The Best Summer Holidays Ever! - blog by Holly Kerslake

What an amazing first year I have had with my special boy, Zorro, culminating in being selected as First reserve to the European Team.

 

After lots of emails and forms to complete we had the mammoth task of packing our lorry for the Pre European Camp, because the team ponies leave from the camp on the Parkers lorry with the grooms and GB vet, we had to pack as if we were going to Hungary in case of the unfortunate situation where one of the ponies had to be substituted.

The camp took place on the edge of Windsor by kind permission of Sarah Pidgley for my 4 team mates and myself and what a fantastic couple of days we had. All of the 4 team ponies trotted up sound in front of the team vet so at the end of the second day we said an emotional goodbye as the girls were packing the Parkers lorry and we headed back to Devon.

When we got home all feeling quite deflated we decided to unpack the lorry, little did we know that we would get a phone call early the next morning .

Very sadly one of the ponies was taken ill and thankfully due to the exceptional care and attention from the GB grooms and vet, poor peanut was quickly taken to a vet to be treated and as a result wouldn’t be fit to travel to Hungary. The other 3 ponies although slightly later than planned set off on their 3 day trip to Hungary.

The next couple of hours were like a whirl wind, packing anything and everything that was needed for the next 2 weeks in a bid to try and catch up with the GB ponies. A day that I will never forget, so many emotions felt in one day, so desperately sad for poor Charlotte and her pony, huge excitement at the thought of the trip ahead and also a huge amount of nerves as I was a lot younger than my other team mates and the only one who had no experience of riding on a team and particularly on an eight year old pony that had only done 2 International shows, I knew it was going to be a big ask but I have never felt more determined to give it my best shot.

Due to our location and the welfare of Zorro it was decided that when we reached Parkers we would stay the night and then follow the event ponies to Hungary who were leaving early the next morning.

8 Countries later, just under 1500 miles over 3 days, 2 over night stops and help sorting taxes and tolls for each country from a brilliant Fred who was driving the Parkers lorry we finally arrived in Hungary on the Sunday afternoon to a very warm 36 degrees!

Unfortunately when we arrived poor Zorro was not feeling happy and worryingly was quite unsettled for a few hours, a brief handover to the amazing GB groom Liz who was looking at my mum with complete disbelief as she was saying how calm and easy Zorro is to deal with as he was fly bucking in his stable continuously. Rob our team vet was incredible and became great friends with Zorro as he sat in the stable with him for the next couple of hours trying to keep him calm in between taking him to the wash area every half and hour to give him a cold wash as he was getting very warm.

Although we were a day later arriving than the other dressage ponies with a lot more travelling and the original plan was to let him rest before being measured early the next morning followed by the vet check later that day we decided it might be best to ride him and let him have a leg stretch. Thank goodness we did, it was like a flick of a switch and thankfully we had our calm happy Zorro back :)

 

The next day all 4 ponies passed the measuring and vet check and that evening I was very proud to accept my pocket badge from our chief selector Andrew Harris.

Early to bed as we had an early start the following morning with Megan and I competing on the first day of the team competition and Anya and Sophie on the second day.  The team got off to a great start with Megan producing a super test and then it was my turn. Zorro was beautifully turned out (as always using my Eqclusive brushes). Carl, who bred Zorro and came all the way from Denmark to support me led me down to the warm up where I met our team trainer Dan Sherrif who helped me get Zorro feeling active but soft and also helped me stay very calm. As I entered the arena, Zorro was feeling fab and I just knew that I had to do my very best for the team, Zorro was a very good boy and produced a mistake free test and although feeling slightly tired towards the end, his trot work was amazing! 69% I couldn’t be happier, knowing that the best is still yet to come from such a young pony that lacks mileage and will only get stronger. Another text message from my trainer Charlotte Dujardin congratulating me on my test, so I knew it must be OK :) At the end of the first day Team GB were in bronze position and it felt amazing!

The next day was nail biting and as our fourth rider Sophie entered the arena we knew that she had to get around 72% for us to hold on to the bronze and stay ahead of the Dutch, as we watched on nervously with the live scoring we all held our breath until the final centre line! Sophie was amazing! We had done it, GB were coming home with a bronze medal.

The weather unfortunately broke and we had the most horrendous storm so the competition for the final 6 riders and the medal ceremony was put on hold for 24hrs.

The medal ceremony and lap of honor was the stuff that dreams are made of, never ever have I felt so proud as I did when I was presented with my medal and I would just like to thank everyone that has played a part in making my dreams come true! Never give up on your dreams.. anything is possible! :)

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