Our Big Adventure to Poland!

opening ceremony

Our journey to Poland and the Pony European Championships 2011 began at the Pidgleys home in Windsor. The whole team (including reserves Bethany Horobin and Lottie Fry) gathered at Kilbees dressage yard for a training weekend with team trainer Peter Storr. On the first day of training we test rode with Peter and were judged by chief selector Jenny Ward. Rembrandt and I did a solid test with a few little mistakes due to distractions and we scored 70%. I was pleased with this score.
On the second day we didn’t test ride but we had lessons with Peter and all the ponies went really well! Rembrandt was really relaxed so this helped when getting him through over the back and swinging in the trot.
Later on was trot up practice and vet check by team vet Tim Randle which went well and then we put the ponies to bed totally ready for their three day trip to Poland beginning the following day.
The next day was quite emotional for all of the team as firstly we had to say goodbye to the reserves Beth and Lottie and secondly we had to hand over the four ponies Remmy, Topsy, Ferrari and Danny to the brilliant horse transporters Parkers and the two team grooms Sarah and Jenny. Of course we did not doubt their capability but letting go was difficult as non of us are used to leaving the ponies.
The ponies set off and our team travelled up to Chesterfield to spend the night at Erin Williams house before our flight to Poland the next day. We are all so grateful to the Williams for both their hospitality and fantastic support for the team! We had a great night doing girly things and really getting to know each other properly by watching some films and painting each others nails!
The next day we drove to the airport and met Chef D’eqiupe Liz Mills and team trainer Peter Storr and were flown out to Poland on a private jet that the Williams kindly organised!
Shortly after we arrived in Poland and it was really hot and sunny! We got our two hire cars and with some difficulty eventually found the house that we were staying in for the following week! The house was brilliant and we sensed that we were going to have a lot of fun all eating together on a night and hopefully celebrating our achievements at the competition.
The next day we travelled to the show ground to find that there was no arenas and the show ground was thoroughly unprepared for such a hug and important competition. The ponies arrived at around 2 in the afternoon and we were all very happy to see them and they were all looking very excited to be in Poland! When all the rest of the ponies arrived and the stables were decorated the atmosphere lifted immediately!
We had three days of training before the competition began and Rembrandt was very excited to be out in the arena (which was just finished in time but completely inadequate) strutting his stuff! On the first day we just stretched and walked, followed by picking him up a little more on the second day so we could practise our movements. On the third day I had a wonderful lesson in the scorching heat with both my trainer Julie Blanchard and Peter working alongside each other, providing me with two opinions, this helped a lot over the course of the competition.
The next day, Thursday, was the team test, the most import test of the whole competition. I was very nervous but I put the nerves behind me as Rembrandt went really well in the warm up and 10 minute box. We entered the competition arena and Rembrandt lit up! I could tell it was going to be a good test as he was very excited but felt really rideable within the excitement giving him fantastic expression throughout the test! I was over the moon with my test and scored my personal best of 72.250% which put the team in medal contention after two solid performances from Gaby (64%) and Aimee (66%) we just needed a scored of 70% from Erin Williams and Danny Boy B who did a lovely test but sadly it was not meant to be and she scored 69.722% (still a brilliant score!). We thought that our medal hopes were not going to come true but we all got ready for prize giving anyway.
We were delighted to hear that we had tied for bronze medal position with Denmark and received our medals on the podium and posed for lots of photos and we were so happy! However later at the hotel we received a call from Peter telling us that the organisers had calculated the scores incorrectly and in fact we were 0.011% behind the Danes putting us into 4th place, forcing us to give back our beloved medals! That night a lot of tears were shed and the atmosphere at the house was really flat and depressing.
We then had a day of training before the Individual test.
On the day of the individual competition Rembrandt was feeling brilliantly relaxed and swinging in the best outline I have ever achieved! In the ten minute box I was confident and we entered the competition arena relaxed and thoroughly focused on our job.
The test went well with no big mistakes. I was pleased with the test, which was not quite as expressive as before but more technically correct and I scored 71.842% gaining a 9th placing which was amazing!!
This placing put me through to the KUR to music the following day.
On the day of the KUR I was really scared as it would be my first time out with my new Disney themed music. The test went quite well but i was nervous and rushed a few movements but over all i was pleased with how it went. I scored my personal best of 73.525%!! I even scored 79% percent from one judge for my artistic impression and received two overall marks of 76% and 75% but sadly these were brought down buy a few 70% scores from other judges.
Overall the competition was a fantastic experience with lots of highs and lows, for me personally, gaining my personal best in the team test (still with room for improvement) and coming 6th in my first European championships will be hard to beat as an experience!

Now a huge thank you to our brilliant sponsors Toggi for our clothing which makes us all feel so special to be wearing it as we look up to previous pony riders and older riders and wish to one day wear those clothes!
Also massive thanks to the rest of our sponsors:
Sue Carson Saddles
Freedom Dressage
Perfect Piaffe
And to my mum for driving with the ponies in the horse box for 3 days and supporting me at the competition
My trainer Julie Blanchard, who I could not have survived the competition without!!
The grooms Jenny and Sarah for making life so easy for everyone except themselves!!
Liz Mills for being the mummy figure for the team, helping us through our terrible time on that Thursday and getting us through Friday entertained!
Dad for always being there and helping me with my stretches and giving me pep talks in the lorry before each test and generally did his best to look after everyone involved and keeping us laughing with his alter ego Polish Boris through our upsetting times!
My sister Phoebe for generally being so amazing!

And finally to my beautiful pony Rembrandt DDH who owns the most part of my heart and has completely changed my life, i cannot express in words how much I love him he is the best thing that ever happened to me and I will be grateful forever! 🙂

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