Flo Carter: My Final HorseQuest Blog!
As the Eventing season has drawn to a close, so has the HorseQuest 2020 bursary scheme. It’s been such an amazing opportunity and in my final blog I’m going to take a look back over the last few events of the season, as well as what I have achieved with the help of the bursary, and advice for anyone interested in getting involved with next years bursary. Firstly, let’s pick up where I left off in my last blog... my final 3 events of the season have been and gone. After Wellington, it was almost a month before I managed to get out Eventing again for various reasons, we unfortunately missed our run at Munstead with Towie and Star after our lorry failed its plating. Which meant straight into the deep end, as the next event on my calendar was Moreton Morrell and my first BE Novice with Star...
I’d like to say I was really looking forward to this day... but in reality I was sort of dreading it! Don’t get me wrong, I love the buzz of Eventing, but Star and I still being a relatively new partnership, and the course looking particularly big and unforgiving had certainly set my nerves off! I think this all came to a head in my dressage, I abandoned my usual dressage warm-up technique in favour of a blind panic, which Star picked up on... and we rather put on a rather entertaining test for the judge to score 41. Yet getting this dreadful dressage test behind me almost seemed to help, we could just take the day at our own pace with no pressure now, we jumped one of our best show jumping rounds to date to go clear at our first attempt at this level!
This gave me the confidence boost I needed for the Cross Country course ahead of us, however things took a turn again.... unfortunately I was held just outside the startbox for about 15 minutes due to an incident on course, this long wait was enough for Star to first fizz up, then completely fall asleep, we dribbled out of the start box over a rather small fence 1, so I think Star was slightly taken by surprise at the huge, max. dimensions table at fence 2, which he proceeded to land on top of.... not ideal. I turned off my watch straight away and was determined to get home confidently, to come come home double clear from our first Novice was such a good result... yet the round didn’t feel particularly nice as a result of our near-miss at fence 2.
I was ready for a confidence run on Atty, who set a PB dressage of 32.8, and felt totally up for it coming out of the start box XC, as usual he tackled the course with ease coming home clear, and yet his round wasn’t without drama either! A couple of fences from home he completely misread an upright gate, and almost left a leg at it, scrambling over it and somehow still jumping the skinny ‘B’ element, what a machine! However on getting off him after my round, I noticed he had studded himself in the leg in our scramble over the gate, and needed 5 days box-rest to recover. So not a bad day on paper, double clears, 32 dressage’s - all positives. However I wasn’t feeling my usual gung-ho, confident self in the aftermath of 2 little incidents out XC. So, we made the decision to withdraw from Calmsden Novice 2 weeks later, and reroute for a confidence run at Horse Events Swalcliffe instead, taking Star for a spin around the 100 track. We had the day we needed, picking up another double clear, but a double clear that felt competitive, rather than a little apprehensive. I was so glad to have made the decision to step back for a week, as it left me feeling super confident for my final event of the season.
Broadway BE Novice was my final event of the year, with both boys. The course was fair, with a couple of big questions late on, and the ground was slightly on edge after a week of non-stop rain - but I felt up for the challenge. Star was up first again, and came out with a really positive mindset, strutting his stuff in the warm up (if the warm up was judged, I’m so sure we’d have smashed it..!!) the first half of his test was really positive, he attempted the harder movements, leg yields and medium trots in a respectable manner, just going slightly over the boil in the canter to score a decent mark of 34. He helped me out around a tough show jumping track (surely made tougher by my sudden inability to ride effectively..!) just having one pole down. And then a nice confident clear XC, just the run we needed to finish the year!
Atty was not to be left behind, and also posted a great dressage score of 34. And then something nobody was quite expecting.... one of the toughest show jumping courses we’d faced all season, eliminations left right and center - and Atty breezed around it CLEAR as if I was simply asking him to go on a gentle hack. This horse felt like a pro, and had me soooo excited for our XC round, which he also stormed around clear, just picking up a few time penalties as the course was looking a little more churned up. (Of course these time penalties dropped us into 11th again... but I seriously could not have been prouder of this horse jumping his first ever double clear at BE Novice level).
Which brings me onto the round-up of my 2020 Bursary, and how extremely grateful I am to Horsequest for this opportunity... Since our lesson with Sam Griffiths in late July, Atty has just been improving his show jumping exponentially - Sam’s great advice on how to ride a course certainly helped Atty and I achieve that double clear at Novice we’d been working so hard on. I vlogged my lesson with Sam, and shared lots of his advice which you can watch here:
Of course the bursary funding has also been huge for me this year, and helped me to have even more regular flatwork lessons which has really helped my progress with Star. Our first Event of the season, a BE90 at Swalcliffe we scored a 45.8 dressage, and we finished the season scoring 34 in a BE Novice test! Regular flatwork sessions have really helped us to click, and I’m so grateful to Horsequest for providing the funding for that. Being a part of the team at Horsequest and getting to represent the brand out at competitions in my team gear has also been such a special experience, as I said all the way back in my application video, we’ve always used HorseQuest to buy and sell horses, so strutting down the centre line in a Horsequest saddle pad is a special feeling indeed!
My advice for anyone even thinking about applying for the 2021 bursary is - just go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose by applying, and creating my application video actually helped me to clarify exactly what my 2020 aims were, and helped me focus on how I was going to get there (sadly even my best planning couldn’t have accounted for a global pandemic!)
My top-tip is to remember that everyone applying will be competing in the same discipline as you are, so definitely try and find a niche in your application, something that makes you stand out.
And it definitely doesn’t need to be ‘how high your jump’ or ‘how fancy your horses are’ for me it was the fact that I have a few horses at different levels of training, which I thought could be really interesting for people to read about in my blogs on the Horsequest Hub. I wish everyone entering the absolute best of luck, and I hope you have enjoyed following my journey this season (even if it wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d initially planned, next year for sure!).
A final, huge thank you to everyone at HorseQuest for the amazing opportunities I have had as a part of the bursary. Over and out - Flo x