Following a very successful regional RDA qualifier we were all set to take six riders to the RDA National Championships in the middle of July. Unfortunately not everything went according to plan. First of all we had issues with the horsebox, which meant that we were unable to take our own and a big thank you to volunteer Pat and daughter Claire, along with their horse Murphy, who let us use ‘Murph’s box’. Secondly, in a reminder that horses can get injured as easily as us humans both Rafferty and Lula had soundness issues that meant a 9 hour round trip to Gloucestershire was not possible for them this year. Luckily Tawny the old pro was ready to step into the hole left by Lula, and Oural, in his first trip to the RDA National Championship would replace Rafferty in the Grade 1 dressage.
First up was Charlotte in her dressage. It was a bit different riding Tawny at 12.2 hh compared to Rafferty who is 16.2 hh but Charlotte rose to the challenge. Tawny who is safe as a pony comes decided he would not give Charlotte any help though and tried to cut corners wherever possible and also stopped for a toilet break! Charlotte was fantastic, whatever Tawny throw at her she made the corrections and demonstrated great resilience! Well done Charlotte not only did she show some expert riding she beat her score from last year too! Charlotte who is blind needs eight callers for dressage and four tappers for Countryside Challenge (more on that later). Her callers and tappers mean that Charlotte knows where she is within the arena and knows where the obstacles are in the Countryside Challenge.
Next up was Andrew in the Countryside Challenge. For those of you who are not familiar with Countryside Challenge the riders have to complete a course of obstacles they might meet if they went for a walk in the country. They have to post a letter, steer around obstacles, walk under low branches, stop at the road to check for traffic, walk over a bridge and open a gate. Andrew did a very good job throughout the course but you have to be absolutely perfect to do well at the National Championships and Andrew came a very respectable 7th in a big class.
It was then time for tack and turn out. Clare did an amazing job plaiting Owly’s mane and tail and making sure that there was not a spec of dirt on him, the rest of the helper team ensured his tack was gleaming. But tack and turnout is not just about the pony, the riders have to be spotless too and wear show jackets rather than sweatshirts for this competition. Andrew did a fantastic job of looking smart, such a good job in fact he was 2nd in the junior class with Charlotte coming 10th.
Then it was time for more work for Tawny (he is a very hard working pony). This time it was Charlotte in the Countryside Challenge. Charlotte’s team of tappers use wooden sticks to tap the objects to help her locate them. This means Clare has to use very few verbal commands to help Charlotte meaning that she can demonstrate a high level of independence. Charlotte had wanted to do the Countryside Challenge off lead, which she did on Lula at the regional championships. Unfortunately the pull of grass and other green plants on the country side challenge would be too much for a greedy pony like Tawny. Needless to say Charlotte did a incredible job on a long lead rein, especially as Tawny had another toilet stop mid course. Her demonstration of independence was obvious to the judges and she didn’t only win the junior section, she was class champion with the highest score across both junior and senior sections. Well done Charlotte!