Tatts Round Up from Jemma Docherty #scotstakeontatts
Back in January (possibly even last year at the annual Scottish BE Ball after one too many tequilas) there were a group of riders that decided to take on the trip across the water to Tattersalls International Horse Trials. I am not brave or talented enough to tackle a course that size so naturally I jumped at the chance to groom for my good friend Shaun Murray riding his own mare Wainthropp (Hetty). I have such a passion for this amazing sport, that we all enjoy, that it really doesn’t matter if I’m riding myself at lower grassroots levels, or cheering my friends on as they tackle the bigger international 1*,2* and 3* tracks.
Months of planning along with the various what’s app group chats and the guessing game of will they, won’t they, have the qualifying runs to do their desired class due to the lovely spring weather we endured, eventually all came together last Monday 28th May as the small army of Scots set off on their journey across the water to Ireland.
After a very smooth but long journey the Scots had arrived at Tattersalls.
Tattersalls is a huge and I mean mega HUGE purpose built equestrian sales venue with over 800 full size stables, various wash bays, walk ways. They even have TV screens up in the stable blocks, so you can keep up with all the action happening in the main arenas and XC.
We had all arrived at various times but thanks to super groom Lynn Cree (who was grooming for Joanna Neilson) we secured a prime spot for most of the Lorries (well the ones that wanted to party slightly more than others). This quickly became the main socialising hub, with the gazebo set up, various tables and chairs to accommodate the various party games such as beer pong, cards, flip cup and of course plenty space for rounders.
Day 1 was a busy day spent settling in the horses, hand grazing as often as possible and a light hack. The first trot ups were not until 3pm with rider briefings beforehand. This gave me plenty time to make sure Hetty was looking her best for the first inspection. I opted to stitch her plaits in as I think it finishes the plaits off that little bit smarter. With regards to quarter markers, mine can either be a hit or a miss and this was not a week for them to be a miss so I sweet talked Lynn (who is probably one of the most experienced and knowledgeable grooms in the country) to give me a lesson on how to do them (after all we had all week for me to perfect them). Que Lynn being given the title of Chief Quarter Marker lady and ended up doing most of the horses in our group, making sure all the horses were smartly turned out.
Having Lynn and the other grooms there to chat to and share their experiences with was just amazing. You don’t always get the chance to pick peoples brains and listen to their stories of their experiences etc. and I think we all benefited greatly from having that time with her.
The grooms are by far every bit as hard working as the riders, they are first on the yard in the mornings and the last to leave at night. If you ever get the chance to visit a stabling area like that at a big event, do it, it’s an amazing hive of activity, radios playing, the buzz of people and everyone is just so friendly and chatting. Another reason why I love the eventing world, it really is like a big family, everyone looking out and wanting each other to do well.
Trots up successfully completed which believe it or not are always a nervous time. Shaun looked very dapper in his turnout coupled with Hetty looking damn fine too (even if I do say so myself) Shaun went on to win best dressed male for the whole 1* section. How cool is that!
First Dressage day on the Wednesday arrived with gorgeous sunshine and temperatures hitting highs of 27 Degrees. This was most certainly not the weather we were used to! It was a busy day with several of the Scots all on at around the same time. Some of the riders had brain freeze moments for small mistakes and some horses took the opportunity to add some of their own moves to their tests to lose a few marks, whilst others performed well. Jodie Neil with her own Quantum Clover Gold scored a personal best of 33 which she was just over the moon with.
Thursday turned out to be a day off for most of the riders, so they headed across the road to Fairy Hill Racecourse where they had opened their track for the competitors to hack round and have a gallop. This turned into a rather exciting hack for them all as some horses thinking they had morphed into Shergar.
Thursday evening’s entertainment was a Select Event Horse Sale held at Tattersalls in conjunction with Goresbridge horse sales. This was very exciting for me as I had never experienced a sale like this before. The horses were all available to view and try during the day before the auction at night. Bidders included Harry Meade, Oliver Townend and the highest winning bid of the night going to Alexander Bragg at 49, 000 Euro.
Friday was XC day for the CCI1* & CCIYH1* and again was proving to be another hot day in the Emerald Isle. Avril Johnstone was up first, despite a last-minute tack malfunction just as she was about to head to the start box (her breast plate strap broke) she set off and stormed round clear inside the time. Half an hour later she was then followed out the start box by Shaun, Jodie and Joanna in succession.
I’m not going to lie, the excitement of seeing those head out the start box and over the first fence is great but the anxiety and nerves for us grooms, friends and loved ones all waiting patiently at the wash down area can be quite intense. It was a very long 8mins and 20 seconds!
