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SG Eventing – My Review of 2014…

January 5, 2015 Chris Price

Well, where do I start?! This year has been quite a difficult year for my team and I, but we must not forget the ‘ups’ which seem to have been shadowed by some big ‘downs’ that have been very testing for us all!

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Back to the beginning of the year and the pre-season preparation went very well with Milli and Roxie stepping up to Elementary and Medium level respectively, for their last few dressage competitions with top 3 placing’s; just what we wanted before the start of the event season! Plus, every time out at the British Showjumping competitions Milli managed to win the entry fees back and a bit towards the fuel…..good ponio!

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Now onto the event season and with our first event planned and Tweseldown being cancelled we were hoping this was not the start of another season interrupted by the rain! Luckily it wasn’t and after another few weeks of excitedly waiting we were off to our first event at Munstead Horse Trials with just Milli on board for the BE100 class! Milli stormed round jumping a super double clear to finish on her dressage score in 7th place – just the start we were after!

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Next was Goring Heath, one of my favourites and this time I had both girlies on board! Milli jumped another super double clear, finishing in 10th place and picking up another ribbon! Roxie was competing in the re-trained racehorse Open Novice section and despite scores not being great we finished in 5th place! It was nice to be competing against other ex-racehorses re-trained to event for a change!

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With a few runs under Milli’s belt I decided to move her up to Novice at South of England (SofE) at the beginning of April, and Roxie was also there competing in the Intermediate so I knew it was going to be a long day! Roxie was first to go and she performed a super dressage for a score of 35.0, a new PB for us at Intermediate level! Roxie followed this with an unlucky 2 down for 8 faults SJ and then a storming XC clear round with just 5.6 time faults to finish in 14th place in a strong arena of some top horses. After a quick bite to eat it was Milli’s turn and she stepped up to the challenge well on her first novice run of the season and only her second ever novice run. I do remember she had a little temper tantrum in our dressage test so our score of 38.5 had room for improvement! She jumped a brilliant round, just picking up an unlucky 4 faults when she was caught out by the spreads being much wider, so she had the back pole of one early on in the course but that soon brightened up her ideas and she certainly wasn’t going to touch another one! She followed this with a super steady clear XC to finish what was a super day out with them both!

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To keep Milli sweet we had a run around the BE100+ at Chilham Park next which is our most local event and a very lovely day out for all the family too! Milli managed to jump another super double clear, just missing out on picking up another ribbon finishing in 11th place! With a bit of time spent at home through May our next event was Tweseldown at the beginning of June and as I’m sure most of your reading this may be aware, it didn’t quite go to plan.

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Milli was first and I have to admit whilst walking the XC course I was a little nervous as it seemed a very tough track for such a young horse, but I felt we were ready to give it a go in spite of this! Dressage was first and Milli performed a super test to score a PB of 33.0 for us at this level! Next was the SJ and, as always with tracks at Tweseldown it was huge! Not that that bothered Milli; she jumped a storming round picking up just 4 faults for a green mistake when we turned to jump a big upright facing the crowd and the trade stands. Poor Milli didn’t know where to look and just dropped behind my leg a bit resulting in us getting a bit too close and having the top pole down. This still put us on a very competitive score going into XC so it was all to play for. Milli flew round jumping an amazing clear round and making it feel so easy! She felt like she was going quite fast as well so when I found out we only picked up 3.2 time faults I wished I’d pushed her a bit more, but as she was only 6 and new to the level I was letting her go at her own speed as opposed to pushing her a risking a run out. We finished just outside the placing’s in 12th place so I was over the moon with that result!

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Next was Roxie and we performed yet another great dressage test at this level for a score of 36.4. This was followed by two down SJ, there were XC fences in the SJ arena for the XC later in the day and this just excited Roxie too much and I became a passenger! Typical TB moment! XC was a big and up to height track but it was just what I wanted as we’d gained qualification for advanced and I had planned for this to be our last run at Intermediate before going 2* at Brightling and the advanced at Wellington later in the year. However, this was all brought to a dramatic halt as we had a crashing rotational fall into the water 3 fences from home! Typical Roxie got up and headed of towards her next fence. Once I got myself up out of the water very battered and bruised, very thankful for the Point Two air jacket as that saved me from serious injury, I headed off after Roxie. The next fence judge had caught her and as soon as I came round the corner I could see it was bad, the XC boot on her left fore was no longer white it was bright red! I ran down to her and she had a seriously deep wound and she’d removed next to all of her knee, down to the bone! The vet came over to us immediately but we couldn’t settle Roxie on the course so I had to walk her back to the stables in the lorry field where Ryan, my boyfriend who had come with me for the day, brought the trailer with Milli on board in the hope that it would help settle Roxie as she was very distressed. After a bit of a clean-up, Roxie’s leg was bandaged from hoof to shoulder and we had to rush her to Bell Equine for further examination.

