So for the 3rd year in a row, Sharp and I have qualified for the Petplan Area Festivals, and each year at a new level. This year we qualified at Medium Level, and I decided to head back to Moreton Equestrian Center just outside Dorchester, as Sharp seems to really enjoy this venue! I was hoping we would replicate last year’s performance and manage a Top 10 placing which would send us through to the Area Festival Finals in October.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to plan. The whole weeks show prep was pretty much nonexistent, as work was extremely busy prepping 2 horses for Nunney International, I managed to ride and my fabulous Trainer Elder, went out of her way to give us a lesson at 7pm on Thursday evening – it went well, but there were a few things that she wanted me to work on for Saturday, so she advised me to go back in the school for a short session on Friday evening to work on those bits… My times came through, and they were pretty early, so I knew it would be an early start on Saturday to get to Moreton on time as it’s about an hour and a half from us!

I spent most of Friday at Nunney international, I think I got to my yard for 6pm and was shattered.. still had to clean my tack, bath Sharp and ride him.. it wasn’t looking like I would get home much before 8.30pm ☹ I got it all done, and the session went well – I was feeling positive and excited about tomorrow!

Alarm set for 5am, so that I could be at the yard by 5.45am to feed and Plait Sharp, as well as muck out so that I didn’t have to do it when we got back! We were loaded and on route by 7am! Everything was going so well… all except the weather! The weather was cold, Overcast and threatening to rain… not good! Sharp doesn’t enjoy being worked in the rain at the best of times, and I was worried that if it rained during our test he would, spend the whole test trying to turn his bum into the rain!! I put it to the back of my mind and got him ready as we arrived!

First up was the warm up test, I got Sharp out of the trailer, and the wind started to blow harder and the drizzle started.. Sharp was on his toes, so I got on and headed to the warm up arena. To my surprise Moreton had changed the arenas around from last year. Last year we rode the warm up tests in the same arena as the area festival tests, this year the warm up was back in the old arenas and where Sharp had had a meltdown in 2017 – Could the day get any worse??! Well as a matter of fact mother nature decided it could, and the heavens opened and drizzle turned into rain!

Our warm up test felt amazing, he stayed with me, and was focused, with no spooking or silliness at all… I came out with the biggest smile on my wet face ever! I didn’t have long till my area festival test, so jumped off, grabbed a bite of a chocolate flap jack (I needed some sugar!!) then hopped back on him and into the Area Festival warm area.. We had a look at the sand bags – that was to be expected! The rain had eased off, and he felt focused, calm and with me! When it came to my turn to go around the arena, I didn’t feel nervous at all – a huge change for me! The Bell rang, and we used our time to do some final transitions and get him focused on me, then we entered at A, and the Heavens really opened! I’m not going to lie, it was hard to keep a smile on my face as we trotted towards the judge at C to Salute, it probably looked more like a grimace, and I dread to think what Sharp’s face was showing!

We got through the test, at one point I had my head turned to the side as we went down the long side of the arena as the rain was so hard and hitting us horizontally in the face. Sharp bless him stayed with me, and didn’t once try to turn his bum to the rain – I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had tried, as it was horrible! I unfortunately couldn’t keep him forwards enough throughout the test which affected our score, and unfortunately placed us outside the Top 10… but I came out feeling like a winner, as for the first time in a show environment, I was able to ride Sharp like I ride him at home – we have struggled with this in competition. I was also super proud of him as he gave me his all in that area festival test, and didn’t throw a temper tantrum at having to work in the rain – which I was fully expecting from him! The one judge had us in 5th place, and that was an added bonus. We have another chance to try and qualify for the festival finals, and will be having a crack at Beacons in August!

The other reason that I felt like a winner, was that Sharp and I placed 2nd in the warm up class with a new personal best score at Medium Level – and this was in the rain!! I can’t believe just how far Sharp has come in the last year and am super proud of him and looking forward to Beacons Area Festival in August – fingers crossed the weather is beautiful and dry, so we have a chance!

I did have to laugh as we left Moreton, because as we were loading up to go home, the clouds cleared, the sun came out and it was a beautiful afternoon for the rest of the competitors! Clearly it just wasn’t meant to be our day!! Onwards and upwards!

Shelly Smit Dressage