Heading to Germany
June 23, 2013
I can’t believe it is already summer. Where has the time gone? A long and snowy winter led to a similarly snowy spring. We were snowed upon at three of my four spring horse trials. But after last year’s numerous event cancellations, British Eventing membership as a whole was determined to ride on, no matter what the conditions! So ride we did. I felt particularly sorry for Astier Nicholas when he arrived from the south of France to base with us for the two months leading up to Badminton. Amid gale force winds, ice, snow, and hail, I saw a familiar look of “what am I doing here?” as he got out of his lorry. So when Badminton week came around with the first solid week of warm and sunny weather in the last two years, we could hardly believe our luck!
As it turned out, Badminton was lucky for me in more ways than just the weather. In undoubtedly the most competitive field Badminton has ever seen, amongst an astounding number of Olympic, European, and World medalists, Finn and I managed an exceptionally solid and competitive performance. After two days of foot perfect competition, and what should have been a fantastic 6th place finish, our ultimate result was marred by an out-of-character two rails in show jumping. While a 17th place finish is still something to celebrate, I can’t help but feel how much slipped away from us on the final day. I am so proud of how Finn went all weekend, with a solid dressage, and what was called the “round of the day” cross country. I am thrilled with how fit and sound he came through it all. Even his show jumping could hardly be called his fault. More than anything, it was an unfortunate time to learn a lot about how to warm up and how to prepare him to go into the ring. Sadly, our rails were “had” before we ever entered the ring. But if there’s anything I know about horses, it’s that you have to savor the good times when they happen. As the New Zealand team coach said to me after cross country, “enjoy it, rides like that don’t happen very often.” It seems his words were a bit too fortuitous.
When we came home, with Finn fit and well and our first Badminton under our belt, all sights moved to the future. I received the message from the USEF that we had been selected for the Nations Cup team at Aachen, Germany, and my other Advanced horse, Ken, was entered for the prestigious CCI 3* at Bramham. My other exciting prospect, Doris, was proving as good as we could hope, flying around her first three Intermediates easily, and aiming for 2*. It seemed all my goals for the year were aligned so far. But with a sharp bursting of my happiness bubble, Ken went very lame. After all the standard diagnostics turned up nothing, we took him in for an MRI which showed he has a race horse bone injury rarely or never seen in Eventers and that was developing, unbeknownst to us, long before we bought him last year. Ken’s only treatment options were to do surgery and to give him a long period of complete rest with a less than optimistic prognosis for the future. He made it through surgery and recovery well, and is behaving better than expected on box rest. I know it’s easy to say, but he had as good a chance as any to win Bramham, and be headed to the World Equestrian Games next year. Instead, the crushing disappointment of seeing him “standing in” is a bitter pill to swallow. The only thing to do is give him every chance at a full recovery and then wait and see.
So with the departure for Aachen Germany fast approaching, Finn seems fighting fit and ready to go. We had a couple easy weeks after Badminton, and now he is happy to be back in full work. He had an easy run in the open intermediate last weekend at Nunney International Horse Trials where we lead the dressage by a mile, show jumped beautifully, and then we went intentionally slow but easily around the cross country. I have him fully “wrapped up in cotton wool” at this point and can’t wait to get to Germany. With a team of Clark Montgomery, Will Faudre, Marilyn Little, and myself, we will be looking to have a very competitive team performance. It is an honor to be selected for the USA’s first ever team to Aachen and it should be an amazing experience.