Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 8:41 am.
As you will remember, there was much disappointment in the Griffiths Eventing Team camp when Sam wasn’t selected for the Games. However, no less than two weeks later, Sam was called by one of the selectors saying that one of the reserve horses had gone lame and would he and Happy come into the Olympic Training Camp as a replacement. Lucy wrote this piece for an article for her old school magazine so we thought we’d share this extract with you all:
“Despite still feeling a little cross with the selectors – being called in as a reserve was an opportunity not to miss. So at the beginning of July I waved Sam and Happy off for two weeks of intensive training with the other team members, only to expect them home again two weeks later when the training camp was over and the team left for Greenwich. Sure enough that day came and Sam and Happy arrived home, trained up, fit and ready to go but having waved the team off from the camp that morning. I had a very deflated husband on my hands and many hugs, cooking of his favourite meals and sayings such as ‘there’s more to life than the Olympics’ ‘it’s only a sport’ etc etc followed!! We went about our daily business and had just got back to life as normal when the phone rang at 5am on the Thursday morning – the day before the Olympic three day event was due to start – it was one of the selectors ringing to say one of the team members had gone lame and they were 99% sure Sam and Happy would be needed in the team but they would call back to confirm at 7am. Well, we tried to get back to sleep but that was hopeless, we sat up in bed, drinking tea and just longing for that phone to ring with good news. Sure enough, the phone rang at 7am and Sam was told he and Happy needed to get up to Greenwhich ASAP! I can’t begin to describe the excitement, panic, packing chaos, phone calls to Sam’s parents in Australia that followed! The girls in the yard got to work packing all Happy’s gear and Sam got his things together. I nipped out to the shops and got some champagne and croissants and we all had a quick Olympic send off breakfast together – a very special time and lovely to have all our hard working girls there to celebrate with us. Waving Sam, Happy and our headgirl off at just after 9am was a very emotional moment and one I will never forget.
As a wife of an Olympic athlete, we do not get accreditation, but we do get tickets to each phase of the event. So the next evening I got on the train to Greenwhich ready for his dressage test the next morning. I managed to see Sam for about 10 minutes that evening before he had to get the shuttle bus to the Athlete’s Village. The next morning, I spoke to him on the phone to wish him luck for his dressage but it all felt very strange as I normally help him in the warm up etc and am much more ‘hands on’. Nevertheless, I was so incredibly proud when he trotted into that amazing Olympic arena and performed a test that took the lead. I couldn’t believe it – my husband, in the lead at the Olympics! I rushed around to the area where they leave the arena and I knew I could get a glimpse of them through the 8 foot wire fencing! Luckily Sam saw me and came over for a hug – everyone was thrilled and tearful! But no time for tears as he was whisked off for a press interview and a drug test! Later that day, Sam was able to come and meet me and we had time to discuss the test, the cross country course for the next day and how everything at home was. It was a brief interlude of normality!
Cross country day dawned and we knew it was a good course for Happy as he has proved himself over much bigger courses over the years. Of course, the atmosphere made it all incredibly nerve wracking but incredibly exciting too! I got into the park very early so as to beat the crowds but it seemed as though everyone had had the same idea and there were just hordes of people heading towards the ticket gates – my hear sank – had I allowed enough time to get in or was the nightmare scenario about to happen and I would be left standing in a queue whilst my husband was tackling the most important event of his career?! My worries were soon dissolved though as the incredibly efficient team of ‘Games Makers’ and the Royal Navy got everyone through security (which, yes, did involve no liquids, aerosols, taking jewellrey off etc) at a very good pace. Once in the park I met up with Sam’s Dad, who had jumped on a plane from Australia as soon as he heard the news, and together we decided where would be our best place to watch him warm up, where would be the best viewing point whilst Sam was on course and where we might just be able to congratulate him at the finish! I had a quick phone call with Sam, wished him luck, told him to go for it and that I knew he could do it. Soon enough, his time came around and off he set…..All was going brilliantly, we had watched him on one of the many big screens negotiating the tough fences and were waiting for him to come into the last section of the course when we heard the commentator say those words I will never forget “ Well, we can see Happy Times, but we can’t see Sam Griffiths on his back” Just ghastly….I started running to the area where I knew Sam was roughly, bashing many unsuspecting spectators out of my way as I went and then I saw Sam covered in grass stains, also trying to fight his way through the crowds to try and find Happy who had long since galloped back to the start box. I was just relieved to see he was in one piece but, as would be expected, Sam was seriously disappointed – they had slipped up on the flat between the fences – just the worst luck and something that could have happened to anyone at anytime but it had to happen to us at the Olympic games. I went with him back to the team area where one of the other riders lent me their accreditation so that I could be with Sam but nothing I, or anyone said, was going to console him at this stage. All those years of work had been thrown away by one slip on a turn – unbelievable. But then you just have to remind yourself that much worse things happen. Sam and the horse were both fine, he was going fantastically well and of course, he is and always will be an Olympian and how many people in the world can say that? At the moment, it all still seems quite ‘raw’ but time is the best healer for these things and having had a taster of that amazing Olympic atmosphere it has made Sam even more hungry to get to Rio and win a medal for his country.
