Times flies when you‘re having fun!
Thank you to everyone back home that supported my online auction whether you donated a prize for the auction or you bought a prize in the auction. Without your support and generosity Adelaide and I couldn’t be on this trip of a lifetime. I will be forever grateful that so many people in Australia made this possible for me. So thank you, thank you xxx
Well last week my Aussie family arrived. First off was the arrival of Izzy Dunne in preparation for Barbury CIC. Izzy has been working for Team Bates since March this year. I can honestly say without Izzy we would never have been able to organise this trip to the UK. Izzy has been such an asset to our team with her love of the horses, exceptional computer skills and her ability to put up with our crazy eventer life and family. Adelaide was very happy to see Izzy and demanded where is the NUTRIGRAIN.
The following day saw the arrival of my mum Wendy and William Bates. William had a few big days of travel which had seen him fly from Sydney to Perth spend a few hours in Perth and then continue to London with my mum. As per usual William charmed all the crew and scored himself a spot in the cockpit on the new Dreamliner. Mum and William had to hit the ground running as we were wanting to take Adelaide cross country schooling before Barbury. We are lucky that XC schooling at Boomerang Stables is not too far from the Nicholson’s and run by Australian Russ Hardy. This is a great facility and had plenty to offer including some firm Aussie type ground.
Thursday was spent riding Adelaide, cleaning and packing gear. I was able to take the small lorry to Barbury which meant that I could bring Adelaide home after his dressage test so he didn’t have to stand in the sun for the whole day. Its ok I haven’t turned all English and gone soft, Adelaide still has his winter coat and the temps were around 30 degrees with humidity and no breeze.
When we arrived at Barbury Andrew very kindly gave me a run down on where I could find everything. Go to that hut and pay your starting fee and then you can collect your back numbers. Walk down there for your two star warm up and competition arenas. Oh and make sure you take your FEI passport when you go to do your test. I. stood there for a second and went, oh shit. Andrew is like, “you forgot your passport didn’t you?” Everyone who knows me knows that I like to be very organised, I usually think of everything, very rarely forget anything and well known for over packing. A quick phone call to Mum and crisis was averted. Good thing the Nicholson’s only live about 15 minutes from Barbury.
Adelaide performed well in the dressage and did his usual consistent test. The warm up area for the two star dressage was on the side of a hill and was as firm as Goulburn. So not ideal and I was very mindful to not over do it. There is certainly room for improvement in our test for Aachen and I’ll be looking forward to being able to ride in good arena’s. We had a quick chat with Helen Christie who had come along to say Hi and watch my test, a few photos with the awesome Libby Law and we took Adelaide back to the lorry to be cooled down.
While we cooled Adelaide down we caught up with Derek Pascoe and did a quick interview for Equestrian Australia on our life in the UK. We then drove Adelaide back to Westwood Stud so he could have the rest of the afternoon in his box out of the sun and humidity. Getting home proved a little more difficult as the road into Barbury from Marlborough is very narrow and not ideal for lorries. Just as we were nearly into Marlborough the traffic came to a stand still as the lane is really only wide enough for one lorry not two lorries going in opposite directions. This was extremely interesting to watch as the lorry I was following decided that it should have a bit of an argument with the oncoming lorry as who should have to reverse back to let the other one through. After about 10 minutes the bigger lorry won and the small lorry started the very difficult task of reversing backwards while trying to not bump any parked cars on the street and convince the cars and lorries behind them already that they too need to start reversing. What seemed like forever we were then eventually able to pass and continue on what is meant to be a short journey home. Poor Adelaide was pretty hot and sweaty once off the lorry. Unlike Aussie trucks where we make sure there is always good ventilation and airflow, English lorries tend to have very small windows and no roof vents so on a hot day the horses will sweat up.
