October Update From Amber O’Neill

August was a very busy month for us, starting off with Junior Camp held at Ashfields Carriage & Polo Centre.

We had a great week training at the centre, working towards the selection event at the end for the 2012 Junior World Trophy.

This was the first time Jasper has been to a junior camp. It was a good test for a young horse as there were plenty of things going on at once and as always, Jasper behaved like a star.

We achieved our goal of working on his obstacles and I focused on looking forward, which allowed him to go a bit more.

The selection event at the end of the week saw Jasper perform a very nice test, after the dressage we were sitting in 4th place – which is his highest position to date.

We came 4th in the marathon, with just one ball down in the cones, and finished 4th overall. The class was a large one, so we were really thrilled with the result.

After arriving back home, the week was spent working on Jasper’s fitness. We had been told that the marathon at Henbury Hall (the new location for the Junior National Championships) was tough.

We set off for Henbury Hall on the Friday, but due to it being the August bank holiday weekend every road was at a standstill which was frustrating, but Jasper coped well and took it all in his stride. Nine hours later we finally arrived to set up camp and to walk the cones in the dark.

We won the presentation again this year with Jasper, following last years win with with Fotune Teller.

He did a lovely test, despite the very heavy going, and was lying 4th after dressage. Unfortunately I had a few balls down in the cones which dropped us a few places.

Everything came down to the marathon, where he tackled the steep gradient with gusto and I was very glad we had done our training at Ashfields. He made all the speeds, including the walk which was challenging, to finish 5th overall. We were very pleased with him, as he has made such a huge improvement.

We mostly concentrated on schooling Jasper under saddle in preparation for the biggest event in the HDT calendar – the Windsor National Championships, which we qualified for back in June on our first attempt.
We arrived at Windsor on Thursday to settle in and walk obstacles.  Friday was dressage day and we were almost the last to go, which meant an agonising wait.

Being in the Novice class means a standing presentation needs to be carried out. Everything must be immaculate, so we spent all morning polishing everything and touching up chips on the carriage, which at the very least took my mind off being nervous!

We had one of our highest ever marks in presentation with 48 out of 50 which we were thrilled about.  Jasper pulled out all the stops to achieve his best ever mark with this test, which was just fantastic, putting us in 6th place overnight.

We were one of the first to go in the marathon on Saturday, which saw us ready and waiting at the start of section A at 7.15am, after an eye watering 5.30am wake-up call.

After Henbury the marathon seemed nice and flat. It was a fantastic route which was easy to follow and had gorgeous scenery through the deer park which, was a novel experience for Jasper, who has never seen that many deer before.

We made all the section times and he was superb through the obstacles, admittedly not the fastest but compared to how he was at the start of the season I cannot tell you how pleased I was with him. We were lying in 7th place overnight.

Sunday was cones day with everything left to play for. Jasper coped with the busy, noisy arena and I held my nerve and had a double clear. The competitor in 6th place also had a double clear so we didn’t move up a place, but most importantly we achieved our goal of going to the Championships, which is a huge achievement alone.

I decided my goals for 2011 when I was still competing two ponies. I never intended to take Jasper to Novice Qualifiers, let alone the National Championships!

I still can’t believe I competed at an event that I have been dreaming about since I was 8 years old, let alone attending and taking part on my young in-experienced pony that I produced.

To sum up our 2011 outdoor season, we have achieved every goal that we set and so much more.

I would like to thank Blue Chip for the generous support.  The presentation judge has not seen Jasper for about 6 months and could not get over how much he had improved and filled out in that time.

He is truly unrecognisable from the scruffy, unfit pony he was this time last year. He is now sleek, fit and looks every inch the star he is.  I was proud to be there and I look forward to the 2012 outdoor season where hopefully we will go again.

For the rest of this month Jasper will be having some R&R in the field. I will be catching up with my schoolwork as I am busy applying to university before it all starts up again for the indoor season in October, which we are all excited about.

Thank you once again Blue Chip for all your help, I have a pony to be proud of and we could never have done it without you.

Best wishes,

Amber O’Neill.

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