We are back home in Dorset now and I think we are getting our lives back to some degree of normality. It was incredibly touching how many messages of support we had throughout the Games and this in itself is very heartening and motivating for the future. Despite things not quite going or way, it was an amazing and unforgettable experience which I feel so lucky to have been a part of . Yes, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and yes, it’s really tough being the one picking up the pieces when things go wrong but I wouldn’t change it for anything and I just can’t wait to see Sam represent his country again. “
Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 8:38 am.
So, as you well know, our Olympics didn’t quite go to plan (!) but seeing as both Happy and Sam were unhurt from their slip on the flat and they had only done 7minutes of the course, we decided to re-route Happy to Burghley.
Following a quite couple of weeks after the excitements of the Olympics we got Happy back in work and began prepping him for Burghley. He was very fit and all those pre Olympic training sessions meant that his schooling was ‘tip top’. Arriving at Burghley is always special, it really is one of the best events in the world – not only is the setting stunning but also the atmosphere is so friendly and relaxed. Having got set up on Tuesday evening, Sam and Happy had a dressage session with Gareth Hughes on Wednesday morning and then had their first look around the course after the briefing. The only thing is that no matter how many times you do Burghley, the course never gets any easier and sure enough this year it lived up to it’s full expectations!
Having sailed through the trot up on Wednesday evening, Sam had another session with Gareth on Thursday where they ran through the test and ‘put the polish’ on. Then dressage day dawned and thank goodness this year we had a good draw – you may remember last year we were drawn first to go! So there was much relief when we got a Friday afternoon dressage slot! Following a little loosening up session in the morning, all was set for Sam and Happy to do their stuff! Which indeed they did – scoring a very good mark of 42 and leaving them 9th after dressage – so well in touch.
Onto cross country day and this is when being drawn late in the field suddenly doesn’t seem so appealing as the waiting around for your time is just agonising! You just want to get out there and get on with it. Anyway, Sam is used to this and funnily enough manages to sleep through some of the time! The rest of the time is spent walking the course early in the morning before the crowds build up, giving Happy a little leg stretch and then watching a few on the closed circuit to see how everything is riding. This year, the big issue as well as the enormous jumps was the going – it seemed much more draining than anyone had thought when they had walked it. However, we knew how fit Happy was and he is so light on his feet that we realised this could work in our favour. After what seemed like an eternity it was finally time for Sam to get on board and warm Happy up – this year Happy knew exactly where he was and was very over excited indeed in the warm up and we could hardly get his grease on his legs – he knew what was coming and couldn’t be bothered with all these unneccesary interruptions!! Anyway, greased up and everyone still in one piece we made it up to the start box and off they set. From a supporter’s point of view, the next 11mins 30secs is agony as you frantically watch the screens in the rider’s tent, desperate to see how they are getting on – your heart is racing, you can’t talk to anyone and you are just relieved to see the back of each question as they come thick and fast. However, nobody need have worried as Sam and Happy made it look like clockwork – it really was the most fantastic round and they showed everyone what a class combination they are. Sam came back on an absolute high (as did Happy!) and said he had probably had the best round of his career! Very fitting indeed after the disappointment of London. Happy looked a treat that evening so we had no worries for the next day and we could all get some rest.
