BE80 blogger returns to competitive riding
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Charlotte Rica-Smith Airowear BE80(T) Blogger 23 Oct 15

BE80 blogger returns to competitive riding

BE blogger Charlotte Ricca-Smith shares her experience of her first Airowear BE80(T) competition after several years out of the saddle.

So after months of preparation, cogitation and perspiration, the date of my FIRST EVER British Eventing competition arrived.

I had told myself, reassuringly, this was a low-level competition aimed at people just like me. However, I have to admit that on arriving at Munstead Horse Trials in Surrey, I felt somewhat out of my comfort zone.

I appeared to be the only person not sat on a Thoroughbred or some other leggy, sleek-looking specimen.

Dressage is definitely our weakest phase and warming up around these experienced-looking eventers certainly didn’t help my nerves. As my husband told me (who put in a rare appearance at the show): “It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, just focus on your own performance.” Wise words, if only I had faith in that performance.

The dressage test went without any major catastrophes, other than realising I don’t know where G is. I knew it was somewhere between X and C and past E and B, which seemed to do the trick.

My main worry was forgetting the test, something I’ve never struggled with before, but for some reason the BE90 test 91 (2009) just wouldn’t stick in my tiny brain. Thankfully I remembered what I was doing, although I’ve seen better circles drawn my four-year old son.

I didn’t want to know my dressage score as I thought it might put extra pressure on my jumping. I figured I’d probably scored in the 40s, which meant I wasn’t in the running and could just enjoy myself.

I had nearly two hours until my showjumping, which gave me plenty of time to walk the course. Unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of the free course walks put on for all BE80 competitors with the BE instructors, as it clashed with my times, so I walked it alone. In my leather competition boots. Big mistake. By fence eight I could feel blisters forming on my heels and had to hobble the rest of the way around.

I sent my husband off on a mission for plasters who was mortified to find himself explaining the ‘emergency’ to the paramedics, who clearly had better things to do than dress a blister.

Despite the wounds inflicted, the cross-country course was great. Really inviting, and the going was perfect – I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

But first the showjumping. I managed to tag onto a course walk with the lovely BE Accredited Coach Sam Champney-Warrener, which I found really helpful. One fence in particular (planks running down hill) I got some invaluable advice, which was to set them up on the corner and then leave them alone – something I often struggle to do (as per my previous blogs).

Pepsi didn’t need much warming up – especially after just completing a dressage test, so we popped over a few fences and were ready and raring to go.

I’m told they announce your dressage score when you enter the arena, and I did contemplate sticking my fingers in my ears and going ‘la la la’ but I needn’t have worried.

The poor commentator was too busy trying to pronounce Pepsi’s full name (Cefnarochr Aderyn Du – I have no idea, either) to worry about my earlier performance.

I managed to take on board Sam’s expert advice – I pushed her on to the double, which had two long strides, and set her up on the corner before the planks. All was going well until the last – when she stuck in a short stride and hit it with her front feet. Argghh. Our first pole in four months and at our first BE event. Gutted!

Apparently I shouted out ‘oh knickers’ as I heard the pole fall, much to the amusement of the spectators. But believe me, the language could have been far more colourful.

Third phase, third outfit. “What a lot of bother” my husband commented. He could have a point…

Again I decided Pepsi didn’t need much warming up – we just needed to get our cross-country head on. So I upped the pace a gear or two and took her over a couple of logs, drew a few deep breaths and we were ready.

I really love the start box, because although I’m feeling nervous, I also find the countdown really exciting. And it makes me feel like a pro!

So, adrenalin pumping, we were off. The fences proved no problem for Pepsi, it was the spectators and jump judges that were far more terrifying..

At one point she slammed on the breaks and tried to leg it in the opposite direction when she spotted a particularly ferocious rhino (actually a Land Rover) parked by fence three.

But we were clear, with 5.2 time penalties – no doubt gained during her various spooks.

With the competition over I finally dared to find out my dressage score, which was a respectable 34.3 (and better than expected). This meant we finished on a total 43.5 and placed 17th in our section. Not bad for a first effort – and it certainly gives us something to work on. But I’m still cursing that pole…

With the eventing season now over I’ll be honing my dressage skills and working on our jumping (spooking?) technique over the next few months.

Luckily there is loads going on with BE clinics and I might give the Baileys JAS competition a go, too.

So, will I be joining BE next year? Hell yeah! Bring on the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton in 2017. Well, a girl’s gotta dream…

 Read Charlotte's last blog entry to read about her event preparation.


Start Eventing with B80(T) in 2016
Thinking of giving the Airowear sponsored BE80(T) competition a go next season? Visit to find out more about what to expect from each phase of the class and how to sign up as a Day Pass Member.

Photo courtesy of Craig Payne Photography.