Report on Tordesillas European Cup competition by Young Rider Alex Robinson who was competing abroad for the first time
After a very late arrival at our hotel in Spain on Thursday night we met up with Hilary and Claire at breakfast. They had arrived a day earlier than ourselves and had already driven over to Segovia to have a look at the Championship venue, a trip that we made on Friday. Whilst having breakfast we spotted the weather forecast – it didn’t look good.
We had a great trip to Segovia – found the venue easily and took some photos of the landscape and the cross country course. We also had a brief trip into the centre of Segovia before making our way back to meet up with Agustin so that we could meet and try our horses. On the way back to Tordesillas we drove through some heavy rain and it was soon fine again. Shortly after arriving back at the venue the rain caught up with us and soon the ground had turned from a dustbowl to claggy clay – reminiscent of Culworth last season! Mum and my horses belonged to Javier who owned the venue. Violetta took us to the horses, neither of which wanted to be caught to leave their other friends in their pen and trying to catch them in the claggy clay was not the easiest thing. Anyway, successfully caught we had a short ride in the rain. My horse was a grey gelding called Niño and mum’s was a bay called Aranda. Niño was well behaved but Aranda was naughty at first, with an attitude similar to Star – no manners. Once we got away from the venue she settled down so we thought she’d be okay, then we put them back and went to find food before returning for the evening briefing and draw for the order. The trouble with the food is that most of the cafés and restaurants don’t open in the evening until at least 8pm and we wanted to eat before the briefing so that we could return to our hotels after, make sure we’d got everything ready for Saturday and get a good nights sleep. We found a burger/pizza shop that was open and ordered pizzas and chips – the only trouble was they only had a small oven and were only able to cook two pizzas at once so we finished up taking mum’s and my pizzas in takeaway boxes so that we could get back for the briefing. The boxes came in useful though as we could use them as makeshift floor mats in the car so that we didn’t get mud absolutely everywhere.
Back at the venue and the opening briefing, with Gill, Chef d’Equipe for the Spanish team translating for us, we were all made very welcome and were invited to the draw before the Spanish riders – Jackie took first dip and got 21, then mum got 20. I got 3 so that meant that we were going to have to have an early start the following morning. Claire got 8, Hilary 16 and Lynne 24 so it was only Jackie and mum that were very close out of the total of 30 riders.
Back at the hotel mum and myself made sure that we’d got all our equipment ready and we were trying to dry our coats, chaps and jods that were all wet from the earlier ride.
Saturday morning we arrived at the venue, caught Niño up and started to get ready – then the heavens opened again. I put my coat over the saddle to try to keep it dry as it was a synthetic one and my backside had got wet from the saddle on Friday. I went into the map room at 9.10am for 20mins to draw a 25km route including plotting three grid references and a section that had the map details blanked out. The route was difficult to see as the colour of the line was similar to the contour lines on the map. The starting speed was 6.5km/h. I mounted Niño and set off. The route took me down the track between the venue and the main road and down onto the river bank. I made my first mistake by getting a loop into the first ticket wrong, ah well. I continued to follow my route which then took me onto the section where the grid references were (without having passed through a checkpoint). I’d accidentally marked the grid references 1km further south than I should have and was working out what I needed to do as they seemed to be a long way from where I needed to finish up when I saw a rider going in the opposite direction which made me realise what I’d done wrong. The ticket near the first grid reference was a bad ticket which I didn’t punch, thankfully, the 2nd and 3rd were both hidden in the corners of the woods but I found both of those and carried on to the next checkpoint. The route from that checkpoint was quite fiddly with the tracks on the ground not being shown on the map so it was technical. There was a ticket by a track which I clicked (another mistake) and then I made another mistake and didn’t ride up a steep hill by the side of a derelict house where I then missed a good ticket. There was then another ticket which was on the inside of an old wall which I got right. From there the route was somewhat easier alongside a track next to a large housing conurbation. There was a kink off the track but no sign of any ticket. From a junction where the return route met the outward route I turned left alongside the edge of the conurbation. There was then another kink off the track with a good ticket which I didn’t find. The route then turned and went round some more scrub type area where it was again difficult to navigate. This took me through a manned ticket (wrong) then into a checkpoint which I got right.
