The Highs & Lows of the Grassroots PC Champs  by Scarlett Owen

I enjoyed every moment of Eland Lodge, from Day 1 right through to Day 4, even though there were many highs and lows.

The drive down Friday afternoon was long and very tiring, it took us three hours and fifteen minutes to arrive, because of all the Bank Holiday traffic. The first thing we did when we eventually arrived was to find Strawberry’s stable and get it ready for her. I then took Strawberry for a hack around the event site to give her legs a stretch while my mum and dad set up camp. It’s a very impressive venue Eland Lodge, and I felt so excited and privileged to be there with Strawbs.  On our hack, we watched the show jumping track being built in a massive outdoor arena and could also see the cross country course in the distance.

On my return, my dad had discovered that there was a big hole in the airbed, he’d tried to patch it up, but no joy so went off to find a Tesco and also find a fish & chip shop.  On his return, we noticed a big dent in the car, he’d managed to reverse into a bollard while parking … he was not happy!!! But on the positive he’d found an airbed and brought back a yummy supper.

Saturday was our first competition day, which was the Dressage Championship. The Flint and Denbigh Team all looked amazing and their ponies were beautifully turned out. It was lovely to warm up together and ride our tests at the same time and then support each other once it was over.  Everyone did well  gaining over 60% as the standard of competition was extremely high . Elin Robinson and I both came 12th out of 30 in our arenas, Twn Cernyw & Billy achieved an excellent 66% and Faye Edwards & Nutty gained 62.4%, in very competitive arenas.

I was so proud of Strawbs, she managed to stay relaxed and let me ride her, which enabled us to achieve a PB and improve our dressage performance by 5 points.

Once the dressage competition was over, I invited my team mates to join me on a hack. Archie had just arrived so he quickly tacked up Blondie and we set off the four of us to explore Eland Lodge and found a little wood and had a play in there. At the entrance to the wood there was a wide XC ditch, on George’s first attempt he gave a massive leap of faith and jumped off to the right over the ditch, I was just behind Twm and couldn’t stop laughing as it looked so funny. We also found a bank and a water splash near the show jumping arena which was fun for our ponies to play on.

Once back at the stables we sorted our ponies out and settled them for the evening. Then we took our dogs on a long walk to the woods and XC course. Twm got dragged up a hill by Nancy his Crazy Golden Retriever and ended up with scratches all down his arms and Nancy even managed to get herself stuck in the bushes. It was dark when we got back to camp, but we’d had so much fun on our adventure with the dogs.

Sunday: Showjumping Championships – the team had won the Area 5 SJ’ing Qualifier, so we were feeling positive and excited. I’d got up early and went with my mum to muck out Strawbs and then took her for a hack so she could stretch her legs.  After breakfast Mum plaited her (as my plaiting skill’s aren’t that great) while I groomed and got Strawbs ready for the SJ’ing as we were the last team to jump in the first round.

An hour before our SJ’ing Mum received a text message from Meg Green (our Chef de Keep), saying she had followed the diversion signs and now was totally lost. Dad went off to find her, and by some miracle managed to rendezvous with Meg in a layby and even more amazing they both managed to get back to Eland Lodge in time to see F&D Team do their first SJ’ing rounds. 

When the time came all my team mates (Twm, Faye & Archie) were all tacked up and ready for action., we all looked extremely smart and our ponies glistened in the sunlight, I felt very proud to be a member of F&D.

The warm up went well, with all four ponies jumping great.  Twm was the first member of the F&D team to jump, he rode a brilliant clear round on George. Faye went second, then I and finally Archie, we all went clear and the team was on 0 points going into the second round along with thirteen other teams who were also on 0 points. We then had a four hour wait, ponies were untacked and returned to their stables, keeping out of the sun as it was extremely hot.

I was really looking forward to the second round and feeling positive, once again all four ponies warmed up brilliantly. Twm and Faye both rode lovely clear rounds, and we’d started to think we’d got this in the bag, as Strawbs rarely has a fault SJ’ing. It was now our turn, Strawbs jumped the first six fences cleanly, then tapped the seventh with her hoof which unbalanced me, I managed to regain my balance and she jumped beautifully over fence 8, only the last to go and we were home…my line into 9 was not great, we got a bit close & I dropped her & went flying over her ears!!! Can’t believe I fell off at the last fence!!! It was then Archie’s turn, and we all wished him luck as he entered the arena …” Come Archie you can do it”, unfortunately Blondie rolled two fences, giving the F&D Team a final score of 8plts. Twm and Faye went through to the 3rd round and jumped off as individuals. Faye did a lovely clear, riding Nutty positive and confidently, but unfortunately wasn’t quite fast enough to get placed When it was Twm & George’s turn they set off on a mission, demonstrating brilliant and determined riding and making all the tight turns look easy, they achieved the fastest time of the day but just rolled a pole, which was a shame as their performance was awesome.

After the SJ’ing Championship, Faye and Archie headed home. Twm and I then sorted our ponies for the evening, fed and rugged them as it was quite cold and then after supper had an early night as we both had a very busy day tomorrow, however we were both feeling confident as we’d walked the cross-country course three times and new the exact lines we were going to ride.

Monday: Eventing Championship – Twm had very early times, his dressage was just after 8am, he rode a lovely test on George and then a fantastic double clear inside the optimum time, to finish on his dressage score and came 5th individually…which is an amazing achievement as the standard was extremely high.

Strawbs’s DR test was OK, we managed to get it just under 40plts, she was a little tense and not as easy to ride as Saturday because she could hear the XC PA system. She warmed up great for the show jumping and I was feeling positive and looking forward to a good round. Strawbs jumped the first three fences brilliantly and then stopped at the 4th and I fell off again!!! This is so unlike her! I got back on and we carried on, but later around the course she stopped again and we managed to get ourselves eliminated. Inwardly I was devastated as I was so looking forward to riding the cross country. Not sure what went wrong but it wasn’t Strawbs & my weekend, which is such a shame as we have had a brilliant season.

After the show jumping phase I cooled Strawbs off and then returned her to her stable while we packed up camp. As it was such a hot afternoon, I went off to search for the ice cream van, I eventually found it parked up on the cross country couse!!!!  Three 99’s and several minutes later, all the red sauce had disappeared & ice cream was dripping down my hands as I tried to run back to the lorry park. When I eventually got back to mum & dad, my ice cream had fell off its cone and the other two were a soft goowie mess, with most of it down the front of my T-shirt!!!

On behalf of the F&D Grassroots Team I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Bethan Lloyd-Jones (DC), Meg Green, Jane Grindal for supporting the F&D Team, to all the coaches that have contributed over the years towards the members brilliant performances, and to our parents who kindly give us the opportunity to get out there and compete with our amazing ponies

It wasn’t Strawbs & mine turn to shine this Championship, but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hopefully if we work hard, we can return next year and improve on our performance.