Bishop Burton CPEDI2*

Having been home for a week I finally feel ready to write about my time in Yorkshire at my first International.  To be honest, I’d be lying if I claimed I weren’t disappointed.

An international competition comprises of 3 tests – 3 chances to get it right!  Unfortunately this was something I didn’t achieve which was so frustrating having done so well at Hickstead.  We warmed up beautifully on the first day then went indoors for the test.  Although we had had a chance to ride in the arena the day before and walk round in there that morning, suddenly the atmosphere changed from being calm and relaxed outside to having quite an audience inside and unfortunately we both tensed up and the test lacked suppleness and flow.  Lesson 1: if Nick’s back stops swinging, don’t bump up and down flapping your legs!

Nevermind, the score wasn’t too bad and certainly reflected pretty fairly on the test. So for the second day the plan was just to make sure we kept our rhythm and relaxation, which we did so we were much happier about life… until we saw the score!  This is one of the joys of dressage.  You and the judge are not always on the same wavelength!  Lesson 2: (which is one I find myself having to learn over and over again) don’t be down-hearted just because of the score – if you achieved what you set out to achieve you should be pleased.

Nothing could be done other than prepare for my final test on the Sunday.  This was the freestyle to music test which I was looking forward to.  I had designed a fairly technical floorplan and set it to music from Dire Straits which seemed to really suit Nick.  I had never ridden it at a competition before but it had gone well at home so I was determined to put the last 2 days behind me and prove to everyone how fabulous Nick could look.  Lesson 3: Don’t put that much pressure on yourself to suddenly ride the perfect test – it is unrealistic and will only lead to tension.  Sorry Nick.

I was fully aware the test was not one of our best, however, when I saw the score I did wonder why it was quite so low.  It turned out one of the judges had either gone blind or fallen asleep halfway through and not seen me completing one of my compulsory movements (I know I did it as the other 2 judges saw and I have video proof). Ridiculously, he then convinced the other 2 judges that I hadn’t done it so they both crossed their scores out and all ended up giving me 0.  I haven’t quite decided what the lesson learnt from this is other than it just wasn’t my weekend!

Having said all this it was a fun weekend.  It was great to get a chance to get to know more of the riders and the venue put on a fun quiz in the bar one evening as well as a talk from Sophie Wells who showed us loads of behind the scenes photos from London last year.  I was thrilled with the way Nick travelled (Yorkshire is bloody miles away and it was VERY hot) and settled while he was there.  He has really grown up this year and it’s so important to know he copes with this sort of trip.

So now it’s onwards and upwards.  I’ve had a video session with Markus and Gaynor to review the tests and discuss what I could have done differently, after all we are still very much on a learning curve so every time we go out it’s all valuable experience – she says through gritted teeth!  We’ve been working on fine-tuning the elements we lost in the tests and will be out again soon.

In the meantime we mustn’t forget Kira.  She has been progressing in leaps and bounds (not literally luckily!) and we are planning to take her out somewhere soon to start getting her used to performing away from home – I can’t wait!