Well… That’s our 2016 season over. This season has flown by and although my bank account is glad it’s finished, I’m gutted! So Burghley, what can I say. We went with minimal expectations, but after a clear cross country last year, I was keen to repeat it. We arrived at Burghley on the Tuesday. Siren is very tricky to settle in and we have found the first 24 – 48 hours is very difficult for him. He doesn’t drink (literally doesn’t drink anything!) and eats minimal amount of food (mainly grass). This was the case again and it took him until overnight on Wednesday to eat and drink. We found he didn’t like the pink, red or green buckets, but liked the purple ones. So purple buckets filled with fresh water was his choice… what Siren wants Siren gets!
Trot up on Wednesday afternoon was luckily a breeze. He doesn’t find trot ups exciting and just quietly (in behaviour and certainly not sound) plods down, sound as a pound! I was very lucky to walk the cross country course with Caroline Powell and she filled us with confidence and certainly helped settle any nerves (a little!)
Thursday was spent walking the cross county, a dressage lesson and a little bit of shopping to replenish stocks of event grease, flair strips and essential polos. Dressage was well, rubbish!! I was pleased with his trot work and his walk was good. His canter was far too shire like and he fell back into his favourite four beat canter. We fluffed every change which caused a very expensive few ‘ones’ on our sheet. I think judges are starting to feel sorry for us as we actually got some lovely comments! Lots to practice over winter.
Onto cross country. I was nervous, but not the sickly stomach churning nervous like last year. That was until I sat in the riders tent and watched the first few riders. It was causing carnage! But I told myself I knew my plan and planned to stick to it. So off we went and I could immediately tell he was slipping. Due to him being ultra careful with his front legs (causing him to stud his armpits) and his poor confirmation (causing his back legs to rub together) we can only use small studs. He was jumping well and felt good though. We came up to the Cottesmore leap and I saw a good stride (thank god!!) after that I struggled to get him back to me. Heading towards the dairy mound I thought I should take the long route as I didn’t ‘have him’, but then I thought I needed to stick to my plan.
I knew he could do the long route and wanted to have a go. So… It turns out Burghley isn’t the place to do this. As I got 3 strides off the ‘a’ element I felt him spook at the camera and I immediately regretted my decision. Once I had ground to a halt I circled round and did the long route. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and maybe a more professional rider with more experience would have made a better decision. But hey ho… We carried on. There was no point in galloping him like a loony home so I took my foot off the gas and rode him ‘safely’ to get him home. Sirens idea of ‘safely’ unfortunately meant misreading the ditch at the Rolex complex and nearly flicking me out the front door, and stumbling in the water (not his fault!) and trying to send me for an early bath. I was determined I was not falling off on TV! Luckily I had walked the course five times so knew quickly I could get him out of both situations without any extra penalties. I did surprise myself how quickly I thought! So we finished with a disappointing 20 penalties and a heap load of time. But he only bloody well did it!!
The toughest 4* track and my super shire got around. I was, and still am so pleased with him!
He could have easily of refused to go back in the water, given up and packed in, but he kept going and that’s what makes him special. To quote a lovely FEI Steward (and I’m not being sarcastic she was indeed lovely) these horses with a bit of ‘common blood’ in them are made of tough stuff. He unfortunately finished with a fair few cuts, grazes and stud holes in his armpits and chest, but a trip to the vet settled my concern and it was nothing to be worried about. Although slightly warm that night, his legs were all stone cold the next day and he flew through the trot up. We also got the runner up prize for the best cared for horse. An award that I was honoured to receive as the grooms work so so hard. But a cheque for £200 will certainly help!
So… Showjumping!! A refusal at fence once certainly caught me off guard. He doesn’t stop, ever. He will do anything he can to get to the other side. I nearly pulled him out and retired, but then i thought I must have done something wrong, so I would give him another chance. And he jumped brilliantly. A bit sticky to start but once he got going he jumped a lovely round, for one pole down. But we completed, another 4*, on my horse that lots of people doubted, but luckily more people believed in. He really is a star, just a normal horse (with a lot of common in him) competing against the best in the world. To finished 36th out if 72 starters… What a champ!!
So after Burghley last year I decided I wanted to try qualify him for Badminton. We missed out in 2015 by 2 places. This year I secretly wanted to do it, but to qualify we have to finish in the top 50% at Burghley. There was 71 starters, so 35.5th position qualify, and we finished in 36th. Do the FEI round up or down?! Who knows, so I sent a lovely email to find out. I knew if he wasn’t qualified the only way I could do it was to take him to Pau. Financially and practIcally this isn’t really possible so I would have to wait for another year. But then today we got the email I was desperate to receive…. Hi Charlotte Just to confirm you are Badminton qualified Best wishes Gem We only bloody did it!! He has had his shoes off and he has started his holidays. He isn’t keen on staying out overnight so will continue to come in overnight and be out all day. In 6 weeks we will start again. So until then, that’s us. We both need a break, although I’m sure we will both be bored soon. I really must thank everyone who has messaged me over the last few days. I try and reply to everyone but it’s been a bit mad!!
Thank you as well to the special group of family and friends who made the trip to Burghley to support us. Special thanks to my sponsors (TopSpec, National Saddle Centre, Aireworth Vets, Nick Gill Photography, Richard Tate Farriers Ltd), my boyfriend for all the weekends I’m away and early mornings I leave for training (and for understanding Siren is my number one Man!), but especially my Mum and Dad for being dragged to lessons, competitions, vet appointments and being his drivers to and from the swimming pool! Without them this wouldn’t be possible. Sorry it’s been a long one… But that’s me for a few months. I will continue to put annoying ‘I love my horse’ pictures on his Facebook so if you need a ‘Siren fix’ look on there. Much love, Charlotte and (the Badminton qualified) Siren Xxxx
All photos by Charlotte Brear and her team, apart from the XC photo which was taken by Katie Neat Photography and the group photo by Nick Gill Photography.