Sophie Hulme
Articles Written 4
Article Views 5,139

Sophie Hulme

Achievements

Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Sophie Hulme

I am a 20 year old eventer originally from California where I trained with International event rider James Alliston.. I am now in my second year in England studying Equine Science at Hartpury College. I currently train with International event rider Nick Gauntlett, which is where all of my horses are based. I currently have four horses over in the UK which I will be campaigning this year. I have competed up to the two star level with my upper level horse and hope to get my other horses up to that level this year.

Latest Articles Written

International Eventing Forum 2017: The Next Generation

Sophie Hulme, an eventer from California who has dual U.S. and British citizenship and is currently studying Equine Science at Hartbury College in Gloucestershire, England. Hartbury was the site of the International Eventing Forum 2017, and Sophie kindly sent us some notes from the day!

We also wish to thank Ellie Kelly for the great videos — you can visit Ellie’s website here. And be sure to follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

The Hartpury Arena was buzzing yesterday as we hosted the 2017 International Eventing Forum. This year’s theme was “The Next Generation”, with a focus on training techniques for the horses and riders of the future. Visitors and students were treated to some fantastic demos from top riders, such as Burghley winner Christopher Burton, an insight into statistics from @equiratings and much more!  These are just a few of our favourite visitor photos – via @horsehour @mylesrichards52 @sharpeventing @squashedrobot @tarajefferies   #hartpury #hartpurycollege #hartpuryequine #eventing #twohearts #ief17 #internationaleventingforum #britisheventing #equestrian #dressage #showjumping  #crosscountry #horsesofinstagram

A photo posted by Hartpury (@hartpurycollege) on

The International Eventing Forum 2017, held on Monday at Hartpury College, provided a valuable learning opportunity for the hundreds of eventing enthusiasts in attendance. 

The theme for this year was “The Next Generation,” and it was truly intriguing to watch and listen to so many great minds in our sport. Highlights from the day:

Tracie Robinson

Tracie Robinson, the eventing performance dressage coach for Team GB, started it all off.

Her demo riders for the morning were Tom McEwen and Izzy Taylor, with Tom riding Toledo de Kerser and Izzy riding KBIS Starburst. Both horses strutted their stuff and were very well behaved, an accomplishment particularly in light of Izzy’s horse’s history of getting a bit nervous in big environments.

Hartpury Arena is a lot of atmosphere, and if horses are nervous about lots of people and noise then it is quite an educational environment to put them in. Students come in and out of lectures on the far side of the arena, and a lot of the time the doors creak or slam. It was very nice to see how genuinely happy Izzy and Tracie were with how “Rich” handled the situation. He was a true gentlemen throughout the demo and got pats and praise for being such.

In keeping with the Next Generation theme, Tracie talked about how every horse is different. Horses are just like people each is an individual and all are built differently. She commented on how every horse’s conformation should be taken into account when creating a training program, as certain exercises and movements will be harder than others for them depending on how they are built.

Tracie’s other go-to point was on rider position. Tracie talked about how vital a rider’s position is, and while looking to train the next generation that should be at the forefront. If you train for the correct position from the start then the muscle memory of the rider will be correct. Instead of constantly forming bad habits and trying to correct them, the rider can form good habits and have a solid foundation.

Tracie general comment on hands is that “they are horrible,” and her mentality is that the hands and arms should always be soft with the horse. Hands are not meant to me used all the time and hold the horse up; they are meant to be used when needed and act as a guiding tool.

Lastly, Tracie also commented a lot about rider mentality and being positive. Throughout the demo Tracie was nothing but bubbly and encouraging, and it was lovely to see; she made you get just as excited as the rider about that beautiful clean flying change. That genuine joy was contagious, and she explained how in our sport there are so many times where it doesn’t go to plan, so when it goes right, be excited and reward yourself and the horse because if you are not having a good time then what’s the point?

Horses respond to tone and enthusiasm, so make sure they know when they have done something right so they strive for that again. Tracie said in dressage tests even if it doesn’t go to plan smile and say “fabulous” no matter what happens; it is all in the attitude and if the judge sees you smiling and enjoying, they will look upon you better than if you leave angry and with a cross face.

