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Four star victory at Strzegom

It's very exciting to welcome Superstition to our team. He's been beautifully produced, initially by Sophie Lane and then her sister Lucy Jackson. Mandy Gray, for whom I have ridden for for seven years, is his proud new owner, but Lucy is still very much part of the journey and has been a great help to me in my efforts to get to know Slinky, and will continue to be involved. 


Taking a horse on at the beginning of October doesn't leave many options to aim for; the obvious route was winter work followed by an introduction to competing throughout the first six weeks of the 2020 season, starting with a couple of easy runs to get to know each other. However, you only really know a horse properly when you have competed together under pressure and whilst sooner than I would have liked, entering the CCI-L 4* at Strzegom in our second week together was a pretty sure way to focus the mind and find out about each other!


When I picked him up from Lucy's we worked him together and she was very helpful in articulating her method of approach and giving me a really good insight into his character, as well as strengths and weaknesses. Between collecting him and travelling out to Strzegom, I was already entered on other horses at Osberton. Given that half the time we were due to spend together before competing in Poland would be spent travelling across Europe, and the other half I was due to be away at Osberton, the only option was to take him to Nottinghamshire with me. Working a non-competing horse at a three day event is a great way to get to know each other, but to add to the challenges, he was fairly wired on arrival and throughout the five days spent there - it had taken a week from the vetting to being able to collect him, and understandably Lucy's team hadn't wanted any mishaps so had kept him in throughout the week without work or turnout. Given that he was fully fit and used to being in full work, this week of inactivity meant my hands were more than full at Osberton. I rode him little and often with plenty of hacking, but wondered if the already audacious plan to go straight from Osberton to Poland was madness given the circumstances. I'd intended to give him a jump whilst at Osberton, but the only opportunities to do that was while the cross country was going on, which I felt wouldn't have been conducive to lowering the excitement levels. On the Sunday morning he left Nottinghamshire for home to have a final gallop and spell in the field while I stayed at Osberton for the final day of competition, before driving home and doing a quick turnaround to catch a middle-of-the-night ferry. 


After a stopover in Dortmund, we finally arrived at Strzegom in the early hours of Wednesday morning, ahead of that day's horse inspection, with our dressage test drawn on the following morning. Thankfully his adrenaline fuelled excitement to be off box-rest was over and he knuckled down to produce some really lovely work. Although the hours spent together had been minimal, the knowledge that we were targeting a CCI-L 4* was enough to channel one's thoughts and come up with a thorough plan of attack.


He produced a really smart test scoring 28 to put him in second place after the dressage. I couldn't have been happier with him - this is his second best test of his career. He's so loose and athletic and there'll be plenty more to come in the dressage as he develops. 


The course was surprisingly testing with some very oblique lines and attacking distances, and the confined nature of the site meant the time was hard to get around such a twisty course. On the morning of the cross country I took him to the collecting ring and jumped a few cross country fences to get to know each other. It instantly felt comfortable, like an old partnership - he's very game and you can commit him to a fence from a long way out. He gave me a brilliant ride around the course and was very straight on his lines. He was comfortably up on his minute markers from start to finish, and cruised home easily inside the time, putting him well in the lead. The course had caused a lot of problems and the time was fairly elusive; Andrew Hoy's Vassily de Lassos was the only other horse to make the time. 


Superstition went into the show jumping with two fences and a couple of time faults in hand which was a luxurious margin, particularly when riding such a good jumper. He had one down to score his first three day win, marking the end of a rather busy introductory fornight. I was particularly pleased for his owner Mandy, who thankfully managed to change her plans and come out to Poland, and for Lucy who has been such fun to have as a pseudo-owner / mentor but sadly couldn't join us for the week.


The organisers of Strzegom couldn't have been more welcoming and the event was very well run. It's a long way but I would definitely be tempted back there again. It's also fun to compete in new places - my Polish is better than it was a fortnight ago, and we have some new friends to keep in touch with.


We had a good trip home and Supersitition's now enjoying a well earned holiday in the field with his new mates. 












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