Posted on 25th April 2020 by Kate Rocher-Smith
We could’t have timed this trip better. Given the awful situation across the globe at the moment, we feel very fortunate that five of our horses got the experience of Spain before life changed so drastically for so many of us.
The initial trip was planned for 3 weeks, but given how much we were loving the experience and how horribly wet the weather was in the UK, we stayed for an extra week to compete in Week 4 of the show. We headed home at the start of Week 5, which was lucky, as by the middle of this week the show was sending everyone home and had cancelled the competition due to Covid-19.
As you can read in my blog from Week 1, former DE team member and long term friend, Alice Harrison, was out helping Lauren and I for the first two weeks. In a last minute plan, we were delighted to welcome Hayley for the third and forth week. We continued to have great support from our wonderful support team, both in person and via our ‘DE On Tour’ Whats App group!
Lesley Rocher and Sheena Hawkin’s Dassett Showgirl (Lola) quite simply blew us away with her incredible approach to competing. Having only jumped competitively in a ring a handful of times in her life, we hoped she would keep up with the 5yo horses in the 1.10m – 1.20m 5yo classes HC (5 and 6 year old horses are not allowed to jump in 3* and 4* shows, which Week 2 onwards was, so she had to compete in the YH* show instead). However, she jumped in every single 6YO class, with 4 faults as her worst result during the entire tour! The tracks were at 1.25m, and given her lack of experience and weakness, she had no reason whatsoever to be competing at that level – but she even won money, rosettes and a plaque! I can’t remember training through combination, but she popped through these with no problem, and she certainly never jumped a wide water jump…but again, no problem! An absolute star. And I think she really enjoys the challenge. She had a couple of weeks off once we got home, as she did feel quite weak after all the travelling, but is currently back in full work and feels better than ever.
Drombane Dassett (Pete) was also a horse heading out to Spain pretty under prepared to be totally honest. He had a pin put into a chipped knee last autumn and I would be being generous if I said, once all the basic walk and trot work was completed, his return to full on jumping was a bit accelerated! Due to entry restrictions per class, he spent the first week in some smaller classes, but this was no bad thing fo this fitness. From Week 2 onwards, he was constantly jumping 1.30m tracks with ease, and if space had allowed, he would have jumped a 1.35m the last week. We really learnt how to respect each other in the arena, as Pete does like to be ridden in a specific, very soft way. We had one bad round, where I forgot to take off my spurs (which he HATES me wearing), but redeemed ourselves the following day with a spurless clear round! But that aside, he jumped some super rounds. This horse is low on mileage and I think the experience has brought him on, physically and mentally, enormously. He is one of the scopiest horses I have ridden, and I hope this trip helped him to learn how to contain and focus all that ability.
HHS Dassett Class (Matt) is probably the horse I changed my way of riding the most, with great results to include some money! He has the most wonderful, expressive, uphill canter, but the repeated trips into the Spanish arenas let me figure out how to contain that to present him at the base of the jump in the most balanced way. As he canters so well, it is easy not to realise when I am riding him out of balance. It is also easy to forget he is only 8 years old this year. Matt is another very scopey horse, with a power house of an engine, and we both learnt how to reset after each fence around some very decent 1.30m tracks. The height really is no problem for this horse and I can not wait to get him back out eventing!
Call Me Dassett (Cas) was a show jumper in his former years but when he arrived with us we described him as having quite a few ‘issues’. So full credit to this lovely horse for maintaining his training in situations that would previously have caused him to panic. I’d say one of my rounds of the tour was on Cas, when he jumped a stunning clear around the Medium Tour 1.35m track. We’ve always known how crucial this horse’s balance is, but we were able to figure out how how to achieved this in a delicate relationship with energy. We played around with different bits, and once we had one that we both liked and I rode him properly, he jumped some truly awesome rounds!
And to round the horses off is Robert Snaddon’s McQueen (Brad). I can not thank Robert enough for allowing me to ride his beautiful horse in Spain. We had the most wonderful time. Brad is relatively low on mileage and is pretty cautious by nature, so repeatedly getting in the ring and getting on with the job was great for him. Having won money in some smaller speed classes in the early weeks, we also managed top 5 placings at 1.30m and 1.35m level! I can tell you the jump off for a 1.35m track is quite big, but it is another of my favourite rounds of the tour. His wonderful, big stride is a pleasure to ride down to some big fences, and it was great for me to learn how to compress such a big horse down some technical lines too.
I am delighted with all of the horses, who without exception, have progressed far beyond my expectations. We jumped 60 rounds over the four weeks; we had no refusals and were consistently jumping clear or with no more than one or two rails down. We even came home with a very decent amount of prize money – not bad for a bunch of eventers! I have leant a huge about myself and getting in the ring day after day allows you so much time to try new things and grow in confidence and knowledge. Lauren, Alice and Hayley were just brilliant throughout the whole trip. Not only did they care for the horses to an impeccable standard, but they were also vital in the training. As they are so much a part of the horses’ work at home, they were able to help me warm up and plan all the work and entries. And special credit must go to Lauren for travelling the horses so successfully on such long journeys. Top, top job – thank you ladies.
It was quite simply an incredible experience.