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Flora and Dollys Story – Novice to 3* Eventing

So we have just returned from the stunning Blair Castle International Horse Trials! It has been what you could only describe as a dream week. Doctors Orders who is known as Dolly at home is owned by my great friend Kate Walters, came to my yard a year ago as a novice horse.
We started this season at novice but with a clear plan to get to 3* by the end of the year. This meant every run was going to count in order to get qualified in time, we started with the CIC1* at Great Witchingham before going to Burnham Market in the intermediate.
She’s an absolute machine cross country-I’d go as far as saying one of the best in the country, she so brave and honest. After we achieved qualifying scores at Great Witch & Burnham we headed to Belton 2*, Rockingham 2*, Nunney 2* and Burgham 2*, where amazingly we were clear in the cross country every time with no more than a rail rolled in the SJ. Although our dressage wasn’t up there, as this is Dolly’s weakest phase, not because she hasn’t got the ability to do a fantastic test, but because she can get very tense and completely lose all rideabilty. But it is something we are working on and hopefully over the winter we can get really stuck in to the dressage side of things so that next year we are much more competitive.
Blair is a long hike, it took us 10 hours to get there! I’m very fortunate to have a great friend with a very smart lorry who was also going to Blair so Dolly and I hitched a lift.
The dressage test in the 3* is much more difficult than the 2* tests, harder movements and more intensity, so I was slightly apprehensive about how it was going to go but the goal was to get a qualifying score which is under 45. We were there for a couple of days before my test so I used this time to try and relax her by using the arena familiarisation as an opportunity to get in the arena as much as humanly possible (they had to kick me out!). Thankfully, this worked HOORAH! And despite fluffing both flying changes we managed to get a 41.5, which I was thrilled with. She was as rideable as she has ever been with me, and I felt her work was the best she could produce for the stage she is at in her training, Dolly looked fresh and spotlessly clean for her Dressage despite being prepared and readied the night before, she even had a new Honsie for the event..
Showjumping has in the past been a phase Dolls has found quite nerve racking, she has the ability to jump clear rounds, but sometimes she can get anxious and go tense in the back meaning she looses her back end over a fence. By the time we showjumped on the Saturday, she knew she was there to jump so she was VERY excited. When she gets like this she can become incredible ‘hot’ to ride, which doesn’t make my job very easy! I’m very lucky that I do a lot of showjumping at a higher level than you ever do eventing, so I can remain very relaxed and confident about this phase which I think really helps her. She went into the ring and jumped like a stag, she got a bit tense and lost a bit of rideabilty as she went on through the course, but when she got to the fence she was pinging! Annoyingly we had a rail going into the treble, this is at the moment a typical rail that Dolly can have as going into the treble she’s sees all the poles and tenses up. But she has improved beyond measure in the last 12 months and a winter of showjumping will hopefully improve her confidence in the phase.
Like I said before, Dolly is a demon CrossCountry. I think you could strap a monkey to her and she would go round! Having walked the course three times so I was certain of my lines, i felt the course was a very fair test. Plenty of different questions where the horses had to be brave and honest whilst holding their lines meant there was no room for mistakes. I had been told before going to Blair that the hills there played a major factor in the course and to make sure she was fit enough. I’m very lucky, where I’m based we have two gallops to help with fitness work so we arrived with a very fit horse.
Dolly absolutely flew round, making it feel like a pony club track, what a feeling! I took one planned long route at the final water, and then another long route which wasn’t planned half way round the course after losing a stirrup jumping into the 2nd water over a hanging log and then having to turn to two big but narrow triple brushes-I didn’t think I could make the turn to the 2nd triple brush so opted to do the alternative. But other than that she gave me the most awesome, dream ride! If anything, I think I could have gone faster! To top it off, we snuck into the top 20 and finished 19th.
She now thinks she is king pin, which she is I guess! She’s being very demanding, and getting very cross with any other horse that dares look at her!!
Thankfully she’s come out of Blair sound and healthy, ready to crack on to her final event of the season which will be the CCI2* at Osberton International at the end of September.
We will need to gain a qualifying score there to keep us on track for our plans for next season.
I can’t thank enough all the team at home, all my fantastic owners, and of course my Unbelievable sponsors who are so supportive of me and the team. This really is, living the dream.
Flora x