GB STUDENT RIDERS – Belgium 2017

SRNC Belgium 2017

On Thursday 13th April team GB members and supporters Sophie Hall (NR Chairman), Lauren Innes (Chef), Sophie Wragg, (blogger) Jess Folwell, and newbies Laura Birley, Rosie Alcorn, and Laura Simpson set off for an  Easter Weekend of fun in Oud-Heverlee at SRNC Belgium. 

Laura S, Laura B and I arrived first on Thursday afternoon and set up team camp ready for the arrival of the others before joining the fun which had already started earlier that day. After several hours of reunions, introducing the team newbies, and meet and greet games we were finally joined by the rest of team GB and the real excitement could begin which, needless to say, involved crazy dance moves and boogieing on tables. The final few members of team GB left standing dragged themselves to bed ready for Friday morning’s 8.15am Dressage draw.Gala night with international friends

Alarms sounded at 7.45am on Friday morning and the sorry faces of the international student riders slowly started to appear at breakfast ready for their much needed bacon sandwiches! The team, made up of Me, Jess, and Laura B, and individual rider Rosie who was part of International Team 2, all drew to ride 3rd on the group 2 horses (which meant that we could all crawl back into bed for a couple of hours of extra sleep). The team produced a lovely, tight team test with all embers riding well, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be their moment with no GB team riders making it through to the 2nd dressage round. Individual rider, Rosie, however rode a beautiful test making it through to the 2nd round which was to commence after lunch. (It’s worth noting, I feel, that team chef Lauren didn’t actually make it out of bed in time to see any of the 1st round dressage, living up to her aptly named title ‘national irresponsible’). 

The afternoon brought a great second round of dressage with lots of very talented dressage riders battling for those coveted places in the semi-final. Once again GB’s individual rider, Rosie, produced a foot perfect test on a rather tired pony but we would have to wait till the Gala dinner on Saturday night to find out whether she had made it to the semi-final. 

Dressage

That left the afternoon free for some more SRNC antics, and what better way to spend it than to peddle round Lund (albeit very, very slowly) on a beer bike, steered by Belgium’s Robin Moors, and driven by various international student riders who were kept sufficiently hydrated by belgium’s Yannick Rewegh’s Belgian Beer. We even offered a great service to the people of Lund by providing those who came out to watch or wave at us with a free pint!

Friday night brought the ‘Save a horse, ride a cowboy’ theme party, and team GB donned their best cowboy outfits (Lauren even packed her own hobby horse) ready for a second night of fun. Team Ireland decided it was best to go as Indian’s because, you know, that really fitted well with the theme … Ireland may not know how to dress appropriately, but they certainly make up for it with their ability to party. Such a crazy bunch!

Saturday morning saw an 8.15am SJ draw. Again the team and Rosie all drew the second group of horses, but we couldn’t possibly nap through the first group of 1st round SJ because that would mean missing out on hours of entertainment.  Unfortunately Team GB and International team 2 drew the same 3 horses for the first jumping round, meaning that Rosie would inevitably end up competing directly against one of us and so at best only 3 of the 4 GB riders could make it through to the 2nd round. Rosie and Jess ended up riding against each other, so the heat was on in the GB camp! 

Laura B and I both jumped clear on our horses. Rosie unfortunately had 1 stop and 1 pole down on her ride ‘Bruno De Pony’ meaning that Jess had some faults in hand for her round. It made for some tense supporting, but Jess just pipped rosie to the post rolling just one rail and gaining the least faults of the 3 riders on her horse meaning that she had definitely made it through to the second round. Laura and I, however, had an anxious lunch awaiting the results!

Jess and I made it through to the 2nd round, with Laura B only marginally missing out by a couple of marks. Unfortunately, however, Rosie and Jess drew the same 2nd round horse meaning that at best only 2 of the 3 GB members could make it to the semi-finals. I jumped first and somehow managed to pull off another clear round, followed by a great clear round from Jess on her horse, but as the 2nd round is judged partially on style we had to wait till the gala dinner that evening to find out whether we had made the semi-finals.Showjumping Final

The 6 available showers at the venue were in high demand that evening as we all attempted to make ourselves look beautiful ready for the black tie gala dinner. Once dressed to impress we were all chauffeured to a lovely restaurant overlooking a lake where we received beautiful food and unlimited alcohol. The balcony overlooking the lake also made for a beautiful photo setting meaning lots of team and international photos with our wonderful AIEC family. We really are so lucky to have so many wonderful friends from all over the globe. 

