I’ve waited about a week now since the end of the Pau CCI**** to reflect on my first European three-day event. I think it was good to take a breath and get back in the swing of things before I reflect on what I’ve just gone through. I’m truly hoping this evaluation doesn’t bring the same controversy as my reflections on the WEG, however I feel it’s important to be upfront and honest and say what I feel, even if it upsets a few of my friends on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums.
It’s tough from a personal point of view to say whether Pau was successful or unsuccessful. I felt there were many positives to come out of the event and there were also a couple of negatives which will probably haunt me for a while.
I’ll focus on the positives first. I think the horse tried as hard as he possibly could throughout the event and made a huge effort to compete at a tough and grueling four-star, and to do it with five days of travel through several countries traveling by truck and plane. I feel like it’s much tougher getting a good result when you’re taken out of the comfort of your “backyard”.
Obviously the score sheet reflects how difficult the cross-country course was and Remington provided the round of a lifetime. He was one of only two horses to take the direct route at every fence around the course. I had bad rides at several fences and Remi grew a fifth leg more than once and bunny-hopped me out of trouble. I’ve ridden five four-star rounds this year and I felt this was probably the most intense and relentless cross-country course yet.
In my last blog evaluating the WEG I was critical of the USEF funding 3-star riders to compete in Europe, as I stated it made no sense to me competing in Europe when we have great events here in America. One critical part of the equation, which I didn’t realize then but understand now, is the amazing experience it gives a young, up and coming rider to compete in Europe against the best riders. I now can appreciate that a little more as I’ve come back to America highly motivated and a little more experienced thanks to the trip I just completed.
This includes experiences like watching the likes of William Fox-Pitt and all the talent in the warm-up and seeing what methods they use to prepare their horses. Also stabling next to Andrew Nicholson and talking to him about how he selects and acquires his event horses and the training methods he uses on different types of horses is an education that I could not have got at home here in the States. Competing at the Pau 4* really gave me a feeling that I’m in the same league as some of these top riders whereas before I thought these guys were way better than us Americans. Now I feel like we’re not too far off them.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the owners of Remington XXV, Ron and Densey Juvonen, who have been huge supporters of Silva and I, for putting their trust in me and sending their horse to Pau, especially considering the challenge of the long journey, battling with French rioters along the way and the huge expense that we were up against just to get to the starting line.
Secondly I’d like to thank Silva for really preparing Remington and me in America and in France for our all-time best dressage score of a 43. Without her wonderful training and coaching we would never have had the opportunity to be one of the front-runners after the dressage.
I’d also like to thank Caitlin Silliman for enduring a marathon trip with Remi and keeping him happy and healthy on the trip to France, through the event, and then all the way back home.
Thanks also Mark Phillips, who copped a bit of a public bashing after the US team’s disappointment at the WEG, who did a top job with his one American rider at Pau. I felt the help he gave me at the three-day event was invaluable: his coaching was spot on and he didn’t try to change anything but definitely his point of view was essential to our good performance.
Last but not least thanks to the USEF, who put up the money to get Remi on the plane: I was very grateful when they came along and picked up the bill to help give me this experience.
Now for the tough stuff: I suppose the hard analysis to make is to work out what went wrong in the show jumping. After a few sleepless nights I think there are a few factors contributing to the disappointing round. Make no mistake, these are not excuses, merely critical points which I think contributed to a less than ideal round.
First I think I had a plan for the warm-up and I was too set in my plan. When I started jumping the horse the rain started pouring down horrifically and I felt Remi suck back and lose his form. I’m the first to admit that once the wheels started falling off, I didn’t change the way I rode him accordingly. If I had my time over again I’d jump a few more warm-up jumps and try to regain the rhythm that I’d lost to a couple of fences.
One thing I was desperately missing was Katie Prudent in the warm-up. Having a show jumping expert like Katie who knows me and the horse could have absolutely got me going again within a matter of jumps and unfortunately she wasn’t there, which I feel is something I didn’t push for in planning the trip. After my experience at Pau I’d push for her availability to any American rider at any four-star.
Maybe the horse was a bit tired but I feel it’s more than that. I feel Remi jumps well when he’s feeling on top of the world and confident, and I made the mistake of trying to make him try a bit too hard in the warm-up, which contributed to him losing his form jumping. I suppose at the end of the day, experience is what I gained right after the moment I really needed it.
All in all I think the positive to come out of it was it was that an American horse and rider put in a top ten four-star result off American soil, which has been few and far between in the past ten years. I’ve genuinely come back motivated, educated and more experienced. Another positive is the horse was 110% healthy when he arrived back in the USA and is probably happily wind sucking on the Juvonen’s post and rail fence at their farm back in Unionville, PA as we speak.