They then went to Kingsclere to do another hunter trial and again flew round clear for 4th and 5th. This was a very interesting class as I had three horses running (Mr Jones, who I was riding for a friend to sell him and my two) and when I checked the times on the internet, it said the whole class was 24 minutes long. 3 horses who share tack going round a cross country course...in 24 minutes. This was made worse when the secretary (who in fairness had been very helpful to this point!), said that my first horse was down to go fourth in the class. Surely it would be logical to go first.....??
That day I was extremely lucky to have a lot of people on hand as my parents had come to see Jones's owners, and I had a friend staying, plus my amazing amazing groom Anita, who we would not have survived the day without! We decided to do the 4yo's first as Jones is relatively experienced, and I thought the 4yo's would need as much warm up time as we could get them. So, Anita lunged Leo while Tiny went round...she jumped a lovely clear, but there was no time to dwell on that as it was saddle off her, pass her to the nearest person, saddle on Leo, jump on and go...poor Leo who is normally so calm was a bit surprised at how quickly everything had suddenly ended up on his back and as he cantered off bucking (in fairness, pretty mildly!), I realised I'd forgotten my neck strap... Luckily he was brilliantly behaved and he too jumped a beautiful easy clear.
Another quick saddle swap and I jumped onto Jones - who I had ridden once and jumped a single show jump a couple of times - and we heard a call over the tannoy that if I was not in the start box within the next minute they would close the class and eliminate me! Not only had his owners made a lot of effort to bring him and waited a long time for me on my horses, I was very conscious that they were really hoping for a good result as he was for sale. I galloped from the lorry park to the start box and straight round the XC with no warm up fence and he jumped easy clear. I knew he has been quick and was quietly confident, but his owners were so so pleased when he was announced the winner, which gave me great pleasure that their day hadn't been wasted.
There were no competitors between Leo and Jones so our changeover must have been very good - but I could never have done it without the amazing team of Mum, Dad, Jones's owners, Leila and Anita, only such a big team by chance but thank god they were all there. We even managed to get it all videoed as well, which is always handy for various reasons.
Anyway, we all had such a good day we decided to do it all over again at West Wilts the following week! We entered the 4yos in the 90cm and Jones in the 90cm and the 1m. I heard that someone at my livery yard had withdrawn because they'd changed it to an 'Eventers Challenge', which I checked on the website (no mention of it), so then just ignored this. When we arrived, there were a set of very spooky rustic showjumps, with a skinny, dry ditches, brush fillers, a corner, gates, white planks etc as the timed section and then you went through to a shortened cross country course.
Their ground was very good considering the amount of rain we'd had, but I can see why they didn't want to trash the whole course and it was actually a brilliant idea as there were so many entries that to cancel would have been a real shame. It was also a fantastic viewing course, as you could sit and watch from the bank and see the whole thing - and it's such a beautiful arena at West Wilts now.
However, we arrived quite early for a change and had a good chance to see the carnage the course was causing...falls, stops and poles flying everywhere...we decided to run them (they would never have seen fences like this before) and just see how they went. Leo went first, and I didn't really expect a lot as I thought it was quite a big ask, so I gave him a good trot round the arena and then started my round (the timer started as you went into the arena, so we were never going to get a quick time if I let him have a look). He jumped a beautiful clear in such a good forward rhythm that I slightly kicked myself as he probably would have posted a very good time without the trot around at the beginning. But it wasn't about winning a West Wilts hunter trial, it was about producing him as a better horse for the future, which I think we achieved as he followed up his show jumping clear with an easy cross country clear. Tiny was very angry about being ridden second and not being the centre of attention for about half an hour and I could see it was probably best to lunge her first...thank god I did...she was quite excitable! Still, there were no antics when I got on her and she warmed up well and also jumped an effortless double clear.
Poor Jones was last again, as he was going early in the class after it made sense to leave him tacked up. Having jumped two clears with rubbish times, Annie and I agreed to go for it with Jones, and he also posted a clear, one second off the winning time to come 2nd. I then heard that there were only 6 clears in the whole class! (There were over 60 entries!) - I may be wrong on the number of clears that is only based on what I heard, but I was so pleased with my babies as they really looked like old pros jumping round a course that had caused a lot of problems for some pretty experienced horses. Sadly, it was 'seconds added' rather than faults, so they weren't placed, but I couldn't have asked any more of them. It probably worked out much better that their first proper show jumping experience was in a huge arena with not very many fences, as it gave them a lot of time between each fence, so it probably worked out better than just a hunter trial.
In the next class we decided to go for a nice steady clear with Jones, as it was still only the third time I'd ridden him and he'd never competed at 1m before. He jumped another easy clear to finish 7th, which I was very pleased with in another big class with not many clears, where again it was 'seconds added' rather than equality of faults.
So all in all a pretty successful October.
I'm very pleased to report that Squirrel is doing really well and is now 100% sound, and moving far better than he has done for a long time, and that's without shoes! I hope to bring him back into work on the 1st Jan, but he will get all the time he needs and if he's not ready then, he's quite happily adjusting to life as a miniature pony for now!
The babies will now have a winter of training and dressage and showjumping competitions, as well as a few breaks and hopefully all three will come out fighting for the 2013 event season!