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On arrival at Bell Equine, Roxie was sedated and various scans and x-rays were done which showed significant amounts of damage and an awful lot of grit and dirt in the joints of her knee. As it was so late by that point we decided to get her comfortable and operate first thing in the morning. After a hard goodbye to my princess, Ryan and I headed home with a very tired and confused Milli who had stood like an angel on the trailer whilst we were inside Bell Equine with Roxie. As I’m sure all horse lovers can imagine I didn’t sleep very well that night and as soon as I could I was straight on the phone to see how Roxie was; she’d had an ‘ok’ night but hadn’t eaten anything. I didn’t think she would as she hardly ate anything back in 2010 when I was in hospital after my accident! As further tests had shown she had an infection in all 3 of the joints in her knee. Roxie was already undergoing surgery when I rang so I just had to wait for them to call back after surgery!

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It must only have been about 20 minutes but it felt like hours before they rang back and Roxie was up on her feet. Apparently within 10 minutes of coming round she was back up on her feet and the first thing she did was kick out at the cushioned wall behind her – typical Roxie! I had quite a quiet day which wasn’t good and when the vets rang in the afternoon concerned that she still hadn’t eaten anything Ryan rushed me straight over there. She was very pleased to see me and as soon as I gave her some food and hay from home she tucked in which was pleasing. That night I left them loads of hay from home,  feed with her and Global Herbs supplements in which she loves and she ate most of her breakfast the next day too!

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The next few days were very tough; the yard at home didn’t seem the same without her kicking the walls and squealing every time someone leads a horse past! The vets phoned me two or three times every day with updates and although it was never good progress she wasn’t getting any worse which was good. As I’m sure you can all imagine the only question I kept asking was when will she come home and after a bad day for Roxie the vets answer to me was; at the moment I’m afraid it’s not a case of ‘when’ she can come home, it’s more a case of ‘if’ she’ll come home because at this stage the infections aren’t getting any better! I went silent and although I knew it was bad initially, I’d never thought that she may not come home again. I went straight up to see her that day and took her a pot of the Global Herbs ImmuPlus powder and despite some of the vets views on herbal products not really doing much, I truly believe feeding Roxie this supplement helped keep her on the road to recovery and even the vets began to agree with this as her recovery suddenly took a big turn in the right direction. Just over 2 weeks later my princess was allowed home and her long recovery at home started. My master class in how to bandage began which really was a daily challenge! After weeks of daily bandage changing I think I’d bought a share in our local pharmacy who were very helpful allowing me to purchase box after box full of bandages, gauzes, tape and various dressings!

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Two weeks after mine and Roxie’s fall I was back out eventing with Milli at Stratford Hills and it was only when we were there that I realised the fall had knocked my confidence, and it takes a lot I think for a rider to admit that but it certainly had and we picked up a few faults SJ after Milli hesitated at a spooky fence and when I just sat on top like a wet lettuce we slowly ground to a halt! We picked up some time after that refusal too and I was really unsure whether to go XC or not. After a long chat with mum I decided to take her and Milli gave me the XC round I needed, we just took it steady and jumped a lovely clear; just what I needed! Roxie was back at Bell Equine the Monday after for a check up and when they did the bandage change they were amazed at the progress she had made in such a short period of time; fingers crossed it continued!

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After our run at Stratford Hills I decided to take a step back and entered the BE100 at Tweseldown with Milli and it was just the run I was hoping for. A super dressage of 31.0 and a lovely double clear inside the time it left us in 4th place! A week later Milli and I were back out, this time at Brightling International and we were back up to Novice level. We had a disappointing dressage, all I can say was Milli certainly didn’t want to play ball in the rain. Putting this behind us, it was onto the SJ and she jumped a great round, with just 4 faults which was very good with few clears in the arena. XC Milli flew, all the straight routes and the majority of the fences were 1* fences too so I was very pleased! After being so close to the time at Tweseldown I pushed her a little here and she responded well and was the second fastest in my section but with the hilly terrain at Brightling we picked up 6.8 time faults. This speedy round was good enough for us to pick up our first top ten placing at Novice level as we finished in 9th place! If only Milli had played ball in the dressage, but then again there are lots of if’s but’s and maybe’s with horses aren’t there!?

