Well, our first squad assessment with horses has now been and gone. It was, as usual, a considerable drive away for us which I guess is the penalty for living in such a wonderful and usually quiet part of the World. This was in Milton Keynes at a riding stables and livery yard where I could stable Fantom overnight. It was a slightly anxious drive up there as our old Shogun was beginning to tire of pulling our massive Equi-trek and started making rather unpleasant smells. However we made it without incident and settled Fantom into his stable and went to find our hotel in Milton Keynes.
The following day was the assessment in the indoor school. As most of the horses weren’t yet in work or had just come back into work, this was mostly in hand with a short ridden assessment just in walk and trot. Fantom’s behaviour in hand left something to be desired. Since his 3* qualifier last year he has been a little ‘difficult’ to handle at times: strutting around, galloping here and there in his field and inclined to leap and push when being brought in from the field. He did, I’m afraid, demonstrate a little of this when being led up and down for the squad management team. Since then we have been trotting up and down the road in hand, changing the side to lead him from.
Meanwhile Chiara’s final preparations for the first ride of the season were completed and consisted of some pole work in the school to gain her attention and some long slow work around the lanes. The first ride was local to us, only half an hour away so without getting up too early, we could arrive early at the venue. This was at the Royal Cornwall Showground, the site of Chiara’s first ever competition last year. Last year we had problems with keeping her calm for the vetting inside the big livestock shed and her pulses were quite high. This year, however, she stood quietly for almost the full minute of pulse taking both at the beginning and the end. She has since then been on Steady Up Advance which seems to have made a difference.
The ride went smoothly with Chiara relaxing into a regular, rhythmic canter on the forest tracks and settling into a fairly reasonable trot where canter wasn’t possible. All in all, a huge improvement was seen since last year and she finished the day with a grade 1.
Next up was Dilmun. He has been prepared for his first competition of the season by beach work, lunging, even some detested schooling and trotting over poles. Yesterday we went up to Dorset to do the Hardy’s ride. I entered for the 43 kms distance as I felt that was the minimum we needed to do to assess whether Dilmun will be ready in 5 weeks to compete at Royal Windsor.
We were so lucky with the weather, a bright sunny day with a slight breeze. There was no mud which pleased both of us and, although we had to take care on some stony stretches, the going was generally perfect with seemingly endless stretches of grass to canter over. Both Dilmun and I loved it and he felt as fresh at the finish as he was at the start. I am now happy to enter him for Windsor although there is plenty of work to be done before then.
My own fitness at last has taken a turn for the better and my efforts are beginning to pay off. I am doing plenty of Pilates exercises, paying attention to my legs and core and have started jogging again.
Plans for the next couple of months are still a little fluid with Dilmun planned to go to Windsor for the 1*, Fantom to Euston Park also for a 1* and Chiara’s first FEI competition at King’s Forest. However, this could all change as this year everything has to revolve around Fantom and his chances of team selection.