Winter Championships update
My apprehension about riding in front of Ellen again was thankfully unfounded, and the lessons I had with her proved to be an excellent preparation for the National Winter Finals at Cavan Equestrian Centre. After spending the weekend at the Ellen clinic in Spruce Lodge, the lorry was repacked and ready to go by the following Wednesday, destination Cavan, but with a stop to make at a Silver Spurs assessment day first.
The Silver Spurs is the only initiative to offer funding to young dressage riders in Ireland. It aims to reward good riding and competitors are invited to group lessons with the assessor, who marks each rider on trainability, position and effectiveness. The top 25% of competitors are invited to return to a semi-final in August, where they will be judged using the BYRDS rider tests. Anyway, this year's assessor is Islay Autay, and Baby and I enjoyed a constructive session with her. It was great to have to share an arena with other horses before travelling on to the Winter Finals, as he gets quite comfortable working alone at home and the excitement of working with others can get in the way of our warm-up. He settled quickly at the assessment though, and the good work he produced was enough for me to be awarded the highest rider marks of the day. It's always nice to be rewarded purely for riding well, with the focus taken away from the horse, and I hope our score will be enough for us to qualify for August's semi-final.
The National Winter Finals turned out to be a great weekend for Smart Approach (Smartie), Cadens (Baby) and I. Baby was a little spooky in his first test, he was not impressed by judges sitting at tables at the top of the arena, but his test was still good enough for second place in Saturday's prelim. Smartie also produced a nice test, finishing fourth in a very competitive novice class. It was in the U25 championship that both horses really showed what they're capable of though, with Smartie finishing fourth and Baby winning the class with the highest score of the championships, 76%! Sunday didn't quite live up to the previous day's success, but Baby finished a creditable second in the prelim championship, and is now qualified for the Hickstead Masters at that level. A good weekend!