Caroline Moore

The second demo was coached by Caroline Moore, who focused on training future young riders. She has ridden and produced horses up to the four-star level and is a UKCC Level 3 Coach. Richard Cooney, Heidi Coy and Isabel White were the demo riders, and they all have participated on the under-18 list for England.

Caroline focused on rider position and balance throughout the demo. She had all three of the riders work over cavaletti, bounces and poles while they warmed up. She emphasized how adjustability and balance in the warmup is key so that the riders can transfer it to when they go to course work. Once the riders started to do some course work, she talked about setting up the shoulders and horse’s balance in turns for fences, which helps ensure that the rider gives the horse the best chance to see the fence and jump it well.

Young riders have so many things to remember as they are developing their position and feel, and Caroline explained a good trick for reminding them what to work on while riding. She puts one plait in the horse’s mane, and while the rider is riding and jumping, that plait is there to remind them what to work on and prioritize during the ride.

The demo was very interesting to watch and see how each of the young riders individually handled the course and how they went about it. Caroline was very insistent on making sure the foundation of riders is maintained and taught properly so that as they learn and move up the levels they do so safely but also improve quickly.

International Grooms

The fourth demo was really a talk and consisted of international grooms and what they do.

The three grooms that sat and talked about their experiences were Alex Van Tuyll, an international freelance groom who worked for William Fox-Pitt for a decade; Imo Mercer, who is Sam Griffiths head girl; and Zanie King, who is Laura Collett’s head girl.

The grooms talked about how the job involves early starts and late finishes, as well as how much hard work it takes. But they also talked about how they know the horses and the joy it is for them to see them do well when they do. They are just as invested as the rider.

It was fun to hear and listen about the experiences they have had, and we all know this sport couldn’t happen without the grooms!

EquiRatings

After the fourth demo everyone broke for lunch for an hour, and we then came back to a fifth demo which was also really a talk done by Diarmuid Byrne of EquiRatings. This was a really interesting and different topic to hear about. We all know about EquiRatings and how they come up with some incredible statistics to share about the eventing world. Diarmuid talked about eventing and that the next four years is going to show a lot of changes and growth in the sport.

He mentioned that it is key to still keep widening the audience for eventing and make it more accessible as well as give context so that the layman can understand and join the crazy world that is eventing. He mentioned an easy way to describe eventing that doesn’t confuse anyone is “the lowest score wins,” and he is bang on. By talking about our sport this way it helps explain to the layman what it is all about.

He also brought up the topic of safety and horse falls. As we all know the last two years have been a bit of a shock for eventing and he proposed ways to look at the sport to help make it safer. First of all he made the point of saying no one person is responsible for this. Everyone needs to help improve the sport and encourage it to adapt and grow. There is always going to be risk in eventing and that is the way of the sport but what we can do as a sport is try and reduce the risk as much as possible.

Diarmuid posited that a lot of horse falls happen because people are qualified for the level but not necessarily OK to go that level. They did a trial in Ireland in 2016 where they monitored riders and their competition results. Riders who had stops or faults at a certain level were not recommended to try and move up, so if they wanted to go two-star instead they would go one-star. It only affected 1.5% of the sport and as a result of that test horse falls in Ireland fell by 66% at the two-star level. That in itself shows you that measures can be made to help make this sport safer and reduce the risk.

As a sport on the whole we want to prevent as many horse falls as possible and Diarmuid explained that EquiRatings is in the process of designing a system to help riders look at their competition results and help guide them as to how to improve while staying safe.

It was a fascinating talk to listen to and one that I very much enjoyed — I will definitely be keeping my eye on EquiRatings and their work. They are already working with numerous federations to further our sport and at the same time make it safer.

Chris Burton and Eric Winter

Last but not least Christopher Burton and Eric Winter finished the day with demos of simulated cross country riding and course design.

Christopher Burton needs little introduction: He has won numerous international three-day events, including Adelaide and Burghley, as well as finishing 5th at the Olympics and helping Australia to a team bronze medal.

