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So what’s it like competing at Hartpury? (Winter Novice Dressage Championships)
Hartpury. International dressage HQ. Home to all the big national championships, renowned around the world in dressage circles. Explaining where I was going to my very non-horsey family – I told them it was the dressage equivalent of playing at Wembley! To have the chance to ride here was always going to feel pretty special – and especially nerve wracking for someone who until four years ago – had never even owned a horse, let alone entered any kind of competition. So it was with a big bag of nerves and excitement that I arrived, parked up and immediately led Tolkien and his haynet and passport and my hat to ‘declare’ and be checked in to his rather posh stable – where his other equine team mates were all ready for him with welcoming nods of heads. It was fab to see the rest of the team too – riders and vital helpers – all of us finding our own ways to settle and take it all in. We unpacked and had a walk around. Two arenas laid out side by side in a huge outdoor arena, a lovely quiet warm-up just around the corner. At least seven American barns full of competing horses and several car parks rammed with lorries and trailers of all shapes and sizes. People dashed here and there, whinnies floated up and down the barns, a whole mixture of types and breeds of horses walked about – some calmly, some with a little more than a spring in their step! None of us slept very well and I think we lived the day on adrenaline and the support of our helpers and fellow team mates. I won’t dwell on the test itself – but I do want to say – despite overshooting at X (!) I took that halt moment to also look around and say to myself – wow girl, you’ve just ridden a test at Hartpury (especially significant as the day before I wasn’t sure if Tolkien’s shoulder would hold up – luckily, it did.) For anyone going to a champs soon, please do the same and take a minute to be really proud of yourself. Perhaps no wonder then that on leaving the arena I promptly burst into tears and didn’t stop for a good couple of hours. It was one of the most mentally and emotionally taxing thing I’ve ever done but I am so so proud of my amazing horse and to be part of such a hugely supportive and friendly team who were all there from start to finish. Pippa Griffin