Following the fantastic Team GB result at World Equestrian Games (WEG) we caught up with Team Gold medallist and Dodson & Horrell Brand Ambassador Piggy French to find out all about it….
What were your key preparations in the run up to WEG?
“I can’t say my preparation was different to any other major three-day event. Planning was a bit tricky with selection news announced so late with the uncertainty about the length of the cross country but everything fell into place once we had the news. You want to arrive at WEG in the best form possible, so you have to tailor your preparation to suit the horse and the event in question. For Quarrycrest Echo it was great to be able to have a good spin round at Hartpury on nice ground in preparation – he’s not one to give a steady run to so Hartpury fitted in to his schedule for WEG really well. I was delighted with how he went there and all season really, so that gave me confidence going to Tryon that he was in a good place to perform well. I feed him on Dodson & Horrell Staypower Muesli which I find great for giving him the energy he needs to compete at the highest level. We would vary the amount he is fed with how much work he’s doing so as he really steps up the fitness work in the build up to the event I might give him an extra feed a day to make sure he is getting enough nutrition to keep him looking well. I like my horses to look fit and well and Dodson & Horrell feed plays a big part in me being able to produce Quarrycrest Echo and my other horses to peek on the day that matters.”
What are the key things to take into consideration when travelling a horse so far?
“You need to make sure your horse sets off in the best possible condition – well watered, well fed and in good health. To ensure everything was as it should be, Quarrycrest Echo had regular blood tests and a trachea wash to make sure that he was in perfect health before the trip. When he was travelling we cut his hard food intake back, moving him from D&H Staypower Muesli to Dodson & Horrell Classic Fibre Cubes to reduce his energy intake. He’s usually fed a mixture of hay and haylage but for the travel we just gave him ad lib hay to take account of the reduction in exercise – he spent a day travelling to Belgium, a day flying and then two days in quarantine so it’s important to feed accordingly. You’re asking for problems if you keep putting the high-powered feed in when they’re doing so little as colic and tying up can be real problems when they change routine so much in a short space of time. Once he arrived in Tryon and quietly started working again we then reintroduced his D&H Staypower and moved him across to his usual hay/haylage mix as well.”
What preparation do you as a rider undertake in the lead up to a major championship like WEG?
“I was very busy competing in the lead up to WEG basically from the start of August so time for anything apart from preparing the horses and competing was few and far between. In many ways it’s nice to be busy as you keep just getting on with things rather than worrying too much about things beyond your control. You know when you arrive at WEG that you and the horse have a few days to get over the journey and get in the right place physically and mentally for the competition.”
What was your routine once you got to Tryon? Exercise, feeding etc?
“There was no grazing at Tryon for the horses so that was a big change for Quarrycrest Echo as he normally lives out in the field. We were conscious to keep him moving and keep up his forage intake to prevent things like colic. You have to adapt your routine to the facilities you have available whilst trying to keep things as close to normal for the horses as you can. He’s a very laid-back character which is helpful as he’s pretty happy to fit in with whatever – provided he has a nice bed to sleep in!”
How did Quarrycrest Echo cope with all the demands of the traveling, the weather and the competition?
“He coped really well with the travelling in both directions. I think horses are usually pretty good on the plane, but you obviously hear some stories so you’re always a little nervous the first time. We don’t fly our horses that often as event riders so it’s not something we’re used to but the jumpers and racehorses fly regularly and compete at the top of their game so you just hope your horse takes it all in his stride. The weather was hard work for everyone – horses, riders, grooms and everyone else. It was unbearably hot at times but you just adapt your workload and routine to take into account the weather conditions and try and avoid the worst of the heat if you can. I was delighted with his dressage test apart from obviously cantering out of his first halt which was very irritating! Apart from that I thought he went as well as he can at the moment and really tried for me so was really pleased with him. The cross country was great and he really dug deep up the hill which he found hard work but he kept going and made the time relatively comfortably which was pleasing. I wasn’t quite so happy with his show jumping as he was spooky and tight and it felt pretty horrible to be honest! I’m still not sure why but maybe the stadium was still a big thing for him as he’s still quite low mileage, but I also think he came out of cross country so well that I left him too fresh for the jumping with the day off in between. Luckily, it’s not a situation we’re likely to encounter again, so we keep getting him more experience and have confidence that he can show everyone what a great jumper he is in the future.”
What did you do with him when you got back to the UK?
“He arrived back at Maidwell on the Wednesday evening and we kept a close eye on him, monitoring his temperature, eating, etc to make sure there were no ill effects from the travelling. He was then roughed off and turned out in the field at Maidwell for a few weeks and he has just gone back to his owner, Jayne McGivern’s place in Oxfordshire for his holiday. He came out of the whole experience in really fantastic form which is exciting for next year. I was chuffed with his season in 2018 and hope that he can continue progressing next season and start really making a name for himself at the top level.”
What is your plan for him now?
“He will have a nice break through October and November while the weather isn’t too bad and then will come back into work around December to start his preparation for the new season. We plan to have him back up and running in the spring with an eye on taking him to Kentucky for the CCI4* there in the Spring. His owner Jayne McGivgern has always wanted to go and it’s a competition that should suit him well so we’re keen to go and give it a try. It’s obviously helpful to know he travels well so that’s definitely something to look forward to.”