May 2012 – Amber O’Neill Update


May has been very busy for us, kicking off with a return to Ashfields Carriage and Polo Centre on the 4-6th May, for the first National event of the season. As well as being a qualifier for the BHDTA National Championships, this was also a selection event for our FEI Junior European Championships. With the Dressage phase on the Friday morning we had to arrive Thursday night leaving as soon as I got home from school. This didn’t quite go to plan when I realised I hadn’t actually packed any clothes for myself so we ended up leaving late and getting stuck in traffic! Having spent an entire week polishing everything for this event I was dismayed to find on arrival that the event resembled Glastonbury Festival rather than a three day horse driving trials event! I honestly have never seen so much mud in my life. After having our Landrover & trailer towed in by the tractor the real challenges with the mud began, as being in the National Novice class means standing presentation, which is where a judge goes over your entire turnout to check it’s spotless.

Our Dressage went well on Friday morning and we scored 57, which is yet another personal best for both Jasper and I. He just keeps getting better. All the Novice competitors did the best they could for standing presentation and the Judge was very understanding of the fact that merely walking from the lorry park had plastered everything in mud. We were delighted to win the Dressage phase, as Jasper really pulled out all the stops despite the tough conditions.
Due to the incredibly muddy conditions Saturday’s marathon was drastically shortened and extra time allowed. Jasper took absolutely no notice of the conditions and was an absolute star on the marathon. I am really glad we made the decision to put studs in him, as they made a real difference. Unfortunately the competitor in front of us was taking it slowly with an inexperienced pony meaning we were held several times on the marathon. This has never happened to us before but luckily both my mum and I kept our cool and we ended up coming second in the marathon after Jasper flew round the obstacles to be lying in second place overnight.

With 10 penalties separating us from the competitor in first we knew we were unlikely to move up a place in the cones on Sunday but I was determined to try. We were the very first competitor in the arena which is always pretty nerve wracking but we went clear with a few time penalties. I was thrilled with this until the Judges told me I was eliminated for not driving through Cone 20! I guess being the trail blazer has its benefits as lots of people were watching who vouched for me as I had in fact driven cones number 20 so the Judges revoked their decision, but it was still pretty heart stopping. We had the best cones round in our class and were pleased to come second overall. Huge thanks to the organisers for keeping the event going despite the challenges caused by the weather.
Two weeks later we were loading up again for Windsor Park regional event. After a stressful journey trying to find the right gate into the Great Park we squeezed ourselves into the lorry park, which we were relieved to see was nowhere near as muddy as Ashfields (no need to be towed in!). Our Dressage on Saturday morning went well and we scored 57 again. This was the third time we have scored under 65 in our dressage this season which was one of the conditions of selection for going to Austria. We also had a double clear in the cones which was fantastic as it was a very technical course. The event fell on the same weekend as the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and we were right underneath the fly past, which was spectacular! The planes didn’t bother Jasper at all as we live on Salisbury Plain so he was like “Do you call that low flying aircraft? Pah!” as jets, helicopters etc are part of daily life for us. We were in second place overnight with third place just a few penalties behind us.
As usual Novice pony were first out on the marathon, which suits me fine, as I would rather get it done with. After a great talk from Nicola Kentzer (our team psychologist) we won the marathon! Despite the hassle of being held 3 times (again) we had one of the best marathon scores of the day, so we retained our second place and have now qualified for the BHDTA National Championships in September which is so exciting.

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Blue Chip for your continued support. Jasper has filled out so much in the last 6 months and is almost unrecognisable.

Please find enclosed some pictures of the last month.
Please check out my blog. http://carriagedriver.net/carriage-driver-blog.php

Best wishes,
Amber

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