Back home after a long week in Millstreet, Ireland and what can I say… This experience was – well; different.
After competing in Knokke with eight horses a whole month, I headed to Ireland on Sunday after the show came to an end. Once I arrived in Ireland I was impressed by how beautiful it is there, but I knew it was going to be a long week because it was cold, cloudy and rainy. I was hoping it would get better, but when I arrived at the show I gave up my hopes.
Unfortunately, the show didn't really give me a championship feeling. The stables that we, the Belgians, got was a disaster. You couldn't stand with two people next to each other between both sides of our stables because it just didn't fit... Heading on to the main ring it wasn't getting any better, we were even thinking of getting a lot of buckets and filling them with all the stones you could find IN the ring, that is how bad it was. A good thing is that there were a lot of warm up arena's, especially for me and my crazy horse Zeta.
Oh well, we didn't really pay too much attention to the conditions but we started focusing ourselves on the competition.
But first things first: The opening ceremony. I must say that the parade was really well organized, and we had a lot of fun! They made us walk into the village of Millstreet, led by an orchestra. There were even people who were standing in front of their houses to wave at us ha-ha!
Okay, so first day of the competition started on Wednesday, it was a speed and handiness class so the faster you go the better you are placed for the rest of the days. The Belgian juniors started of very well the first day, Gilles Thomas won the competition, Simon Morssinkhof finished 2nd, I finished on a 7th place, Arnaud ended on a 12th place and my sister Emilie made it into the top 25. My goal was to make it into the top 10 the first day, which I achieved.
From then on it was only about jumping clear rounds. With 22 nations we started of the Nations Cup on Friday at 8.00 am, Belgium was the 5th nation to go and I was the first rider of Belgium. I chose to go as first, because then I had less pressure. No one jumped yet so I just had to think of producing a clear round for myself, which I did. Belgium was a bit unlucky in the first round and we closed the first round with a score of 4 faults, while there were 5 nations on a score of 0. We knew it was going to be difficult to still get a spot on the podium so we didn't really have high hopes until the second round started off. All of a sudden there were a lot of poles falling while Belgium had the exact same score as the round before, 4 faults again so 8 faults in total. Finally, only 3 nations stayed on the 8 faults so that could only mean one thing, a jump-off for gold, silver and bronze.
Everyone was all excited about this jump-off, for sure my teammates and I – we had to get this gold medal. I was again first to go and Zeta jumped a really nice and fast clear round. There were not so many clear rounds in the jump-off, and after a while we knew that we had won. Tears were involved; ha-ha! Winning a gold medal doesn't go without having a party afterwards of course, so yes you could say that we all had a very fun night.
All nice and fun to win that gold medal, although it wasn't finished yet… There was still a final to jump with 2 rounds. Gilles, Arnaud and I qualified for the final. On Saturday Zeta was feeling a bit tired, I think she just had enough of being in the same place for that long (as usual). I just walked and trotted a bit around so she would still feel a bit fresh for the final.
The final day was the day of the final of course, still 2 rounds had to be jumped and I was placed 4th before that. First round was technical enough though, not that big – but technical. When I started my course everything was going well until the big water, I came a bit deep so I really had to kick to get to the other side which made me land a bit funny with my hand on Zeta's neck. I kind of heard something crack inside my hand and the moment I continued after the big water, I knew something was not right. Still 4 more fences to jump and Zeta cleared them without any problem, even though I couldn't pull on my right rein anymore because of the pains I had in my hand. We jumped a clear round and everyone was happy, I got out of the ring and jumped of my horse immediately – I was in serious pain. We put a lot of ice on my hand and taped the two right fingers of my right hand together so I had a little bit of support, we cut a hole in my gloves and hoopla on my horse again for the final round.
There were only a few more fences to jump so I had to stay strong. Zeta jumped her heart out again and produced a clear round again, now it was only waiting for the others to have fences down (which is rude to say…), because I was still in 4th position and I really didn't want to end next to the podium. And then there was one girl of the 3 riders that were in front of me that had a fence down, straight a way my sister ran up to me to tell me I was sure of a place on the podium. From that moment I was glowing. Gilles won the gold medal and well deserved, he is a great rider! France won the silver medal and I won the bronze medal.
After all these years that I failed at a championship, I finally went home with 2 medals. I couldn't wish for any better and I have to thank my amazing horse for that because she is such a fighter. I finished my last year as a junior in a good way and I'm really happy for that!
Now I'd like to focus myself on the bigger shows (3*,4* and maybe 5*). So after the show was finished we headed home Sunday evening, and Monday morning I let our stable vet look at my hand and take an x-ray and we found out that its broken, oops, I think it will take 2 more weeks before I can ride again.
So not only ups, but downs as well for me during this championship!
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