Nikki Goldup's BE80(T) Championship blog
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Nikki Willis BE80 championships 2013 30 Sep 13

Nikki Goldup's BE80(T) Championship blog

And finally the Big Day…
So after a whirlwind 3 months of getting used to the new addition in the family on top of making sure my other two sons were settled into their new schools, hours of training, jumping and lunge lessons, exercising to lose a bit of baby weight, and days of polishing, grooming and generally pampering my pony we were finally ready to ride at the British Riding Clubs BE80(T) Championships at Brooksby Melton College.

Our day started very early, rising at 4.45am so we could be on the road at 6am. For those of you that follow me on twitter you will have read about my preparations the day before and how I was trying my best to keep Wanda bright white and clean for the competition (a task in itself). I plaited and loaded my kit the night before to avoid a last minute rush and slipped out of the house in to a dark morning, lit by stars and a lovely crescent moon.

Wanda always makes me smile as she virtually drags you up the ramp of the lorry. She travels so well and I really believe that she enjoys going out competing. She has a really special attitude to her work and is one of her very endearing character traits.

On arrival
The journey up to Brooksby was easy enough; we arrived to a misty showground, already buzzing with people that had travelled up the night before. I had a quick chat to one lady that had journeyed all the way from Scotland, another whose trip had taken 6 hours because they encountered heavy traffic on the way.

Despite the rigours of travel everyone seemed really upbeat, going about their business and preparing for the day as eventers do.

I had travelled up with my Mum who comes to most events with me as a supporter. She is usually left to mind Wanda while I sort out start fees and course walks. Its great having her support and it reminds me of the old days when we used to think nothing of travelling two hours, twice a week to visit Debbie Edmundson who played a big part in helping me as a Junior rider.

After a quick visit to the Secretary I set off to walk the Show jumping and cross country before riders started out on the courses.

Well wishers
My phone was buzzing at this point with well wishing messages from various people that I chat to on Twitter and Facebook and some of my really good friends. It was really lovely to have such lovely wishes sent to me by people who I’ve known personally for a long time and for those who I have never met.

Course walking

First up came a quick show jumping walk. The course was fair and had a few dog leg turns, a couple of true oxers and several elements that required riders to keep their horses attention. Namely the cross country home run which was relatively nearby and a few large banners which Wanda is inclined to look at just out or principle rather than it being a real issue for her. I have been lucky to have show jumped quite a lot as a junior rider and so I quite enjoy jumping technical and tricky courses.

The course at Brooksby was fair and although I would never like to make silly mistakes because I was too laid back I did feel quite confident I would be able to ride the course confidently and to my best ability.

The cross country start was a short walk from the show jumping so it was easy to make tracks and head off to see what the designers had in store for us. The course at Brooksby often has twists and turns and is set on some quite sharp hilly slopes so it was very different to the sort of terrain in my locality which is relatively flat fenland borders.

The designers had used a nice mixture of portables and more permanent fences, banks and drops, fences with a drop landing and turns through a wooded area and some lovely specially built sponsor’s fences. All were solidly well built, dressed and made use of the lie of the land. It was also nice to jump a few larger hedges, something I used to see a lot of 20 years ago but not so much since portables have become more common place.

With both courses walked and imprinted into my mind it was time to focus on the dressage. I was lucky enough to be joined by my friend Miranda who lived locally to Brooksby and was happy to help with grooming and recording all the phases on video and stills camera. It was great to have the support of a calm person who can do all the useful things like take off warm up boots, check numbers and generally help to get us organised!

Dressage - Stressage
Dressage is possibly the phase that I do best in but enjoy the least as I can often find it more stressful as I’m quite demanding on myself. I’m really blessed with a horse that is calm in all situations. It’s really helped me to focus on my riding and improve the way that I can approach test riding. As expected Wanda warmed up well.

I tend to work in very large shapes, almost using up the whole of the warm up area. Keeping her free and moving through her back, seeking forward and really swinging along. It’s taken me a while to work out timings for warm ups, and what my plan should be and I have to say I have been really helped by my trainer Val Gingell who is a great source of experience to draw upon and have been very good at helping me think about competition planning and preparation on the day. It was also good to see the BE 80T trainers down by the warm up.

Helpful coaching
The BE Accredited Coaches on hand at Brooksby were there giving out lots of really useful advice if people needed guidance and it was good to just stop and have a chat and a chill out just before my test.

I think the training element of the 80(T) is such a great idea. It’s really helpful to have trainers on hand to help with course walks and warming up. I really benefitted from the help of Tiny Clapham at Keysoe. I don’t know what happened to me. I’m quite a confident person but I put enormous pressures on myself sometimes. She was so great at helping me remember why I was there…. To enjoy myself!