Eric Winter is the new course designer for Badminton and designs all over England and Western Europe. Having been over here a year now, I have had the opportunity to compete across a few of his courses, and he builds strong but fair tests. You have to be confident and forward, and as long as you do that it rewards your riding.

Chris and Eric were a hoot together and there was loads of good banter and commentating. Chris first rode a lovely 7-year-old stallion, demonstrating exercises to use to train younger horses so that they can be confident and self sufficient. Both Eric and Chris emphasized that when we are training for the Next Generation we should be keeping in mind that these horses are going to have to think for themselves as they go up through the levels.

With the stallion they focused on straightness and him thinking for himself. They made an exercise of angled verticals and focused on him holding his line. It was great to see as by his third time through he went straight through — no questions asked. Chris and Eric were thrilled and mentioned that as they get more mature and further along you can start to ask harder questions.

Chris halfway through swapped to an 8-year-old mare who was a bit more experienced. They made a couple of harder lines with a corner and set of oxers, but Eric put small trees in strategic spots so it made Chris and the mare hold the line and jump on an angle.

It was very fun to watch, but at the end of the day it was also the same concept: staying straight and holding the line. It was amazing to watch an Olympic medalist and the fastest cross country rider in the world ride through tough lines and combinations.

Eric then went on to talk about course design after Chris was done riding. He explained that when he is designing for a two-star he will look at three-star tracks and what they are asking and go from there in terms of what he puts on the course. It gets tricky when designing four-star courses as that is the pinnacle of eventing, and then the designer needs to look at what type of questions they want to ask.

Eric emphasized that eventing is about the relationship between horse and rider, and they should think as one and make a super brain together. At the end of the day is what our sport is about and how the Next Generation will thrive.

Christopher Burton making it look easy. Lovely and relaxed, beautiful to watch #IEF17 #HorseHour

A video posted by #HorseHour (@horsehour) on

That concludes the amazing day that was the International Eventing Forum 2017 #IEF17.

Two Hearts Working Together in Rio

Editor’s note: The finalists in the 6th annual EN Blogger Contest were asked to write a post-Olympic piece as their final entry in the contest, and now we are publishing each of their articles on the homepage before opening up voting for the winner. Thanks as always for reading, and please leave feedback in the comments section.

Camilla Kruger celebrates after jumping clear with Biarritz. Photo by Jenni Autry. Camilla Kruger celebrates after jumping clear with Biarritz. Photo by Jenni Autry.
Phillip Dutton hugs Mighty Nice after winning the bronze medal. Photo by Caroline Moran.

Phillip Dutton hugs Mighty Nice after winning the bronze medal. Photo by Caroline Moran.

Rio 2016 truly showed our sport for what it is: an equestrian triathlon where nothing is for sure until you cross the finish line at the end of the final phase. The leaderboard was shuffled after dressage, after cross country and finally after show jumping. Every phase influenced where combinations lined up both on an individual and team standing. How incredible is that?

During the lead up to the Olympics and during the competition itself, the FEI’s #TwoHearts campaign really struck a chord with me. With the help of social media, video clips, media coverage and live streaming of the event itself, as well as commentators armed with statistics on both horse and rider (thanks in no small part to EquiRatings), I am convinced that this has been a game-changing Olympics.

The much improved media coverage from CNN, NBC and BBC SPORT to name a few, as well as other online streaming through various apps, enabled more folks to view the competition live. Enabling a far wider audience to experience the adrenaline, heart-pumping action of our sport allowed them to witness for themselves the special bond that we know exists between horse and rider. When both peak together, magic can happen, as we saw from so many athletes (two- and four-legged), not just the medal winners in Rio.

Eventing has to have reached a far wider audience then ever before! Now we must build upon this momentum. Throughout the competition in Rio 2016, audiences were exposed to numerous stories that exemplified our sport and showed the eventing community at its best. The passion, grit and determination, the long journey to get to the Olympics for not only the team and individual medal winners, but also the lesser-known individual entries, was clear for all to see. Let me share just a few of my favorites.

