Not as much competing to report this month, but everything seemed to happen within a week! The first university competition was held on the 18th November, there are four teams in the league and each take turns to host a competition at their home yard. Loughborough was the first to host at Brooksby College. With the university competitions, four riders compete on each horse (one from each team) the order is drawn from a hat, the best rider on each horse receives a zero score with the next rider receiving the difference between their mark and the best mark as their score (think that makes sense). I won the dressage on my horse and was second in the jumping giving me a final place of 6th and the team finished 3rd, so a good start to the year.
The next day however, I travelled to the Netherlands to compete in my first SRNC (Student Riders Nations Cup) for the Dutch team. Being based in the UK I had never met any of the Dutch team, so it was quite an adventure, flying to Amsterdam and then getting the train to Ommen, to be picked up and then get some of the horses for the competition, before driving to the venue. Once I arrived I discovered that home for the next 3 days was a caravan, there were 6 people and a dog sharing so it was a little tight on space, but it meant we all got to know each other better!
On the Friday the competition started with dressage, teams had arrived from all over Europe as well as a team from the US. There was a similar format to the student competitions I was used to, that you ride on borrowed horses that are picked out of a hat, but with a twist that as it is a team competition you have to ride a team test, where all three riders ride together. Each horse is identified by a number and each rider has a boot number that identifies them throughout the competition.
Marks are awarded individually as well as the overall impression of the team. As the host country the Netherlands had to draw last and we ended up as the last team of the morning, giving us plenty of time to watch and practice the test on foot. Before you ride, the horses are ridden by non-competitors and you are given some information about them to help as you are only allowed 5 minutes of warm up to get used to them before you have to ride the test. Our test went well and flowed with no one getting left behind, despite my horse deciding that 3 tests was too much and napping!
The top 15 riders from the morning go through to the second round which involves a harder individual test. The results were announced at lunch and I was amazed to hear that I was through together with Marjolein one of my teammates. So it was off for a quick run through of the test on foot before I got on, we must have got some strange looks riding shoulder in and rein back on imaginary horses in all our competition clothes. For the second round I drew a lovely grey, who knew all the moves, but was hard to hold together, the test was accurate but lacked some flow and I finished 8th in the dressage, just missing out on one of the six spots in the semi finals.
The next day, Saturday, was the first round of show jumping, again horses are drawn from a hat and you are allowed 2 minutes warm up with two practice jumps at the height of the course. For the first round the course was 80cm I drew a sweet, little coloured horse who belonged to Anne, (one of the Dutch supporters staying in the caravan). I was the first rider and went into the ring hoping to do as well as the day before, we jumped fences 1, 2 and 3, then came to fence 4 and stopped! I circled and came around again, another stop! I couldn’t believe it, I was not going to be eliminated on my first team appearance, but we stopped again and that was it! However, there were still two riders left to jump this horse, the Swedish rider made it to fence 5 before she was eliminated too and the American rider was also eliminated at fence 5! This meant we had to have a re-ride on another horse. The second time around I went clear and at lunch it was announced that the whole team had made it to the second round! In the second round the jumps are raised to 1m and you are allowed an extra 2 minutes warm up but still only 2 practice fences. My round was ok, but I made the mistake of pushing for a stride and had the first part of the double down, another rider went clear and I finished 15th in the show jumping. On the Sunday, the semi-finals and finals were held, with show jumping in the morning and dressage in the afternoon, Joanne, my team mate got through to the final of the show jumping and finished 2nd!
Once all the finals had finished the results were announced, the Dutch team finished 3rd in the dressage and show jumping, giving an overall placing of 2nd out of 15 teams, just behind Germany! I also found out I finished 8th overall! It was an amazing experience and I met lots of lovely people from many different countries, if they’ll have me I would love to compete in another competition, but we will have to wait and see.
2 more weeks until the end of term and I can’t wait to get home and see the horses, I’m beginning to feel quite Christmassy.