06 Oct Alex Holman’s Post Lockdown Update
After a slow start to the season, it’s been all go since July when we were given the all-clear to get back out eventing!
As lockdown started to ease we upped the horses’ workload, starting to add in their usual fitness work and travel for some outings/lessons. The main issue was trying to plan where all the horses could and should run, with limited numbers allowed at each event combined with entries only opening a short time beforehand. We tried to make a schedule for each horse’s training towards various competitions, but knew that this was subject to change due to heavy balloting; alongside the risk that eventing was halted once again because of COVID.
We have been so privileged to be back out competing at all, as we’d almost completely written off the rest of the season, and in such a difficult period we had the horses to focus on and get us away from our everyday struggles – owners, grooms & rider included – although it’s a shame that no spectators are allowed for this year, as it means that many people cannot enjoy the sport as normal, including many generous sponsors.
Firstly we headed to Barbury, with 3 Novice horses – the Barbury team had done an amazing job on the ground and the horses gave me brilliant rides across country, feeling none-the-worse for having been away for an extra few months! Hugo (Hocus Pocus) was the star of the day, claiming 3rd spot in the Intermediate-Novice behind two 4* horses.
From there we went to one of my favourite events, Bicton, where my 6yo Billy (Rathnageera Aussie) jumped double clear in his first event to come 6th, Rock Solid came 10th in the Novice and Pink Diamond flew round a beefy Intermediate track to gain our Advanced qualification, ready for 2021.
I then had a great run of double clears, with Hugo pulling out a 27 dressage/double clear for 7th at Dauntsey Novice, then easily making the step up to Intermediate level with a 33 dressage and double clear claiming 4th at Aston-le-Walls (qualifying him for Gatcombe Intermediate Championships). Billy jumped double clear over the 100 track at local event Oxstalls, and then at Burgham, the first UK international of the year, Gerry (Carrick Diamond Bard) & Pink Diamond both jumped foot perfect double clears and finished on their dressage scores, for 16th and 8th in the 3*S and 2*S!
Our latest events were Cornbury House International & Pontispool. At Cornbury my trio of greys were on great form, with Hugo and Pink Diamond both doing smart dressage tests, good show jumping rounds and flying clears XC over a big and bold Intermediate course, and Gerry completing his second 3*S with an improved test from Burgham, just one frustrating rolled pole in the SJ, and a very smooth XC round – a great prep run for our first Advanced on 6th October!
Pontispool gave me an exciting WIN with Hugo in the Open Novice, despite him being pretty wild all day – I survived the dressage with my neckstrap at the ready, then had to let him go at his own speed (very fast!) through the jumping phases, which luckily propelled us into top spot! He is now having a well-deserved holiday, before a winter of dressage and SJ to make ready for his 3* debut in 2021.
Pontispool also gave me a first outing on my newest ride, Berry (Ballinamurra Eirrann), owned by Adrian Berry & Victoria Chapman, and he’d obviously got the memo that only double clears and placings were acceptable as he produced a sweet dressage test for 29.8, then only added 0.4 time faults to this to finish 10th in his BE100 section, a great start to our partnership! Billy also had a great run over both tough jumping courses, earning the start to his holiday too.
Now at the end of September, there are just 4 events left for us – Dauntsey, Little Downham, Calmsden & Bicton. The 3 horses still in work will all be making upgrades, so no rest just yet – Berry steps up to Novice, Pink Diamond will contest her first 3*S with me, whilst Gerry makes the slightly daunting step up to Advanced at Little Downham (!) followed by our first 3*L at Bicton… Let’s hope he remembers that we finished with a win there in 2019!
A big thank you to all of my team for supporting me throughout lockdown and back out competing – let’s hope that we have a successful month ahead, ready to look forward to a more straightforward year in 2021…