As expected, Happy flew through the trot up so we now just had another long wait for the show jumping. There’s always a lot to do on this last day what with packing up etc so the time passed quickly and with some great help from Clayton Fredericks in the always tense show jumping warm up arena it was time for their round. They started off beautifully – Happy was giving the fences a lot of height and staying ‘in his box’. He even cleared the bogey fence – the Royal Mail upright that everyone was having! However, Happy then ‘did a Happy’ and grabbed the bit and rushed through the next three fences clipping each one behind as he went. Gutting! But actually, the show jumping had caused so much trouble that day that those rails weren’t quite as expensive as we thought and they still finished 9th – another top ten finish at what really is the world’s biggest four star! That’s certainly a cause for celebration and makes all our ups and downs of this season melt away. Happy in the meantime, is enjoying the Autumn sun on his back out in the fields. He’ll have a nice long rest and come back into work around December time.
In the meantime, all other business in the Griffiths Eventing Team has to go on and what with the cancellations and the Olympics, there have been a lot of horses eagerly awaiting their turn to get out and party. So life’s been very busy here, we’ve rushing around the one day circuit with the novice horses, trying to get some much need runs and qualifications under their belts and we’ve also been to France to Haras du Pin with three horses. We took Favorit Z to do the CIC** and Real Dancer and Paulank Brockagh to do the CIC*** World Cup. They all went well as this is always a big track with a big atmosphere – Favorit Z, who is still very green, really rose to the challenge of the beefed up two star cross country course and showed he is definitely on course for being a yard star. Then Paulank Brockagh and Real Dancer finished 10th and 14th in the World Cup. A good weekend and always a fun event – this will be a great venue for the World Champs in 2014, not to mention the fact that we always seem to return home with a lorry load of Camembert and Calvados!
This weekend we’ve got a busy time at Gatcombe – some of the novices doing their first CIC* (including Angelo IV – normally Lucy’s ride but Lucy is now 5 months pregnant so has had to temporarily, yes, Sam, temporarily, hand over the reins to Sam….he thinks his owners give him a hard time – wait until he has the wife to answer too! ) and Favorit Z with whom we are trying to qualify for Le Lion D’Angers 7 year old Championships.
Although we are coming to the end of the season, there’s no ‘tailing off’ for us as we still have several one day’s to do and probably Boekelo and Le Lion. We’ll all be in need of a good rest in November! Although nursery painting could well be on the cards for Sam!
To learn more about Sam Griffiths, please visit his website: http://www.samgriffithseventing.co.uk/
Posted on Friday, June 29th, 2012 at 4:21 am.
OH WELL….LET’S GO AND WIN BURGHLEY INSTEAD….!!
Well, as I write this, I would be telling a lie if I didn’t say I am still totally gutted not to have made the Aussie team for London. It all started going wrong when Badminton was cancelled as that really would have ‘sorted the men from the boys’ and Happy has had incredible form at this event. I know our rails at Bramham did more harm than good but I still firmly believe that Happy Times is a medal winning horse and he is more experienced and has better ‘results on the card’ over the years than ANY of the horses they have selected. I, among others, believe the selectors have made some very rash decisions and already there have been three protests against their choices. Anyway, I’m not going to dwell on it, I’m very happy for my friends, Chris Burton and The Fredericks for their selection and wish them every success. In the meantime, I have now got my sights firmly fixed on Burghley with Happy Times and possibly Pau with Paulank Brockagh. It is actually a relief to be able to choose the right path for the horses instead of feeling huge pressure to run them at events that I would not normally do with them. So Happy and Brocks are enjoying a well earned break in the field – they’re up to their hocks in grass – with all this rain we can’t keep up with it! It is particularly nice for Happy as he has been at peak fitness for months now. They’ll come back into work in a couple of weeks and probably just have a few OI runs to ease them back into it gently.
