Well, he may try to eat your head in the stable on a daily basis, but Hunter Valley (Gizmo) was just blooming wonderful at Bramham. His second CCI*** (and first one with Sammi) and he breezed around to take 4th place, best Aussie combination and a proper look-at-me performance for the selectors for Aachen and Rio.
Bramham was a last minute choice as Sammi and Gizmo had led the dressage at Tattersalls CCI*** in Ireland the week previously but an uncharacteristic hesitation going into the coffin had left Sam decanted on the Irish grass and they re-routed to Bramham.
He opened by nearly knocking Sammi unconscious at the first trot up, head butting her rather unglamorously in front of the Ground Jury and then dragging her staggering up the runway, but then put very much his best toe forward to lead the dressage at the end of day 1, despite being one of the 1st to go, scoring a personal best of 38.7. By the end of day 2 only 2 had headed him and so it was game on for Saturday's XC.
XC day saw a few big names retire across country, over a track that caused problems in various places, but Sam and Gizmo steamed round with just 1.2 time faults and although she said he was a bit strong and would be testing new bits before the next one, they looked class and were 2nd overnight.
The next day they had a frustrating rail going into the treble, and dropped a couple of places but there were very few clears, and a brief moment of disappointment was replaced with a huge feeling of achievement that this tricky opinionated little horse, bred by Sam's dad Lyndon, had made it on the big stage and was a serious contender for Aussie teams in the future. Sam said it was good to be back at the higher levels!
Hels was joined by Lisa for the week where the nanny / groom tag team (excuse the pun) was impressively efficient, Ed arrived in time for the jumping and the glory and it was a happy lorry coming home.
The only downer was that The Court Jester, who had produced a gorgeous dressage test to lie 3rd, was totally under the weather on XC day and pulled up early on. Vets are on the case, as this is uncharacteristic for this lovely horse.
All photos courtesy of E.S Photography