This is a great report from Evie and Hera about their experience at Denford.
The level three open route was absolutely gorgeous – very long (I measured it at a smidge under 37km) but as the going was so good, we had an absolute ball.
In to the map room and I had the route down fairly quickly – lots of bridleways so I was able to just use directional arrows for much of it. At 1 minute to go I had already checked it once so rather than rushing to mark up kms I put all my stuff away so that I was ready to hot foot it out of there and get on – my aim was to get round in one piece, not necessarily worrying about speeds.
Map room – CP2. Out of the venue, up the road and over a bridge over the A45 so I sang the ‘cars go under your belly and out again’ song to Hera all the way across then off on to a farmer’s field, turned left across the road at the end and on to another field, exiting a little way before the end and into a checkpoint. Sneaky little one, as the gap at the end was very tempting and the gap we had to use was overgrown but we got it right.
CP2-3. Bridleways and tracks. Little jink around a cut field where there was a ticket on a silage clamp which I rode correctly, but as I had caught up another horse right at the clamp I was distracted and didn’t see the (apparently) whopping great obvious unmanned ticket eejit. Bit of a blast onward, then regretted that as couldn’t quite place where I was on the map. Knew I wasn’t too close to the church in the distance yet though, and then all of a sudden the hedge lines clunked in my brain and I hooned off again. Into a little patch of woodland that didn’t quite seem to match up with the map, but couldn’t find any other tracks so after bimbling around a bit had a nice canter alongside a stream and resisted temptation to pop the biggish log halfway along before coming into another checkpoint.
CP3-4. Hedgelines and streams. Bridleway to start, then jinked off to follow a stream and found a ticket punch. Around the edge of some woodland, rejoined the bridleway for a short while then downhill and through a gap in the hedge over a small footbridge and into another checkpoint where we were given bearings.
CP4-5. Bearings 1. H set off a bit too onward bound for my liking so the first couple of instructions were a bit bodged counting-wise as I couldn’t quite fathom how many nice trot strides would equal 10 bogging off trot strides and 3 canter, but we were negotiating field edges and tracks rather than woodland with firebreaks so mercifully I was able to keep track! Round a corner and into a checkpoint where they were allowed to tell us where we were, but I was able to work it out independently and then just have it verified which was nice. Straight on to grids…
CP5-6. Calculated grids. My brain fizzed, popped and banged at first, but then once I’d got the first one plotted I relaxed a bit and eventually managed to find all the landmarks to calculate from. Fairly long grids route and tight time of 85 minutes. I think it took me 15 minutes to plot them and get back on, so we ended up 11 minutes over time. The going was excellent, lovely grassy tracks so we were able to get a wriggle on for most of the way round. Unfortunately we were there before all but one of the tickets were put out, but I have experienced the ‘no grids tickets’ mind-game before so didn’t worry – I was confident that I had plotted them correctly and checked them all, so looked around thoroughly at each and then pressed on. Had a small discussion with H about whether ginger princesses ever get their feet wet in muddy streams (turns out that they do!) and then up to the finish grid which was the vet check. Took H’s saddle off, pulse check, trotted up and all fine. She stood very nicely while a tractor passed a couple of feet away – good pony.
CP6-7. Mostly road. Pony was starting to flag a bit. I knew there was a jinky bit at the top of the lane, but my line had smudged and the map had creased so I was looking for a building which wasn’t there then came in to the ticket point the wrong way. Need to use a different pen for detail work I think. Out along a bridleway, around a copse where the track was deceptive but after being taken in for 50m I backtracked and we got the right ticket. On up back to the bearings checkpoint, to be given more bearings. Meanie!
CP7-8. Bearings 2 to finish. In woodland this time but still fairly simple which was a good job as a level two pair came in to their ticket and out on the bearings route in front of us, so I was suddenly riding a ginger exocet missile rather than the tired little pony I had been led to believe. I eyed up the far hedgeline, reckoned it was about right for the distance and let her fly. Same for the next one before the others turned off and I got some sense – was able to count a nice trot at last. Finished the bearings at a ticket but this time the judges weren’t able to tell us where we were. I was happy enough though, the woods & track direction fitted so off we went. Nice easy coast in to the finish on more lovely bridleways with pony still telling me she was up for speed. We were out on the route from 10.30 to 15.45 or thereabouts, and did 37km of judged route. This was on top of 2km ride to the venue from the corralling field and 3.5km ride home from the finish, but H felt really good. Washed her off, necked a load of ibuprofen and started on the water! Despite the mistakes, I was very happy with how we had got on – the map had made sense, I remembered to eat & drink and I was OK on the grids and bearings.
Saturday evening meal was lovely – the food was super, went down a treat with my cider – now I remember why I like level three, I am able to have a bit more to drink as I can have a lie in before PTV!
I mooched around on Sunday morning steadily packing up camp, and planned to go the 6km route instead of the 2km route to the venue in order to warm H up a bit and try to get a bit of sense out of her. Tacked up at 12.30 and was out of the gate at 1pm. H was still well up for it – she happily left the pair we were following on the road in order to go the long way round, and felt stonking. We arrived in plenty of time so I had a drink then got back on and warmed up.
Paces were good – 29 canter, 12 walk. She’s been pretty consistent so far this year which I’m really pleased with. Just need to get her to relax more in the walk.
PTV was a fairly short course – ride down incline, ridden immobility, canter on down to led corridor, led s-bend, led step up, lead down incline, led step down, mount from block, ride up incline, gallop on to gate, bending, rein back, corridor, s-bend, path crossing, neck reining. I must tense up as soon as I get the 1 minute warning as at both DD and here pony did the same thing and immediately went in to reverse. Thankfully Lel Benyon stepped in and took my slot, so I was able to calm the silly beast down. She was still fizzy all the way round, but managed 81 despite some silly marks lost that she would usually have got.
We ended up 4th and received a lovely big green frilly from CTG alongside the BHS rosette which was lovely. Prizegiving was early, so extra special round of applause for Helen!
I worked out that over the weekend H did over 50km, ~22km of which was on the road. Proof that white feet can actually be very tough indeed! We really need to work on our PTV, but that will come in time. She has been excellent at the demos we have done recently, so I need to mentally exchange my competition hat for my demo hat and see if I can get better results from her.
I thought I had done some L3 in 2008 which was H’s first season under saddle, but on looking back through my results when I got back last night, we only did one introductory/beginners L3 in a pair and all of my previous L3s were on Dom so we were eligible for the newcomers class after all – but I am really glad I just went for the open, we had a ball.