Only Blues and Horses – The European Tour

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After two intense days of competition and twenty hours of travelling via five differ- ent modes of transportation, the Oxford University Equestrian Team arrived back in Ox- ford late on Sunday evening – albeit with the stench of horse still lingering. Although not returning victorious, achieving fifth position in a European competition is an outstanding feat which has certainly helped prepare the team for the forthcoming Varsity match with Cambridge.
Departing from Oxford at 4pm on Friday, the team arrived in Nancy, France, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

After very little sleep, we awoke to find that disaster had struck: we had missed the team bus to the venue due to a miscommunication (cue mass panic and phone calls riddled with language barrier diffi- culties). The team finally arrived at the competition venue at 7am thanks to a parent driving us from the hotel – but it had been a rough start. For us Brits, trips abroad normally equate to hot sunny weather, but northern France only had the same rain to offer as Oxford, accompanied by five degree temperatures – so we were grateful to be riding inside for the first time this year.

Whilst Nancy itself left a lot to the imagination, the historical stud of Rosières–aux–Salines was a fantastic venue, nestled in a sleepy French village said to have been built by Louis XV. The horses that we were given to ride came in various shapes, sizes and colours but fortunately we had lucky draws and both our mounts actually knew how to jump fences, which proved to be a great bonus. A morning of horse jumping followed, plagued both with technical fail- ures and many riders parting company with their rides. As the only British university, we felt the weight of not only the reputation of Oxford but the nation resting on our shoulders as we entered the competition arena for the first time on Saturday.

Solid performances were recorded by all, however, with podium positions only narrowly missed, whetting our appetite for Sunday’s team competition. The journey back to the hotel was filled with some interesting European dance music being played over the radio and a few awkward silenc- es as our lack of French got the better of us once again.

Afternoon activities included laser quest, with each team taking it as seriously as the jumping competition itself. Fun was had by all with the Oxford cohort coming out victorious.

Upon returning to the competition venue on Saturday evening, we were able to watch the international show taking place, which excit- ingly featured past Olympians. More awkward conversation was exchanged and champagne drank, before finally heading back to the hotel for an (albeit brief) night’s sleep, since Sunday morning brought with it another 5am start.

The sun had just begun to rise as we arrived in Rosières–aux–Salines and with it came, at last, respite from the rain, giving team morale a much needed boost. Whilst the warm up didn’t go exactly to plan, with instructions being shouted in French not proving helpful, nerves were successfully put aside as the team entered the international arena once more.

Superb performances saw the Oxford team achieve fifth place overall; a fantastic result considering we were competing on borrowed horses, whilst many of those placed above us were not.

It was a shame that the Tabs did not put forward a team for this prestigious event, but perhaps they were put off by the might of Oxford and the possibility of embarrassment before the upcoming Varsity match! A huge thank you must go out to the EDHEC jumping team for organising the international event.

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