Leo and Tiny have done one discovery qualifier each, and both won their qualifiers by comfortable margins, so we really really wanted to win.
I am getting closer and closer to getting my HGV (all signed up on a course and provisional is in the post :D ), which will mean I can drive my lorry, but for now transport is still a major issue. I had a few offers of 3.5tn lorry's from friends but could not get insurance as a 21 year old named driver on someone else's policy.
Two days before Blue Chip, we still didn't have any transport. Although this was becoming an increasing priority I was also trying to sort out cover staff for the week as immediately after Blue Chip I was taking the first holiday (of 5 days!) I've taken since setting up AWEquestrian.
Stupidly, I'd thought because the Discovery Championship was at 8am, I'd easily catch a 4pm plane at Heathrow, but as Blue Chip got closer, and drawn orders became available, it became clear it was going to be very difficult to jump 50th, hopefully jump a jump off and stay for a prize-giving, drive Leo home, drive the lorry back and get a lift to Heathrow in time to check in..
Kelly Marks saved the day when she called back the morning before to say she'd sorted the insurance for her 3.5tn lorry! Super excited, Immy and I went to go and collect it, and we were ready to go! Only slight problem was that I'd never driven a horse in my life....
Still, it was a great journey down, Leo hardly moved so I obviously didn't drive too badly, and we arrived in great timing with an hour and a half to spare. I'd only picked up my new Equiclass Boots a day before, so getting them on and warmed up was our first mission!
The first day (Wednesday), we were doing the Newcomers and it walked really nicely and I felt Leo had a really good chance, having been consistently clear and fast for months. He warmed up absolutely perfectly, went into the ring, jumped the first fence, jinked towards the exit, then spooked the opposite direction and spun round! Great. 4 faults before even jumping 2 fences!
The rest of the round was lovely and he was jumping MASSIVE over everything! In fairness to him, the tradestands were really close, and the arena beautifully decorated, and he's never really seen that so may have just felt a bit shell shocked.
Important not to do that again though or what a wasted trip that would be!
We'd always hoped the Discovery would be the class he would win, using the Newcomers as a good warm up, which I guess effectively it was.
We watched the class after the Newcomers which had 85 horses, with 35 getting through to the jump off...and it took four hours to run. Very very quick for the number of horses, but not good news for the plane catching attempt the following morning, when the Discovery had 83 horses and started at 7:30. We just hoped for more reasons than one that the jump off would be about 10 horses!
Leo jumped a nice clear in the first round of the discovery. I gave him more time to look round the whole arena before we started and he felt back to his normal self.
At roughly 9:45 they finished the first round, a pretty remarkable feat to jump 83 horses in just over 2 hours, and a huge credit to the massive organisation team running the Championships. BUT - FORTY FOUR horses had got through to the jump off!
Leo was 20th, so I watched the first few. The course didn't really suit Leo; he doesn't cover the ground particularly quickly; his strengths would be turning very tight on landing and jumping uprights on ridiculous angles, and there were two roll back turns into oxers, with some gallops, but at least he can go as fast as he can without becoming careless.
Watching them change the course I was shaking with excitement; there was an 'impossible' turn, for anyone who saw/jumped that course I was aiming to jump the blue chip oxer and turn inside the spread numbered '3' to the number 9 green and blue upright. It involved a 180 degree turn on landing from the oxer; he would have to be facing almost the opposite direction on landing over the oxen, and then have one straight stride to see the upright on a tight angle.
I knew if I could do that, no-one could beat him, because it cut off such a huge loop. I also knew we couldn't win with his lack of sheer speed without doing that turn. He's done silly turns like that before, quite recently when he won the Discovery at Addington, so I knew he could, but it was very very tight!
In the warm up he was great, landing and turning the 'wrong' way back on himself, so Immy and I were pretty excited when we went in. We majorly picked up the speed before the start and got a great shot to the first and second fences, and he was being really careful as well. His first turn back was tight and quick to the double, galloped well and got a good deep stride to the fence I wanted to turn after, went to turn, and he just very slightly resisted, we so nearly got there, and ended up next to the wing of the fence I wanted to turn inside with no momentum.
Gutted, I quickly picked up the pace again and went around that fence, jumped the next two as tight as possible and went flat out to the last fence which was a plank. He was a star - I couldn't fault him at all, and he went into 6th place as the 22nd horse to jump. But that wasn't going to be the winning time :(
I was absolutely gutted, so pleased with Leo but just furious at the same time; I want to ride that turn again!!!! I know he could get it and so wanted to win.
We finished 12th, which is better than nothing and still a good result out of 83, but guess we'll have to try harder next time. Between the first round and the jump off, we'd mucked out packed everything into the lorry and as soon as Leo was cooled off we put him in and went.
It was pretty tight, we might not have done it if we'd had to have a horse for prize giving, but I drove him home, put him in the field for his holiday, unpacked and mucked out the lorry, chucked my pre-packed suitcase and hand luggage into my brother's car and off we went!
Arrived at the resort in Switzerland at 10:30pm, pretty exhausted from our mission of the last few days, only to discover my friends are much keener skiers than I am, and that we were getting up at 6:30am to get my skis in time for our 9am lesson!??!?! I thought I'd come on holiday?!?
Our new puppy also arrived the day after I left so I have to wait to meet her now! Sadly our dog passed away a couple of months ago and our other dog was really lonely, having always had a dog friend. :( She is SO cute!
Will do proper photo-uploading when I'm back, I know a couple of them are sideways etc..