Sunshine Tour Week 1 Report

Posted on 17th February 2020 by Kate Rocher-Smith

What a week! I think this is probably one of the best equine experiences I have had the privilege to enjoy – I love it here! For those who know me, it is hard to differentiate if it’s the equine aspect or the weather that has put me on such a high!

Lauren and her boyfriend, Olly, spent 3 days on the road, leaving Dassett HQ early on Friday 7th Feb and arriving at the Sunshine Tour late afternoon on Sunday 10th Feb. A big thank you goes to Helen Jepson for all her help with the travel arrangements and well done to both Olly and Lauren for looking after the horses so well on their travels – it’s quite an experience traveling them for such a long time. James, Ella, myself and former DE team member turned re-recruited DE team member, Alice Harrison, flew out from a very windy Heathrow on Sunday to join up with the horses.

The girls spent the next few days letting the horses recover from their travels and acclimatize to the beautiful weather – it is SO warm – low 20s and bright, sunny days – AMAZING! Monday was made up of loose lunging, hand grazing and turn out. We have hired a paddock on site so the horses can also get some ‘free time’ – and our paddock has surprisingly long and lush grass! On Tuesday they all had to trot up in order to be accepted into Week 1’s competition. This is not like the trot ups we are used to in eventing – much more relaxed! Lauren and Alice also hacked Drombane Dassett and McQueen, who seemed to be a bit more tiered after their travels. There are 15km off off road trails in the woods opposite the show site, which is lovely for the horses to hack along. I stretched a slightly more excited HHS Dassett Class, Call Me Dassett and Dassett Showgirl – I was certainly grateful for my neck strap on Call Me Dassett!

On Wednesday the show started! Unlike other weeks, Week 1 had 4 days of competition running Wednesday to Saturday, but as the horses are only allowed to compete 3 times each week (and I’m restricted to 2 horses per class), we jumped the more lively ones on Wednesday, whilst allowing a few others to continue their travel recovery and to adjust to the warmer weather. HHS Dassett Class had a pop around a 1.10m clear round, as he can be somewhat spooky! However, he was great and jumped a lovely clear. He then went into one of the main arenas (of which there are so many) and jumped a lovely clear in the 1.20m. We trusted the more experienced Call Me Dassett, so he headed straight into the competitive arena and also jumped a very polished clear, feeling incredibly comfortable at this level. We were delighted both horses finished 17th and 18th out of over 60 starters.

On Thursday all 5 horses competed; the very inexperienced Dassett Showgirl was so impressive in the arena to jump a lovely clear in the 1.10m to finish 16th – she has had so little competitive experience and we can’t give her enough credit for how she coped, especially around her first 1.10m track. Drombane Dassett also had a pop around the 1.10m as I was restricted with entries, but it was lucky the fences were small as he decided the big screen was terrifying and a rail fell (to be honest, I thought we might have run out!) as a consequence! HHS Dassett Class continued his good form with another clear in the 1.20m and continues to improve his ride in the arena – he finished just out of the money in 19th place. McQueen also made his competitive debate this day to jump a lovely clear for 5th place! Our first money of the show! Call Me Dassett stepped up into the 1.30m, but we made a few mistakes to come away with 3 rails down. Luckily, we can go back in the arena plenty more times, and I think a change of bit will definitely help as he is very keen at the moment.

On Friday HHS Dassett Class and Call Me Dassett enjoyed a nice hack in the woods with Alice and Lauren. I then hopped on Call Me Dassett and gave him a pop around the 1.20m clear round, just to try a new bit and to make sure he was happy – which he was. Dassett Showgirl jumped yet another clear around the 1.10m for 23rd place, again, a few places out of the money. But she is not ready to be raced around the tracks just yet. Drombane Dassett and McQueen were both in the 1.20m Accumulator class, which had a choice of a nice big joker fence to finish. Drombane Dassett was once again rather distracted by the big screen and sadly 2 fences fell as a result today. But McQueen and I felt very happy together and he jumped a great, fast clear for 6th place and more money!

All 5 were back in action on the last day of this week’s competition, Saturday. Dassett Showgirl felt very jolly in herself but a bit muscle fatigued and as a result she caught a very cheap back toe on a vertical, so came out of the arena with 4 faults. Again, due to entry restrictions, Drombane Dassett was also in the 1.10m but this time seemed to cope with the big screen in a much more mature way and jumped a very easy clear for 14th place – 2 places out of the money. Both HHS Dassett Class and Call Me Dassett jumped in the 1.25m – HHS Dassett Class’ first time at this level – and I’m delighted to say both horses jumped beautiful clear rounds! They were ace! But not fast enough for money to be won. McQueen and I also stepped up to the 1.30m class and only a green look at fence 2 meant 4 faults, but he otherwise felt great around the bigger jumps.

Here is a link to a results page where you can watch all the horse’s rounds, but attached to this blog is McQueen placing 6th in the 1.20m speed class and a bunch of photos from our first week.

So overall we were thrilled with out first week as showjumpers! Huge credit must go to Lauren and Alice for all their hard work in helping the horses recover quickly in time to compete – they did work hard! And the whole team needs a big shout out, as the horses look and feel great – well done and thank you!

All horses are having a day in the paddock on Sunday and today they’ve all enjoyed a nice hack in the woods along with a trot up for Week 2’s competition…bring it on…!

Kate Rocher-Smith

Posted by Kate Rocher-Smith

Manager & Rider

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