Camilla Kruger celebrates after jumping clear with Biarritz. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Camilla Kruger celebrates after jumping clear with Biarritz. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Who can forget the smile on the face of Camilla Kruger as she and her partner Biarritz, ears pricked forward, successfully tackled fence after fence on the toughest cross country course in modern era eventing (with only 40.6% clear jumping rates, the lowest percentage in the past 16 years — thanks, EquiRatings!) they were the first horse and rider combination to represent Zimbabwe at an Olympics.

Who can forget the partnership between the Chilean rider Carlos Lobos Munoz and his lovely horse Ranco. They earned the respect of all in the riders in the viewing tent cheering him over every fence, as so delightfully told by the talented and wonderful Ingrid Klimke.

Who could not be inspired and filled with admiration at the drive and determination of Lauren Billy’s with her partner Castle Larchfield Purdy, to relentlessly pursue her dream and to successfully navigate the long arduous road to qualify as an individual, representing Puerto Rico.

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Bea di Grazia.

Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Photo by Bea di Grazia.

Lauren, based in California, is truly an inspiration to me as I am sure she is to so many riders around the world, not just in her home state of California. Lauren and Purdy did an incredible job, successfully completing their first Olympics and proved to us all that with hard work, incredible dedication, sacrifices, the support of many and with that very special horse, #TwoHearts really can make dreams come true.

As a student of Hartpury College in Gloucestshire UK, I have to also mention the brilliance of Astier Nicolas (a graduate of Hartpury college) and his horse Piaf De B’Neville representing France in their first Olympic games. Astier and Piaf De B’Neville did an incredible job, #TwoHearts, bringing home TWO medals team gold and individual silver, narrowly missing out on finishing on their dressage score by one rail in the very final show jumping round. What an inspiration and what a dream Olympics, all at the age of 27!

Talking about dreams, what about the American dream team?  The partnership between Phillip Dutton (the oldest U.S. competitor at the Olympics) and Happy was magical. From the lovely dressage test scoring a personal best for the pair, to the heart-stopping save on cross country that ought to definitely go down in history as one of the all-time saves (how did they stay together over that brush corner?), to their final two show jump rounds, Phillip demonstrated all the skills of the horseman that he is.

He and Happy quietly crept up the leaderboard to take their place on the podium. How cool was it that Phillip got an individual bronze medal for team USA, 20 years after receiving a team gold medal for Australia, on the very talented and much loved superstar Happy. #TwoHearts. The man is a legend in my mind, right up there with Sir Mark Todd and William Fox-Pitt.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Jenni Autry.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Jenni Autry.

No wrap up of Rio 2016 would be complete without the truly amazing comeback story of William Fox Pitt and the partnership that he has with the incredible stallion Chilli Morning. William has always been a great ambassador for our sport. both in the UK and on the international stage. His fall late last year, resulting in a serious head injury, his induced coma, his goal to ride by Christmas and his dream to ride at the Rio Olympics are now known by more than the eventing community and are truly inspirational to many.

William and Chilli winning the dressage phase generated tremendous media attention (mainstream TV on the BBC no less) and generated many new followers who could not help but be swept up by the potential for a gold medal just nine months after being in a medically induced coma.

I wonder how many decibels the collective groans around the world would have measured as we watched the pair drive by the final element of the ski jump. Then the incredible pride and respect that we felt for the partnership as they put in two beautiful clear rounds in the showjumping phase. #TwoHearts, very special hearts, our sport at its best. I must admit I had to blink a few tears away.

Finally on a personal note, Rio 2016 has definitely inspired me, made me hungry to compete and continue on my journey with my equine partners, to accomplish my own dreams and be the best that we can be: #TwoHearts in harmony. I highly doubt I am the only individual that feels this way, and I believe that for many the Olympics triggered the bug for eventing.

I feel that media coverage of our sport at these Olympics has been game-changing. However, I passionately believe that it is up to each and everyone of us to do our part and continue to educate the public and bring along new riders and owners into this wonderful world of horses and our sport. Remember that dreams do come true with drive, determination, lots of hard work, sacrifices along the way and the support of a village.

