I’ve had a super busy summer!
The main event was the RDA National Championships at Hartpury back in July, where I competed in showjumping, dressage and vaulting.
The showjumping (70cm) is judged on style, with deductions for faults and the standard threat of elimination! I scored the third highest score but was slightly lower on collectives so was bumped down to fourth. I wasn’t disappointed, though - we have barely any time to practise jumping at my RDA group so being placed at all is a bonus. Boysie, who I was riding, was feeling very sprightly for his first competition of the weekend and I was really struggling with my legs and my hand on the reins so merely surviving felt good!
The next day I had two vaulting competitions: individual and team. The individual came first, with canter compulsories and a walk freestyle on Bear, owned by Perry RDA Group and lunged by Sam Davison. I’d vaulted on Bear once before but never in canter so it was a little bit nerve-wracking. He bucked a fair bit in our brief warm-up but was a bit better behaved in front of the judge, with only a half-hearted attempt at ditching me! He was good as gold, though, for the walk part and I was really proud to land my new dismount cleanly, which has been a big new challenge for me this year.
After my individual event I was on duty for three of the vaulters I coach, who finished 1st, 2nd and 7th in their classes - one very proud coach!
Next, Eden, Emily, Kate and I were joined by Kodie and RDA volunteer Helen for the team competition on the barrel: Helen in the guise of Gru, Kodie as Edith, and the rest of us as minions! We had lots of fun and pulled off a pretty good routine, despite only having met as a full team for the first time less than a week before. We came a close 2nd to a very strong team and also won the prize for best costumes - thanks primarily to Kodie’s mum, another Kate, who is a real whizz with a sewing machine!
After all that activity I was ready for a nap but instead had to ride my dressage test. I was back on Boysie, who did some lovely canter work for me. Unfortunately my tired legs twitched too much in the free walk and he jogged, but we finished on the fourth highest score only to be bumped down again to sixth on collectives. I need to work on those! Again, I was happy - anything I get in dressage or jumping just feels like a bonus and, besides, I hadn’t got a purple Hartpury rosette before!
After Hartpury I had a couple of weeks’ rest - interspersed with plenty of coaching and an appearance with the RDA vaulting team at The Game Fair - followed by a trip to south Wales at the beginning of August for a BEV (British Equestrian Vaulting) competition. I was competing in the Para Pre-Novice Canter/Walk class on a horse called Celt, lunged by Andrew Williamson of Eryri Vaulting Group. I’d never met him before the day but he felt very comfy and chilled and I was as relaxed as I could be! The compulsories were a bit disappointing because he trotted at the end of the bench and, although I held it for four strides after he regained the canter, I should have sat in between so one of the judges gave me a zero for that move. Oh well - you live and learn!
The freestyle was better, though, and I enjoyed performing it. All round it was by far the most enjoyable BEV event I’ve ever competed at so I definitely hope to return for another competition at Talygarn. The Eryri team were all lovely and made me feel so welcome - massive thanks to them. As a bonus I also won the class, gaining some important points towards qualifying for the British Championships.
I then had a few weeks in France which included some great riding out in the Alps and some lessons too. I even managed to film a test for Dressage Anywhere’s RDA competitions (qualifiers run through until the spring, when the Championship is run). It’s a bit tough entering on a horse you don’t know well, especially as I’d picked the hardest test to try, but I like a challenge! We scored just over 60%, which is the qualifying standard, so I was pleased.
My next event was the English Championships, held at Onley Grounds EC just outside Rugby. I hadn’t been there since my first British Championships in 2016 so it was nice to go back feeling a bit more confident of what I was doing! This time I was vaulting on Bear again with Sam lungeing. Again, compulsories weren’t great: the basic seat was OK, but he trotted in the bench too - at least this time I knew to sit before trying again! - and although my first leg swing felt secure I lost balance majorly in the second one and had to whip my leg down as a result.
The freestyle was also a bit of a struggle because I couldn’t find the stirrup for one of my first moves. Annoyingly, I got a bit flustered and didn’t handle it as well as I should have. The video looks better than my memory of it but it’s highlighted an aspect of training I need to revisit - handling problems when you’ve got to keep going with your music! The one thing I was pleased with was my dismount, which was one of the strongest I’ve ever done. I did land in a massive patch of horse wee, so it’s a good job I didn’t fall!
Although I wasn’t very pleased with how I performed at the English I am still the English Champion, which is goal #1, and we got some pretty sweet rosettes this year!
I also had four of the able-bodied young vaulters I coach competing, also on a borrowed horse (Maud, lunged by Sarah Harding). The two older girls were one pair and the two younger ones were another pair. They all pulled out their best routines yet and really made me very proud! Olivia and Amelia came fifth with their routine to Imagine Dragon’s ‘Believer’ and Lydia and Izzy came sixth with their routine to ‘Kung Fu Fighting’. Since the top two pairs in the competition were from Wales this actually means that they are the third and fourth best pairs in England!
My next big event is the British Championships in October. I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to pull off some decent routines for a change! I also need to find a horse to use first, so that’s an extra challenge.
Beyond that, I have new challenges in riding and gymnastics, but those can wait for another time…!