2014 has been a real up and down year. I started the season with what I thought was one of the strongest team of horses I had ever had and was looking forward to having a highly successful year. What great levellers horses are!
It started pretty well with three wins on three different horses in CIC3*s and then the downhill slide started. A dreadful dressage ended my Kentucky hopes followed by a fall at Badminton with Campino, though Leonidas did fill a low place for me. My three day form continued in much the same vein and combined with injuries to some of the horses, the first half of the year ended without a decent performance at three day event.
Still we had WEG to look forward to and Leonidas has always been a successful horse and one that I think very highly of and he was working very well. The WEG in Normandy, from the time we arrived with a torrent of water running through our stable block, till the time we left, medal less and disheartened, was a chaotic mess. Much has been written about the 2014 WEG so I won’t go over it again, just to say that I hope we never have a disorganised championship like this again.
For my own performance, being given the number one team slot is never an advantage and then in the wet and sloppy conditions that prevailed in the early part of the first day of dressage, it did not help us to get off to as good a start as we might have hoped for. The cross country course was hilly and the ground very wet and holding which meant that as an early rider you had to set out cautiously to try and make sure you get home with a good result for the team. Leo was going superbly and still felt great as we approached the influential last water complex near the end of the course, which jumped badly all day. We failed to properly measure the bank out of the water and Leo stumbled and crawled up it, depositing me on the ground in the process. So as with past world championships in Gawler (1986) and The Hague (1994), a water fence was indeed my Waterloo!
The rest of the team did not fare much better with Tim being pulled up and Lucy coming to grief at the same fence as me. Only Jonelles superb round and 4th place finish and Andrews 9th kept kiwi spirits alive.
However as performance manager for the Brazilian team, their 7th place finish with a depleted 3 man team was a highlight and hopefully signals their emergence on the international scene. The performance of 20 year old Gabriel Cury, who only 12 months before at Hartpury did his first CCI 1*, riding my former Kentucky WEG mount Grass Valley, to finish well was nothing short of astounding in today’s sport and gave me a huge amount of satisfaction and pride.
The last part of the eventing season provided some welcomed highs, especially doing three competitions with NZB Land Vision, culminating with a resounding win in the £1000 class at Dauntsey. Hopefully we will be able to step out again next year with him and have some fun. Also two new highly talented 8 yr olds performed really well and look great prospects for the future. My only autumn three day was at Weston Park which I enjoyed immensely, riding my 7yr old
Landslide to finish 10th, was very satisfying as this horse has been a bit of a juvenile delinquent in the past but in the last few months has knuckled down and has started to show some of the immense ability he has and looks like a bright prospect for the future!
As I write this I am sitting in the heat in Brazil having just been here for the South American Championships where the Brazilian team won the gold from Chile and Argentina, with team riders Henrique Pinheiro and Guega Fofanoff taking the gold and bronze individual medals. Henrique showing huge improvement from a six month stint in the UK, based with me and having help from team dressage trainer Anna Ross-Davies. The vast distances these guys have to travel and the efforts they have to go to be able to compete are astounding. We don’t know how lucky we are in Europe!
On that note I would like to thank all the organisers, sponsors and volunteers who tirelessly work to run the sport we love. Sometimes as riders we are seen as ungrateful whingers but we all need to pull together to keep the sport evolving and progressing. Keeping discussions open and constructive is the way forward and we must be constantly thinking of ways to make things better.
Lastly I would like to say a huge thank you my wonderful owners who keep me mounted on great horses and my fantastic team of grooms, vet, farrier, PA, sponsors ( NZB, Keyflow, NAF, Mark Todd Collection) ESNZ and everyone else who is involved with keeping the show on the road.
In a couple of weeks a few of us are off on a trip to Stuttgart and Stockholm jumping shows to do the indoor cross country competitions that are proving popular with the crowds there. How different is the world of show jumping? We get paid to travel there, put up in good hotels, expenses paid and great prize money!! Just saying!
The off season is a welcome opportunity to get maintenance jobs done that tend to get neglected during the season, so the team has been busy painting and tidying and the farm is looking great. Carolyn has also been busy making some welcome changes in the house so there is never a dull moment!
Then we are off to NZ for a proper break down there, something I haven’t done for a number of years. Carolyn and I are looking forward to catching up with friends and family and plenty of R and R. The New Year will see me stop off in the US to do a couple of clinics on the way back, then back into it! Can’t wait!
Merry Christmas everyone, (how scary is that, where has the year gone?)
See you back in the cold in March.