Our 1st Blog Marks the Last Event - Weston Park

Brook Corey head shoulders website

by Brook Howells

My first blog marks the end of an amazing 2013 eventing season for Corey and the team. This year has seen Corey go from strength to strength, giving all of us tonnes of pleasure and with the added bonus that we qualified for the BE100 grassroots championship at Badminton in 2014. Corey has now finished eventing for 2013 and after a couple of local competitions in the next fortnight he will go on holiday.

Our last event was Weston Park BE100Open in Shropshire. Mum and I have volunteered at Weston for about 10 years and I also had the joy of riding round it on Danny (now retired) in the past so have been really looking forward to taking Corey. I was thrilled to see they were building a 100 track for this year and with Badminton looming I was extra excited that it would be a tough track. They were hosting the inaugural BE100Open U18 Championships and they weren't going to let anyone win that easily!

We walked the course on Saturday before we spent the afternoon fence judging and commented that it was a perfect challenge for Corey and I. It was just like a mini novice course, very technical and not one for an inexperienced partnership. I wasn't too worried - Corey's confidence across country is sky high and he recently schooled round the novice track at Kelsall Hill but I wasn't certain he'd get home with a clean sheet. A great afternoon watching the ponies and CCI** competitors was followed by a late night getting Corey ready. Stud holes cleaned, plaits done, and tack cleaned, I went to bed with videos of my recent XC schooling at Kelsall and various SJ practices/competitions to help me visualise the next day.

We reflected on the drive down, through pouring rain, that we had stayed dry all year so one wet event was not too much to suffer. And one wet event is what we got. It rained all day and it was a very impressive performance by the whole team at Weston that they managed to keep running. All credit to them and thank you!

The dressage went pretty well - a few glitches that were mainly down to "numpty on top" as I call myself - but a good effort over all. I thought my score of 30.5 was very fair and to be 11th after dressage in an section that included two past big-Badminton competitors was a great start. A quick change of tack, trying to avoid thinking about just how wet my jodhpurs were, then we set off for show jumping. dressage in the rain at weston park 2013 website

Show jumping is without a doubt my weakest discipline. Corey is generally careful but is too quick to have a pole when we're not quite right for a fence, so we've been doing a lot of work in practice and lessons, trying to work out how best to help him 'get right'. We have to remember that he is still young and growing, learning about his own balance and that we are constantly moving the goalposts as the jumps get bigger, so we can't be too disappointed that he's not always clear. Thank you to Corey's physio Anne Sweeney for those words of wisdom!

My SJ round at Weston went well in respect of me not slowing him down too much nor letting him get into racehorse mode (long and running flat), and though we still had 2 poles down I was pleased. It is noticeable that when I look down over a fence I'm more likely to have it down, but I really struggle to stay looking up, so if anyone can offer advice on how to do that, do let me know!!

The snippets of commentary we'd heard all morning suggested that the XC course was causing lots of problems and with the weather being so vile and the ground getting very cut up, we did for a moment consider withdrawing. Then we realised that we might face a similar challenge at Badminton and we've not had much experience in wet going, plus we know how hard the organising team at Weston work to keep the going as good as it can be. So I set off - determined to make the most of it and philosophical about the lessons we'd learn if we didn't go clear.

I'd be lying if I said it was easy - lots of narrow questions that took some determination to keep him straight at, a horse that went a bit green in the deep ground and several challenges that were new to us - like a turning combination just before water. But I'd also be lying if I said it wasn't fun. It was fantastically good fun. I got a great feeling that Corey and I were working together to get round (rather than my usual sense of just sitting on top, steering but leaving the rest to him) and saw a glimpse of his talent for the future as he popped through the different technical questions confidently. It wasn't pretty and I got lucky in having such an honest horse when I tackled the skinny rails after the ditch with long reins, but I felt I rode it well and got the result we both deserved. The ground had made Corey a little leg weary but since he normally gets time penalties for going too fast, even in his steady cruise, I nursed him home over  the last couple of fences and didn't kick on. I ended up slightly over the time and getting 0.4 penalties but was very pleased with his performance overall. I'm now really looking forward to seeing what Badminton will throw at us! Cross country at Weston 2013 website

And that was that - eventing over for 2013. It took a long time to clean the mud off everything but I will treasure the memories of riding round that course all winter. Dad got a fabulous video of the middle section too so I can watch it over and over and dream of the 2014 season...

Brook

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