Just before the pudding was served we all partook in the legendary Singing in the Rain rendition followed by the results of the 2nd round dressage and jumping. Unfortunately, Rosie didn’t make it to 3rd round dressage on this occasion, but somehow I managed to get through to the show jumping semi finals. Obviously this meant that I should get an early night because I had to jump a course of 1m20 at 9am the following morning on a strange horse … well, that would be what any sensible person would do. The rest of the team, however, behaved much better and danced the gala night away. 

Sunday morning came and I got myself out of bed not feeling quite ready to face the semi-finals, but my wonderful and supportive team mates were there with their encouraging words of “gosh that course looks big”.  I drew 3rd to go on the 2nd semi final horse meaning that I had the opportunity to watch a few rounds before facing my fate. This was a mistake … it was not going well! 3 out of the first 4 riders were eliminated, and the 4th had 2 stops and 5 fences down. The rest of the team were so encouraging, however, trying everything in their power to persuade me that I could do it. My turn came and I miraculously managed to roll only 2 poles! I was ecstatic that I’d managed to complete my first SRNC 3rd round unscathed, but that did also mean that I was through to the final … gulp!! 

The course went up and it was huge – an imposing 1m25-1m30 track to be jumped on strange horses with 2 mins and 2 fences warm up! Sophie Hall kindly walked the course with me giving me all the tips from when she was in the final at SRNC Romania. She knew exactly how I felt so it was reassuring to have her there helping me! 

I faced team Spain’s international show jumper Pedro Mateos. I drew to ride the first horse 1st, and the second horse 2nd, meaning that I was first to face the final round track. The final horses were so talented, and the 1st horse looked after me so well producing a foot perfect clear round. I was very pleased with myself, putting all of my ponyclub training to good use – going into my corners, 3 straight strides before every fence, forgetting that the final round was a speed round and I should have been producing some jump off turns. Pedro then went in on the 2nd horse and produced a nippy round but with 2 fences down. Then came the kissing ceremony – this is where the final round riders have to take a drink and roll around in the arena, much to the amusement of the crowd. Pedro then set off on the first horse producing a lovely, very speedy clear round. This should have made me think ‘I need to go quicker and turn tighter’, but that’s obviously not how my mind works – as far as I was concerned I just needed to produce another steady clear on the 2nd horse and I had this in the bag. My 2nd horse warm up was perhaps not the prettiest in the world, with limited control and a rather terrifying inability to grip the continental reins with my leather gloves. I ditched the gloves and went in. I thought it was going well, but unfortunately I too had 2 fences down in a much, much slower time, meaning that Pedro was victorious and I took a very gracious 2nd place. 

Fancy Dress Night

Sunday afternoon saw the semi-finals and finals of the dressage phase. The standard of dressage riding was phenomenal, especially considering the tired riders following the gala ball! Ireland’s Kelly Hutchinson and The Netherland’s Maake Hofman wowed in the semi-finals meaning they faced each other in the dressage final. Both produced beautifully polished PSG tests but it was Maake who came out victorious. 

Time for the prize giving and, although we knew where I was placed individually in the jumping, all other placing remained a mystery, so we were thrilled when team GB took home SJ team gold and combined team 4th!! Rosie’s International team 2 were also over the moon to take home dressage team 6th and combined team 8th!

Sophie H, Lauren, Jess, Rosie, and Laura B made a swift post-prize giving get away to catch their respective flights/trains, leaving me and Laura S to hold up the team GB fort on the final night in Belgium. Sunday evening was a quiet but hilarious one finding out everyone’s unknown secrets in a hilarious game of truth or dare. 

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank AIEC and the Belgian OC for another fantastic SRNC, and of course my fabulous GB team mates who really made this SRNC a truly memorable on. It’s always such a heart warming and hilarious experience with an international family that is truly second to none. Session depression hit hard after such a fabulous few days away with the best friends, but I cannot wait for the next one! I urge all GB students with a passion for horses, partying, and a whole lot of fun to get in contact with NR Sophie Hall regarding getting involved, and what better way to join the AIEC family than at team GB’s very own fundraiser ball on 15th July 2017. We hope to see you all there!

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