The arenas were running ahead of time so I decided to ride five minutes early as I was well warmed up and relaxed. My test went well. I had been breaking it down and practicing various elements during the week and this really helped my overall test.

There was one blip but it was totally unavoidable. Poor Wanda slipped heavily on a cow pat just as I asked for a canter transition. It really took us by surprise and I had to work hard to regain our balance and composure. Overall I was pleased with my test but kicked myself about the slip, although it was unavoidable and purely bad luck in this instance.

Nikki Willis BE80 championships 2013No time to waste

Because of the number of competitors the stewards at Brooksby were keen to keep people running through. I had just over half an hour to change tack and get down the show jumping warm up for my allotted time. Again, Wanda was a total pro and knows what comes next. I prefer to keep showjumping warm ups quite short and sweet. My rationale is that in most situations she is already warm from her dressage warm up and that she doesn’t need repetitive jumping. In other words a warm up isn’t a training session, it is a warm up.

Feeling spot on we went into the ring; Wanda jumped so well and I was really pleased with our round. For the first time since returning to Eventing I was able to really think about every turn, approach and fence and make slight changes that ensured that our rhythm was constant and balanced so that she got some lovely shots into every fence. I was really pleased with our clear round and even more pleased when Miranda told me I was in the top three after dressage and show jumping.

Now for the fun bit…

With a quick turnaround we were booted up, over girthed, head cammed and body protected and heading down to the cross country start. Like the show jumping we don’t jump many practice fences. My approach is to have an opening up canter and pop the practice fences a couple of times confidently. Then a nice chilled out walk before heading to the start box.

Wanda knows there is some galloping coming up. I really love that about event horses, the way they learn the phases and know what’s coming up.

So we were off… Wanda as ever was jumping well and eating up the fences. She happily sped round the course, the only hill that made her blow was the last leading to a tight left turn, over a drop hedge to the final run of fences. 

There is a great home-run at Brooksby, a lovely line of four fences on the home run and Wanda jumped them all beautifully. It’s always a really rewarding moment when you jump the last fence, knowing that you have gone clear and had a super time… total adrenalin kick.

I was lucky enough to have borrowed my friend Miranda’s head cam - watch my round.  

With Wanda washed off, cooled and checked over it was time to have a well earned snack and catch up on the results. The team at Brooksby did a great job making sure that the results were published quickly and to my delight I was lying in the top ten.

Annoyingly I had picked up 2.8 time faults cross country which moved me out of the top 3 to 8th. A shame but something I can work on as I become fitter again and get back into jumping fences at a faster pace. It was such a close run competition with only a few marks separating top ten and only 0.3 between 8th and 7th.

Prize giving
With the results turned around quickly and we were soon in the indoor school awaiting the prize giving. It was great to talk to some fellow competitors and hear their stories of how they got there. There was a broad spectrum of young and old, experienced and novice riders, and a wide mixture of horses into the mix.

The prizes were presented by representatives from BE, BRC and Equestrian Clearance. Again, it was really nice to chat to them and share stories of how we had got to the Championships. It was a really fun occasion and there was a great sense of camaraderie between the competitors, with everyone congratulating the winners of the three sections.

So with that the Championships were over, more than 100 people riding three phases and all finished by lunchtime. The day had flown by and it was time to head home and give Wanda some down time and lots of carrots.

So what next?
Ending as I started, I’m thinking about past eventing, how the sport has changed and how it might be developed in the future. I remember the introduction of pre novice about a year before I stopped eventing as a young rider. Now we have even lower levels to engage with as introductions to the sport.

BE80(T) Benefit
Given my situation, and after having a baby I was thrilled to have the opportunity to event again but at a grass roots level. I wasn’t fit and although I had ridden throughout my pregnancy I hadn’t jumped for about 6 months and had barely trained on grass. I didn’t feel ready to return straight back into 100s and the 80(T) competitions gave me the perfect starting point to re-engage with eventing.

I’m now entered for BE90’s at Little Downham and Oasby to finish the season. My aim is always to ride consistent double clears before moving up a level and I hope to start the 2014 season with a couple of 90s and then into 100s.

So would I recommend doing 80(T)s? I think I would. They are a great way to get into the sport and start to hone your skills at getting organised and riding successfully in three phases.

They are also well supported by trainers so there is always someone to ask for help which is really great if you are nervous. It’s a great day out and so rewarding.

When I started back riding three years ago I wondered if I would ever jump again, now I’m doing this, so clearly it all possible if you put your mind to things, set goals and work hard.

Big thank you

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors and supporters of the BE80(T) qualifiers and Championships, and British Riding Clubs. Huge thanks also to the volunteers that help to run all BE events. We couldn’t do what we do at any level without their support so big thanks from myself and the Wanda horse.