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Fifth at Pau in the CCI4* on Sunday with Zagreb was a great achievement, and although it was one hell of a drive to get there, it was worth it. I always believed we were good enough. All I had to do was prove it!
This was only our second four star competition, but having achieved a completion at Land Rover Burghley on Redpath Ranson, I knew I was capable and I felt that we deserved to be there. However, I was a lot more nervous than before Burghley as I desperately want to get Zagreb to Badminton in the spring, and we needed a four star completion to achieve this. The pressure was on!
Burghley had been my first experience of a four star where I rode Redpath Ransom and Zagreb. Iíve produced them from scratch and have also run their competition programmes along side each other, so to be riding two at a four star didnít seem too unusual, although with hindsight, it is quite an achievement.
Redpath Ransom completed, while Zagreb and I parted company when we didnít quite get to our point of take off and he chipped in a small stride which caused him to hit his leg on the fence shooting me out of the saddle. Getting him round clear was my priority. I knew he was capable, and Iíd proved I was at Burghley, but we needed it all to come together.
From start to finish it was a lovely experience. Simonne and I travelled there with a young event rider called Kate Honey and her team who were all so incredibly supportive. You do feel like a superstar when you ride at these events. Burghley felt extremely important and they couldnít give you enough. In France itís a little bit different, but there is a huge amount of buzz and support. It does make you feel very special and proud to be riding there.
At Pau every rider in the top ten had attained a championship level win. And then there was me, the part time farrier from Somerset, as the announcer kept calling over the tannoy.
I always knew Zagreb had a very good test in him, and weíd been working hard on making improvements and adjustments in the lead up to Pau, and then he was absolutely superb, producing the test of his life and throwing us to the top of the leader board. Our score was only topped by Michael Jung, but it was still good enough to win.
However, with a completion at the back of my mind, I didnít want to risk making any mistakes cross country, so where we could have taken strides out in a couple of places, and gained on the minute markers, I rode a calculated round. The ground was very changeable during the second half of the course, and unfortunately he pulled a shoe off on one of the down hill drops. With less grip, I couldnít risk him slipping and not making the turns so I rode with my head to make sure we came home clear.
When you are in with a chance, the excitement can get to you, but I have definitely matured in this area, going for the clear with time faults rather than taking the risks because the stakes were so high and that all important Badminton qualification the priority.
Zagreb was fantastic in the show jumping, coping with the atmosphere and the dazzle of the arena like an old pro to jump a beautiful clear.
He has come out of it really well. His legs are great, and he feels great in his body. Weíll wind him down with some light hacking for the next few days and then heíll have a few weeks off in the field. In the New Year weíll start our plans for Badminton in the spring.
Relatively speaking weíre still very naÔve and inexperienced at this level. But there is so much improvement to come and that is hugely exciting. The result at Pau was fantastic, but its whatís to come in the future that really excites us. This year we have developed so much in such a short time and the partnership we have is second to none. Itís something money canít buy. Our short-term aim is Badminton, but our ultimate goal is to ride on a British team.