Three phases, #TwoHearts, one passion. Go Eventing!

Sophie Hulme, 20, is from California, where she evented and trained with James Alliston. In the fall of 2015 she left beautiful, warm and sunny California for England. She is studying equine science at Hartpury College and competes two of her horses in the UK, Gorsehill Belle and Ice Cool Cooley. Her third horse, Thomascourt Cooley, is still in California competing at the Preliminary level. She rides and trains with Nick Gauntlett and has competed through the CCI* level back home. She hopes to move up to Intermediate soon.

[Sophie’s Round 2 Submission]

[Sophie’s Round 1 Submission]

Eventing Needs You!

Editor’s note: We announced the 6 Finalists in the 6th annual EN Blogger Contest on Friday, and now it's time for round 2! For this phase, we asked the ambitious crew to answer the following question: "As eventing faces the very real possibility of making further changes to the sport's format to align with the Olympic 2020 Agenda, many have questioned whether the sport should remain in the Olympics at all. In your opinion, what is the value of the Olympic stage in eventing?" Thanks as always for reading, and please leave feedback in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of Ultimate Images Equestrian
Event Photography. Photo courtesy of Ultimate Images Equestrian Event Photography.

The Olympics only come around every 4 years, but they provide a worldwide stage on which to shine the spotlight on our incredible sport of eventing. Almost every little girl and boy that rides dreams of going to the Olympics and representing their country. The Olympics not only highlights eventing for the equestrian community but also for individuals that come from non-horsey backgrounds. The Olympics may be their first introduction to eventing. They may never reach the dizzy heights of the Olympics but they can enjoy the journey, understand the magic that is eventing and experience just how special the relationship is that we establish with our equine partners. The humans aren’t the only athletes in eventing at the Olympics. The horses are truly amazing athletes too… brave, agile, full of heart and majestic.

“Did you know? It took until 1964 before women were allowed to compete in eventing at the Olympics… Now the equestrian disciplines are the only ones at the Olympics in which men and women, mares and geldings compete against one another on a level playing field.”

The perceived lack of value and threat of eventing no longer being designated a slot at the Olympics is indicative of a wider problem. One aspect is public awareness and support of eventing. Eventers are often seen as elitist, riders and horses are not regarded as “true athletes” through lack of knowledge and understanding of what it takes. It is also underestimated how difficult it is to be successful with both horse and rider performance peaking at the same time. There are so many factors in eventing with both the horse and rider that it takes a village not just a team.

Although the Olympics provides a unique platform, eventing really has not been able to take full advantage of this once every four years opportunity, unlike other Olympic disciplines. We have to rectify the situation if we are going to keep eventing in future Olympic games and continue to grow and evolve our sport. There are loads of potential Olympians, four star riders and owners as well as riders that can be brought into the amazing world of eventing through the promotion of the Olympics.

Other sports such as swimming, track and field or gymnastics to name a few, take the public on the journey that their athletes take in order to get to the games. Through the magic of mainstream television and technology we get to follow Olympic hopefuls as they attend team trials. The public is educated on what it takes for them to qualify, we recognize and admire the commitment, drive and determination that these athletes demonstrate to get to the top of their sport as well as the pride and accomplishment of being chosen to represent their country. So much so that when the Olympics start, we feel that we know those athletes that we have watched qualify, we patriotically support and cheer them along and rush home from school or work so that we can follow their progress and hope they succeed. How many of us wipe away a tear of pride and admiration from our eyes as an athlete we have followed stands on the podium watching their national flag being raised for all to see…

So what can we do?

We need to make eventing more accessible and understandable to the general public. With the ever-growing technological advances in our country and the world this is possible. Live streaming of events is occurring which is a fantastic start, and helps those unable to travel to an event catch the main action. A recent example being Ride On Video live streaming of the FEI divisions at The Event at Rebecca Farm, owners, friends, and family unable to travel could watch their horses and riders compete. Even I could watch and enjoy seeing my friends compete all the way from England. I cannot tell you how exciting and fun it was being able to watch it, since I am clearly in a different country and on a different time zone.