We then headed back to Barbury to have a course walk around the 2* track. For those that don’t know Barbury it’s pretty hilly and you can virtually see the whole course as a spectator. I thought the track was inviting at the start and relatively straight forward. First combination was a brush rolltop jumping off a turn down hill to a brush arrowhead which was approximately 70 meters after the A element. This brush arrowhead did cause a few problems as you come down the hill the horses have a full view of all the marquees and trade stands so can be easily distracted if you’re riding an inexperienced horse. Next combination was an open skinny oxer then six curving strides to an open corner. You then went uphill and turned onto a coffin/gully style fence, vertical rail in and out over a brush arrowhead. It was then onto a quarry with just a rock wall going in and nothing on the way out. A couple of table tops on a curving 5 strides it was then downhill to another table 5 strides to a wishing well and three strides to another wishing well. We then had two water jumps, first water was a pheasant feeder type fence where you landed on dry ground and then ran down into a pond, you then travelled approximately 80 meters to a log drop into water and six strides out over a V style arrowhead rails. You then had a couple of single straightforward fences and the next related line was a wall with brush on top, up a mound to an owl hole then seven or eight strides on a right curve to a brush arrowhead. Both the owl hole and brush arrowhead caused problems. We then had three more fences and you were home. Overall a great first start for Adelaide who had not competed since Sydney 3DE the last weekend of April.
Saturday we left early so I could walk the cross country course with Andrew Nicholson. Andrew is known as the king of Barbury so I wanted to make the most of his experience and knowledge of the course. His information was spot on. We also walked the two star showjumping. It was an interesting course and quite different to what we have in Australia. Firstly the arena is on two levels. Secondly there are some XC fences also in the arena ready for the ERM class which finishes in the main arena. The course was a mix of tight turns and open stretches. You also went up the bank to the second level to a vertical four strides to an oxer, canter around the water jump over a triple bar back down to the lower level to the last related line and combination. Time was relatively easy to make as they had set it at 98 seconds and then reduced the time again after the first three horses to 90 seconds. I watched the first 10 horses go and everyone was making the time easily.
Adelaide show-jumped at noon. I made the decision to turn inside to fence 3 and go outside to fence 4. In hindsight I slightly overrode Adelaide up the bank and probably didn’t quite give him enough time to read the vertical and we had it down. Overall I was happy with how he jumped and the way he handled the atmosphere and the different styled arena. It was just a short wait till I went XC. Adelaide felt extremely confident and pretty quick around the track and we finished just two seconds over the time allowed. I had purposely not found out what the time allowed was on course so I could let him travel at the speed he was comfortable with and give a great ride at the same time. It turned out we were one of the few fast rounds of the day and moved from 27th place to 5th place. Barbury was a great event and a great run in preparation for Aachen.
Sunday I gave Adelaide a quiet ride and he had time out in the field. I then headed over to Barbury to watch the ERM class go XC. Caught up with friends and had a few drinks. If you ever want to watch a rider on how to ride the perfect cross country round watch Chris Burton. His round was sensational and he was the only rider to make time (9 seconds) under. For me his horse was always in balance and the pace changed instantly when required, the round was super smooth and his horse looked to have finished more confident the further they went. You can totally see why Chris is the fastest cross country rider in the world.
Monday after working Adelaide the family and I headed to Bath for some sightseeing. Wow Bath is truly a beautiful town with so much history. I just love the architecture and the lovely old buildings. We didn’t go to the Roman Baths as the queue was ridiculously long and it was pretty hot to be standing around for hours. Instead we had lunch and walked round taking in the sights. We did venture into the amazing Cathedral. It’s hard to comprehend that you are walking over grave stones that are from the 17th Century. My great friend Becks Bennett was also able to spend the day with us. I first met Becks when she came to Australia backpacking in about 2003. Becks lived and worked with us and groomed for Matthew and I during her stay. I then conned Becks to come back in 2006 to nanny/groom when William was just 6 weeks old. Becks and I have always stayed in touch over the years. Becks was instrumental in sending Rosie Jilla to our property back in 2011, and she also helped us in 2016 when I was planning to bring Adelaide to the Uk in preparation for Rio Olympics. So to actually be in the UK with Adelaide seems even more special when you can share that experience with friends and family from all over the world.
Tuesday we spent the day at home catching up on washing, food shopping and office jobs. William has become great mates with Andrew and Wiggys son Zac. William and Zac literally ran around all day playing some form of sport. Either tennis, cricket, rugby or soccer and their playtime even included an ironman course which meant swimming in the horse baths! I’m truly grateful to the Nicholson’s for not only having Adelaide and I stay at their home but my crazy family. It has certainly been fun and loud.
Next blog – Nelson Pessoa Clinic, BBQ’s with Aussies, Gareth Hughes and preparations for Aachen.