It was thrills and spills for Roo Fox Eventing
in Romania this month… and she has the bruises to prove it!
“What a trip. I decided to go to Romania because for a while now, I feel both Fleet Street (Tigga) and myself (with the exception of Burghley last year) have really improved our dressage, with the help of Nereide Goodman. Unfortunately for whatever reason, probably because Tig and myself ar…e so memorable, him for being very striking and me for being loud, haven’t gained the marks. Having looked up the judges in Romania, we had never faced them before, so I decided to go and managed to persuade Alberto Giugni to join me. We set off with 5 horses, 5 people and 3 dogs in a very tightly packed and cramped lorry! I took my 3* hose Tig, my 2* horse Bonero K (Watt) and my old campaigner Islington (Frog) to do the 1*. Albie took his young but lovely 3* horse Mollington and one of my horses, The Little Bay Horse (Batman) to do the 1*. My excellent step-in groom Abbie Adams, Albie’s groom Fifi and an owner of mine Dennis Sampson came along for the ride. After 2 1/2 days we arrived, having stopped over at an amazing racing yard for trotters near Munich and a fantastic vet college in Budapest. The Karpatia horse trials is a fabulous venue with people bending over backwards to help and try to make sure you have a good time. Though the ground was very rough and rutty, the team worked incredibly hard and improved it massively. When we left the UK we were the only 3* riders, by the time we arrived there were 9 of us included the very experienced Karin Donkers and Albert Hermoso Farras on his Olympic horse and another young horse.
So to the dressage, we started with the 1*. Typically in Roo Fox style we decided my dressage was at 1.30, despite the fact it was actually at 12.30. Mass panic! Luckily Albie spotted our mistake, he kindly took my place and produced a great test with a few a mistakes, which isn’t bad considering he has only ridden Batty for a week. With a 7minute warm-up I entered the main ring. Well, the main ring had a big screen, lots of spectators and some very loud music. Thank goodness it was to Frog’s taste and he put it a stonking test with only one mistake. We took first with Albie second, less than a fence behind. Less than an hour later I entered again with Watt. He took a look at the big screen and tensed up on me. Fortunately being the consummate professional he is, he showed off all the way through to lead as well. 30mintues later, just after Albie who did a good test on a young horse, I entered on my masterpiece, Tigga. This time for the dressage I tried using a Global Herbs SuperCalm Instant sachet. Totally oblivious to the screen and the crowds, he tuned into the classical music and proved that he can do a test. Tigga has never had a dressage score below 60, and we got a 49! It is my belief that the calmer made the difference as nothing else has changed in my routine. We had done enough, my beliefs had been founded that judges that don’t know us marked what they saw not influenced by our previous tests. My camp was totally excited and over the moon, a mass round of hugs and treats and pats. Masses of thanks to Abbie, who did a superb job and the horses looked truly stunning. Sadly this is where my luck ends….
Having never led before, I spent a sleepless night hoping that the XC which is usually my strong phase wouldn’t let me down. I’ve always been a nervous competitor and after Karin put in a fast good clear the pressure mounted. The course was built by Peter Fell and designed by Andrew Fell his twin. It was an interesting course; we had to jump some of the fences twice and one jump from both directions. There was a mixture of gentle jumps with 4 serious fences. One was a full sized open ditch hedge, a double of incredibly angled logs, double of logs with a serious drop to a skinny and a big triple brush into the water. As riders we were all quite concerned about the lack of flow from small fences to very big technical fences. We started with the 3* and I knew I had to go for it and set off with my heart in my mouth. Tig as always was jumping beautifully and we settled into our stride. When we got to the parallel to corner, the fence judge jumped to the side taking Tigs eye. He saw the parallel too late and we both crashed to the floor. Luckily Tig was unharmed, but I was gutted and on top of that pretty sure I had a broken rib, finger and thumb! I also had a decent lump on my radius. However, being me, I bounced the doctor and he gave me a pass. I was placed on my second horse with minutes to spare. Watt is a very careful horse and I had to ride him positively. We jumped all but two of the fences, he was epic and with all the tricky fences behind me I put my foot down. We came to the jump we had to jump backward and I missed my stride. Thankfully because Watt is so careful he chipped in a short one and lept into the air, his jump was so big and slightly to the left to give himself room I found myself clinging to his side. I tried and failed to stay on. Disappointed doesn’t cover how I felt and this time I couldn’t cover up the massive black swelling on my arm and finger, nor the discomfort in my ribs and they stood me down from the 1* – in their position, I would have done exactly the same. Though embarrassingly the tears fell when they told me this and wouldn’t cease for a few minutes, so my apologies to the wonderful doctors out there who put up with me. Albie’s day didn’t go to plan either, his 3* horse lost a shoe early on and just didn’t have the grip to make the triple brush after the drop, however the horse jumped brilliantly and it was a shame to have those 20 penalties added. Batman is a very strong horse, hence why I wasn’t riding him and he isn’t easy in the mouth either. Albie did a good job of anchoring him but after only a week together Batman felt that he needed his Robin beside him to jump, maybe we can do the pairs next time.
They say this sport is character building and you never stop learning, which has never been more true than recently for me. I’m very grateful to everyone in Romania, competitors and officials alike, who have all been so kind. I want it so much but this year has been very hard and hugely disappointing. I feel maybe lady luck is not with me. Where I go from here I don’t know but I’ll keep you posted…”