In the meantime, Real Dancer certainly kept my spirits up at Houghton with a fantastic win in the highly competitive CIC***. He scored an amazing 36 in the dressage and then jumped a lovely clear round in the show jumping – in the past this has been his weakest phase, so I have been working hard on this, taking him to endless jumping competitions and it paid off. With the influential show jumping under our belts I new I had to keep my foot down on the cross country to hold my lead….Real Dancer aka Albert, really gave it everything for me and, despite a couple of time, no one could catch us! The victory was doubly sweet as it was my 40th Birthday that day, so actually reaching the age of 40 didn’t seem so bad! Lucy also had a fun week at Houghton…somehow or other, she had managed to sneak Mumbo Jumbo off me for the week and went brilliantly. They did a great test and then stormed round the xc, inside the time, despite being watched every step of the way as Ali Butler drove me round the course on her quad as Lucy was going – luckily Lucy was so ‘in the zone’ she had no idea she had a critical eye on her every move until she finished! They then jumped a lovely clear round to finish on their dressage score of 49 which landed them 14th place out of 100 competitors. I might struggle to wrench Mumbo back from her now…! However, not every aspect of the week went entirely smoothly – without me knowing, Lucy had smuggled my birthday present into the lorry before leaving and then on the second day I came back from schooling one of the horses to find a huge white gazebo standing proud outside our lorry! Well, with good weather but a cold wind, we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in it that evening but the next morning – disaster – my birthday present had gone ‘A’ over ‘T’ and was lying in a crumpled heap several metres away from the lorry….! So that was a rather short lived present, however, my owner, Dinah Posford, certainly cheered us all up that evening when she arrived with fresh lobsters for us all – so we just put on our biggest coats and tucked in to delicious Norfolk Lobbies around our rather exposed table and, needless to say, nobody mentioned the word ‘gazebo’….
However, my Birthday celebrations did not grind to a halt then, as last week a group of friends joined us on the Isle of Wight for more lobsters! I expect many of you remember the picture in H&H of me with a lobster on my head…I’m not going to be allowed to draw a veil over that one! Anyway, we returned to the scene of the crime, Steephill Cove, and had a wonderful long lunch at this stunning beachside restaurant. By some miracle, the weather was incredibly kind to us and we all basked in warm, yes, warm, sunshine until late in the day. However, as we took everyone back to the ferry in our little horsebox (way cheaper and more fun than a taxi!) the weather turned and as you’ll see in the pic below, by the time we stopped for ice creams, the weather was returning to it’s usual form. We all had a great time though and made such a welcome change from our daily routine.
Back at the more local events, the young horses have been going well. I’m very excited about my new ride, Favorit Z, aka Frodo – he has been showing great form at our first few events together and I would really like to aim him for Le Lion later in the year. We had a great time at Nunney last weekend – this new event replaces Longleat in the calendar and the organisers had done an amazing job. The courses, the layout, the ground were all spot on and despite some horribly blustery conditions they ran a really happy and professional event. It certainly went well for Team Griffiths with Lucy coming 2nd on Angelo, then myself 3rd, 4th and 5th on Frodo, Kite (Penton Kite) and Angus (Opposition Apollo)…..Yes, the wife beat me again…I think I should start giving her duff information!
Well, I had time to sit down and write this as yet another event – this time Salperton – has fallen foul of this horrenous British summer. I can’t believe we’re nearly in July and this is still continuing. Fingers crossed it cheers up for beautiful Barbury this coming weekend. Then maybe we’ll get some better weather when we head to Germany for Aachen with Real Dancer – such an exciting event!
One final thing, I would really like to thank all my owners, sponsors and fantastic team for all the support they have given me in my bid for the Olympics – I couldn’t have even given myself and Happy a chance without their back up and I am more determined than ever to give them the results they deserve at Burghley, Pau and on to the next championships. Thank you everyone.
Posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 at 5:26 am.
(Ed note: Since this post was written, Badminton HT has been cancelled due to flooding. We will bring you news of Sam’s revised schedule as soon as possible.)
