IT was another early start as we headed off to one of my favourite events in the calendar – Withington Manor set in the most beautiful rolling hills in Gloucestershire.

I was riding MONARTS MASTERPIECE (Smudge) and Ayesha Vardag’s VARDAGS SARATOGA (Sara) both in the OI.

Smudge felt much more settled on the flat and delivered a really good test to score a very competitive 25. He then jumped a really positive double clear making the track feel seriously easy. He picked up a handy 4th place in a very hot section!

Sara struggled slightly in the high winds in the dressage but still coped really well to score 34. She too jumped a really good double clear round what I felt was the toughest track she’s faced – I didn’t press her for time so no ribbons on this occasion but she finished feeling full of confidence.

We were back for day 2 with MAGNIFIQUE VAN DE DOORNHAAG (Maggie) in the Open NOV and VIVENDE DE VARDAG (Viva) and IRIANA PFB (Iris) in the NOV.

Maggie yet again impressed us in the dressage to score a very competitive 27, this mare tries so hard on the flat and just has the most incredible brain, nothing seems to phase her! She jumped a really lovely clear SJ feeling like her strength and technique has really improved and gave me a class feel round a tough novice track cross-country. Unfortunately in sight of the finish at the penultimate fence she completely mis-read an angled question resulting in 20 pens, I blame myself entirely as she had been going so well and I just took the pressure off expecting her to cruise home easily and she just reminded me to ride every fence the same and not take anything from granted! A great wakeup for us both before her first INT coming up at Aston le Walls.

Viva tried her absolutely hardest in the dressage performing her best test to date to score a 30. Considering when she arrived less than a year ago she couldn’t canter we couldn’t be prouder of how she’s developed in this phase. She then jumped a really impressive double clear gaining her first BE points and giving me a really good feel for what she is to become. She’s so brave and gives her all each time you jump her and is such a fun little horse to ride.

Sadly Iris didn’t deliver her best work on the flat being the last to go in her section and becoming very upset to suddenly be left on her own in a huge field! She made up for it however with a fantastic clear in the SJ feeling every bit the top class prospect she is. We decided not to run her XC being in a non-competitive position but this special mare’s time will certainly come.