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Roger Fitzhardinge chats to Alexis Hellyer following her international debut at WEG

Alexis Hellyer gives Bluefields Floreno a pat after their Grand Prix - © Michelle Terlato

Hi-Form sponsored rider Alexis Hellyer gives Bluefields Floreno a pat after their Grand Prix.

© Michelle Terlato

 

By Roger Fitzhardinge

Alexis Hellyer certainly had to grit her teeth and focus every moment on the wellbeing of her wonderful mount, Bluefields Floreno, in the week leading up to her Grand Prix start at WEG in Tryon.

View our WEG gallery here.

Speaking to Alexis following her Grand Prix test, where she scored 67.360%, she had the following to say:

“We spent two weeks training in England before flying over to WEG. Floreno had been wonderful the entire time and the trip was no problem. He flew to WEG from there and again he was settled and no problems. I worked him the first day at WEG, and I have to say the surfaces were fantastic. He was also fantastic, but at the end of the session he felt uncomfortable in front. When he cooled down he was a tiny bit sore, and so started the next seven days of trying to find the problem. It appears that it was either a bruised sole or an abscess that was deep-seated. Good on him!!! His timing could not have been better!!!! I was not able to work him for six days and that is not helpful for a Grand Prix-fit stallion at the biggest competition in the world! We never really found anything, but treated as for a sole problem.

 

VIRBAC.WEG.SMALL.SEPT.2018

 

I was unable to do the familiarisation as I would have wanted, of course, and managed to give him a light stretching ride the day before the competition and then there was that dreaded trot up. We trotted him up in the morning on the hard concrete and he was absolutely fine, and I was so relieved to have him really sound again… well I thought. The trot up surface was compacted crusher dust and we were about the tenth to go; by that stage it had dug up with divets and clods. I found it hard to run on myself and there were decent holes to negotiate — and of course Floreno being the big brave stallion managed to find a few holes and some clods to tread on, and so he did make a few off steps. You can imagine the sinking feeling that consumed me.

It was decided that we could represent the next morning at 7.30am. The draw was done and we were on the list to ride at 10.30 in the morning, so from the trot up to entering the test was three hours. Head blowing!!!

We were accepted at the re-presentation with the proviso that there would be vets and stewards at the warm up to watch, and if there were any uneven steps to hint there may be a problem then we would not be able to start. It was quite daunting, but he felt great and I knew he was all good.

Of course I was certain that he felt good and was sound, otherwise I would not have considered putting a foot in the stirrup iron. Floreno means the world to me, and his welfare is paramount no matter what.

So after a week of focussing on my poor stallion’s sore hoof, it was time to forget all that and enter the arena at the World Equestrian Games and ride through the Grand Prix test representing Australia. I am on a stallion, I have hardly trained in the previous week; I don’t think sleep was forthcoming and my mind had been going crazy. I have to say here that the support from all the competitors and committee, officials and volunteers was absolutely incredible. They couldn’t do enough; their offers to help and good wishes were quite humbling.

 

Alexis Hellyer and Bluefields Floreno scored 67.360% in the Grand Prix - © Michelle Terlato

Alexis Hellyer and Bluefields Floreno scored 67.360% in the Grand Prix.

© Michelle Terlato

 

So all good to go, and we trotted into the arena. The Aussie supporters, the amazing arena and the atmosphere was spellbinding. It was actually comforting when I rode around the outside of the competition arena. It felt our safe place. It was like home away from home and Floreno breathed a sigh of relief, and he too knew his place and was ready to work. The bell sounded and I did not have a care or worry in the world and we started the test. I was so aware of everything with my horse and the test and the feeling was fantastic. Of course I was a little modest as I understood his inexperience and our not-perfect preparation, and I so wanted to make a clean test and so rode a little conservative. Being early in the draw and knowing where we had been, the marks were going to be tough to get but we sure as hell gave it a crack and I am very proud to look back at what we have achieved… and after this one every other is going to be easy!

I could not have been happier with his attention to me as we made our way through the test without a mistake. I was so proud of him. He was simply awesome and I even had time to think of things we had worked on in training in England, and I am sure the realisation of putting him to work and being able to focus on those areas we had worked on kept everything confident and on track. I was not in the slightest bit nervous riding in that arena and in front of seven judges and the crowd… it was really Floreno and me, and that’s all that mattered at that moment.

I think it was unfortunately addictive and I want more now! The experience has been unbelievable but I think if we had the chance to get a big international competition under our belts before being thrown into WEG it would certainly have set me up for a better showing — but all the same I was really impressed with our ability to cope and I don’t think it could have been much more stressful. I have to say that, as I said, it was everyone’s attitude and help that was so amazing. When you compete at this level the riders are all so humble and modest and it’s comforting.

 

Alexis Hellyer and Bluefields Floreno - © Michelle Terlato

Alexis Hellyer and Bluefields Floreno.

© Michelle Terlato

 

I have learnt a lot and will continue to soak up the learning opportunities and progress. I could not be happier with Floreno, who is now back in his stable after me working him today following yesterday’s test, and he was fantastic. Shame we didn’t have another day to be better prepared, but to have been part of a great Aussie team has been amazing and they have all looked after me and I am so thankful to have had them around.

I can now support Kristy in the Special and it was a shame that Brett just missed out. Still, I can watch the best of the best now in the Special and Freestyle and learn a whole lot more!

I have to thank Elliot for being so a part of this and keeping me afloat when the going got tough. Also a huge thanks to JJ and Lys Fuchs and Bluefields for allowing me the opportunity and the privilege to be on the other side of the world with their prized possession… Floreno.

From here it’s back to Germany until November and then see what’s next on the journey, and as I said I am addicted! Also thanks to everyone at home for all their good wishes and thoughts, you guys are so part of my every day.”

 

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