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Steve's first time at Bramham

The 2019 eventing season for Team Garrod has been another blockbuster and emotional rollercoaster! As with many horsey folk, the days have been long and often challenging but the highs have been wonderful.  

We took the decision early in March to make a move to our own yard. Now the timing wasn’t ideal at all, but a fantastic opportunity presented itself, so we jumped at the chance. It took a herculean effort to get everything moved – seven competition and two yearlings, tack, feed, show jumps, cross country jumps the list goes on, and on and on – get set up again at our new base, all whilst keeping all the horses in full work, attend events, oh yes… there’s my farrier business and clients to keep happy too! It took being busy to a whole new level! Thankfully, our new base had plenty of grass, so we managed to turn out overnight which helped massively.  

I’ve been incredibly lucky to compete some lovely horses this summer, at some fabulous venues. My top horse Ash (Ufonzo) gained his 4*L qualification in the early part of the season which meant a bucket list dream of competing at Bramham became a reality. It really was incredible to be there amongst the top riders and horses. I kept having to pinch myself!

On the run up to the event I’d been getting some flat training with Antonia Brown, and she very kindly came to help warm us up. Ash had been being rather tricky and spooky at previous events, so it really helped me to focus his attention. We completed a fair test, there was some tension and lots still to work on but Ash managed to contain himself and there’s so much more to come too, which is so exciting.  

I’m not going to lie, the cross country was massive – it was Bramham! It was full on from the moment you left the start box – but I walked the course over and over, feeling more confident each time. We attended the riders briefing the evening before cross country day, this is where the organising team and British Eventing representatives go through the plan for the day, any issues etc. There were a few mumblings from some of the riders about the coffin fence being rather tricky this year and they didn’t particularly like it. To be honest, when I walked, I thought it would need respecting and my plan was to bring Ash back to a collected canter, but as he can be spooky to ensure I had plenty of revs in the engine… Hold that thought! I was excited… finally we’ve got our chance to take on one of the biggest tracks on the circuit. It’s always a funny old time the morning of cross country day at a big event. There’s a kind of excited, nervous hush that envelopes the stable area.

After a leg stretch for Ash in the morning, it was time to get him ready… our time had come….. Ash warmed up keen… ready… five, four, three, two, one… good luck! The first half of the course was intense with a number of combination questions and jumping efforts. Ash was reading and answering every question with ease, making it feel like a Novice, we were approaching The Coffin… THE COFFIN…. Suddenly I found myself taking too many pulls and riding much more cautiously than I would ordinarily. Ash being spooky, he suddenly put down on me on take-off… we fell… it looks rather dramatic on the picture, but thankfully we were both fine, but I was absolutely gutted, and we didn’t deserve that. It was a very hard lesson learned, and one I will chant to myself for a very long time – always stick to your own plan as you know your horse better than anyone! Don’t get me wrong, every day is a learning day, but in situations like the above, you’ve got to trust the partnership you’ve built before any of those head spiders which can, and do infiltrate!
So, we’re here in Autumn already, and on reflection it does seem to have been a season of should’ve, could’ve and would have loved to have’s. Aa highlight has been our own fabulous six-year-old Mindy (It’s Morka) who’s often found herself on the back burner yet again this season as owners horses have taken precedent. Despite this, she’s continued to improve and grow into the star we’ve always known she was going to be, winning a Novice being a pinnacle this season in very limited outings. We were absolutely gutted that she missed out on showcasing herself at the National six-year-old Champs due to financial constraints.

A very quick mention about one of the most talented and intriguing horses we’ve ever had the pleasure to grace us, Jolene, our now five-year-old has had a summer of being picked up, and then turned away again to grow and mature. With the help of simply wonderful Fibre-Beet and old fashioned time, she’s done exactly that, grown and more importantly matured in mind. She’s come back this time looking totally amazing. A winter of learning the ropes show jumping and dressage is on the cards for her, she’s finally ready to strut her stuff!

With the winter snapping at our heals, the nights far too long and the god-awful mud everywhere, it’s certainly hard to keep motivated. We tend to have a quieter time up until Christmas with the horses and use this time to plan the New Year campaign. We also have a good tidy of the wagon, empty the lockers and pack away all the seasonal eventing kit. Before we know it the 2020 season will be upon us…. Can you believe the first unaffiliated event we usually enter is only 15 weeks away!

Hope you all have a fabulous Christmas!

Kick on, and stay safe!