From this point I followed my route which took me down a steep short hill to another manned ticket where there was someone taking photographs and I carried on along the fence line then dropped back onto the track into another checkpoint, only to be told that I’d gone too far along before dropping down (I think most other people got this wrong too). From there I then carried on along the track back to the point where the routes met and turned left, going off track again round some scrub type area and round the edge of some trees. Some more unmanned tickets in there – some slightly off route, some on route (I think I got 2 of the 3 right) and then I was on the blanked out bit of map where I had to take bearings where even though I’d written some bearings/distances on in the map room I got messed up and took a long time before getting to the checkpoint (from the wrong direction – as did everyone else).
We were then given a sheet with aerial photos of junctions for the next section. There was still a short section of bearings to complete before this task and I started the photos but couldn’t make them fit so rode directly to the given point, which I think many riders did too. Mum and Jackie said that there was only evidence of one horse on a track in front of them later on. From here the route was comparatively straightforward down onto the river bank with a couple of kinks off – one for a manned ticket and another for an unmanned one and the finish was back at the venue.
On getting back to the venue I sorted Niño out and put him back in his pen then Hilary and Claire kindly took me back to my hotel where I had a soak in the bath before Mum eventually arrived back with Jackie and Lynne.
Mum told me my score. It certainly wasn’t my best POR and the score I was given was -148, with the best rider getting -27. Mum has tried weighing up the scoring on the score sheet but can’t make head nor tail of it as the penalties for the manned tickets or wrong routing into the checkpoints. Mum told me that her horse had been being naughty and she’d effectively ridden the route with Jackie and had somehow been given 30 fewer penalties for an unmanned ticket than Jackie even though they’d punched exactly the same tickets – certainly very strange.
We turned the heating up full in the room and spread everything out in an attempt to dry things out before we had to pack up ready to check out in the morning. Back to the pizza shop with mum, Jackie and Lynne – this time it was okay because we just ordered two pizzas between the four of us and then back to the hotel. Mum’s back was aching so she lay on the bed and fell asleep after having an anti-inflammatory tablet.
On Sunday morning we finished packing the bags – leaving out the things that we needed to ride, managed to get some breakfast and headed off to the venue for vetting. We managed to catch Niño and Aranda and vetted successfully (as did everyone else). Mum and myself managed to miss the course walk and I didn’t have time then to walk it. I got a map and got told what the obstacles were and had the route described to me. I think that they’d had to alter it because of all the rain from what was originally set up on the Friday.
I managed to keep Niño in canter but it was too fast, and he was going sideways, and I scored about 13 for the walk, then went off to the PTV, map in pocket.
- Gate without a string on it – 0
- Ridden bridge – 0
- Led S Bend – 8
- Led Rein Back – 0
- Led Log – 0
- Ridden Corridor – 4
- Ridden S Bend – 7
- Ride Up – 4
- Ride Down – 9
- Jump – 0
- Rein Back – 0
- Bending – 7
- Hedge – 0
- Ridden Immobility – 7
- Path Crossing – 0
- Figure of 8 – 7
Niño wouldn’t jump for me, so I lost 40 points there. Quite a few of the obstacles were placed very close to each other – it would have been harder for me to try the rein back and immobility if we had jumped.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and have learnt a lot which hopefully I’ll be able to put to good use in September.
All in all, an excellent experience that I would certainly recommend to everyone to try. I’ve learnt so much from this and am really looking forward to September riding Warrior there, although I definitely prefer our maps to the Spanish ones!
Final results Hilary 12th, Claire 16th, Lynne 22nd, Alex 24th Jackie 27th, Liane 29th