On Tuesday the 23rd of July Solly and I set off for the fairly daunting trip to Brisbane for their CDI. This is only the second CDI held in Brisbane and it is held at their beautiful new Queensland State Equestrian Centre. I let Solly finish his breakfast and a large biscuit of hay, knowing that despite me hanging a large biscuit of hay in the float, Solly never eats on the float. We were off by 8.30, only to spend some time in the South Nowra car park, also known as the Prince’s Highway roadworks. 8 and a half hours later we pulled into ‘Neds Beds’ just north of Kempsey. They had lovely safe stables and yards just next to some self contained accommodation . The stable yards were under some large trees so I was really glad we had completed our Hendra vaccinations.
We both slept well and continued our trip at 7.30 the next morning. Just south of Brisbane airport we were traveling along really well on a 2 lane freeway when the traffic came to a sudden stop. I stood on the brakes and managed to stop without crashing into the car ahead of me. However when I looked back through the rear view window Solly was now looking up at me, not down. Of course I was on the inside lane and had to negotiate through traffic onto the shoulder on the left side of the road. I raced back to the float and there was Solly lying on the floor of the float. I untied him and pulled out the chest bar. Fortunately 2 truckies stopped to help and between us we also opened the rear bars so the middle divider could be moved out of the way. All of this time Solly just lay there, so of course I presumed the worst. With 1 truckie at the front holding his head I pushed on Solly’s belly. To my huge relief he stood up with all four legs unbroken. A quick check showed no skin off, and he seemed quite calm. So with the truckies still helping we reassembled the float and I continued on my way. The traffic had now miraculously cleared (apparently these sudden traffic blocks are a common feature of the freeway prior to the airport) but I was a bit rattled and took the rest of the trip quite slowly.
I arrived at the QSEC in Caboolture at 2pm. I was relieved when Solly walked freely off the float, but I was still unsure if he had injured himself and if my whole drive had been for nothing. The stables at QSEC are lovely, they have rubber on the floor and you can put in as many wheelbarrow loads of shavings as you like. Solly made friends with Sue Hearn’s Remmington and Lisa Martin’s In Time, our next door neighbors.
After setting up the float and unloading my gear I took Solly for a light ride later in the afternoon. All felt fine so I was feeling happier that evening. At 6.30 the NSW team joined together for nibblies and to watch some videos, Mrs Brown’s Boys, (very funny) supplied by Lisa Martin. Thursday saw the start of competition, but the Grand Prix was not on until the Friday so I got up early to ride Soll in the indoor. He doesn’t mind indoor arenas but doesn’t like them if they are full of people. We had to ride early as the arena familiarisation was only open until about 8.30am so the organisers could prepare for the competition. Soll worked really well as no spectators were there and then it was back to the stables for a bath. The trot up was not scheduled until after the competition finished at 4.30 so I had the day free to watch some of the Prix St George tests.The international judges were not being very generous so I knew I would have to ride well just to make the cut off for the freestyle on Saturday. In the stables I was feeling complacent about whether to bother plaiting up for the trot up. Luckily Sue Hearn talked me into it as The Local Horse Magazine photographer took a beautiful photo of Solly. The trot up is always nerve racking and not helped by knowing your horse went down in the float the day before. However Solly sailed through it and now we were all ready to compete.
Friday was another long day as the Grand Prix did not start until 4pm. I spent a bit of time shopping (as you do). There were some great ground mats with dressage arenas printed on them so you can practice your test by walking around them. Super idea. Solly warmed up beautifully for the Grand Prix but became backed off once he went into the indoor. This meant we had quite a few errors, you really have to have him very forward and in front of the leg to keep the energy necessary for an accurate test. We ended up in 6th place and made the cut for the freestyle. Soll was really well behave in his first mounted Grand Prix presentation.
On Saturday we had another early start for our freestyle music practice. I had a short warm up and rode my freestyle in the indoor. Of course as there were no spectators it went really well, no mistakes at all and all right on the music.
The freestyle did not start until 6pm. I was on at 6.30. I was really looking forward to the freestyle as it was all new music from Cirque Du Soleil, put together for me by Mel at Fortissimo Freestyles. She did a great job and I feel the music really suits him. However Soll’s nerves found the now occupied tables around the edge of the arena just a little too daunting and he added a few extra moves to the choreography. I had not planned enter, halt, spin around and try to leave… I eventually got him back on track and close to where we were meant to be in our music. Not our best test but I guess he has to start learning to perform in situations of big atmosphere. We placed 6th again and took advantage of the opportunity for more exposure to the big atmosphere by joining the Quadrille organised by Tor Van Den Berg. That was heaps of fun and Solly really enjoyed having lots of other horses in the arena with him as he was quite relaxed. He also had lots of time after the quadrille standing for the presentation for what seemed like ages, lots of speeches. I was thankful that he seems to like standing with friends for lengthy periods.
Sunday saw us front up early for our final event, the Special. This was by far our worst test as Solly was by now totally exhausted and nowhere near in front of my leg. He tried hard but the test really lacked engagement. Luckily the presentation for this was unmounted so I could pack up the float and get ready to head home. 15 hours of driving later and another overnight stay at Kempsey (but thankfully no falling down) and we were home, totally exhausted but glad to have gone and caught up with heaps of old friends and had a great time.
I did intend to give Solly a week off, however by Friday he was being silly and running around his paddock so on Saturday the 3rd of August we saddled up again and have started our preparation for the State Championships. Come and say hello if you are up there.