Galway Downs

Photo: Jenni Autry for

Unfortunately Oscar finished his year of ‘highs and lows’ at Galway Downs, in Temecula, CA with a disappointing result. I can’t tell you all how heartbroken I am to tell you that out trip out west did not quite go to plan.

He shipped out there in good health and looked in great condition leading up to the event. We were very fortunate to have him stabled at Tamie Smiths farm down the road for the first few days while we prepared for the event. Tamie and her staff were awesome hosts and really looked after us well. I hope to return the favour when the West Coasters come out our way.

Galway Downs is a super event with a real international feel. I would encourage any rider who is looking to gain experience to invest in a trip out there to compete, instead of going overseas first. It’s basically the same experience, for a third of the cost.

On Friday we put in a good test. The trot work was great, picking up 8’s and 9’s from all of the judges. We lost a few marks on the halt-rein back as Oscar was a little unsettled with the atmosphere. The canter work was pretty good, although we did do a late-behind flying lead change, which was expensive. We ended up on a score of 44, which had us sharing the lead with Buck.

The cross-country course was not that tough considering the tracks Oscar has gone around in the past. It was a legitimate three-star course that was on mostly flat terrain. It did pour with rain the night before, which made the footing quite heavy in places.

I set out pretty quick, as I felt like we were there to win. In hindsight it may have been a little too quick considering the conditions. We were jumping all of the fences out of stride and Oscar was feeling very keen. At each minute marker, we were well ahead. At around 4 minutes I decided to slow him a little between the fences as we were doing it a bit too easy.

At about 7 minutes he started to feel a little tired. He kept running well, but I could feel his jump lose its power a little. We jumped through the toughest combination, which was a bounce into water. and he struggled a little to the C element. We pressed on, and I slowed the speed to see if he would freshen up.

At around the eight minute mark there was a very big ditch and brush into water. Oscar was not responding well enough to my leg, so I decided then to call it a day. I hopped off and loosened the girth and had the lonely walk back to the finish with my old pal Oscar, who had given everything he had. Funny enough he recovered pretty quickly, which is something I can’t understand.

Obviously this is heartbreaking. He has all of the ingredients for the best event horse in the world except this one important factor. To be honest, I don’t want to make any decisions about his future for a couple of days until I get home.

I suppose we are competing at the very top end of the sport, where it’s not meant to be easy.


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  1. Disappointing, but you always do the right thing for the horse, which is important not only for the horse but for eventers of all levels and ages watching. “It’s OK to retire at fence 26 at Rolex.”

  2. It is so nice to see a decision reflecting true horsemanship and not just the will to win. You will have this horse for another day, and he will have another day. I have seen the opposite decision a couple of times, where the horse was losing form and the rider pressed on anyway. It never comes to a good end, and there are no winners in that situation. I’m sorry your trip didn’t bring you a ribbon, but you have done a much bigger service for the sport.

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