Amber O’Neill Update


Dear Blue Chip,

After all the excitement of Austria it seemed I was hardly home for five minutes before I was off
to the airport for my post exams holiday with my friends. We’ve been planning this holiday for
two years and we had a fantastic time out in Spain. I now have an amazing tan and it was great to
have some R&R and not think about horses for the first time ever. By the end of the week however
I was getting very twitchy from not driving and was starting to annoy my (non horsey) friends by
constantly checking the Equestrian Team GBR website for Olympic news.

I was glad to be home in England and back to playing ponies as we started getting Jasper back to
peak fitness again. The weather was a complete shock though, having spent almost an entire month
in 40 degree heat so I was driving Jasper in my winter coat!

The Olympics were absolutely amazing and after forcing my little cousin to watch the Freestyle
Dressage to Music I soon had him out riding my little Welsh pony Snowflake who started my whole
career off. He might not be the next Carl Hester but he certainly enjoyed going riding and I think this
is an excellent example of how the Games will inspire new people to come into equestrianism.

Just before I left for Austria I received the fantastic news that I had an offer from the University of
Southampton and after getting an A* in Geology I am very pleased to say that next year I will be
starting a Masters in Geology there. Hopefully I will still be able to compete as it’s just over an hour
away from home.

However the real event of this past month (well for me anyway) is the BHDTA Junior National
Championships held at Henbury Hall in Cheshire on the 25-26th August. As this event is on the
bank holiday weekend we were keen to avoid repeating last year’s mistake of being stuck on the
M6 for hours on end so had everything packed ready to leave on Thursday for an early start the
following morning. With carriage and harness packed my sister Kiera and I rode Jasper and Fortune
Teller out instead. Having decided to explore an area we haven’t ridden on since for several years
we discovered Fortune Teller is much fitter than we thought and despite all of the cardio work we
have done with Jasper, she was easily outstripping him across miles of stubble fields. To cool off
afterwards we decided to cut through the stream that runs through our village where we met a boy
in a canoe! Fortune Teller jumped the bank out of the river and took off with Kiera down a footpath
while Jasper just splashed past it like he sees them all the time. I just couldn’t stop laughing although
I’m not sure Kiera found it as funny.

After leaving bright and early Friday morning all was going to plan and we were making good time
until we hit the M6 where the inevitable traffic jams started to undo all of our plans. Our Land Rover
then decided to do what Land Rovers do best and break down just half an hour from our destination.
With a worrying red light on the dash board that the handbook said would cause the engine to be
ruined if we carried on driving we pulled off into Keele Service station to wait for the RAC to come
sort it out. Having been told we were a priority case due to the fact we had a pony on board we
waited three hours to discover there were several rips in the Coolant fluid hose which had caused
the car to overheat. With our options looking grim we decided to risk it and after the RAC man had
patched the hose up and refilled the Coolant we continued on our way. Jasper was an absolute star
throughout the 7 hour ordeal and just stood quietly the entire time. I think all the travelling he did in
Austria has done him some good!

We finally arrived at about 7pm to set up and walk to cones course. Our friend Joseph’s groom
Elanor plaited Jasper for me in the dark in Josephs lorry ready for the trot up the following morning.
The trot up was fine and nowhere near as scary as the one in Austria with my Dressage almost
straight after. Jasper did a lovely test to once again slash both of our personal bests as he scored
52 to put us second. We then did our Cones round which was tight and technical to get a double
clear and the best time in our class! I was so glad I practised at home driving much more difficult
combinations as it made the course seem easy by comparison. This put us in first by a very narrow
margin overnight.

The marathon is never our strongest phase and we battled hard despite the mud to have
respectable times but it wasn’t quite enough as we slipped to second place to make us Reserve
Junior National Champions. This was unbelievable as I had only hoped to get round never mind
get placed. We also won the Best Turned Out prize for the third year running which is a really nice
recognition of the hard work we put into our appearance. A big thank you is owed to my Mum
and sister Kiera for all their help with ensuring we always look our best as well as to Blue Chip for
providing Jasper with top quality nutrition so he always has a gleaming coat.

The Junior National Championships also plays host to a fierce Team competition between the home
nations. I was very pleased to chosen for the England team this year and we didn’t disappoint;
beating Wales by a good margin to keep our large silver cup and be the National Champions!

September sees the Outdoor season come to a close with the BHDTA National Championships which
I am really looking forward to. Hopefully this event will not be cursed with horrible weather! I will
also be starting University so a very exciting month ahead.

Thank you to everyone at Blue Chip for continuing to support us.

Best wishes

Amber

 

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