clear show jumping rounds and putting him in 7th place at the end of day three – incredible!
All in all, it was a week we certainly won’t forget in a long time!
4/4 great tests
4/4 clear showjumping rounds
And 11/12 pretty darn good phases.
We got the 2am ferry home and got back to the yard at 3pm – just in time to unpack, nap, and complete our team debrief over takeaway Chinese (which we usually end up putting off until we’ve forgotten everything – so go us for being organised this time around!)
Cookie and Quantas’s results count towards their qualifications for the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion in October, so it seems that France is on the cards for us again this year! We have one 25% share available in each of both Quantas and Cookie – so if you feel like coming along and eating some French pastries at the end of the year then hit us up!
This marks a bit of a breathing point for some of our horses, they will take a short break, make some progress with our training at home and will make new goals for the second half of the season.
A massive thank you to Fran, Kaitlyn and Alena for all of their help – the literal dream team and so great to get some real reward for all our hard work lately.
Another shout out to our owner group for the horses this week from both in NZ and the UK – we couldn’t do it without you guys and we so appreciate the support from near and afar!
Sooty – Pip McCarroll
Charlie – Sharon Honiss, Annabelle & Robin Greville-Williams
Cookie – Neil Robertson and Rachel Bessell
Quantas – The High Flyers Syndicate (Jane Burmester, Kiko Velge, Annabelle, Grov, Jules, & Marts)
Big ups to the Team NZ High Performance crew – Jock, Sam, Christiana, Alice, Jack, Burto amazing to have so much help on every level.
Brayden doesn’t like being thanked but as always, he is the glue, he’s also started a pretty funny side-hustle. Who would have thought some 8+ years ago that in the not-too-distant future he’d marry a horsey girl and start an eventing podcast.
Jokes on him I think.
P.S. we are VERY exited that Sister-Nicky and Dan Franks are heading our way in two weeks time to visit over Summer, if you know anyone looking for wicked pics (like the one above) and videography then get in touch with Play Creative!