The day before heading off to Spain for the first SRNC of the 2018 season, the team of Harriet Deeming, Cameron Beer and myself headed for a last minute training session at Summerhouse Equestrian, giving us the chance to practice riding through the team test as a three before we arrived. Three minutes to get used to a new horse and practice riding together goes very quickly in the warm up, so it was great for us all to get our eye in before we left – riding three horses as a team together in a 20×40 arena is not something anyone does regularly!
Joined by Chef d’Equipe Sophie Hall, and safely landed in Madrid after a somewhat bumpy flight and we all got rather excited to see some sunshine after the British ‘Spring’, so before finding our train to Segovia we made a quick detour to find some ice cream! Unfortunately, all hopes of tanning rapidly disappeared as we got off the train at the other end, surrounded by snow topped mountains, and the coats were quickly piled back on while we waited to be picked up by the Spanish OC. At the venue near Segovia it was soon time for the welcome party, a great chance to catch up with all the friends we have all made at previous SRNCs and to meet some newbies for 2018. This included several from team Ireland, who made a rather dramatic start to the weekend by arriving in the early hours having got on a train in the wrong direction. They then threw themselves very enthusiastically into the welcome party, one rather too enthusiastically, resulting in a broken ankle from some very wild dance moves… Thankfully there were no British casualties from the first night, so we were all set for the dressage the next morning.
Day 1 – Dressage
A tough draw for the first round of dressage saw the Brits riding our team test against the Germans and the Dutch, two extremely strong teams, and having drawn first to go there wasn’t much time to see what the horses could do in the demo before it was time to jump on. Our group of three horses was made up of an extremely lazy grey in front followed by two rather livelier types, so having decided Cam was the best to get the lazy one going forward, Harriet and I took the two bouncy ponies at the back. A very quick warm up and we were into the test, where Cam did a wonderful job (with some good pony club kicks!) of keeping the team moving forwards. All three did reasonable tests, so it was now the long wait to see what the other teams could do. Cam’s pony, having got slower and slower with the German and Dutch riders, forced mistakes from those behind meaning that both he and I qualified through to the second round that afternoon. Unfortunately, Harriet was not so lucky, just beaten by a strong German rider. The theme of Cam riding the lazy ones continued into the afternoon dressage session, where he again rode a strong test against two Irish riders, while I continued with the feistier ones, drawing a particularly lively grey who didn’t think trotting was a necessary component of dressage, preferring to bounce around in canter. Tests completed it was time for the fancy dress party, with results for the dressage 2nd round not announced until the Gala on the next night.
Day 2 – Showjumping
Again drawing against the Dutch in the first round of jumping, along with the Americans this time, with a real mixture of ponies in our group. Since neither Harriet nor I were keen to ride the slightly crazy looking bay, I was left with a tiny palomino pony to jump, while Harriet rode my horse from the first round of dressage the day before. Harriet was first on of all the riders, and just didn’t seem to have the luck this weekend with an early stop before jumping a classy round leaving her unfortunately beaten by one of the Dutch riders. Both Cam and I jumped clears, and with strong style marks progressed once again to the second round. Back to tradition, and for Cam’s second round he drew a much calmer ride, jumping a lovely round once again, while I was slightly terrified to realise I had now drawn Cam’s crazy pony from the morning. After a fair amount of encouragement in the warm up from the rest of the team I headed in, and was thrilled to jump clear! Only one of the other riders went clear on this horse leaving us tied on faults, meaning qualification to the final would depend on our style scores and we would have to wait until the Gala that night to find out who was through.
After a great dinner at the gala, and the traditional rendition of ‘singing in the rain’ it was time for results. The team was thrilled to hear that Cam had made it to the dressage semi final, while I had made it to the jumping semi final. The fact that this meant I would be on a horse to jump again at 8:30am the next morning didn’t stop celebrations as we all partied on back at the equestrian centre.
A very early start for the jumping draw (I was going to ride first on my horse). After a quick course walk with chef Sophie it was time to go. I had drawn a lovely 4 year old, who jumped a really sweet round with just one pole down. After some confusion when the German rider jumped the wrong horse, the semi finals continued, and with the two other riders on my horse having two and four poles respectively I suddenly realised I was through to the finals and guaranteed a medal! The course went up a few holes and I was ready to go, drawing first to ride on the first horse and second to ride on the second. Having been told by the owner that the first horse didn’t like long shots and to wait for the short one, I duly tried to ride 5 strides in the 4 ½ stride distance, only to have a stop as I couldn’t quite get short enough. I got back into my rhythm enough to try and speed up and make some decent turns as we were against the clock, but the German rider jumped a lovely clear on both horses, so my quick clear on the second horse was too late for Gold. Even so I was over the moon to win silver, especially since I’m usually stronger in the dressage phase no longer having my own horse to keep my eye in jumping regularly.
It was then straight on to the dressage semi final and Cam’s turn to show us what he could do. Second to go he rode yet another fab test on a tricky horse, but was just beaten by one of the ‘oldies’ team. This close second on left him with Bronze in the dressage, and combined with his second round jumping qualification give him a brilliant Silver in the combined. With my Silver in the jumping and second round dressage I was just one point behind him in the combined, but it was very close at the top, leaving me 5th overall in a strong field of 54 riders. The team came 5th overall in the combined out of the 18 teams there, as well as 4th in the dressage and 6th in the jumping, a great start to the SRNC year!
I want to say a huge thank you to the Spanish OC led amazingly by Maria, who put on a fantastic event just 3 months after deciding to run, a huge achievement. The venue was amazing, and it was great to be able to watch the jumping show going on there in between our own rounds of competition as well. Thanks also to Sophie Hall for giving me the opportunity to ride, it’s amazing to get to compete internationally and a huge boost for me to be able to get such great results against a very experienced field of riders when my own competition experience is limited to BE100. I would highly recommend anyone competing at BUCS to give the GB trials a go if you get a chance (there should be a couple coming up this year, keep an eye on the GB Student Riders Facebook page for more details…) and to not be put off by not having competed to the highest level already – it is still possible and when you get there SRNCs are a ridiculous amount of fun, both as a rider or a supporter!