- RDA National Championships
- Dressage Anywhere
- Dressage (live!)
RDA National Championships
July is a very busy month for RDA riders as it’s when we have our National Championships, held at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. In July I definitely prioritised the Championships but I wasn’t in the best of health so this meant having to cut down on training – something I hate doing but it was necessary. The RDA Champs take place over three days, but this year I was only riding on the Friday and Saturday.
My weekend kicked off with watching some of my friends riding before picking up my rosette and gold medal for winning the Dressage Anywhere RDA Online Championships. This was before I’d actually sat on a horse so it felt like a nice way to start the weekend!
Straight after that I headed to the mounting area to find Rolo so that we could warm up for the jumping. On the Friday Rolo was much more chilled out than he normally is when he goes to a big event, which meant we had a really hassle-free warm up with plenty of time to focus on getting him limbered up and into a nice bouncy canter rhythm. Going into the big indoor arena at Hartpury can feel a bit daunting – in 2016, I could feel Boysie recoil in horror as we went in, and in 2015 (the last time I rode Rolo at Hartpury) Rolo decided that one particular corner of it was simply terrifying. There was none of that this year – I couldn’t have asked for better behaviour!
The RDA Level 3 Showjumping course is pretty basic compared to some of the jumping we’ve done. The problem is that you not only have to leave the jumps up, but you are also judged on style as if it were a dressage test. Overall, I was pleased with how it all went. Rolo tapped one of them but the jumps all stayed up, and the only other moment which gave me cause for concern was coming into the final line where we’d had to trot to change leg, and he wasn’t immediately keen for canter again – fortunately as soon as he realised that there were more jumps to come he got going again! (Results for all the weekend’s events are further down the page.)
After the jumping I had a bit of a rest before getting togged up for showing – the first time I’d ever tried showing in my life. I felt a bit of a fraud in that none of the equipment I had (bar my show cane and my underwear!) was mine: Rolo belongs to the RDA, the side saddle was borrowed from Philippa Kemp Welch, and all of my fancy kit including gloves and hat had been lent to me by the astounding Katy Downing. It felt really amazing to be riding in front of a crowd in a really smart side saddle habit and with such a gorgeous little horse – I really enjoyed dressing up!
The class itself was interesting for me to see how it all works. The steward and the three judges were all incredibly friendly and encouraging – chatting to them was probably the best bit because they were just so enthusiastic. Rolo behaved reasonably well, and we were put through from our preliminary round (of which there were three) to the final line-up. By that point he’d started to get a bit grumpy but just about managed to stay still!
The next day I had my dressage test in the morning, for which I wore my own grey side saddle habit. Rolo was back to form and leaping about with excitement but we had plenty of time and by the time we’d finished in the collecting ring he was listening again. Unfortunately an irritating poo from him in the first ten seconds of the test and then me just not riding it as well as I could have done meant that we didn’t perform as well as we could have. Given my inexperience riding side saddle (including the showing the night before, this was only my fifth time) I still felt we did well, and we certainly had better halts than I can achieve astride with him.
After dressage I got changed as quickly as possible into my vaulting outfit. Putting on my vaulting shoes felt amazing – I felt excitement and a distinct sense of comfortable confidence which I hadn’t felt at any other point of the weekend! It wasn’t anything like, ‘I’m the best in the world!’, just, ‘I can do this!’, and it felt good. For me the vaulting was extra special this year. I was vaulting on Boris, who is the first horse I ever vaulted on back in April last year. Lungeing was Nett, who has lunged me for all but one of my competitions and who is simply fabulous and had made the long journey down to Hartpury from Cambridge just to lunge me – what a star! The final part of our team was Isabelle, one of the Cambridge able-bodied vaulters competing internationally. She’s also an RDA volunteer and an amazing person, with a family who are hugely supportive of me and all RDA riders. Isabelle was there to bunk and generally assist as well as to help with the other riders from my group (it was a VERY busy day for the group!). Meanwhile her dad took loads of pictures!
Anyway, the vaulting went really well. First I did compulsories in walk, and was able to do a decent swing up to bench which I’d been working hard on. Boris was keen to be back in the limelight so he had a few steps of trot but nothing major! After hopping off from the compulsories we went straight into the freestyle. My freestyle routine was the result of many hours spent on the costume, many hours spent on the music, and goodness knows how long on the routine itself!
I’d chosen music from, ‘The Princess and the Frog’, (Disney) to vault to, and had adapted the song, ‘On my way’, so that a full story fitted into the minute we had. A few days earlier we’d changed the mount and first move but this went fine. The shoulder stand was the bit I had been most nervous about – it’s not brilliantly comfortable in a helmet, and the only other time I’d done it in competition I’d lost control at the end – but fortunately it went very smoothly.
Generally I had so much fun doing my freestyle! There was a really supportive crowd and it felt so good to be doing it with the music properly for the first time – just listening to tinny music on a mobile phone isn’t the same at all. When I got off I was initially pretty tired but then exhilarated and wanted to go again!
Right, time for results:
Dressage Anywhere (Intro test) – 1st place
Showjumping (RDA Level 3) – 1st place Senior and overall Class Champion
Showing – 2nd place and qualified for SEIB Search for a Star final
Dressage (Champs test) – 7th place
Vaulting – 1st place in age group and overall Class Champion
Aside from this I’ve spent July having my shoulder looked at (there is now a plan which hopefully will mean I don’t need surgery, but surgery is there as a back-up plan) and learning new skills in vaulting and gymnastics. I even did my first tuck back on the trampoline, although it was very heavily assisted! I’m having a lot of fun at the moment just trying things out. I’m covered in cuts and bruises but it’s worth it because every new thing I achieve is really exciting!
A nice one this time. This is me and Rolo with Eleanor and Boysie (also of Cambs College RDA) at the end of the showing: two Cambs College cob combinations in the top six. I was so pleased that Eleanor did so well, and the horses were pretty pleased with themselves too!