The beginning of the season has just flown past and now we’re just a week off Badminton! It always comes up quickly, but having said that we’ve been gearing up for it for months! Happy Times has started the season off well – I’ve just been giving him some quiet runs to prepare him and he’s put up some good performances. I’ve been working hard at home on his dressage with our Aussie team dressage coach, Brett Parbery and also with Charlotte Dujardin. Then I’ve also been training the show jumping phase with Ros Morgan, who has been fantastic with Happy, as he is a very quirky horse to train at home! Ros has even had me out to jumping shows with Happy and some of my other horses which has been so useful, working out warm up plans etc. Although I think I did ‘scream’ event rider when I was warming up at Wales and West in my xc hat and sheepskin breastgirth alongside Billy Twomey and one (never know which one as there are so many) of the Whitaker boys!! Rather embarrassing. But Lucy has rectified this by ordering me a very expensive show jumping hat….Better jumps some clears in it and win some money to pay for it!
We had a great weekend up at Belton with Happy and Paulank Brockagh (Brocks). Happy ran well, felt like a machine cross country, but it has to be said that Brocks stole the show – she was AMAZING! She scored a definite PB for her at advanced level in the dressage and then jumped the most fantastic double clear to finish 3rd in a seriously competitive advanced class. See pic of her flying the xc below. I am so excited about her – she could actually be a serious back up for me for the Games…we’ll see! Bramham is her next big run and I’m so looking forward to it.
I’ve also got a new ‘toy’ – a lovely young horse called Favorit Z aka Frodo! He is stunning! He was bought for me recently from Constantin van Rickvorsel who has produced him beautifully so I am very lucky to have him. He is still quite green but I am really hoping I might get him to Le Lion D’Angers at the end of the year – he’s a serious horse that’s got everything going for him. Very exciting. See pic below of him just ‘popping a 1m30cm oxer with ease….
In amongst all this, I’ve been doing quite a bit of training – I had a very succesful day at Boomerang for Horsequest, who had set up a competition to win xc training with me. What a lovely group of people they were. Then, similarly, Cosequin had set up a competition to win a lesson with me here at our yard – a lovely girl called Melanie came for a lesson (see pic) and by all accounts really enjoyed her time and I hope learnt a lot…?!
All the novice horses have been going well, although I’ve had a few balloted recently which has rather stopped play. Lucy’s two horses have been excellent too and both had very successful debuts at Novice level for Angelo and Intermediate level for Beaurepaire Nemo – both finishing in the top 5 at Gatcombe. I’ll have to start giving her duff information to stop her ‘cleaning up’ !! It was a great shame not to get a run at Hambleden, especially as we’d been going on and on about the amazing Hambleden bluebells to all our newly arrive antipodeans -aka Chris Burton and Alice Montgomery – they certainly wouldn’t get that at an Aussie/Kiwi event! Although, they probably wouldn’t get events rained off either!!
So with Badminton just days away now, it’s all just been putting the polish on things…Lucy has been videoing my schooling sessions at home and we have our grass arena set up now and I’ve been running through the test and then analysing the videos. Although, having said that, Lucy is my toughest critic so she doesn’t let me mess up too many square halts that’s for sure! We’ve had Brett here for a day last week and the week before and then I’ve got Ros coming again on Friday. Just to add a cherry on top to the tension of these next few days, I am running my head groom, Mouse’s horse, Mumbo Jumbo, in his first advanced at Withington this weekend…I think she may need some serious supplies of Rescue Remedy to get through all this. Having said that, maybe Mumbo needs some to help him through the dreaded flying changes!! I’ve got Real Dancer and Brocks running too this weekend….Brocks will then head to Chatsworth World Cup and Real Dancer is being aimed at Aachen and the new Nations Cup series later in the season. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple more gallop sessions to do on Happy and then the big ‘B’ is upon us…wish me luck!!! ~ Sam
Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 7:51 am.
So, having done Australia, Christmas AND skiing, meant that the season was now coming at us like an express train so off to West Wilts it was for some very cold, very long days doing BSJA and then lots of trips to Rosamund Green and Boomerang XC schooling courses with various lorry loads each time. Luckily, they were all fantastic, seeming to have picked up where they left off. Boomerang was a particularly good day as I taught a lesson that a lovely lady, Penny Hayward, had won in a competition organised by my long time sponsor, Tri-Zone boots, which, judging by the smile on her face went very well.
