Dressage day for me and Elicia! As soon as my alarm went off I began my dressage prep. I lay in bed running through the test in my head, using the amount of time it would take me and thinking of everything I would need to be do. We played music on the speaker as we got ready, had breakfast and then we headed off to the showground for a morning hack. On arriving at the event we learnt that there were no arenas that we could work in unless we were warming up, so, Elicia and I took our horses for a long walk. This helped calm nerves as we could just wander about and chat.
Having ridden we got a chance to watch the Young Rider dressage which was so impressive and did fill my stomach with nerves. Their horses are a whole different calibre from where the Junior team horses were, all of them perfectly consistent and connected the whole way through. It was inspiring to watch and did raise team GB spirits as the Young riders put in two scores of around 25! Having got to the event at 7:30, I realised that I had hours until my test at 4:40. I decided I could use this time to walk the XC course again, however, I did not want to tire myself out, and was keen to stay in the shade so I did not overheat. Instead, I decided to distract myself completely from the nerves I was feeling by watching the SJ.
I found this an amazing distraction as I watched 12-14 year olds on horses jump around 1.30m tracks! With constant checking of my watch, I had a sure plan of the whole day. After lunch, I had a short nap to catch up on sleep and to ensure that I was sharp and on the ball for later. This short power nap completely refreshed me and helped to calm my nerves as well as stay relaxed.
With hours still to go I was able to go and support my teammate Elicia. With flags in hand we headed off to cheer her on! On reflection, I am not sure when I was more nervous, watching Elicia’s test or riding my own! They have a board facing the audience with marks coming up as the test goes on and it is so nerve-wracking watching the marks and being powerless to influence them! Elicia put in a strong test and I think the whole GB squad felt a small bit of relief as the first score was in the bag. However, this did mean it was my turn. Having timed when I could have my last drink, and when I could eat without feeling sick, and when I needed to go to the loo I felt very prepared, everything was in place. Despite some jokes about me ensuring I was at the toilet at exactly 3:05pm, my timetable definitely helped calm my nerves. Next, I had a small chat with Caroline where we discussed a warm up plan and ran through how I would be riding my test. Again, this clear plan helped me stay on top of my inevitable nerves. I always like some private time before I get on, so after I had got ready and Mum had done my stock (I know I need to learn!), I took a moment to sit down, breathe, run through my test again, breathe, check I had everything, and breathe… again. I was as ready as I ever would be. Smarty looked beautiful as I arrived at the stables and I knew that we would be ready to perform. Although still excited in the warm-up, he must have known it was important as he did control his nerves. I was very lucky that I had a break just before me so I was not near the arena when the person before me finished and a loud cheer erupted. One more deep breath and we were ready for the test. Smarty was truly amazing, it is so hard to keep it together in that atmosphere and with that pressure, that was shown in 2017 at our European test as we had multiple big mistakes and got a score of 50.2 (old FEI scores), this made me feel even more pressure. We put in our best performance and I know I could not have tried any harder. I came out with a score of 29.7, just breaking the 30 barrier that I was so keen to break. Although I was slightly disappointed as I knew that I was capable of better scores, I knew that for that day, that test, that arena, me and my partner had given it our absolute all. We ended the day in 7th position and our team in 6th position. After finally managing to cool off, I went to walk the course again, hoping it might look easier the second time, unfortunately, it didn’t. Exhausted, proud and slightly emotional from the pressure, we headed back for some feisty card games of Snap and Cheat where we saw just how competitive we all were! With the pressure of dressage day over, I could not wait to get on the XC course.