When 2 become 3 – Chilham Castle Report

Chilham Castle International Horse Trials is always a fantastic event, and this weekend was no exception; the ground was perfect, and the setting was as beautiful as ever.
We had 3 horses in 3 different classes: Tigger was up first in the 90, then Roo made his debut in the 80, before Dan showed them how it is supposed to be done and finished the weekend in style in the 100!

So we left bright and early Saturday morning for Tigger’s section, and arrived with plenty of time to walk the course without rushing. He strolled down for the dressage in a very relaxed manner, and warmed up like a mature sensible horse, rather than a spoilt little brat. He was nice and consistent and worked in an even tempo, but unfortunately Helen still has not grasped the concept of accuracy, so it wasn’t the best score.
Next was Show Jumping… now Tigger is more than capable, but is also a sticky little sod. Saturday though, he decided he could do it! And he jumped everything off a decent stride, sadly meaning that he couldn’t make it through the double without sticking in a shuffle and taking a pole with him on the way out – no one told Chilham about Tigger strides! So off to cross country! Now Helen and Tigger have never managed to complete around this course, and they were determined that this time…… it would happen. They stormed out of the cross country start like true competitors, attacked the first jump with a previously unseen intensity, before vanishing to take on the rest of the course. As they rode the best I’ve ever seen, they balanced on the edge of disaster, backing off of the flower beds and nearly grinding to a halt, till Helen finally gave him a damn good slap with the stick, and the game was on! They went clear! They were bang on for every stride on the rest of the course and came in with 4 time penalties to add. Leaving them in a fairly respectable 18th.
So next up was Claire Penfolds Roo and Zoe, in their BE debut. His dressage was amazingly chilled out for such a green horse; and for such a big horse, Zoe did a great job of holding him together and keeping him in the arena. Off to show jumping! Chilham is the perfect arena for a big, green horse like him. Plenty of space to turn and manoeuvre, and he gave Zoe a clear round! Cross country time….. and the heavens opened! Poor Roo and Zoe had to tackle their first BE course in nothing less than monsoon conditions. But that was not going to deter them, they soldiered on and battled the hills and the elements to get home clear. Sadly, the hills took their toll, and Roo came back claiming a few time penalties, but securing a very admirable 10th place!

Sunday morning was to be day 2 at Chilham Castle International Horse Trials, and it was Dan’s time to shine, so I set my alarm for 4.30, ready for a nice early start, and headed to bed. So obviously when my alarm goes off I jump out of bed fresh and ready to go…. or alternatively, oversleep and wake up 25 minutes before we are supposed to leave the yard. Luckily Claire is there and had Dan ready to go, so off we go….. or not… where are the bloody lorry keys????? After 10 minutes of running around and swearing, turns out they were in my pocket. Finally, we were on our way. So we arrive to find the ground somewhat more water logged than the day before, but the car park lads were on fine form and got everyone where they needed to go without any problem. (I say no problem, but we did have a bit of a scary moment when we started slipping sideways down the hill towards a parked lorry!)
So having finally arrived and parked up safely, it’s dressage time, and what a view to warm up too. Dan warmed up beautifully and was the centre of all attention, he sashayed and glided below the castle, his magnificence only matched by the skill shown by his rider 😉 He powered into the arena and strode down the centre line all poetry and grace and successfully pulled a very respectable score out of the bag, finishing only 8 points behind the leader.
Now on to the dreaded show jumping! He warms up all sweetness and light, and then the steward calls us…… it’s time. We enter the arena and prepare to do battle with the beast. The beast gets the upperhand, we go disunited, but Dan pulls himself together, sorts his legs out, and attacks! His rhythm is set, his canter is perfect, and off we go. What a round. He tried his heart out, and we jumped together. But sadly….. still not to be and before we finish, 2 poles fall. But now it is the main event, the reason we do it. It’s cross country time! And Dan is not going to disappoint. He storms out of the start box like a thing possessed, the jumps flow towards us one after another and Dan flows over them effortlessly. He laughs at this course, he destroys it. It is nothing compared to his magnificence. Until the coffin. Mental note…… how ever beautiful and lovely it feels at that pace, slow up and shorten for coffins! My life flashed before my eyes as I felt Dan catch the final part, but that boy is smart, he manages to rebalance and get his feet under him for landing. With a grunt of irritation he regroups and sods off. Storming around the rest of the course to come in just under the time. Another fantastic event at a fantastic venue.
Now we look to Smiths Lawn next Monday, and the challenge of a new venue!


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