Since Away Cruising left Badminton at the beginning of May all roads for him have led to Burghley. Although he was long-listed for the World Championships in America, I had not expected him to be a realistic team prospect so my focus remained on Burghley throughout.
Having had an intensive five month build up to Badminton Away Cruising had a quiet month before resuming full work. I very much picked his prep runs leading up to Burghley with the aim of being just that – the optimum preparation for Burghley rather than goals in their own right. He had an easy run round Barbury 2* before travelling up to Northumberland for the 3* at Burgham. It was our maiden voyage to Burgham and I was pleased to have made the journey up there as the course was galloping and flowing, which really suited such a big striding horse; Away Cruising isn’t particularly suited to the short twisty courses but Burgham was more along the lines of what he will be faced with at Burghley.
I’ve been delighted with how he has felt over the past few months. In the dressage his flying changes are becoming more established and he is feeling like a stronger horse than he was 12 months ago. I have deliberately kept him a bit bigger in terms of condition, which I think has helped his strength and the more generous diet has kept up his energy levels which I’m hoping will be of benefit in the dressage and show jumping phases. Being a big diesel-engined type of horse he is usually prone to being a little flat when the intensity of work is high, but he has been refreshingly full of zip over the last few weeks. I’m particularly grateful to Dodson & Horrell for the technical support they’ve provided.
I took him to Hartpury 3* to do the dressage and show jumping and he felt great. He has since had a cross country school to jump some big technical lines and remember that cross country is not all about jumping out of an open gallop!
I have followed a similar galloping programme for the past 15 years (when the sport had the long format speed and endurance test) and he has coped with the work very well. I try and use a variety of gallops, mixing different lengths and gradients so as to work the horse in a variety of ways, and I have put myself through my usual fasting to hit the 10 stone mark in order to make his life as easy as possible. The hills at Burghley are a test for even the cleanest-bred horses – only time will tell as to how he will cope come the big day. A well prepared and fit horse is rewarded on the final day at a 4* as they will recover far more effectively. Away Cruising is not the most talented show jumper but we’ve both worked our socks off and I have a clear plan as to how I intend to ride him in the ring. As long as we can both execute our sides of the bargain then what will be will be.
We spend so long trying to find young horses and producing them through the grades, and having ridden Away Cruising since he was a four year old I’m thoroughly looking forward to embracing the challenges of another 4* with him and plan to enjoy every minute of it.