I’d heard great things about Millstreet Ireland so when I was asked to go I jumped at the chance. Sarah had 4 horses travelling there so it was set to be a busy show. Well it was definitely busy!
I arrived on Thursday, originally the boys weren’t meant to dressage till Friday so I had plenty of time to get the hire car and navigate my way there. Scheduling meant that 4 out of the 5 horses ended up doing their dressage on Thursday! So in what’s becoming tradition I screeched into the car park, grabbed my camera and ran to the arenas. Thankfully I managed to catch Alcatraz. I adore this little munchkin, him and Percy have competitions against each other to see who can get the most attention. So they are very entertaining!
Alcatraz is such a little dude. He strutted around like he owned the joint and posted a very respectable score to leave him sat in a top ten position. Once the dressage was done I managed to catch up with team Bragg and headed out for a course walk.
Millstreet Ireland 2018: Course Walk Insights
Bizarrely the cross country is not in the main site but over the road and down a private lane. Bit odd but hey whatever works. The first few fences were nothing especially exciting and then we got to fence 4…..Tricky lines and some funky angles meant this just got serious! Onwards and then sh*t really got serious. An Irish bank, huge and menacing. Like nothing we see back in England. Alex is great for doing for a course walk with and there’s a fab video over on the Facebook page if you want to listen to how to ride one-that’s if you’re mad enough to go there next year! Long gallops and some seriously spooky fence made up the course and I’m not going to lie I was a tad nervous for the cross country day.
Half way round the glorious Irish weather turned and we ended up instantly becoming drowned rats! Lola, the Labrador, was so happy though. Speeding through water jumps and being path finder. If you ever get a chance to do a course walk with Alex, I believe he’s doing one at Burghley, then head along. You won’t be disappointed and it’s great fun, plus you do a shed load of steps which means you can eat more cake. Eventually we made our way back and Elouise and I both summed up the course as tough. Sure enough the there were a lot of fallers and many a horse and rider walking back to the stables.
Millstreet Ireland 2018: Dancing and Jumping
Friday was an ‘easy’ day for Team Bragg. We had Percy putting his dancing shoes on in the dressage. He warmed up spectacularly but was a little green in the arena, we forget he’s only 8. Still what was good was lovely and he also achieved a very respectable score. Then we had an afternoon of showjumping and all the boys left every pole up! A really impressive feat. Alex then got Barry out for his leg stretch whilst the girls did the evening feeds. Simone and I had an altercation with a chicken pie and the lorry oven but we saved the day with some inventive cooking on the BBQ…..we didn’t think it would work but it did! Then it was an early night for me and I was very glad of my comfortable B&B.
The morning came and Patrica, the host at the B&B has some major hosting skills. Homemade soda bread, home made yogurt and the yummiest carrot cake was a breakfast of kings and it was lovely having a cuppa and chatting to her. Then it was time to head back and get ready for a day out on course.
Millstreet Ireland 2018: ride it like you stole it!
So as I said the cross country was tough, not for our boys though! Barry was path finder for the Nations Cup and gave them a lesson on how it should be done. Taking tight lines and popping everything he achieved the fastest time around the course! The commentators even commented on his speed, saying Alex and Chris Burton were two of the best and fastest cross country riders. I have to agree, this is where Alex really shines.
Barry cruised home. After that there were a few fallers and a fair old delay on course. This set the scene for the day and thank goodness the sun was out. We watched a few more and then it was time for Percy Moo.
Having watched Alex and Percy all summer I’ve seen their bond and relationship really develop and they are formidable across the country. Percy is quite dinky compared to Lucky, Barry and Zagreb but he’s got a huge stride and Alex saw his lines to nail another fast time. He’s a machine and a joy to watch. Time for a quick lunch and a check on the boys. Over the winter I want to get the girls, Heather and Domi to write a day in the life of them, simply because the work that goes into cross country day is insane. We’d popped to the butchers in the morning before it had all kicked off, blissfully ignorant and thinking we’d be done by 8 and able to BBQ.
Millstreet Ireland 2018: Burgers and Haynets
In reality we ended up eating our burgers in the stables whilst doing the last jobs. Skipping out, doing waters, ice boots on and ice boots off. Plus we had trot ups in the morning and so Heather started plaiting.
Personally I enjoy all of this and find it so interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. Before all of this though we still had 3 to go! Lucky had redeemed himself showjumping after an “interesting” dressage, which can only be described as a freestyle. Showjumping on the Friday he’d jumped out of his skin and we were all so pleased for him. Eager to see what he could do cross country we waited with baited breath. Apart from a slight miscommunication in the second to last water complex, where Lucky simply didn’t read the question, it was class round. In time he’s sure to be an asset to Team Bragg.
Alcatraz was his normal foot perfect self. Just popping round and showing everyone how talented he is. Bless him he’s taking a while to acclimatise to the English terrain so he had few time penalties but lots to like about him. Still he secured 5th place, not bad for his first 2* over here! Finally Zagreb’s spot was up. Sadly there was yet another parting of company and he was held in the start box for a fair while.
It had got dusky and really cold. I was struggling in the light and I had goosebumps. Finally though, nearly an hour late, they were off. This was a prep run for Burghley so Alex kept the handbrake on. Even so though they cruised round to finish just 2 seconds over and finishing in second position.
What a day! What a team and what talented horses. When we all finally climbed into bed we were excited for what the final day would bring.
Millstreet Ireland 2018: Trot ups and Croissants
I got up early and headed to the bakery to get some croissants for the team. They’d all been up early, checking the horses and prepping for the trot up. To the untrained eye the trot up appears simple. Like each rider simply flicks over their horse and has a quick jog. They either pass or fail, simples. This is just not the case, there is so much involved and Simmone and the girls don’t stop until the horses are through. Once prepped to perfection it’s then a case of walking and walking until your number is called. In typical Percy fashion he sauntered along. Loving the crowds. Barry also floated past the ground jury and both boys passed.
The morning then involved packing up the lorry ready for a hasty get away once the showjumping was done. The timings never quite work. The ferry’s are at 8/9 and the shows never finish till 3 at the earliest. Add in the long drive to the port and it’s always tight or you have a long wait at the airport, like me.
Staying the night and going the next day isn’t an option at this point in the season. There’s too much to do and too much going on. Still like a well oiled machine the lorry was loaded and was simply had to wait. I followed Alex on a course walk and again he gave a fascinating insight in to the technicalities of it all. Well worth a worth if you head over to Facebook.
Millstreet Ireland 2018: Bring it
By this point nerves were high. Alex had his game face on and gone into serious competition mode. Best to leave him to prep at this point. So the girls and I watched a bit of prep and then went and found our spot. Percy was first to go and he pinged into the ring looking the picture of health. A few poles were rattled and you could see the XC from the previous day had been tough. He is getting used to jumping after XC and all of this is great for building him for next year- there are big plans for him!
The poles all stayed up though and he had a lovely clear with just 1 time penalty. This left him in 2nd place for a while. Until Ros Canter did a fab clear round to steal the 2nd spot.
Then it was time for the Nations Cup, cue lots of nerves and the actual shakes. Barry was second to last and Britain hadn’t managed a clear round yet. No pressure or anything! In he cantered, looking regal and ready for action. The course was very technical and up to height but he tried his heart out and delivered a clear round! Again just one pesky time fault but enough to give GB the silver spot and also Barrichello 3rd individually. What a horse, at just 9 years old he’s played a pivotal role in a Nations Cup team. He is going to be a star of the future and Blenheim will be very exciting.
Lots of hugs and kisses from everyone, most of all from Domi, his groom. I think all of us had a little tear in our eye and what a way to end the day. Barry in 3rd and Percy in 4th. Fan-bloody-tastic and what a boost before Burghley. I will be sat at home glued to the TV whilst my good friend Katie Neat documents it all.