And then I also had Happy Times on the lorry, who schooled like a real professional – just so smooth and bold – very exciting. I’ve also ust got back from a week’s Australian team training at the Unicorn Centre. I took 4 horses, Happy, Paulank Brockagh, Mumbo Jumbo and Real Dancer so it was pretty intense – one morning I had had 4 jumping lessons and 4 dressage lessons all by 2pm – exhausting!! But great training sessions though, particularly with Brett Parberry and Gareth Hughes who are both the most brilliant dressage trainers.
Which brings us right up to date with Moreton last weekend where we had all the young ones out doing their first run of the season. It’s great to be underway, but as we were driving there, we couldn’t believe the weather – torrential rain and very cold! Luckily, just as we were pulling in, the clouds blew away and it was beautiful blue skies all day – thank goodness! So the weather, teemed with lovely courses and excellent going made for a lovely start to the season. All the horses went very well indeed, with 4 out of 5 double clears and Lucy picking up 3rd place with the very exciting Angelo. It was great to have all our owners there to support us which made it a really fun day.
This week, we’ve got quite a few going to Tweseldown and then Happy Times has his first run of the season and begins his Badminton build up at Aldon the weekend after. It’s non stop from here on in….!! <<Read previous post here
More pics on our Griffiths Eventing Team Facebook page…
Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 10:00 am.
Christmas is always quite a big event with us as we head down to Lucy’s family home on the Isle of Wight for some serious festivities! This year was no exception…with 17 of us for lunch – ranging in age from 23 to 93, and Lucy’s uncle being a wine merchant, you can imagine how long that lunch was! Great fun…
But, after Christmas, it really was time to knuckle down and begin preparing for the 2012 season. With horses coming back from their winter holidays and pipes freezing we had a lot to be getting on with. It’s always a tricky time of year as the horses are fresh but working them can be a bit ‘stop, start’ with the weather conditions.
However, a brief respite from all this was on the cards after we received an amazing invitation to join the Posfords (our long time owners) at their chalet in Meribel for a few days skiing…how could we say no!?! It was, of course, as incredible as we had hoped – the weather was beautiful, the snow excellent and of course the food and wine just superb – the whole trip was very spoiling indeed.
Lucy had only been skiing once before (when she was 12 – I’m not mentioning how many years ago that was…) so apart from a bit of a shaky start on the first day, she then ‘got the bug’ big time and much to my irritation, soon caught up with me! Despite my competitive nature getting the better off me, it really was the most fantastic few days and you can see more evidence of the fun times in our Facebook page! Read next post here>>
Posted on Saturday, March 10th, 2012 at 9:29 am.
I can’t believe how quickly the winter has gone and, as I write this, I’ve already done the first event of the 2012 season…! I think most of the reason time has passed so quickly is because Lucy and I have jammed in so much to the last three months…
As soon as the season was over last Autumn, we headed off for Australia for a ‘Busman’s Holiday’ – we were there for 4 weeks, but three out of the four were spent working with my title sponsor, Horsequest, who are growing fast in Australia. We spent a few days at Equitana -the big equestrian trade show in Sydney – working on the HQ stand and then we headed across to Adelaide to help promote the brand at the Adelaide CCI****. This is a great event, with a wonderful atmosphere, again I was busy doing signings on the stand and we certainly managed to lure in my Aussie mates with some cold beers to offer round! I then also did course walks and a lecture demo – this was quite amusing as it turned out the horse that I had been lent to ride was called Lucy – you can imagine where I could have taken the inuendos with that! I thought better of it though and restrained myself!
From Adelaide, I then headed back to Sydney where I was teaching a 4 day clinic at the beautiful Wallaby Hills. Unfortunately, it poured with rain the entire time we were there so we didn’t see it at our best but it is still the most stunning location and Alex and Derek were the most incredible hosts. Our week at WH finished with a rather out of control evening as Chris Burton had joined us there and it coincided with his 30th birthday…I think it would probably sum up the evening’s proceedings if I mentioned that a certain undergarment of Chris’s ended up hanging from the chandelier….say no more!
