Sarah-Jane Brown May Blog

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A lot seems to have happened since our last blog and we have made some huge progression particularly with Fliss. Ellie in fact had a minor setback and a few weeks off and had her first competition yesterday when she was 2nd in a Discovery at Scorrier and Chacewater show. The show is just up the road and with a £15 gain on our entry fees it may be the first time for a long time I can truly say we came home in profit!

Looking forward to getting her fully back up to speed over the next month. Fliss meanwhile has had an awesome few weeks. We started the BE season at Bovington, the event was rather overshadowed as the night before on arrival at stabling we lost our recently homed rescue dog Rosie. She managed to escape from the lorry and run to the woods where despite many sightings we were unable to recapture her. The Dorset community and Dog Lost organisations were fabulous but it was actually 5 days before we managed to recapture her and honestly I think we were very lucky we got her back. You will see in the picture she now wears a GPS tracker. We did manage a run at Bovington and had a fairly uninspiring double clear with minds very much elsewhere.


A week later with Rosie very firmly secured, we went to a boiling Bicton horse trials for Fliss’s second BE100 event over a much more testing track. A 31.5 dressage score, despite a rider error, was then complimented by another double clear for a very pleasing 4th place.

XC video


The lovely thing with Fliss is we can enjoy both show jumping and eventing. So the next competition was a trip to Dorset show ground for some jumping.

On day 1 I actually wimped out of jumping on grass as Fliss was very fresh and I wanted to start on the surface (what sort of eventer am I?) I was keen to try and be a bit more competitive at this show as I felt she had progressed enough to ask a little more in the jump off. In the Newcomers I did have a go in the jump off but rather flattened her round a corner meaning we had a pole down. 

I was a little disappointed with the pole but then made a very brave decision and entered the Foxhunter. This would be the biggest class I have jumped for five years. I was attracted by the fact it was A7 and therefore had a separate jump off meaning that the first round wouldn't be too huge, I hoped. I walked it and it was a proper Foxhunter track, definitely one that it was better not to get too close to some of the fences. Fliss was amazing, a bit too good, and made it feel easy jumping a super easy clear round. I had quietly hoped for an unlucky four faults and not have to go into an increased height jump off!

The best thing for me was not to watch the jump off being put up but by this time the course would be a good 1.25 / 1.30. I wasn't getting any ideas of going for a fast jump off and was delighted despite Fliss tiring slightly to jump another clear round. A big bonus was second place, in a small class, and the Foxhunter frilly for the best Foxhunter horse in the class.

On the second day I was determined to do at least one class on the grass. I couldn't decide whether to be bold and jump the 1.15 on the grass first or take an easier option and jump the 1.05 later in the day. I walked the 1.15 which was single phase meaning some of the second half was 1.20 / 1.25. I have to say it looked big and the ring although large was fairly undulating adding to difficulty. In normal circumstances I may have had better sense however considering just how well she had jumped the day before I entered. A good warm up and with instructions ringing in my ear to keep the canter going forward and up I went in. I needn't have worried she made the course feel very easy. I remember approaching the first fence thinking it was a big track and then trying to change my thought to how lucky I was to ride her.

With the double clear we finished 4th in the class only 0.5 second off the prize money. I didn't want to keep pushing my luck and finished the day jumping the Newcomers on the arena. The track seemed relatively small after the previous two classes. I did decide that it would be a good opportunity to have another go at a quick jump off and this time it came off! In a class of open horses and Newcomers horses we were 2nd overall and won the best Newcomers frilly!


The icing on the cake came with another what I felt was brave decision and after only four BE events (1x80, 1x90, 2x100) we entered our first Novice BE at Howick.

Dressage was 8.12 but to be honest I like to get it over with sooner rather than later. The dressage test was probably the phase that worried me most as perhaps it lacked some attention in the build-up. Warming up with the who's who of eventing is always fun and I had to make sure I didn't crash into any of them whilst name spotting! We focused on our own warm up and I don't think Fliss was too overawed anyway. We followed two professional into the arena but Fliss really pulled the stops out and did a great test for her stage of education. Yes the leg yields were slightly unbalanced, she needed more stretch and length in her neck but there were no major mistakes. The judge reflected this with mainly 6's throughout for a 36.3.%. 


Show jumping turned out to be the most influential phase of the day. The course was up to height and on quite a sloping arena, the most influential fence was a treble built going up the hill off a corner and although the distances walked true in retrospect it was built a little on the long side.

We were 3rd to jump and this worked in our favour as I didn't realise the carnage the course would cause particularly early in the day. Considering the amount of show jumping Fliss has done she felt a bit green in the ring and if you look at the video you will see how honest she was at the treble. She backed off slightly going in and then struggled for the distances and really could have stopped at the last element instead she used her wings to fly. She coped well otherwise and finished the course well. Looking at the stats particularly considering the standard of riders competing there were only 35% clear in the show jumping and very proud Fliss was one of them.

So the hour to wait for cross country seemed to drag! The course was pretty nice nothing seemed too huge but there were some real technical questions that I was worried whether she would lock on in time. The ground was firm but with last week’s rain and the grass covering it was pretty acceptable for me who is rather fussy. It was finally time to get on and head for the start, we were 3rd to go again and with a good warm up we were ready to roll.

We set out over the first three in a nice rhythm, I wasn't intending aiming for the time but equally wanted a good forward round and not get too defensive. The first combination came at fence 4 with some offset houses which she just tried to get a bit straight for but still popped through really nicely. Then came the fences that worried me most a decent spread with five or six strides to an upright rail and turn by the hedge to a triple brush. She jumped the spread well and we sat back and popped the rails, I then made room moving away from the triple to get a good line and plenty of set up room, once locked on we moved forward and over. Some simple fences followed including a lovely jump over a big hay cart before we had a combination with a narrow brush through a gateway, she flew this before arriving at my next concern. A big box brush on six curving strides to a decent corner, saw a lovely stride to the first and remembered Caroline Moore’s advice of using the eye to find the line and we had a lovely forward stride to the corner. We then flew down the hill to the ditch palisade and here she really backed off and had to have a reminder on take-off not sure what monsters she saw in the ditch but it wouldn't usually bother her. We then came to the water with a fence a stride back, we got there and she suddenly saw the water and backed right off rather clambering over the first element, she landed and went in ok and out over the c element. Clearly we still have some hesitancy over water that needs work before she is asked bigger questions. She finished the course really well so obviously no confidence lost.


We were only 18 seconds over the time and finished on a very respectable 43.1 which I was delighted with. I certainly think we can see that Fliss is very capable at this level and very exciting to plan for the future.

So looking ahead we have entered the Novice at West Wilts. It is a case of balancing both girls needs with funds for training and competition, sadly what I would like to do and what I can realistically do is slightly different!

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May 21, 2019  |   Share: