Harbro Young Rider Update : Rosa Onslow, August 2019
2 Sep 2019
Now that Kaiser has finished (sound) for the season, the main focus for this month has been getting Sunny ready for our first CCI 4*-L together. The full team has swung in behind us to achieve this - our amazing farrier, magical physio, fantastic vet and our home team. Competing horses at this level is like preparing a middle distance runner for the Olympics. Everyone has to work together on fitness, diet and relaxation. It’s totalling absorbing but very hard work.
After schooling over show jumps, 2 trips to the gallops at our local trainer, galloping up our border hills and loading our lorry with a week’s worth of food for horse and humans, we finally set off for Blair on the Tuesday, ready for the trot up on the Wednesday.
The trot up went to plan, although I had to remind Sunny that he was on show and that he couldn’t just jog down the catwalk! He was accepted and the next hurdle was the dressage. He did a decent test, although I think he was harshly marked. One of the 3 FEI judges marked him substantially below the other 2, which brought our average down. Nevertheless, he was lying 4th after dressage. Those that know Blair Castle Horse Trials will not need reminding that this event is not a dressage competition and that the cross country is the main decider due to the terrain. Horses that are not used to hills struggle. We live on the side of a hill and so we were hopeful that we would have an advantage!
The 4*L is a really tough test of stamina wherever it is held, but Blair is probably one of the toughest. I walked the course 4 times, looking at various options and looking at where we might save some time. After the 4th time, I was comfortable with my plan and it was time to put it into action. One of the great things about eventing is that everyone helps everyone else out and there is a great sense of camaraderie even if it is also very competitive. By way of example, I was in two minds about how to tackle one particular combination, and William Fox-Pitt gave me some advice and put time aside to help, despite being short of time.
Plans made, we set off, and Sunny jumped amazingly. We only had one combination where things got a little sticky. I found myself staring at the ground, rather closer than I would have liked. Sunny reacted by slowing down and nearly stopping until I could haul myself back into the saddle. We lost some time, but better that than ending up flat on my back! We were placed 2ndafter the cross country and looking competitive.
The team swung into action in the recovery box. Vets took temperatures and heart rates while the home team poured endless buckets of water over Sunny to get his temperature down. He looked as if he could go round again and he was clearly very pleased with himself.
The next hurdle was to pass the trot up on the Sunday morning after the cross country. One horse had retired and another was eliminated for soundness, but Sunny trotted up magnificently. He properly showed off and passed easily.
So onto the show jumping that afternoon. It was a big challenging course, and all of the horses who went before us had poles down. In we went, and to cut a long story short, he went clear – a double clear result for us at the highest level, and a Badminton qualification. We ended up coming second in the competition, but more importantly, we had finished the season with 2 sound horses, ready for next year.
I could not have done all of this without the feeding and the diet we have given our horses. Harbro Conditioning Cubes, Country Horse Alfalfa chaff and Harbro Haylage has been crucial to producing our horses to compete at the highest level. I am so grateful and couldn’t recommend their feed more. The final accolade must be that Annie Keiller, our groom, won the best turned out prize at Blair. Sunny looked absolutely fantastic. He was gleaming and athletic looking. This must mainly be down to his feeding and it was recognised by 3 of the top FEI judges in the world. Make your own judgement.
So Sunny and Kaiser are now on holiday until next season, having both competed for our country in the Young Riders European Championships, and in the GB Nations Cup Team. They will now have about 6 weeks off, and then the preparation for next season starts again. Our goal, if everything goes to plan, is to do Badminton 5* on Kaiser, Bramham 4* U25 championships on Sunny and then Burghley 5* on both. Nothing ever goes exactly to plan, but you have to have one and you have to keep dreaming.
My blog may go a little quiet for the next month or so, but I will write an update once Sunny and Kaiser are back in work. Meanwhile, thank you to Harbro for everything you have done to contribute to what has been an amazing season. I am truly grateful and you are such an important part of our team.