It is all systems Go Go Go now!
Portugal - what can I say. I had the loveliest time staying with Maria Quinta and her family. Their welcoming hospitality just bowled me over and during my short stay with them they made me feel like a long lost friend! But I had gone there for the competition and what a competition it was!! Canada had flown their team - and horses over. A rider from Mexico had flown in with her two horses - and her ensemble of grooms, trainers etc. Together with teams from Norway, Spain and of course Portugal everyone was chasing rankings points - me included! I had 3 days to get to know Palermo before we drove the 300 km or so south to the showground. Palermo is a sweet horse who was kindly lent to me by his owner Margarida Milicic who had qualified earlier in the year for the Junior European Championships with him. Maria's and Margarida's trainer Nuno Manta had been the contact who organised Palermo etc for me and his help didn't stop there. He was on hand to help me with my training too which was greatly appreciated when my nerves sometimes got in the way. It was a valuable experience for me to have his expertise up to and during the competition. It was almost like going off for a week's concentrated training with a top trainer - and then we just happened to have an international competition at the end of it!! It was quite a competition - the para classes combined with an international 3* CDI meant in the evening we could have dinner and watch the Young Horse classes, Grand Prix and Kur which was a real bonus. But my mission was to get the scores needed for more points on the rankings list - and we did it! A mistake here and there - crossed wires between me and Palermo primarily - meant we didn't set the world alight but in view of the stiff competition I was pleased that I achieved what I had set out to so and also came away feeling that the experience had given me a lot of positives to take back home and use in my riding of Pip.
I had a tremendous time which included a brief introduction to Portuguese dancing from one of Maria's friends - I stayed on my feet and lived to tell the tale! I cannot thank Nuno and Maria enough - I am hoping to see them again next month in Spain... more of that later! x