Coral Keen’s eventing blog: what a difference a year makes

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Hambleden Horse Trials couldn’t have been any better and huge credit goes to the organisers, British Eventing and BE volunteers for holding Sunday’s competition after Friday’s deluge.

It’s one of my favourite events and the bluebells through the woods always make it look so gorgeous there (pictured is my dog Pheobe enjoying the scenery!).

I was absolutely thrilled that Derby (Wellshead Fare Opposition) felt so good for his first run of the year in the advanced intermediate. He did a lovely fluent test to lead with a score of 25.5 (74.5%). He then had a unlucky pole in the combination in the showjumping due to such holding conditions. He was as awesome as ever cross-country around a tough enough track. I decided to go steady for his first run so we added 20 time-faults but still finished fourth.

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I’m over the moon to feel him on such good form and as always he is joy to ride. He’ll go to Withington for the advanced next weekend, then Houghton CIC3* and then Luhmuhlen for the four-star.

On Friday Total Darkness (Ted) had his first BE100 run at Hambleden. He’s still very spooky but he’s so talented. He moves beautifully, he’s very careful and he’s very athletic.

With him perseverance, consistency, kindness and staying very calm have been the key as he is so sharp and scared of his own shadow.

It took three weeks for him to summon up the courage to walk over a pole on the floor and another two months for him to jump a cross pole nicely. He’d sit on his bum and launch — the neck strap has been very useful!

He’s also travelled many miles on the lorry as we decided that every time we went anywhere he’d come along for the trip too. Getting out and seeing the world has helped him relax and it’s really paid off as he’s the calmest of all my horses now at a competition.

He had his first run at Portman in the BE90. I was pleased that we stayed within the very scary white boards and he did a very nice dressage test to score 30 (70%). The judge actually got out of her car and asked about his breeding and age. He then jumped a double clear. We went very slowly as I feel it was vital he didn’t slip or frighten himself.

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He went to Larkhill Horse Trials the following Sunday, which was a shorter time space than I’d normally run the horses but I felt with him it would be beneficial. There were flowers pots and white boards to contend with in the dressage but he did a 24 (76%). The weather didn’t help in the dressage, but he was competitive and then had an unlucky pole showjumping. Cross-country he was bold and brave and went clear with time-faults as we are taking things very steadily. Placings are just a bonus as this year it’s really about him getting some miles on the clock, learning the job and building his confidence. It has been a long journey but I am so pleased with him. It’s becoming quite apparent that whenever we are out you get the feeling people are looking at him. He’s a big black horse with a lot of swagger.

Lola (Cascadelle) and Jake (Highmead Proposition) were both due to run in the novice at Hambleden on Saturday but we only got as far as the end of the drive before we heard that competition had been abandoned.

April (Total Belief) was fourth at Aldon in the BE100 and then she won a BE100 section at Larkhill. She feels much more confident this year and I’m really excited about her. She’ll go novice in a couple of runs time.

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Lola thinks she’s a million dollars and was a little wild at Portman, although she did come into season two days later. I don’t want to go quick with her cross-country at the moment and want her to settle and have some good rounds. I’ve decided not to do a one-star and will run her in intermediates with the possibility of a CIC2* at the end of the season if I feel she’s ready.

Jake is feeling really super — what a difference a year makes. He jumped his first 1.20m the other day, going clear. He gave me such a good ride at Portman that I’ve decided he will go intermediate at Aston-le-Walls in May. He’s really come into himself this year and feels more confident.

With the weather all over the place, I’m looking forward to settling into a rhythm and for the season to really get going. With so many cancellations it’s all a bit stop start at the moment.

Coral

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