After all this we needed some quiet time so Lucy and I headed down to my parent’s house in Melbourne for a few days of R&R -not to mention detox…Then it was time to head back to the British winter. Read more>>
Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 10:46 am.
Well, the end of the 2011 season is in site – we just have a couple of Novices to run this weekend at Larkhill and then we’re done! It’s been one hell of a busy year – definitely our busiest yet – but all in all it’s been a very exciting one. In my last blog I was frantically trying to time flying changes to the beat of Robert Miles’s ‘Children’ for our dressage to music at HOYS! This was a challenge to say the least but extended canters and crescendos sorted off we set for our HOYS debut…Having waved Paulank Brockagh off to Boekelo at 2am that morning (she was being driven out by our head groom, Mouse) Lucy and I then left for the NEC at 4am in order to get there in time for ‘arena familiarization’. We had a good trip up and got settled in – all very strange being on concrete and in the middle of the Birmingham suburbs but Real Dancer (Albert) seemed less phased about this than we were and schooled well in the main arena that morning. We then had nothing to do until 5pm that evening, so having spent about an hour walking around the NEC with my good friend, Harry Meade, we eventually found some breakfast, put the eventing world to rights and had a look around the trades tands – needless to say, we couldn’t quite find what we were looking for on the Katy Price stand…not really me or Harry!
The day passed, albeit slowly, and then it was time to get ready for the test. Lucy had got rather in to the whole dressage at night, under lights, to music etc and had come up armed with some spray on glitter….Not quite sure how I felt about riding a horse that resembled a Christmas decoration but for an easy life I went with it. Although Lucy did admit that in day light it did look more like glittering bird poo but she assured me under lights it looked fabulous!! Hmmm… Anyway, sparkles aside, I was thrilled with Albert’s test – he coped really well with the intense atmosphere, rose to the occasion and proved to be a true performer, particularly after what had been a difficult warm up to say the least – not mentioning any names but there was some very un-sportsmanlike behaviour coming from one of the other competitors who obviously saw myself and Albert as their main threat to the title and at one point deliberately rode into Albert’s quarters giving him quite a fright and making an audible thud and a mark on Albert’s side. It is a shame that people who are supposed to be professional sportsmen feel the need to behave like this when there is some big prize money at stake. Anyway, there’s my rant over and I was pleased to be in the lead after the dressage and after all our hard work out in our field at home with the car cd player on full blast!!
Onto the cross country phase – we were given just 15 minutes to learn the course as they were running late, so just remembering where we had to go was a challenge enough, but also I would say it was a proper two star track – very technical and of course time was a real issue. Going last, I managed to watch a few go before getting on Albert. Having practiced a few tight turns and angles in the warm up, it was time to go. Albert went very green on me over the first few jumps, which is probably where I lost my time, but when he got going he was excellent – so genuine and brave. Despite, getting a couple of time faults, we held on to our lead so it was now all down to the show jumping….This is slightly Albert’s Achilles Heel but we had a good warm up and I had been working hard on this phase at home so I was really hoping that Albert could leave the poles up! However, it was not to be, Albert promptly had the first two jumps down so it was all over. Ironically, he then went on to jump a super round so I was not too disappointed with him as he showed he can jump well on the big occasions and we still ended up 5th. However, having been so close to victory, we are definitely keen to chase this title next year, so with a few tweaks to our music and some work on the jumping Albert could be pretty hard to beat next year….
Having not finished at HOYS until gone midnight, we then drove down to Albert’s owner’s house in Basingstoke, getting there at about 2am – completely exhausted! We grabbed a few hours sleep before heading to the airport the following morning to get out to Boekelo in time for trot up on Wednesday. All went smoothly and Brocks flew through the trot up. At this event, they incorporate a teams competition – the ‘Grolsch Nations Cup’. This certainly adds an extra dimension to it all and some good prize money is up for grabs. So that evening, all us Aussie riders sat down and decided on the team and who would go first, last etc. From the 6 Australian horses there, it was decided that myself, Lucinda Fredericks, Paul Tapner and Catherine Burrell would make up the team and Lucy would be Chef D’Equipe – a new role for Lucy but having been a bit apprehensive about it, I think she rather enjoyed it!