However in the UK they are taking that to a whole new level with the Event Riders Masters. Look at what they have achieved in running just 3 legs, they have not only captured the excitement of the top riders in Europe with the prize money they have made available, but they now have over 90 countries apparently tuning in to watch (covering a wide range of time zones which means some folks are more than happy to set that alarm clock super early in order not to miss the live action) so there is interest and demand… They are making our sport accessible to the public, they are profiling riders, providing commentary to explain dressage movements, we get commentary on what questions the various fences on the cross country course are asking of both horse and rider and most importantly we start to get to know the riders and their horses.

This could evolve to having interviews with owners and grooms and bring us some behind the scenes footage of what it takes to get the horses ready for each discipline. I have non-horsey family members that had no clue what it really involved for me to event, but they are loving watching and learning from the televised ERM series.

So yes the value of eventing in the Olympics is huge, there are several areas that need to be addressed but I feel passionately that if we could help educate the public, not only on what we do but what it takes to be able to have horse and rider fit and competent to compete at the highest levels, the years of training for both athletes, the hours that go into achieving that success, the highs and lows, then I do think that the public will get behind us and that new owners and riders will want to be a part of our community.

In the meantime we can all do our bit to help promote and educate folks on our sport, and not leave it just to the upper level riders, maybe we could have ambassador mentor programs… When I was in school I would show my teachers and friends video as well as do projects when it was appropriate about eventing. The feedback and response I got was huge. Every time I got back from a show I had tons of teachers, friends as well as staff asking me how it went and if I had any video or photos to show them. If everyone does a little something like that it wouldn’t take long for the public knowledge of eventing especially in the US to grow.

In the UK eventing and riding in general is so much more cultural. Everyone knows someone who has horses or rides. My doctor even knew what eventing was and had a lovely long conversation with me about all my horses and how it was going. That is because not only are there more riders in the UK but also because the London 2012 Olympics did a great job at publicizing because Zara Tindal (Zara Phillips at the time) was competing, so it highlighted eventing and put it in the spotlight. You also have people like William Fox Pitt, Oliver Townend and Mary King who are basically celebrities over here and are constantly interviewed and reported on in magazines as well as online.

If we can get this to be done at every Olympics as well as get the general public knowledge up, our sport would benefit immensely from it. If we can get something like that in the US I think it would help gain more support for eventing. If we can do more interviews and get event riders in magazines and online that aren’t just strictly horsey but sports oriented, I think it would do a lot for the sport. The US is also huge compared to the UK so it will take a lot more work as well as a lot more people to get eventing known amongst the public. So in the meantime everyone can do his or her part to help get eventing in the spotlight. Eventing needs you!


Sophie’s Biography:

My name is Sophie Hulme and I am 20 years old. I originally come from California where I did three-day eventing and trained with James Alliston. I competed all three of my horses there until fall 2015. In the fall of 2015 I left the beautiful, warm and sunny California for England. I have dual citizen ship for England and the US and I started school at Hartpury College in September. I took two of my horses with me. Gorsehill Belle and Ice Cool Cooley and the third is Thomascourt Cooley, which is still back home competing at the preliminary level until I take him on over here. I am here at Hartpury studying Equine Science as well as training and riding with International event rider Nick Gauntlet. I have been competing in the UK since April at the novice level (prelim). I have competed back home to the CCI 1* level and I will be moving up to intermediate over here in a month.

[Sophie’s Round 1 Submission]

California Dreaming to Living the Dream in England

Editor’s note: We announced the 13 finalists in the 6th annual EN Blogger Contest last week, and now we’re bringing you their first round entries here on Bloggers Row. Each entry, along with their bios, will be presented unedited for fairness’ sake. Thanks as always for reading EN. Please leave feedback in the comments section.

