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Lead Up To London: Vidauban, France, Week One

Great weather, and a beautiful venue! Who could ask for more, for our first outdoor show of the year? I was not the only one to make the two-day trek down to the south of France, as Hayley Beresford and Brett Parbery also came down to take the last chance for points and qualification for the Olympics.

Rider rankings to decide individual places are decided on results up to the first of March, so these two events are crucial for us to have any chance of a fourth rider. I opted to start Sancette in the GP for the Kür, as I felt this was my best option to gain points. He has already done the required two GP Olympic Specials, so this seemed a good choice. Many of the top riders were here, including Carl Hester, and British team hopeful Emile Faurie, plus many of the more exotic countries trying for the individual places. In all, 76 horses were entered for the Grand Prix, to be split into two classes. It seems the number of internationally competitive horses is constantly increasing along with the overall popularity of the sport.

Day one of competition, and Sancette did not disappoint me. He put in a really smooth test with no major errors; only now needed are the small details to get the extra points. He was well scored by three of the judges, but the Finnish judge was not a fan, and pulled the mark down to 67.12%.

At first I was a bit upset with the mark, but after seeing more scores come up I realised the overall marks were very low on all riders, compared to what they had been getting in recent competitions. In fact, on average it seemed to be two to three per cent lower. However he was placed 7th in a strong field and qualified to start in the Kür so I had to be happy with that.

The second day was the GP for the Special, and again a very strong field of 40 riders. Brett was the first Aussie to go. The stylish bay stallion, Lord of Loxley, has presence to burn, but with some uncharacteristic errors, Brett was a little disappointed. Hayley would have been more happy with the performance of Simba, who has just moved into the ranks of Grand Prix, and seems to be building up a good partnership. The last time I saw this stallion was at the Sydney CDI where he won the young horse class for six year olds. At the time I was judging the class and rode him as a finalist, and he definitely gave me the feel he could be a grand prix horse, so it was nice to see how he had developed.

Her lovely stallion Bellissimo, had stayed home to compete at Bremen in the coming weeks. Straight after the first competition, Hayley was heading back to show him at a stallion show at Aachen, so it’s a very busy schedule for the popular breeding stallion.

Umbro had a bit of an unfortunate moment just before entering the arena, when the dusk light made some scary reflections, causing him to be a little tense at the start of the test, however he settled as the test went on, but the tension was costly and he just missed out on making the special.

Umbro and Mary

All my focus now went to Sancette, for the Kür the next day. I had new music, and had changed the pattern of my test to make it more flowing. However, I had had no chance to practise it, and so was fairly nervous about how it would go. Also it was the first time he would be competing outdoors under lights on the Saturday evening, and the arena was not easy, surrounded by flags, tents and dogs and people in constant motion. However, when the time came to enter the arena, he was totally focused on the job in hand, and thrilled me with a lovely performance. The music worked well to my new pattern, and the judges seemed to really like it, awarding 72.625%, which was exactly equal with Carl Hester and Philippe Jorissen in third place. However, on a count back of the artistic score, Carl stayed in 3rd, and Phillipe and I were equal fourth.

It was a great finish to the first week of competition, and both horses seemed to have pulled up fit and well. We have a break today and then straight back into it, with the vet check tomorrow.

Kyra and Richard arrive tonight to help with the training. Last week when they could not be here, it was great to have the help of our team coach, Ton de Ridder.

Cheers…until next week…



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