Rosa Onslow is on the #horsescotland Performance Squad and competed at the Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, France, throughout 22 – 25 October. This was the only CCI5*-L event of the 2020 season and out of 54 combinations, she was part of the 34 combinations who completed the event. What an achievement!!
It has been a short eventing season, but the goal has been to move both Kaiser and Sunny up to CCI5*-L, the highest level in the world. There are only 6 normally held in the world: Badminton, Burghley, Luhmuhlen, Kentucky, Adelaide and Pau, and it was Pau that was in my sights as the others were all cancelled. I had entered Kaiser for Badminton in May, but we all know what happened there. So was I or was I not going to be given places at Pau? Well, the answer was yes…for both horses! Preparation then started in earnest….5* is a considerable step up on 4* and the fitness levels had to reflect this. More hill work and more time on the gallops. The horses looked amazing and were bulging with condition. More dressage, show jumping and cross country schooling was required, but at the same time, it was important that they didn’t boil over. There is a fine line. At the same time, the admin had to be perfect for the 2,400 round trip. Ferries, overnight stays and mapping had to be organised. You can have the best horses in the world, but it’s not much good if you can’t get there! So we set off in our lorry from the Borders on the Friday and finally arrived at Pau on the Monday.
The entries were something out of an Olympic trial with the entire Team GB infrastructure deployed. Team vets, physios and coaches were available to us throughout. And despite us being amongst household names, they took as much trouble with us as with any of the other famous riders and horses. All of the riders, both GB and overseas were incredibly kind and supportive as they knew this was my first time at this level.
Both horses did a respectable dressage as the atmosphere was electric around the arena. It didn’t help that Kaiser followed Laura Collett into the arena, and the crowds were still cheering as I warmed up around the arena. He had seen nothing like it! Then onto the Cross country. Sunny did a dream clear round and loved it. There is no doubt it there is a real difference in technicality and height but he cruised round it, albeit with a few time faults. Then it was Kaiser’s turn. All was going brilliantly until he slipped on a turn and had an annoying run out. I turned him back into the fence, and he flew it and then flew around the rest of the course. The atmosphere in the show jumping arena the next day was tense with crowds around all four sides. Most jumps were at 130cm or higher with big spreads, and neither Sunny nor Kaiser had experienced anything quite like it. It didn’t quite go to plan which was disappointing as I had a few down, but they had both completed their first 5* and I am so proud of them. I am now officially a 5* rider and there are very few of us in Scotland! Of the 54 horses that started the competition, only 34 completed. So I would like to thank HorseScotland for your support in helping me to get to this level. It is all about teamwork and HorseScotland are an essential part of our team. Thank you. Rosa Onslow