We’re super lucky to have both Doug Payne and Liz Halliday-Sharp keeping us up to date on what’s happening at Saumur! Liz checked in with her first blog today after both Fernhill By Night and Crown Talisman passed the first horse inspection. She also got her first look at Pierre Michelet’s course; read on for her thoughts. Many thanks to Liz for writing.
After a fairly painless trip over from England, Fernhill By Night (Blackie) and my groom Gemma (Jelinska) and I made it to Saumur yesterday just before noon. The first thing that we noticed when we got here was how wet it was, which was already a real change from my last trip to the event in 2011 when it was beautiful and sunny and warm the entire week. I suppose it would be crazy to expect that again, but I have to admit that I remained ever hopeful until we arrived!
Blackie travelled well, and I took him for a nice hack in the afternoon after setting ourselves up in the horse box for the week. The sun came out eventually, and it was a nice evening in France, and we were looking forward to getting out on the course today.
So here we are on Wednesday, and the main theme of the day is RAIN. Wow, has it ever been wet today! It seems inconceivable that it will ever stop with the way it is coming down, and we feel as if we are literally swimming around in Saumur! Thankfully, Blackie’s stable has not flooded like so many around us, so we are at least enjoying that small bit of luck for now.
We started off the day with a briefing at 9:30 a.m., which included the nations draw for the jog. As we were the last to choose, we got country order number 14 by default, which gave us plenty of time to walk the course and ride before the afternoon jog. I then put on my rain coat and braved the weather with Blackie for a schooling session. Despite the rain, he was feeling great and quite happy in himself, and David (O’Connor) seemed please with the work we were putting in. After pats and treats for my boy, we got him dried off and warm again, and I set out for my first glimpse of Pierre Michelet’s course.
I have ridden quite a few of his courses over the years, including here in Saumur in 2011, and I enjoyed a great trip around the three-star that year. I know that his courses tend to be heavy on the technical side with questions coming thick and fast at the beginning and the end of the course, with an occasional “breather” in the middle. He also tends to have questions where you could either choose the bold line or the slightly more holding distance, giving the riders options, but rewarding positive and accurate riding.
So my first impressions of this course are that it holds all of the Michelet trademarks and that this is a serious three-star. Just based on my first walk around, I feel that this is one of the tougher three-star tracks that I have seen for a while — very technical right up to the end and lots of varied distances and questions for the horses. There are certainly a few things that will be tougher for a big jumping and rangy horse like Blackie that will be easier for a more adjustable and economical horse, but I think that this should be very educational for him, and I am just going to have to be very focused on how I manage his stride and his jump.
I am sure that with my second course walk tomorrow that the course will start to take shape in my head more then it has today, and all we can do now is hope for this unbelievable rain to stop. The deep sand will certainly be a challenge in places, and at the moment we will need flippers instead of studs for our horses!
This afternoon we managed to get through the jog without getting too soaked, and Blackie flicked his toes and showed off like he always does, with me sprinting as fast as I could alongside all of his 17.1 hands and huge stride.
The rain is still pelting down now as I finish this blog, mixed in with a bit of thunder and lightning for added effect. All we can do now is hope for some sun tomorrow, please, please, pretty please!