Untitled

Round 1 Entry: California Dreaming to Living the Dream (in the Cold, Wet Albeit Green and Pleasant Land of England) 

I have recently transplanted myself and two of my horses, Annabelle and Fintan 5.5 thousand miles, an ocean, and a continent from all that I have known, to further my quest and passion to be the very best that we can be in this crazy sport of eventing. I have gone to the epicenter of eventing in the UK, and to study Equine Science at the world renowned, Hartpury College.

My first event in the UK was Withington Manor and it just happened to be the same weekend as Rolex this year, so lots of excitement on both sides of the “pond” Atlantic Ocean. Due to tons of flooding and heavy rainfall in the UK, a lot of events in the early spring were cancelled so this was the first outing for many British riders too. Who knew England had so much water!

The day started with me having to drive through very dense fog, bringing back memories of home and the fog we would sometimes get in the early mornings at John Marshall’s Fresno County Horse Park. To add to the stress I was driving on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car, thank goodness my parents insisted on getting me an automatic!

Oh and did I mention, I was driving and navigating solo at some ungodly time in the morning with only a cup of English tea to help me focus and keep on the tiniest of country lanes to get to the rather remote property where the event was being held. Eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime I finally arrived and was reunited with my horses that had also safely arrived on the lorry aka trailer, thankfully driven by someone other than myself.

It was then go, go, go! This was going to be a day of many firsts for me. First of all we had to complete all 3 phases in one day not over 3 days, as I was use to in California. Then before I could do anything, I had to check in and have my helmet checked and tagged to make sure it was to the right safety standard, a new rule that had just come into force in the UK, really wished my helmet did not smell so badly, oh well. Dressage and stadium went to plan albeit with a rather quick wardrobe change for both Annabelle and myself in between. Dressage was good with Annabelle staying calm and a nice double clear in stadium meant we were then on to the exciting bit, my first x-country in the UK!

Nervously, I kept reciting the course to myself, no tracks to follow unlike in California, so plenty of potential to go astray. I only had time to walk the course once, then there was the change in the color of the fence numbers, we were competing at the Novice level which is Preliminary in the USA but fences were not numbered in green but yellow, flash back to my beginner novice days in the USA, but trust me these were no beginner novice fences, everything looked huge. I kept telling myself to focus and then another first, warming up on my own, never did that in California always had somebody on the ground, but I knew what we needed to do.

Before I knew it we were being called to go to the start box…kept telling myself to breath, then of course it happened, Annabelle reverted to her hyper excited pre-x-country state which means she is just soooo excited about what is to come that she basically looses it, digging her heels in and simply refusing to go forwards. Meanwhile, the officials are still calling me, I felt myself turning as red as my x-country vest and having a flash back to another time back in the USA, when I competed in my very first CCI *.

At that event I had planned with my trainer James Alliston 4* cross-country master that I would need a lead into the start box, as Annabelle had been getting progressively worse at calmly going there by herself. So what did James do as it came time for us to go to the start box? He completely forgot about our plan and casually walked over to the start box alone, all the while Annbelle and I were spinning further and further away from where I needed to be. Then superwoman Helen Bouscaren (James’s partner) saw the situation and was able to get ahold of Annabelle and escort us to the start box with seconds to spare.

So back to my first event in the UK, Annabelle refusing to go forwards, just as I was about to yell for help from some unsuspecting bystander, my trainer in the UK Nick Gauntlet (yes the 4* star who produce the incredible Chilli Morning, how lucky am I) who was on another horse came to my rescue to give Annabelle and I a mounted lead to the start box, our clock had already started so that was a another first.

Once Annabelle and I got on cross-country the chaos of getting to the start box was quickly forgotten and it was quite simply amazing! Running up and down the steep English hills, through heavy woodland, and over stonewalls was truly amazing. We finished clear with a few time but I was so proud of how we had completed our first event in the UK. I was thrilled and exhausted all at the same time a truly memorable first; it gave me a taste for what is to come, eventing in the UK and Europe!

I can tell you that it has definitely wet my appetite! I know that there are so many more adventures, experiences and firsts still to come as I settle into my new life in the UK and I am so thankful that we made the long journey to the UK.