A long weekend in Devon for the troops….Jonelle actually left home at the crack of dawn on Friday morning and didn’t return until Sunday evening!
Friday was a fairly eventful start to the event as Jonelle got flashed by a speed camera on the M4 and then had a blow out on the M5 in the Volvo which turned into a bit of a mission. Having finally made it to the local tyre store in Taunton by 8am which meant that Elixir’s (Cedric) dressage time of 8.30 wasn’t going to happen she was then confronted by a group of workers who, shall we say, were not the best advert for the company as despite all being on site they refused to start work before 8.30 and hung around smoking and vaping whilst I would imagine a similar kind of smoke was wafting out of the Volvo window! To compound matters Jonelle then decided to walk across the road to the local Morrisons and get a hot chocolate to drink whilst she waited but since Friday was day 1 of ‘no shopping without a face mask’ in the UK she was denied entry!
Some 4 hours late for her dressage…. she pitched up at Bicton who very helpfully changed her times and slotted her in. Luckily with just the three novices to compete it wasn’t as big a task as it could have been and Cedric was fast tracked down to the dressage field. Cedric was in a very grown up mood and after posting a 29 he then dutifully left all the show jumps up before heading down to the start. There was another slight problem in that there had been zero time for a course walk so Cedric was Jonelle’s sacrificial lamb and as they headed out of the the start box Jonelle’s only advantage over Cedric was that she could count.
Cedric did have a 20 at the first water but it was a hesitation and there were no reverse gears employed so huge progress. The second 20 was simply unfortunate as there was an offset double of hedges which you needed to come off your line on approach in order to jump through without penalty which would have been handy information for both of them to have had! They took out a flag, picked up the 20 but Jonelle was really happy with Cedric at his first novice which was also plenty meaty enough.
Diamante ( Monte) is turning into a real pro and she went to work with a 21 dressage and added just 3.2 time to finish 2nd at her first novice start with Jonelle. Yet again Monte saved the day! Faerie Magnifico ( George) was running in the Open Novice and he too was a bit of a star with a 29 and a double clear for 5th spot in a truly star studded section with a sprinkling of 4 and 5 star horses having their debut run.
Tim came down with the 100 horses on Saturday in the truck and they met up with Jonelle who had a 10 minute and far less traumatic journey to the event. Jonelle had just the 2 rides and Tim had 4. Fiftyshades of Jarsay ( Frenchie) is still pretty green having only had a couple of starts but he was a real dude with a 28 dressage, a single rolled pole and a clear cross country which is really encouraging. Running these babies back to back in three or 4 events is really helping them get the hang of this eventing lark. C’est le Belle has some runs from last year under her belt but I don’t think she is much of an early bird, more of your ” lets have one more dance at the nightclub” sort of girl and having wowed the dressage judges on the flat for a 23 decided that was plenty enough effort for one day and we will save her blushes and put Bicton down to an off day after that!
Tim was having fun with Efeba ( Kanga) on the flat and said she felt really relaxed and soft which was demonstrated by her 23 score. Down at the showjumping arena there was a fair bit going on and that is where her limited experience shows as she tends to get a bit overwhelmed and then loses concentration. Cross country she is finding much to her liking, just her and Tim out in the open and she really started to travel at Bicton and enjoyed her round.
Chio and Viktor are about the flashiest 100 horses that Tim has had in a while and they turn heads in every phase. Chio won his section with a 22 test and he added nothing to that to win the class and be the star of the day. Viktor was also planning on being the star of the day with his 25 dressage in his section and a double clear but he had to settle for 3rd as Tim somewhat inexplicably added 4 time to his score and denied him his chance. Tim was actually quite miffed about this and was still banging on about it on Sunday so it just goes to show, a win really is a win that matters!
Midnight Galaxy ( Herbie) is also growing up fast and his 27 dressage with an unfortunate rail meant he had to settle for 6th spot but another tick in the box for this smart young horse. He doesn’t carry as much drama around with him as Chio and Viktor but quietly and steadily gets on with the job in hand and is heading for novice next time out for his first step up of 2020.
Sunday saw the yard superstars out in force…no less than four five star winners on the truck, another with two third places at 5 star and one rather over awed intermediate in the shape of Killbunny Andy! No doubt inspired but the tales of ‘derring do’ on the ride down to Devon Andy came out on fire and posted a 29 dressage and a really smooth double clear for a top 10 placing in his section. He and Jonelle have really had a baptism of fire in the last few weeks and the partnership is rocking along with true progress as they work each other out and are finding more and more common ground.
Tim had the dream team out with Ringwood Sky Boy, ( Ozzie), Bango ( Uno) Wesko ( Dash) and Xavier Faer ( Hugo). He said he has been “thrown around like a rag doll” for the last few weeks with all his babies and it was like ” settling into your favourite armchair” to ride this crew for the day. Not one of them even breathed on a rail in the showjumping as they oozed class around the track on the all weather. Ozzie is the grand old King of the original Mere Farm “Tim will ride anything” school of thought but he has mellowed over the years and he chucked out a casual 26 and a double clear with a cruisey 10 time. Hugo did have his eyes out on stalks but he bravely remembered his cross country training and even jumped into the waters really well which is impressive cos he sometimes reverts to the ‘slither and see’ technique at water. Dash was basically in 7th heaven all day and he was as patient and polite as always and throughly enjoyed himself with a 28 and a sneak into the top 10 in his section. Uno was Tim’s best of the day with a 27 and a slightly quicker cross country round for 7th as yet another new combination of bit was being tested to see if Uno had precision control brakes or total failure. Bicton is a good place to test such things as the course rolls up and down the valley and offers plenty of opportunities for fine tuning. A Waterford gag with fulmer sides and two reins seemed to work perfectly and they both returned looking relaxed and happy which is always a good sign.
Jonelle kicked off her more experienced horse day with Royal Roxey who scored a 33 on the flat and jumped her socks off in the showjumping. Warm up that is. She then got a little flustered half way round the track to tip a couple of rails before having a blast cross country which she thought was great fun. Following up on that was Badminton winner Classic Moet ( Molly) who has quite a following these days and, having not been out since winning Gatcombe Open last year, could have been forgiven for being on her toes. But in an unusual but nice change to normal she was super relaxed throughout the day (just as we expected her to be off her head!) and her 30 and double clear were good enough for runner up spot in her OI. As Jonelle commented, she simply kept a rhythm cross country but she is so deceptively quick she finished just 1 second over without even trying.
Faerie Dianimo (Maggie May) has spent a bit of time training lately with Charlotte Dujardin along with some of the other T and J horses and she was more than ready to show her new moves to the judge in her arena. Sadly for her the 115 test doesn’t really cover any of the Inter I movements but she threw them in for good measure and impressed enough to still come out on 70%. Another clear over the poles before she rocked up at the cross country start box almost purring with delight and the sheer pleasure on her face as she galloped up the hill towards us was palpable and she picked up 3rd without even trying really. Which is pretty funny as the Princess saves her top three placings for internationals and never for arenas that consist of grass in a field bare of spectators and the last time she scored a top 3 at a one day was in 2012!