Rain, rain and more rain for cross country day in Saumur….just seems to be the theme so far for 2024.  It has been a while since Tim and Jonelle went to Saumur which used to be a big fixture on the calendar when it ran after Badminton but Jonelle did comment that it did feel rather agricultural and that they were “out in the sticks’ and those of us not on site  were devastated to learn that there was no livestream!

Jonelle posted a video to the group this morning showing them re routing a track for the 4L after the 2L had run where they were harrowing the ground but due to the sand/mud it looked much more like ploughing.  Saumur in the wet is slippy in the woods, tacky in the open and sand simply everywhere!

Tim and Happy Boy were out early doors and they sped through the first section of the course until they came to 10B which was a corner three forward strides after a hanging log.  Happy landed short after the log and found the three strides way too long and when Tim’s second approach didn’t work he called it a day.  It’s early enough in the course that he can easily re route but a crushing disappointment when he was lying second and looked so good over the first part of the track.

Jonelle and McClaren needed to fill a qualification slot having failed at Aachen and Pau last year and there was plenty of pressure on to jump a clear round.  And jump a clear they did despite a hairy moment at the water when having jumped a meaty open ditch very well (Mac’s nemesis at times) which was start of the water, (three or four to a skinny into the water then three or four through the water to another skinny.) Mac chipped into the ditch, dropped his back legs into the ditch, Jonelle sat up to add to the skinny on four  and then dropped her left rein so ended up having to pull right on the one rein she had to do the option into the water which cost her a good 20 seconds.  Annoying, frustrating but that’s the Jonelle quick thinking cross country to save the day.  She was delighted with Mac and said he really fought for  her today and she was so proud of him for coming home around a tough track and also enduring all the things Mac ( and Jonelle) hate: mud, no crowds, rain, sand and plain fences in the woods.  They added 24 time to slip to 29th but Mac is happy and looks good tonight which is all that you can ask of the little fella with the biggest heart.  Don’t be surprised to see him climb up the leaderboard tomorrow!

Tim had to gather his thoughts to ride (the much greener than Happy)  Jarillo (Milo) and I guess it’s lucky that Milo has been running in mud in the UK all spring.  He exceeded all expectations around a tough track and Tim described him as “phenomenal” which is a rare thing for Tim do do without reason.  He said he simply “ate up the distances” and answered every question with scope and honesty and came home with just 3.2 time to sit in 9th at the end of today.  Tim described the track as “one of the toughest 4L courses I have ever jumped” and he has jumped allot!

Jonelle and Senor Crocodillo (Diego) were also on a qualifying mission for Paris and they set out with a united desire to put the blip at Boekelo behind them.  They blitzed a classy clear with Jonelle describing Diego as “great, really good all the way around” although she was annoyed at her 12 time and said she thinks she must need to knock some more rust off as she didn’t feel that she was going that slow!  She also added ” I just love these two horses” which was pretty sweet at the end of a tough day at the office.

Tim also commented that as at all wet three days it’s a mission for the grooms and the support staff to get the horses sorted, the gear cleaned up, the lockers in the lorry sorted, wet owners everywhere and everything just so much harder than in sunny afternoons.  Three out of four isn’t a bad result and Happy is fine to go and fight another day and the all important jog and showjumping still to come tomorrow means that there is not much time for reflection.

Hats off to Kerryn, Rosie and Beth who are probably still scraping that horrible composition of mud and sand off everything, vet Jon Hurcomb, coach Sam Griffiths, physio Jacqui Compton and farrier Jack Young.  Yep, it takes a village!  And of course the owners, Terry Miller and Susan Lamb (Happy Boy), Rachel and James Good, Lucy Allison and Francis Stead ( Jarillo), Joe and Alex Giannamore ( Senor Crocodillo) and David and Karrie Thomson ( McClaren).

Below: Kerryn and Milo after XC. Credit Rachel Good