“How do you fancy grooming for me at Stafford Intro?” asked my friend. Well I couldn’t really turn her down as she feeds my horse every morning so I can have a lie in!

That was all well and good until she told me the draw. “I’m number 53,” she said, “which if you calculate six minutes a test means I’ll be on about lunchtime”. She couldn’t understand why my face fell. “What time does the dressage start?” I asked. “Oh it’s 8am,” she advised chirpily. I groaned and explained to this eventing newbie that she would be on around 8.15am because sections were numbered and run in multiples of 50!

Given the early start, it’s fortunate that we were only around an hour away. As we arrived the morning dew was heavy on the ground and the sun not quite up. We were first on the show ground.

Eventually some other people arrived and we headed over to the dressage. They worked in beautifully but someone had got the incorrect scoring sheets for the tests, which resulted in a delay but in the end a few correct sheets were found.

On to the jumping by which time my rider’s nerves were in shreds — suddenly she could not remember how to jump a fence or what rhythm was. I popped a cross pole up and she approached it with red on the left! Where was her brain? And then another delay. This time the vet who should have been there was in LONDON. Poor organisers — anything that could have gone wrong by this point had done so.

After a one-hour wait, we were underway. I thought the horse did great given my friend’s attempt at riding a course. He refused at fence 3, which woke her up and they jumped a super round after that.

After the show jumping I took over. “Get ready for the cross-country now,” I said. “I’ll sort the horse”. Before she knew it she was back on board with instructions to canter down to the cross-country collecting ring, jump the practice fence twice and GO!

Great plan — an already warmed-up horse and rider had no time to think what was ahead and set off and finished really well. It may only be intro but it’s still as exciting as the top events.

Unfortunately they finished just out of the rosettes so we headed home with a happy horse, exhilarated rider and knackered groom.

Next time out — her number was 153! This time we were ready for it and she was 10th. I can’t wait for the rest of the season; grooming is more fun than I could have possible imagined.