Solo was SO well behaved at his first FEI event that he was unrecognisable. We arrived on the Wednesday around mid day. Selena tacked up Solo while I laid 8 bags of shavings into the stall provided – I mention this because when we moved Solo we had to buy more shavings and it is still galling my Scottish soul that I had to abandon my 8 bags of bedding. There were three barns. A huge tent at the top of the hill, the Bromont permanent stabling at the centre and betwee the perma stabling and the warm up ring was a very small tent. One end of this was set aside for the vet to do the in barn and the other side held ten stalls – five facing the warm up and five backed on to face the permanent building. We were assigned a stall in this last tent. I set up our equipment by which time Selena had finished having a wonderful ride on Solo who was in his ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ disguise.
The warm up area was very wet and the surface had turned into a grey sludge which was coated onto the horse, the tack and the rider! It took a while to clean everything off and by the time we had finished, it was time to feed Solo and go and check in at our hotel. We noticed Solo had not drunk much but he was standing quietly and seemed quite happy. He could see horses warming up and there were horses at the other end of the barn being inspected by the vet.
We came back to the barn to do late night and found Solo quite overjoyed to see us. He had been standing quite quietly when we drove up, but when he saw us he screamed his head off and ran round and round his stall, NOT his usual reaction. We took him out for his walk and realised that there were STILL no other horses in the barn. It was now 10pm and it was not likely that any were going to arrive. Solo had neither drunk nor eaten his grain or his hay. Although he had been quiet, he had been quietly upset! We grazed him in hand and phoned the organiser to ask for help. They were super and told us to use a stall that was still vacant in the perma stabling. As soon as Solo turned around in the stall he started eating and drinking. It’s funny, when he was a baby he would have told us very quickly when he arrived that he didn’t want to be on his own, now his manners are so grown up that he just stands there quietly and suffers….poor Solo, he was SO upset. After we put him in the new stall and gave him his grain he still didn’t want us to leave and became very anxious and panicked when we left the barn. We took him out for one more walk, then shut his door and got into the truck, which we had parked where we could still see him and ascertain that he was going to settle down when we were gone. It took a while, but finally we saw his head return to his grain and we drove off.
By the next morning his panic attack seemed to have retreated and he was his usual self, happier to see his breakfast than the person who brought it.
Selena rode Solo early the next morning then got on him again just twenty minutes before her test, the warm up for dressage was great although marred by one small heart stopping moment. The TD came up to Selena ten minutes before she was due to go into the ring and said her bit (a happy mouth snaffle) was illegal due to a new rule change. EEK….I galloped up to the barns and Ian Roberts told me to go and grab one of his (we had no metal snaffle with us) and use it. I searched through the bridles outside his stalls and chose a lovely one 😉 However, it turned out we didn’t need it, it seems that the TD was mistaken but our heartrates all got a really good workout while he found that out on the walkie talkie! I gave Ian his bridle back and he took a look at it, admired it and said he didn’t have one like that… DOUBLE EEK….I had gone to the barns and quietly rummaged through the wrong person’s bridles, selected the one I like best and nabbed it without a glance backwards. Nobody saw it go back either…..
Solo went into the traditionally electric ring at Bromont and did a lovely test without a single opinion or disobedience. It was such a pleasure to watch him finally accept the rider’s aids and stay in front of the leg. His dressage put him into eleventh. Cross country was fast and clean. He flew up the mountain, flew down the mountain, took all his fences carefully and accurately and finished with a double clear. He was dog tired on Saturday afternoon, the first time I have ever seen him tired. However, when he came through the finish line he had a lot of running in him and it was commented on that his tank was more than half full at the end. No problem with endurance. He was in fine form for the trot up and flowed past the judges on a huge even stride. No stiffness issues with the show jumping, he had one little bobble on a corner where he thought about discussing where the in gate just happened to be, but he rememberered himself just in time to take a good look at the next fence, and loft himself above it. He finished on his dressage score in fifth place and we were so pleased with him. He did not argue or discuss a single thing during the whole week at Bromont. He was well mannered and did a good job both in and out of his stall.
It’s scary to say it aloud, but it looks like our perseverence is finally paying off. Our plan is for him to do another CCI* at Wit’s End at the start of August. He is not ready to upgrade to Intermediate yet, and Prelim is a level I like them to get lots of experience at. It’s not too fast and pounding on the legs and it asks miniature versions of most of the jumping questions you find at the Intermediate and Advanced levels. I am not sure what horse trials he will do as a lead up to Wit’s End, probably one or two more, or some dressage shows – he does not thrive on being left home, he likes to go out and about and seems to get more and more into his rythm as we haul him off to outing after outing. Right now he is having a well earned week off on grass and is looking very smug and pleased with himself.