As my first term at university finishes, I have now completed my first BUCS matches.
At my first match I arrived at Cherwell EC with the rest of the Oxford team, where we were competing against Cardiff, Bath and Oxford Brookes. Our team drew 1st to go, which meant our riders would be first to start on the horses.
The four horses that were entered in for the dressage were then warmed up and shown to us so we could have a few minutes to watch their way of going before hoping on ourselves. The dressage horse I was on was a 16hh dark bay gelding which reminded me of Finnegan quite a bit as he was quite sharp, which worked in my favour. The other riders who I was competing against on this horse tried to ride him quietly and long in the frame, which meant he was able to spook whenever he saw fit. Being used to a similar horse myself, I was confident to kick him through the sharpness and start to lift his neck and collect the outline more, so I then had a better contact. I continually dared him so then I would have the opportunity to correct his actions if he decided to challenge me.
As I went to do my dressage test I went straight to canter around the ring opening and closing the canter so he was stepping through from behind more and then through collecting the canter again I could lift the front end more. As the rider collectives are x4, I knew it would be particularly important to ride my accuracy and keep my elbows in and hands together. Through this I scored a 9 for my riding, and took the win after the dressage phase!
After the morning dressage my team was leading, so it was all to play for in the afternoon. This time I had drawn another dark bay, but was last to jump it, which meant I would be doing its 4th round of the day. I watched the first people jump her and it became clear she was not the most careful horse, knocking 3 fences with each of the first two riders. As she became more tired I knew I would have to work harder to keep the fences up. During the warm up I was allowed to jump 5 fences, and I realised she was quite short striding but was more confident on a forward stride if I held her together. As I went into the ring I thought medium canter to make sure she had the length of stride I needed for the doubles, and then I could collect again for the first fence. In order to keep her careful, I had to really think about keeping my shoulders and eyes up throughout, as if I over folded she would drop her legs. On the first distance I went to add, but shortened too late which meant she touched it and the pole fell. After that I worked hard to keep her straight to each fence, and together with having my body up she cleared the rest of the course. As the jumping is marked on both style and jumping faults, I picked up the win on her for the jumping phase!
At the end of the afternoon jumping our team picked up 2nd place, which puts us in a strong place going into the mini league, against these same unis. If we win the league we will qualify for Regionals next term.