Phew! What a whirlwind of a weekend! I had a wonderful time at Tattersalls, just north of Dublin, this past weekend, but must say I'm also pretty glad to be happily back in my bed at Oxford - the bad weather and considerable stress of getting all my gear over international borders (especially given Ryanair's incredibly draconian luggage policies - grr!!! NEVER. AGAIN. So worth paying a little more for an airline that lets you carry a bag bigger than a purse and treats you like a human being) definitely made for some sleepless nights and a very exhausted me when all was said and done.
(Probably the coolest jump on the CCI*** - the trakehner on the mound)
Those few more stressful factors aside, it was AWESOME. I enjoyed Ireland right off the bat, from the green fields (though this was hardly new) to the friendly folks I met (including a man who was working behind the counter at an indian restaurant and offered to drive me to the show grounds when I said I was heading there!) to, of course, the horses. Tattersalls is an absolutely gorgeous facility, and my heart ached to be out galloping around those courses myself.
(Kiki look alike???)
It was definitely a little bittersweet to look at the CCI* course, and realize that in November it will have been THREE YEARS since my last successfully completed FEI event (not counting Rebecca Farm in '09, where I had to withdraw in the 10 minute box) - where has the time gone??? To say that watching the competition made me a little (or a lot) crazy to get back to that level of competition myself was an understatement. It was even worse than at Badminton, because I've never competed at four star before, and so competing there is as much of a dream as it ever was. I was so lucky to get to do six one stars with Dually, as well as a few Intermediate HTs. To have reached that level, and now realize how much it's slipped out of my grasp, is maddening. I'm so deeply in love with the horses I have now and wouldn't want to rush them or ask them to do something they can't do, but at the same time I'd love to be back at the FEI levels again!
(I WILL get to do this again!!)
The cross country ran for almost 10 hours on Saturday, making it the longest day of nonstop FEI competition I've ever witnessed. The CCI* alone ran from just past 9 (if you don't count the ponies, who also ran over the same course though their class was technically called a CCNP**) until past 1:30 in the afternoon. The course looked like a blast, with some big fly fences, airtime-inducing drops, and interesting technical questions. There were a few bogey fences (the sunken road being one, the first water another) but in general rode very well.
(Big air time coming out of the first water!!)
I was super impressed with the ponies, who (along with their pint-sized jockeys!) made the horse-sized course look easy. One of the things I've been trying to quantify since coming to Britain/Ireland is what makes their system so much better at producing good young riders than our own is, and I think the pony divisions are part of the answer. These kids are jumping full-sized CCI* tracks while under the age of 16, all on ponies that certainly make the jumps look bigger. By the time they move up to horses, the CCI* already looks easy and they're well-prepared for CCI**. I wonder why the pony divisions haven't taken off in America; I certainly would have ridden in them!
(Pony mega cuteness)
The CCI*** was up next, and it was pretty awesome. I was really interested to see how two fences, 13abc/14 and 7, would ride. 13 and 14 was the Mound Complex, and involved a big bounce bank up, three strides to a huge trakehner, then another three strides sharply downhill to a huge brush corner at 14. I walked in on Friday night, and was pretty sure it was impossible. It definitely didn't ride smoothly for anyone I watched, but was doable. There was definitely some impressive defensive riding on display!
(Lucy Wiegersma at the drop into water - she would later fall victim to the Mound)
(nice and neat over the big big trakehner!)
(Francis Whittington flies!!)
(William Fox-Pitt looking good...)
(...and goes straight out, but has to ride a bit defensively!)
(the man is a god)
Fence 7 was a huge open corner over what must have been a 5-foot deep ditch filled with water. There was no way to even walk around it when I was walking the course; I had to walk all the way down to the end of the field and then cut back up again. It was so old fashioned it looked like it could have come out of a video of an olympic games from the 80s, and I was really eager to see how the modern horse and rider would take it on. In general they flew it without hesitation, though it did cause one of the notable crashes of the day when Andrew Nicholson's horse tried to leave a stride out and ended up reducing the whole fence to kindling. Fortunately they were both fine, but it caused quite a hold as the jump had to be entirely rebuilt.
(The big corner at 7)
The CCI** followed the CCI***, and I had to admit that even my insatiable appetite for cross country action was getting overloaded. It was windy and freezing, I could barely feel my hands anymore, I was getting a pounding headache, and I had probably walked in excess of 6 miles over the day as I'd traversed each course in turn. I watched about 3/4 of the CCI**, but had to call it at about 6:20. It ran until almost 7pm, meaning well over 10 hours of continuous cross country action! And I thought the days at Groton House were long =D
(Cute as a button into the coffin)
(Down the bounce bank)
(Up onto the mound!)
(So. Much. Pink.)
(focus coming through the second water, which was a double of offset houses)
(an uncharacteristically awkward moment for William!)
I got absolutely no sleep that night because it was so windy that my tent almost collapsed onto me several times, and made such a loud noise that even with headphones in and music on (which I can't sleep to anyways) it was still overpowering. So, I was definitely a little foggy on Sunday morning for the show jumping. I only got to stay for the morning divisions, but got to ogle the ponies one more time (they could really jump!!) and watch William win two of the three horse classes (he would win the third that afternoon!). It's hard to describe how amazing he is, and how easy he made such an impressive feat look. He's in a league of his own.
(GIVE ME THE PONY)
(Spider monkey child)
(tsk tsk, such a lazy pony ;D)
(If I had children, I'd want one just like this)
(William Fox-Pitt = Legend)
Hard to believe, but in just a few short days it's off to Bramham!!