The start of the month saw an exciting yet anxious week at Frickley Park in South Yorkshire. Although I myself have ridden around CCI* before Finnegan has not, and thus would be the our biggest challenge yet together.
Finnegan is a very honest horse, but has regularly tendencies to spook which has previously gotten the better of our performance. Knowing this I had to plan his exercise during the competition thoroughly.
On arrival day (Wednesday) I gave him a hack around the park to familiarise himself with the surroundings, I went with a few other horses as I knew this would keep him settled when seeing new sights for the first time, and avoid unnecessary confrontation.
Thursday morning was our trot up, I soon remembered that he hadn’t done an official trot up before, when I practiced running and he continued to walk, and as I dragged him more he would just about break into trot by the time I was at the end of the field. Eventually he understood and we passed the trot up. My dressage was on the Friday so I schooled him on the Thursday evening and then did the arena walk where I had the chance to take him up to the grandstand so it was less of a shock the next day.
Friday morning we did our dressage, with it being only his second time being ridden in a tailcoat I was very glad the wind stayed away as flapping tails on his back doesn’t equal a calm and happy pony. He did a PB test at 1* for 35.7
The last time Finnegan had been asked to go around an xc course without doing a dressage test and SJ round in the morning was at Oasby 2 2016, where he found it emotionally challenging to say the least and insisted on turning around 20m from the 2nd fence. Determined not to give him that chance again, i wanted him to think he had jumped a round of jumps before xc. Therefore I took him to the SJ practice on Friday night and again Saturday morning, as he is fit enough to handle that.
Previously on xc courses he has tired 5 mins into the course and just leant on the bit which makes my life 10 times harder as he doesn’t read the fences the same. This course was almost 8 mins, the longest course he’s done, so I was aware that I would have to work very hard later on. In the warm up I gave him no chance to spook and did a few taps behind my leg on take off to get him to commit to the jump. What I didn’t anticipate was him going the other way - as i set off on course he was so committed that my brakes had gone entirely! Although his bold jump through the water jumps and over the tiger trap where the ditch was as deep as my height, made me feel like I was going over the Cottesmore leap or jumping into badminton lake. With his fitness higher than ever he was still pulling in the 7th minute. As I prepared for the white table to with corner on 4 strides, he came back well but then launched at the first part, over jumping it by a mile, I sat back to try and recover through the combination but I couldn’t pull him up in time so I had to go for the alternative which wasted 20 seconds at least, meaning we picked up lots of time and dropped us down the leaderboard. But the clear was what I wanted so I was so happy with him.
On the final day I trotted him up again and warmed up SJ in the rain. It became clear quickly that he had forgotten about yesterday and he jumped out of his skin, not looking tired at all, the brakes where a slight issue again and he made me work very very very hard but when he took off into the air I knew it was worth it, and we picked up both of our first CCI in Double Clear.