The senior team of Wendy Lappington (Monkey), Jo Manning (Libby), Kate Brown (Limited Edition) and Janet Stares (Nico) qualified back in November for the BRC finals at Keysoe by winning the area qualifier. Zoe Thompson (Hoskins) also qualified as a junior individual.

A lot of planning went into the weekend for both horses and humans – food, transport, overnight accommodation – it was like a military campaign. We all had extra lessons and a test riding session with a BD judge (Roseanne Fitzgerald). The tests were videoed and we had a feedback on improvements to get maximum marks (bit like having someone criticise your best friend), so we felt as prepared as we could be.

Unfortunately at the last minute, disaster struck and Kate couldn’t go. Rita West womanfully stepped in with Lexy, but decided that she would come up on the day, so 3 horses, (transported courtesy of Gramps), 3 riders, 1 owner, 4 supporters and 3 dogs left Swindon at Friday lunchtime. After a long journey courtesy of the roadworks and traffic around Oxford, we arrived about 5pm and after settling in the horses, we set up camp in Colin and Jan’s caravan with Rose’s chilli for tea. After a bit of negotiation with the parking police, Gramps moved the lorry next door and Rose had her tent pitched between 2 jumps behind the caravan, so we had a proper club camp. We all retired early – being very good competitors!

After some sleep (I don’t think anyone slept well) we all went into autopilot and started our own routines to prepare for our rides. We found out at the last minute that there was an arena walk at 7.30am which was very useful to settle the horses. Marie arrived about 8am and the competition day started.

Jan was in 1st with Nico, who took it all in his stride. He did a really good test, with his centre lines, free walk and one medium trot going really well (these being his weak points) and he got 69% to finish 11th place.

Wendy was next. They did their best test they’d ever done being forward and round. His test was accurate and looked really good. Wendy and Marie were delighted when they got 68 % to finish 13th.

There was then a break until the others rode in the afternoon so a good fry-up from the caravan kitchen was enjoyed by all. There was also a Tiffany birthday cake for Rose, and a ‘Death by chocolate’ cake made by Chloe to keep the sugar levels up.

This was Libby’s first big competition, but she didn’t seem bothered being led down asleep most of the morning. She warmed up beautifully, but was held by the stewards outside the arena and got a bit worried. Jo had to ride very sympathetically because Libby was on edge, but she did a clear round and after the free walk, started to relax. They got 65.2 % which was more than at the regionals, and came 20th.

Last came Rita and Lexy. Due to a tack malfunction, they didn’t get the ideal warm-up, with less time than they wanted. Lexy became quite tense and Rita had to ride very carefully. They delivered a solid test for 65 % and 24th.

We were a little disappointed to come 21st but the middle order was very, very close (as was the test results) so we could so easily have been much higher (or lower). The standard of the winners was amazing. They had a 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th which left them streaks ahead of everyone else! As Marie said ‘The club was very well represented and have riders at almost every championship now. Everyone did very well, but dressage has an element of subjectiveness and single points separated almost every place, and every place counted. Lexy and Libby are both young and inexperienced, and dealt with the atmosphere very well. Everyone rode their best’

So that was it –  pack up, load the horses and head home just as Zoe’s Mum and Dad arrived with Hoskins for the next day.

Zoe has been to a dozen finals so is an old hand – it was meant to be her last Championship as a junior and she wanted to go out in style. She said ‘After two very full on training weeks, a last minute emergency visit to the horse back lady, we finally got to the Nationals. After riding a visually pleasing test (and for once with no rider direction errors) we finished 5th against some tough competition and only having half the warm up time planned – as I forgot to get my hat tagged!’.  Zoe has worked long and very hard on Hoskins and is now reaping the rewards – 5th was a fantastic result.

Zoe has just heard that she’s been given a wildcard to the Intermediate Finals at the end of April which will definitely be her last BRC Junior final. This means that we have 3 people at Bury at the end of the month– Good Luck guys !