Since winning her Section at the Central and North West BE80T Challenge this September, Chloe Fairley has been on cloud nine and her partnership with Biscuit has been going from strength to strength as she looks towards 2017. She has been in touch to introduce herself to all our followers and to recount her tale of the day that kickstarted her and Biscuit’s eventing career!
Biscuit is a 10 year old mare – her mother was a shire (dad a thoroughbred) and she has definitely inherited the maternal head and feet! We bought her in September 2015 as a hunter for my husband, Richard. Richard hadn’t ridden at all when we met but soon realised he would have to learn if he wasn’t going to be left behind doing the mucking out whilst I went riding. He had lessons at a local riding school and now he is hooked.
Nicky Lyons, who we have lessons with, had seen Biscuit competing in the ridden hunter class at a local show, heard she was for sale and suggested we try her. Other than a bit of showing she hadn’t done much competing as she had mainly been a hunter. She had been for sale for quite a long time and quite a lot of people had tried her but we fell in love with her straight away. When we got her Biscuit really struggled to canter on the left rein and cantering a 20 metre circle was like being on a racetrack. I started schooling her at home and had weekly lessons with Nicky Lyons. She is such a genuine mare and really tries – she just struggles to contain her huge stride in a small space.
I was taking my own horse Rio (The Happy Prince) to do the BE90 at Stafford Horse Trials in July. He is 14 now and we bred him so he is a bit of a family pet. However he won’t load on his own so we always have to find him a travelling companion. We thought that if we took Biscuit as the companion it would be fun to have a go at a BE80T on her and see how she coped. I had only jumped her when we tried (Richard likes to do the jumping) her so we had absolutely no idea what she would think about eventing.
She was very excited in the dressage and felt quite feisty – she was also continually neighing to Rio. She is very green show jumping and I have a tendency to panic in this phase. We had a bit of a ‘hairy’ show jumping round – she spotted the exit coming to the double and tried to take it. Something to work on over the winter….
I got some excellent advice from the trainer in the cross country warm-up and I set off with her words ringing in my ears – I needed to kick on and be more positive. It worked – we went clear. I was over the moon to win – my husband couldn’t believe it when I rang him at work to tell him. Getting to the Final at Weston Park became the focus for the rest of the summer. She is a big horse and it was clear she was going to need to be a lot fitter as she was really tired at the end of the cross country at Stafford. I work full-time as a criminal barrister so have to fit riding around that. Like so many other working riders I am usually to be found riding at 5am or 9pm. I did one more BE80T before Weston Park, at Frickley Horse trials. We had a wrong strike off in canter in the dressage (more practice needed) and I nearly fell off cross country when she spooked badly going into the woods. Happily we stayed together and finished in second place.
Driving in to Weston Park was so exciting. It’s the event that has everything to make for a really special ‘championship’ atmosphere – a stately home, acres of rolling parkland, the sun shining, cross country jumps that were beautifully presented – (including my favourite – a double of sausage dogs.) and such a friendly organising team. I had only been to Weston once before – for the Pony Club Championships in 1996. That had ended with a trip to hospital so I was hoping for better luck this time….
In the dressage warm-up she felt quite lively but Sue Colley, who was one of the BE80 trainers gave me some great advice. She behaved very well (no wrong canter strike-offs today!) but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw we had got a mark of 17.3. It made all the hard-work worthwhile. I was even more nervous for the show jumping than usual and we had one down (my fault) which piled on the pressure for the cross country. Biscuit spooked before the second fence – she doesn’t seem to like woods – and I thought she might grind to a halt – but she very happily she didn’t. Apart from that she jumped really well. She is still pretty inexperienced so sometimes she likes to trot into things which can make us a bit slow.
This time Richard was there to enjoy it and he told me afterwards he had been timing my round. My dad and sister were there too, so all were waiting anxiously. We were one second over the time – one more second and we wouldn’t have won. The whole experience had been amazing and I felt incredibly privileged to receive such amazing prizes from Blue Chip. I got married earlier this year so 2016 has definitely been a year to remember!
The horses have had a bit of a break from competition (there had to be a break whilst we went away on honeymoon) but I am very keen to get back out winter training. I have to keep reminding myself that Biscuit is Richard’s hunter so I will have to work around that… The eventing calendar has just come out so I am getting very excited about planning 2017. My sister and I bought a four year old of ‘unknown breeding’ that a friend had bought at the sales in Ireland. He is called Flash and the plan is for him to take part in the Blue Chip North West Challenge next year. All being well we will do the British Eventing Jumping and Style competitions and the Jump Training. I am very much looking forward to joining the other BE80 North West Challenge Winner Georgia Butler on the Sue Colley clinic in January. Like Georgia, my dream is to qualify Biscuit for the Mitsubishi Motor’s Cup in 2018…winning the North West Challenge was incredible… so dreams can come true!
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