April has been the most hectic month of the year so far! On the 31st March to the 1st April we were at the IDHT National Championships held at The College EC, Keysoe. We qualified for this event after being the highest placed Junior in the Wessex Region points league. This event was doubly important as it was also a selection event for the FEI Junior European Championships in Austria this July.
We arrived Friday night as our Paces and Precision (dressage) was bright and early Saturday morning. Jasper was a star and did the most brilliant test to score 21.0. This is yet another personal best for both of us, and turned out to be the best score in the class as well as one of the best of the entire event. Riding on the high of our fantastic dressage win we immediately did our Cones. The course was incredibly tight and twisty with very few places to make up time. We had one ball down and some time penalties which we were very pleased with, as many very experienced drivers were having cricket scores. This then put us in 5th place overnight which I was determined to hang onto.
Sunday morning was obstacle time and Jasper stormed round, showing everyone how much he has improved over the winter and we kept our 5th place! I could hardly believe it as I had only hoped to come in the top ten. The difference between his performance this year and last is huge. Last year he was a bit overwhelmed but this time round the crowd, tannoy and atmosphere didn’t faze him at all. To me this just proves what a true professional he is becoming.
After a couple of days at home we were packing the trailer to head up to The Unicorn Trust in Stow-on-the-Wold for our annual British Young Driver Easter Clinic. This year the National Young Drivers (BYD’s elite training squad) were having a separate clinic to the other British Young Drivers, arriving Friday and finishing Tuesday. Everyone else arrived Monday and left Thursday. The separate camps with two cross over days worked well with many of the National Young Drivers staying on to help out at the next clinic. We got there Friday and settled Jasper in to his stable at the top of a steep Cotswold hill, that I got very fit walking up and down all the time!
Saturday to Monday were intensive lessons with our trainers working on Dressage, and on the last day Cones. My trainer was Sarah Garnett who pushed both Jasper and me hard, and I think we were both mentally exhausted after two 45min sessions a day, but I was pleased with the results and how much I learnt. The smaller camp size allowed us to really concentrate and focus so we can all move forward with our driving careers. My mum took Jasper home on Monday night as I no longer had any lessons to do, and I crashed in my friend Ann’s lorry with my sister Kiera so we could help with the next camp and see all our friends. Tuesday morning had a surprise in store for the NYD’s as we were doing the teaching! I surprised myself by really enjoying it, and was really sad to leave Wednesday evening as I had a party to go to. Miraculously Kiera and I managed to map read for the entire 2 hour journey home without getting lost once! We had such a great week and I can’t wait for the next one in the summer holidays.
The final event in my crazy Easter holidays was the South of England Carriage Driving Fair at Merristwood. We were taking part in the BYD Jump and Drive Display, with me driving Fortune Teller and my friend Ann Broadhurst riding her mums horse Nutkin. Having not had a chance to walk the course before the display we were really chuffed to have two clear rounds and our team came second. Fortune Teller was glad to be back and was pretty lively! We also spent most of the day on the BYD Stall helping to raise money towards Austria. A huge thanks to everyone who helped the British Young Drivers to raise £258.
I went back to school feeling I needed another holiday to recover from the last one! As soon as I got home from school last Friday we loaded Jasper and drove to Ashfields Carriage & Polo Centre for the EACDG’s two day club event. This was another selection event and a chance for the selectors to watch us drive the dressage test we will be driving in Austria. As part of the selection process we had to get a score of less than 65. This was the first event of the outdoor season for us, and we got stuck on the M25 and ended up arriving at 9pm. After setting up in the dark I was up at 6am walking the Cones which were much nicer than the ones at the Indoor Championships. Our dressage went well and we scored 59, well below the 65 target. With one cone down but clear on time we were lying 4th overnight. It rained loads all weekend, turning the obstacles and marathon into a mud-bath. For the first time ever Jasper was up on time and really enthusiastic on the marathon, coming in on minimum times. He knows his job much better now and we were really pleased to finish 6th overall.
Over the past month so many people have complemented me on how much he has improved, and how correct his way of going is. To me this is the highest possible praise. Thank you, Blue Chip, so much for your support, it is great to be confident that Jasper has the highest quality nutrition to help him cope with the demands of this sport.
May sees the outdoor season kick off properly, and we will be back to Ashfields in two weeks time for the first National event of the season. Two weeks after that is Windsor Park Regional. We hope to qualify again for the BHDTA National Championships from one of these, and they are also both selection events. Hopefully when they are done we will know who is going to Austria so the next month will be very exciting.
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