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A fortnight later, with Roxie’s recovery going from strength to strength we were back out eventing again at our local event Chilham Castle. Milli was entered in the Novice and she remembered how to behave in the dressage arena, I think the sun helped a bit too, and we scored a good 34.0 which after looking at the scores put us in the top 10, so it was all to play for in the jumping phases! This was quickly stopped though as on the approach to a fence in the SJ warm up Milli managed to half-pull of one of her hind shoes and stand back on it. I jumped straight off and we hobbled over to the farrier. When she stood back on the twisted shoe the toe clip went up her white line and that was the end of Chilham for us. I put a poultice on her foot as the farrier suggested just in case infection had gotten in! Luckily when I took the poultice off the next day nothing had come out but I kept it covered for a few days as she was very sore on it. This was the Arab side of her breeding coming out I think! Bless her!

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After this happening at Chilham time dashed past and it was very quickly September and after Milli having a few weeks off followed by some unexpected news I decided we weren’t going to get any more runs in before the end of the 2014 event season, so it was time for Milli and myself to have a bit of time off alongside Roxie!

After 2 months of box rest Roxie was allowed out for 5 minutes walks and grazing in hand each day. She was very quiet and well behaved doing this, so my dad let me put some electric fence up in the garden so she could have some time out on the grass, and then dad quickly realised that if I moved her postage stamp mini-field around the garden he didn’t have to mow! Milli was very pleased when her field companion was allowed back out after over 3 months of grazing solo! I did contemplate giving Roxie a Supercalm sachet or two before turning her out but she managed to contain herself and just about stayed sensible! They did lots of back scratching and it was clear that they had missed each other’s company whilst out grazing!

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With these two having some time off it allowed me time to concentrate on Star and she continued her progress in the dressage world and won another 2 BD Novice unaffiliated classes, so I decided it was time to make our affiliated debut and we did this in great style finishing 2nd behind a very impressive warmblood stallion at Saddlesdane BD mid-September. Not bad for my little 14hh gem of a pony!

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As September came to a close it was time for me to go away for a week and after the ups and downs this summer a nice week away relaxing was just what I needed; not that I got it though as we went to Ibiza! It was an amazing holiday and although we were only there one week we did so much, including jet skiing, boat parties, speed boat tours and much, much more, definitely an experience that I’ll never forget!

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A week away did me the world of good and when I got back Roxie’s leg looked noticeably better. The open wound which started the size of her whole knee after surgery was now down to plum size! After a few more days of bandaging I decided it was time to leave it uncovered during the day so the air could get to it which really sped up the recovery and soon I was no longer covering her knee!

On the return from holiday there was a big change for me as I started a new job! I’m currently working as an Investment Consultant / Sales Co-ordinator for a company on the Discovery Business Park in Sandwich which, although it’s a bit different to working with horses, I’m thoroughly enjoying! I think that after everything with the horses this summer I needed a bit of time off working with horses and I have to admit, being inside when it’s raining and windy outside is a big plus point but I’m sure I’ll change my mind when it’s nice a sunny outside next spring / summer!

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After Milli having almost 8 weeks off and starting to resemble a hippo I brought her back into work and she has come back into work a different horse! A lot more mature and she seems to have a different outlook on her flatwork and is much more forward going which is great! For my birthday present in November I was treated to mine and Milli’s British Showjumping membership being renewed so I had to get her to loose a few pounds quick! We have been out twice now jumping so far this winter and both times out she has jumped very well, unfortunately no placing’s but what I have noticed is how much harder it is to jump bigger tracks inside when you’re in an enclosed space as opposed to when you outside in a big open space! So after some training and a bit of work on our rhythm between the fences indoors, fingers crossed the double clears will start!

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Mid-November, I was very pleased to have my first sit back on Roxie, which was great and I’m not sure who had the biggest smile on their face, me or her! She’s been doing lots of gentle hacking and walk work, slowly introducing trot work to help her re-build her knee structure properly and things are going brilliantly! We even had our first little schooling session last weekend (21-12-14) and she felt great and although she has lost slight flexion on that knee she is very sound on it which, considering the first outlook on her future, is incredible!

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So with this great news on Roxie and with Milli going very well and the fact that it was the shortest day of the year last weekend everything is finally starting to brighten up a bit and although this year has been very tough for my team and I, we’re all still here to fight another day and can’t wait for 2015 begin. Let’s hope it’s going to be a good-en!

All that’s left to say now is, a big, big thank you to the fantastic sponsors of SG Eventing and Team Gadd, all my family and friends who have helped and supported me through the ups and downs this year and of course not forgetting all my followers and supporters! I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading all my blogs and particularly this one, my ‘review of 2014’ and apologies for it being slightly long, so much has happened! Roll on next year.

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