I'm just sitting in the cab of the lorry trying to warm up after a trip with a lorry load of horses to the vets. The event season is able almost finished and so a lot of the horses come for an end of season MOT to make sure they are entering the winter and next season in full health.
It's been a whirlwind of a year. I didn't think my 5th place at Badminton with Allstar B would be topped, but the big man delivered again, firstly by being selected for the European Championships but then by being an absolutely star to coke 5th again and help Great Britain to a team gold medal!
After being selected we only had a couple of weeks at home and then 3 days at Addington for a team training camp before Alby (along with his groom Sarah) left for Poland in Nicola Wilsons lorry. I tried to look composed during the training days but inside he nerves had started. I was surrounded by some of the worlds best riders and it was easy to feel a bit overawed that I was to be working alongside them! The only rookie moment came when I set off for home in our lorry as we were flyover out, only to realise after 3 hours of driving that I had bought Albys passport back with me. Another 6 hours driving deliver the passport back to Addington and myself back home minus my sense of humour!!
Alby travelled really well and I met up with him on the Tuesday after our flight for a quick loosen up. Alby is such a professional that despite a long journey and minimal exercise, he wasn't too fresh and was ready to crack on with the trot up and some more serious work the next day. I was relieved to survive the tort up without any "moments".
Since competing at 4 star, Alby has become increasingly excited in these situations, and it's the one time when I feel his true height and power in comparison to my small frame! I was 2nd to go for team GB which meant my dressage was on Thursday afternoons. I ummed and ahhed about what to do with him on Thursdays morning as he isn't a horse who gets fresh, or goes very well after a lot of stretching. In the end I decided that he didn't need a ride in the morning so I spent my time watching some others go and watching my training of Alby so I knew exactly what I needed to do in the warm up. Alby was a legend and scored a PB in his test. I couldn't have been more proud of him as it isn't a phase that he would find so easy and it left us in a competitive position.
Friday was spent supporting our other team member who also pulled off PB's which meant we went in to the xc in bronze position. I had walked the xc lots of times during the week and it was definitely tough! I had never seen angles and combinations like it and I knew it was a course that might make Alby strong as the distance were built to be a long striding as those at Badminton.
Xc morning is always the most nerve wracking time, and so it was a relief to climb on board Alby and get going. He was certainly strong but also so genuine and we came home clear with 1 time faults to add to our score. Throughout the day lots of top combinations had problems, but the GB riders rode brilliantly which moved us up to team gold by the end of the day.
I think the SJ turned out to be the most intense and nerve wracking part to he week. We had 2 fences in hand to retain the gold medal, but unfortunately Oliver Townend's horse wasn't quite right and so withdrawn, meaning we had no score to fall back on. I thrill I was most nervous about doing something silly like doing the wrong way which would eliminated the team.
Alby was quite full of himself because he could hear the crowds whilst he was warming up and when he got in to the arena he took a strong hold. However, he is an exceptional performer in this phase and jumped a great clear round. Tina and Nicola also held their nerve to jump clear meaning we had done it, the gold medal was ours!
The prize giving and medal ceremony was very surreal, to be one the podium with so many of my evening heros. We were then whisked straight in to the press conference and then on to be drugs tested. By this stage it was 6:15pm and our flight left at 7:05 with the airport being 45 minutes away. Chris my boyfriend did a great job of whizzing me to the airport and I made it by a whisker! It was a long journey home that night and I walked through the door at 1am before riding the horses at home started the next morning.
It all happened so quickly but I have some wonderful memories, photos and videos, and that all important gold medal! Allstar B has become a bit of a hero and has been enjoying the attention including being the cover star of Horse and Hound last week! He is now in the field haven't a well earned holiday.
We have been crazily busy since arriving home from the Europeans with events every weekend and mid week too. The horses, though have all done me proud and we have loved having the support from the team at Eqclusive this year! It was so great to have Marta out in Poland at the Europeans too.
CREDIT FOR ALL PHOTOS TO HANNAH COLE PHOTOGRAPHY!