Gold rush in the wind, rain and sun….

Having had a few weeks back to reality from WEG it’s given me some time to reflect.

I think the thing that is at the front of my mind, when I think about the whole experience is “what an incredible team we all were together!”.  We all got on so well and worked together as a team.  It was never just about one person, always about “The Team”, “The Goal”, “The System”.

We travelled out to Tryon on the Friday, before the competition started the following Wednesday.  The horses had already arrived and been through a very hot quarantine.  This is quite a long time for us to be away, and only having one horse!  None of us are used to this, so we all went to the gym every morning and trained with our fab Physio and PT Ash Wallace.  Then in the afternoons we swam and rested.  With travelling to the venue (a 50 minute drive from hotel) and riding in between, our days were busy until it was time to crack on.  One good thing about going out early was that we could slightly acclimatise to the heat.  We couldn’t quite believe how hot and humid it was, I have to say we all found it hard all week and I’ve never drank so much water in my life!

I was to be first on the team, which I was not surprised about.  Arctic Soul is a natural path finder and I knew I probably wouldn’t be competitive as an individual at this sort of competition, where the XC just doesn’t play such a big part.  To lead the way for the team in the dressage and then of course the XC was our task, so I was looking forward to getting our job done well and to set the tone.  I would have Piggy, Tom and Ros following me and then Tina as an Individual.

Dressage went well for Spike and me.  I was so happy with how he went and we did a good solid test and a positive start for everyone.  All the team then put in fantastic performances and we were to be in team silver, and Ros in Individual bronze going into xc! BRING IT ON!!

I was to be 5th to start on xc day, no time to watch or even know how anything was jumping!  A bit scary and I was very nervous, but I had complete faith in my fabulous horse and our partnership.  Of course, he gave me the most wonderful, exhilarating ride around the course, making it feel incredibly easy and coming easily inside the time.  I had so much information for all my team mates and I could tell them that they would absolutely make the time and not to panic if they were down on their clock at the bottom of the hill and that even on horses not as fast as Spike, I was sure they could make it up and to just keep kicking all the way home.

This proved true and they all followed suit in the most unbelievable style and grace.  Wow, what a day, what a team of people and horses, not only us riders but Dickie, Chris, our amazing grooms and supporters, the team vet and farrier.  All pulled together, in a super slick, professional, organised day.  We were to lie in team gold overnight and Ros in Individual silver! What a cool day of sport for everyone.  Of course, I would have liked the time to have been tighter, but the main thing was that everyone was safe and horses finished well.

Unfortunately, we did have a slight issue with a small hurricane!  Florence was becoming a little pesky.... with heavy rain and wind forecast for the Sunday, the organisers decided to postpone the SJ to Monday. This was a real challenge mentally for us.... we found it hard, as we were keen to get the job done.  We still had trot up on Sunday in the afternoon and all horses looked absolutely perfect, thanks to our grooms and Vet.  To be honest Spike could have gone round the XC again!

To SJ Monday and back to the heat.  When I walked the course, I thought it was long and tough, but jumpable.  Spike started really well and jumped super up to fence 7 and then just got incredibly strong.  When he gets strong, he gets a bit tight in his neck and can then have fences down behind which is very sadly what happened.  3 down was not what I wanted for the team, let alone Individually.  I was actually devastated, Spike has jumped so many clear rounds on the final day of a big 3 day event but this was just not our day and the horses are not machines.

I then watched Tom and Piggy have one down each and things were getting rather tense for team gold!  The Irish kept jumping superb clear rounds. Tina jumped a beautiful, polished clear to finish in the top ten individually.  What a legend she is - an amazing team player to have in the squad.  The last Irish rider had one down, which gave Ros one fence in hand for team gold, not that she needed it!  I could barely watch, but wow she was incredible and rode such a polished, beautiful round and Alby jumped so well for her.  It was clear and TEAM GOLD!!!!!  Now to watch Ingrid: a few rattled on the way, but it looked like a clear until the last fence fell.  I couldn’t believe it, Individual GOLD for Ros and Alby, what an amazing partnership those two have.  I couldn’t be more pleased for her and her team.

It was a great feeling to have done what we went for.  We were on the top of that podium and felt so proud of our team of lovely horses and everyone who works so hard behind the scenes.

Although I was bitterly disappointed with the SJ, I hope that Spike and I played our small part in that team gold by setting the tone on XC day and giving the rest of the team confidence to get the job done.  He is a very very special horse to us and I bet no one thought he would be a team world champion when he came off the racecourse as a scraggy 5yo! What a journey it’s been and I know many people enjoy following him.

The main man is now having a well deserved holiday and is so well.  What a tough horse he is.  He is 16 next year, I can’t quite believe it, we will prepare him for Badminton in 2019 but of course I will let him tell us what he wants to do.

The whole WEG experience was full of challenges and difficulties, but to be honest it was made brilliant because we had brilliant people around us to hold it together.  A special shout out to Dickie Waygood and Chris Bartle: great people and a brilliant system.

A huge thank you to everyone that was left at home, from my amazing team of staff looking after all the horses, my hugely supportive family and close friends, my boyfriend Gary Stevens and PA (bestie) Elodie Frost who I know were all watching every moment, and of course my little doggies!!! None of this I could do without them.  At last, I have something to bring home for them to see!!  A great big GOLD medal!

A little sentence for my groom at WEG...!!!  My Mummy!  What a legend she is, she works tirelessly and looked after Spike so perfectly and tendered to his every need even when he tries to bite her!!

Last but not least thank you to a very special horse.  The places this boy has taken TeamTatt are just incredible.  I will forever be grateful to him.

Gem x