Some big events have a small tent and TV set up for the support crews so they can watch the riders, this was sadly not the case here, we couldn’t even hear the speakers! Luckily, we could follow the live results on the web page. Temperatures were creeping up and up and hit a high of 30deg with very little wind to help cool the horses.
As they started to come over the last fence and through the finish line, this is where we stepped in and it was all hands on deck especially with the added factor of the heat to get tack and boots off the horses as quickly as possible and the wash down and scraping begins. Keeping the horses moving at a walk isn’t the easiest thing to do whilst buckets of water are thrown over them but its all part of the process. The team of vets on hand are there to monitor and check the horse’s heart rates, temperature and general wellbeing. You cannot leave this area until the vet has given you the all clear. Due to the weather conditions we had to do a lot of washing down and walking before the horse’s temperature came back down to under 39 Degrees.
The Dream Team of grooms and supporters all mucked in together and managed to get the horses all cooled down and heart rates back to normal in a reasonably quick time. Some of the riders also enjoyed a bucket of water over them even if it wasn’t asked for. It is important to keep the human athlete well hydrated too.
Wills Oakden and Katherine Lindsay also enjoyed good XC runs in the 6/7yrs old 1* section. Both combinations were relatively new partnerships, which seem to be growing better and better with each run.
On Saturday the 2* Cross Country section was contested by Daniel Scott and Casmo Z who unfortunately did not like the look of the first water complex which resulted in a retiral and the end of their competition. Wills Oakden and his second ride Oughterard Cooley stormed round the big 2* track confidently belying his inexperience at this level. Morgan Gray and Champagne Charlie contested the CIC2*U25 section where they had a small issue out on course but quickly put that behind them to complete. So nice to see everyone’s smiling faces as they cross the finish line with big pats for the horses, this after all is what we all do eventing for the buzz of the XC.
Whilst those doing the 2* & 3* were thinking of Cross Country the 1* second Trot ups started early at 745am on Saturday morning. It was an early and quieter night on the Friday than usual. All horses passed the trot up and onto the Show jumping.
The SJ track was proving to be a difficult track with only 10 clears in the whole of the 1* section. Shaun and Hetty were one of those few clears with a foot perfect round. This is a new pairing for this season at this level and are growing in strength every time out. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the season brings for them.
Avril and her horse, Rovie Rum, is inexperienced at this level, unfortunately knocked a few poles to drop them down the placings after their clear cross country from the day before. However, Avril was so pleased considering his inexperience and he responded to every question asked of him all week. Jodie and Joanna went on to only knock one unlucky pole which still resulted in them being placed 14th and 15th respectively, a huge achievement for both girls!
The CIC*** was contested by both Eilidh Jane Costelloe with Westmuir Quality (Buddy) and Wills Oakden with Cooley Ramiro (Ernie). Eilidh and Buddy didn’t quite get off to the start they would have liked with an unsettled dressage and just tapping a few poles in the show jumping ring. However, they went on to an impressive clear round the big XC track even with a slightly hairy moment for us watching where he lost his footing just before a big skinny hedge but Eilidh unfazed by it recovered well to jump clear and kick on.
The CIC*** XC was proving to cause its issues at various fences especially the large final water complex proving to be very difficult. It was this fence where William Fox Pitt and sadly Jonty Evans took their falls. We would like to send our well wishes to all those connected to Jonty and wish him a speedy recovery.
Wills and Ernie produced a solid test with just a small mistake in their canter work to go on to produce a class double clear, resulting in one of the fastest XC times only picking up a few time penalties to leave them in 9th position overall.
As the sun was setting, we loaded up onto the Ferry at Belfast where we were all a little sad to be leaving after such an amazing week. We were certainly not as noisy on the return ferry journey as we all were going. Too many words, pictures and fun memories to sum up this whole experience.
All I can say is the eventing community really is a family, what other sports can you compete and socialise with fellow Olympians, World and European champions. Everyone truly came together as a team, helping where possible, cheering and consolidating one another when it didn’t quite go right. Eventing really is a sport of highs and lows but its hard not to get so involved when you are surrounded by such nice people who genuinely want to see each other do well.
So, for now it’s back to reality which trust me is a real struggle and we all now look forward to the next big one which will be Blair Castle in August.
Look out for some of the riders round up of Tatts in their own words, these will be posted soon.
‘Till the next time Dream Team
(P.S If anyone wanted to offer me a grooms job with the same benefits and pension plan as my boring 9-5 please get in touch….I do have an HGV J)Follow us Share this