Barroca 4*Long...Or how Sammi and Gizmo nailed it!
It has been a long three weeks down in Portugal and I think it's fair to say that whilst it has been fun the crew are pretty keen to get back home! The weather is getting more unsettled and it was lucky that the 4*Long dressage ran on Thursday in sunshine before Friday saw heavy rain and high winds. Not many horses appreciate that but Finduss PFB (Louis) in particular hates it! Louis held it together to post a credible 34 which is a whopping 5 marks better than his previous 4*L at Boekelo last year.
Hunter Valley (Gizmo) put his experience forward to post a 71% score that left him in 3rd spot, just a couple of marks off the lead. Friday was then a 'day off' and when they wheeled the track it became quite clear that the ground jury had miscalculated the time allowed. After some negotiation the time was changed by some 25 seconds which really did throw it out there as a stamina test with 11 minutes 40 seconds on the clock.
The downside of having such a long cross country in a limited space event site is that the track tends to circle around and involves lots of heading towards the stables and then away again. Normal stressy horses tend to hang towards home but Louis is anything but normal and having been fairly difficult at the start which was predictable he then proceeded to be nice and polite heading out but every time Sammi turned back towards the stables he yanked her arms out which was not very helpful with her still mending scapula. He was really brave and honest though and tackled what is by far his biggest cross country test to date with gusto. He came home with just 4 time and rocketed up the leaderboard from 14th to 4th. That's a seriously good effort.
Several combinations had withdrawn by the time that Sammi set out on Gizmo and she had a truly classy round on him and added just 2.4 time to sit in the lead at the end of a fairly dramatic day. As Sammi said, she could quite easily have made the time but she let Gizmo fiddle through the boggy spots which was just enough to make her a few seconds over. It was their first big run since Aachen in 2018 and fair play to Sammi, she made it a really competitive one.
Trot up went smoothly on Sunday morning (well, Louis was particularly enthusiastic and keen to show the other competitors that he is more than ready to crack on with the day) and then it was a day of starting to pack up while waiting til 3pm to start the 4L showjumping. Sammi was second in on Louis who got the memo that Barroca was warm and sunny but is now not appreciating the soggy conditions underfoot. When Louis doesn't like something he gets tense and when Louis gets tense its like a toddler meltdown in the supermarket. He finished his event with two down which dropped him two places but he did also help Sammi realise she didn't have to turn up short to the second last if she had a couple of seconds in hand which was invaluable. Not long later Gizmo did the job he was bred for and added just 1.2 to his score for their first 4*L win in Europe and so well deserved. As Sammi said, "It took a village" but she is without doubt the star of the show and this win is something she has fought so hard for the last couple of years to get to. It may be a long drive home but it all worked out so well in the end and the big orange divvy even qualified for Badminton. Which means, if you happen to be anywhere at Badminton next year, around the collecting ring, stables, track up to the main arena or grazing in front of the house and you see a huge tangerine horse staring fixedly into the middle distance move sharply away and exit left before you end up looking like a starfish on the ground.