We arrived at Bloso Sports Centre at lunchtime as planned. It was a vast place and seemed to be a sports academy for children as well as a riding school and competition venue with great facilities. Rhaps settled in straightaway - so lucky he is a good traveller and is happy to roll and lie down in any stable! We got him out for a leg stretch briefly in one of their indoor schools that afternoon and he was none the worse for his 7 hour journey. Thursday was trot up day and we were given riding times for familiarisation in the competition arena which for us was a very civilised 11 a.m. It was really cold and windy but sunny and I worked mainly on having Rhapsody's attention on me and not what everyone else was doing! Debbie had her hands full in the trot up with a very exuberant Rhaps as he wanted to show the judges his canter as well as his trot - this set the scene for his attitude in the competition - very jolly!
A welcoming party was organised on Thursday taking place a short walk across the racecourse in the town of Waregem located in the most amazing equestrian sports shop... champagne flowed and I could not resist buying a pair of turquoise riding gloves!
Friday and the team test - We had lots of positive comments and our scores were much more consistent than they have been in the past. Unfortunately we did have a break in our extended trot but other than that no big mistakes. We also got much better marks for transitions - showing that Rhapsody's collection is improving. We finished in 6th place, were in the prize giving and got the minimum qualifying score for Rio - first rung on the ladder!
Saturday and the championship test - I decided, because of Rhapsody's enthusiastic test the day before, that I would put him in the double bridle so that I could ask for more energy yet keep him together and focused. I was really pleased overall with the test. Unfortunately I lost my left stirrup and had to briefly stop in the walk to get it back. All but one judge penalised me for that which was costly but we then went on to get straight 7's for his canter half pass, counter canter, simple change, medium canter, transitions and extended canter. After the issues I have had in the past with canter (my issues not his) I was thrilled with the marks and comments. Again a solid score for 6th place and another bag full of prizes from the generous sponsors of this show. Saturday night there was a BBQ for everyone which was fun especially as the forecasted rain held off and it was a bit warmer!
Sunday and the freestyle to music - Oddly this made me more nervous than the previous two tests - I guess because I had only ridden it through twice in practice. It all went to plan and the benefit of keeping to a simple floorplan paid off. Riding to 'Here Comes Sunshine' in the rain was ironic but the judges still seem to like the music generally - although there will be some changes before the next time! We had some very good scores and the technical marks were much closer to the artistic marks which again confirms that we are continuing to make improvements in the quality of our work. Really chuffed for 4th place!!
We had all but packed up the lorry during the day on Sunday - my riding time was not till 4:08 and we planned a swift get away after the end of the closing ceremony and prize giving. Debbie was very organised and got everything back up to the lorry from the stables and we were ready to head home. We left at 6 p.m. and just under 6 hours later Rhaps was tucked up in his own bed while Debbie and I headed to ours... pleased not to be sleeping another night in our camp beds!
It was a really great show - well organised well sponsored and well promoted on Facebook etc - a real step up and a great help to the riders who are all always seeking more sponsorship and funding to make it all possible.
A big thank you has to go to Debbie Winchester who came as groom but was so much more... Simple System Horse Feeds whose feeds continue to keep Rhapsody in great shape and Fly Away/Groom Away whose fab products made Debbie's life a lot easier and Rhapsody looked stunning everyday thanks to all their combined products/efforts!