Spencer Sturmey - A trip Down Under Round Up

18th December 2015

I have just landed after an incredible trip to Australia, three weeks that I will never forget.

I have never competed ‘Down Under’ and had never ridden my friend Charlotte Littlefield’s horse Playing The Field aka Huey, so it was quite daunting when the first time I rode him was cross country schooling. I didn’t need to worry as Huey was awesome with all the questions we asked him, some of which were 3* combinations although this gave me confidence as were competing at Wallaby Hill International Horse Trials in New South Wales at 1* level.

Huey is a seven year old bay gelding and is owned by Charlotte who is now a fully licensed racehorse trainer; Huey is a straight off the track thoroughbred and is a cross country machine but struggles with his dressage.

After cross country schooling him on the first day we then spent the rest of the week working on his flatwork, an area that he found quite challenging but we managed to get some better work from him in the run up to the CIC 1* class he was competing in. Due to the heat, which in the day time was above 30 degrees, we always rode the horses early, often 6.00am so that they didn’t get too hot. They are also swum two or three times a week to help with their fitness and to save their legs as the ground is hard in Australia.

We set off at 11.00am on our long journey in the car and float (the Australian name for a horse trailer) to Wallaby Hill International Horse Trials. The journey took us 9.5 hours so we stopped several times to ensure Huey could stretch his legs and have a drink, we arrived in New South Wales at 9.00pm. We settled Huey in his stable which was certainly an eye opener compared to the event stables in the UK. We were in a block of 56 stable ‘pens’ that had open sides and no roofs, therefore it was easy for horses to touch each other. Unfortunately Charlotte put a lovely stable rug on Huey over night which was sadly chewed by the next door neighbour which was a not ideal! My lodgings for the night were in the float which was comfortable and well equipped for a restful evening.

I had my dressage at 8.30am in an indoor school and we were first to go, I was boiling in my top hat and tails! Despite being quite tense throughout the test Huey managed to contain himself and we were pleased with his performance considering his lack of experience. Charlotte and I walked the cross country course that was designed by Mike Etherington-Smith to perfection. The fences were dressed beautifully and the course asked some strong 1* questions.

The following morning we had our show jumping test, we rolled two poles but again we were happy with Huey. The cross country was slightly delayed which meant we set off from the starting blocks at the hottest part of the day. We set off feeling super confident and his thoroughbred breeding meant that he came home 10 seconds inside the optimum time to finish overall in 14th place.

Charlotte and Huey made the long journey home; he was turned out in the field and was very pleased with himself after his experience at Wallaby Hill.

It certainly has been a trip to remember, the people are incredibly welcoming and friendly and the weather is a definite plus to the experience. A special thank you to Charlotte who has been a fantastic owner and I was very grateful for the chance to ride in Australia and I can now say that I have competed worldwide, and of course a big thank you to Huey who we were all so thrilled with after taking on a big test and he certainly stepped up to the mark!

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