‘Les Etoiles des Pau’ is one of only a handful of 4 star competitions in the world of Eventing and all our horsey chums were there; Emily Galbraith riding for her life on Timing, Caroline Powell giving it her all on Onwards and Upwards, and O&U’s owner, our old mucker Cameron ‘Choppy’ Crawford.
We caught up with Emily and Choppy, post-event just as soon as the road dirt had settled from their epic 1250-mile schlep across to the Pyrenees.
Choppy had intended to fly down but his swanky plans came unstuck when he was requisitioned to drive fellow Scot and Eventer, Wills Oakden’s horsebox.
So, instead of sipping fizz in First he roughed it with Wills and Nicklas Bschorer, an 18-year-old German rider already causing a stir in 4 star and likely to shake things up in future years. As you can see from the video above the tribulations of travel have taken their toll.
Still, they made it, tailgating Emily – or, as Choppy put it, Penelope Pitstop Galbraith, for the last 80 miles.
After the bitter, awful disappointment of failing the trot-up at Burghley, Emily was confident of her horse’s fitness and desperate to have a crack at the whip. All season she’d been working tirelessly, with a fraction of the resources available to most competitors, but when it came down to it this time it was Emily who bottled it.
“I was just too nervous to do the trot up. I couldn’t face it after what happened at Burghley. I had to get someone else to walk him.”
This time though she needn’t have worried. Timing was proclaimed fit and she went through to the Dressage.
“It would all have been fine,” says Emily, “If he hadn’t decided to do his Black Beauty routine….”
She went on to explain that when Timing came down the middle line and saw himself on the big screens which surround the arena it was all too much for the relatively inexperienced horse. He reared up in a hoof-pawing fashion that’s fine for a cowboy flick but not really what the judges are after in a 4 star dressage event.
The mistake put her in 71st place.
“Gutted,” said Emily.
However, after going clear in the cross country – an incredible feat round a course in which many of the World’s top riders came to grief – Emily acquitted herself well in the show jumping . She was absolutely delighted with the performance and finished in a brilliant 24th place.
Emily admitted that she was disappointed with the Dressage, had it played out differently she would have been placed 8th. However she described Pau as ‘the best week ever.’ And went home absolutely assured that her horse has what it takes – there was never any doubt that Emily has what it takes – and next season it’s all to play for.
Back over in the Choppy/Powell camp, the results were mixed. Choppy reported being frustrated at the Dressage score of 51 and felt the score should have settled somewhere in the mid-40s. Still Caroline and Onwards & Upwards were amazing in the show jumping and as Choppy puts it;
“It shows the horse has the potential – with Caroline’s skills it will come right.”
Having said that, Eventing is a grueling sport – not for faint hearted. It’s not just the skyscraping jumps or the ever-present threat of injury for horse or rider. It’s the lack of second chances – all it takes is one error, and this is exactly what happened to Caroline in the Cross Country. Taking a jump at the wrong angle meant she was forced to re-present and her hopes of finishing in the top flyte were irretrievably dashed.
“It’s frustrating if it hadn’t been for re-presenting Caroline would have been well inside the time.”
Still, this sport is all about picking yourself up and – we make no apologies for the pun – looking onwards and upwards.
Now it’s all about preparing for next season, Badminton in Spring and then selection for the highlight of 2014, the FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, in August.
Speaking of his hopes for his horse and selection chances, Choppy continued:
“We’re looking forward, anticipating success but always with our feet on the ground. In Eventing a horse can go lame over night but we know enough now about Onwards and Upwards to know that realistically there’s a medal chance in 2014.”
We look forward to finding out.
On a related note we’d like to congratulate Choppy’s daughter Lucinda Crawford, who aged 12, in her first season has not only competed in the adult BE90 Scottish class but finished top, as Scottish Champion. Go Lucinda!
Congratulations also to George Crawford, Cameron’s son who finished 5th in the BE90.
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