It was decided that Brocks and I would go last of the team as Brocks could handle main arena atmosphere on the Friday afternoon the best of all the horses there and has a fabulous xc record. So this was perfect for me as it meant I had a lot of time to work Brocks having missed a couple of days working her with HOYS etc. Although my dressage wasn’t until Friday, I did resist the temptation to get into the Boekelo spirit on that first night and hit the hay early, unlike the Chef D’Equipe who got stuck straight into the Dutch hospitality along with fellow ‘WAG’, George Tapner! They’re a bad influence on each other! The next morning, I rather smugly woke up hangover free, unlike someone else, and got straight to work on Brocks. She felt great and by the time Friday afternoon came along I was confident that she was going as well as she could. She did indeed go very well and was even scoring 9′s for some of her trot work, however, it slightly fell apart in the changes and her score went down but these are new to her and by next year, they’ll be good, solid changes. So I was pleased with her as she showed us great potential in this phase for the future. Cross country day dawned and, being so late in the draw, I had a long wait ahead of me until it was my turn. But with all my team mates going so well, they were able to report back on their rounds and I had been able to watch how everything was riding so off we set. Once again, Brocks excelled herself on the xc and just ate it up – she’s a definite 4 star horse, bold and scopey and incredibly brave. We pulled up a lot of places after that and the team was lying in second behind the Germans. All very exciting! Brocks is a very tough mare and trotted up as though she’d had a quiet stroll in the Dutch countryside the day before!
The show jumping track walked really big, square and technical so I was a little apprehensive but I had confidence in Brocks as she normally jumps beautifully and true to form she reeled off a perfect clear round for me – that round and the round I had on Happy Times at Badminton were definitely my SJ rounds of the season. We pulled up more placings again and all the rest of the team jumped brilliantly as well. But unfortunately, we couldn’t quite catch the Germans who had a huge lead. However, we were all thrilled with our horses and to come second as a team on such a green bunch of horses was very pleasing for us all. We then hit the road as soon as we could after the prize giving and drove like the wind (which isn’t very fast when we’re speed limited to 56mph!) to catch the 11.30pm Calais-Dover sailing. We did, by the skin of our teeth. That route is only an hour and a half so we were soon back in the UK but it is then another 4 hours back to Sympony Farm. Lucy and I shared the driving and we eventually got home at 4am that morning. As you can imagine, that Monday was a right off – we felt jet lagged. But by Tuesday we had to get back to work as we have Novices running this weekend at Larkhill.
After this weekend, we’re all done. It’s been a hectic year, but all in all a very good one. Happy Times is well in contention for London, Paulank Brockagh has gone from strength to strength and will be a very useful second string for London and I have some incredibly exciting horses coming up through the ranks. We’re off to Australia in November, where Lucy and I will be attending Equitana and Adelaide CCI**** , working alongside Horsequest and of course visiting my family. Then it’s back to it in December when everyone starts to come back into work and off we all go again!
I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and the Griffiths Eventing Team this year. We have some amazing owners, sponsors and followers and we appreciate the support from everyone enormously. We couldn’t do it and get those results without all of you. Here’s to 2012 and beyond!
Posted on Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 12:54 am.
On our way back to deepest Dorset now. I am of course a little disappointed with our rails but the conditions were tricky and clear rounds this afternoon were few and far between. I was actually pleased with a lot of the round as Happy threw some fantastic jumps but it just wasn’t our day today. Oh well, things can always be worse and the main thing is Happy is very well and fit after that tough xc. I am still on a high from our xc round – I had a fantastic ride and I know we would have scored even better in the dressage if we’d had a Friday afternoon slot. Happy will now have a well deserved holiday, getting fat and covered in mud and then I feel a few winter showjumping comps could be on the agenda! He’s just saving for when we’re jumping for the gold medal at London 2012!! ~Sam.
Watch Sam’s Stadium Round here>>