Quarantine is OVER!

Well, that was tougher than I thought it would be. Thank you to all my friends and family for your support messages. They truly mean so much to me.

There are moments when I feel as if I’m on the other side of the world, so far away from my friends and family… Oh wait I am! But I’m doing well and more importantly Hilly (Fernhill Present) is even better.

Hilly is used to hacking for hours around the Surrey Hills at home, being turned out in his favourite field and pretty much what I think he wants he gets. He’s had none of this in quarantine.

My mother has always told me you can cope with anything for a month. With quarantine I can say I did cope, but I wouldn’t have like to have done it any longer; and I really mean that.

My reasons are not so much for me, but more for Hilly.

Jenny with the 'trotting poles'

Jenny with the ‘trotting poles’

Keeping him happy and preventing boredom was my main priority. One day I went out and bought broom sticks in Sydney to act as trotting poles. I lunged him in different lunge pens which was a slight change of scenery for him. I turned him out as much as possible but some days the heat and flies were an issue. His favourite treat would be the fresh grass I cut for him daily along the quarantine fence line.

Everyone in Sydney quarantine was lovely and I can now sort of relate to what Big Brother contestants may have to cope with in the Big Brother house.

Damien Ford is the head IRT groom along with Darren McKay; they are true professionals and both experienced horsemen. Their laid back attitude helped me try to relax. Darren would often tell me that Hilly would pick up on my vibes and therefore I should really try to chill out. Easier said than done, but the comment touched a nerve. I have to remain positive for Hilly.

The grass I cut for Hilly

The grass I cut for Hilly

Darren and Damien checked Hilly at night for me and I’m very thankful for this and how they welcomed Jenny (my groom) and I.

Another of my comrades in quarantine was Howard Russell, who runs RBI transport. Howard (or Howie) is a true gentleman and it was always reassuring to see him walking around quarantine or sat in his chair watching TV. Howie would always make me a cup of tea and let me eat his last Tim Tam — a small gesture like this can mean so much if you’re feeling a bit blue.

Another person I met in quarantine was Monika Du. We all thought she was German for the first two days. I was practicing my German to her and Jenny asking her about German event riders. We all thought it was a bit odd she didn’t even try and speak back to us in German when we were trying so hard until one day Monika said: “I can’t wait to get back to Poland.”

“Poland? You’re from Poland?!” I said, at which point we all fell about laughing at our huge mistake. Poor Monika had no idea we thought she was German. It turned out that the horses she was looking after were from Germany and that’s about it.

So far I have met so many amazing people and I hope to remain in touch with all of them. Facebook really is a marvellous thing to help in such situations.

Hilly just before we left quarantine

Hilly just before we left quarantine

As happy as I was to leave quarantine, another part of me was sad to say goodbye to the new friends I’d made. Everyone has gone out of their way to be friendly and helpful and it just goes to show there are caring people in the world.

Last night we made the long journey from Sydney to Adelaide. By car this is around 14 hours straight. We stopped roughly every five hours and got Hilly out to drop his head and stretch his legs. He now has to remain in isolation from other horses so we don’t have to quarantine on the way home. Luckily Hilly doesn’t mind being by himself, but again it’s not an ideal situation.

Hilly and I both have one very special trait in common — the remarkable skill to fall asleep on long journeys. I would never have brought him on this epic journey if I didn’t already know this. Ever since he was young he has always fallen asleep on the truck while travelling. He does like to rest his chin on something, but then he will close his eyes and nod off. He has taught my other horses to do this too.

Hilly grazing at the Adelaide Horse Trials site

Hilly grazing at the Adelaide Horse Trials site

Hilly is also very good at drinking on the truck and he will always stale. I always travel a horse with shavings or straw on the floor to encourage them to do so. A lot of horses don’t like splash back (I don’t know how else to describe this and this helps you to get the point!).

We arrived at the Magic Millions Complex (where the horse trials will be held) in the early hours of Sunday morning. Although it was dark Hilly knew we had arrived at the event. He marched off the lorry and proceeded to check out what will be his new home for the next two weeks. I walked and grazed him for 20 minutes before I put him to bed. I looked at my watch and it was 1.40am.

Lance, who is looking after us at Magic Millions, drove me to the hotel — it was shut. There was only one thing for it. Amy Kelly (my travelling vet), Jenny and I slept in a stable next to Hilly. I knew there was a good reason for bringing all of those rugs!

To be honest at that point we were all so tired, we could have slept anywhere.

I sat with Hilly as dawn broke and then we ate breakfast together before I turned him out in the little field I made out of electric fencing and plastic posts.

Me with Hilly

Me with Hilly

I was staring at my phone when a message came through from Gillian Rolton, who is the event director of Adelaide Horse Trials. Gillian is one of the main reasons I’m here. She is a bit of legend and a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Australia in eventing (1992 and 1996). At both games she rode her horse, Peppermint Grove, named after its name sake area in Western Australia.

I first met Gillian in Kentucky where she was on the ground jury while Hilly and I were competing. It was then I told her about my goal to complete at Adelaide and she has pulled out all the stops to make sure Hilly and I feel at home here. The whole year building up to this she has been at the end of an email or phone call to make sure the whole process runs as smoothly as possible. Without her help I’m sure I would not be here now.

Gillian’s message said she was on her way to drop off a car for us and that she would show me around Magic Millions and take us to the hotel (which was now open) to get settled, plus she had coffee!

I walked into the stables and woke Amy and Jenny up. It was time to check out Adelaide!

Until next time I will be riding Hilly after two weeks off and assessing our fitness, as well as welcoming my family as they start to arrive!

Alice xx