Hands up, who’s horse has stopped at the first fence across-country? At a regional final? While in the running for a top three placing? How about just missing out on qualifying because the person placed above you was one second closer to the optimum time? Or jumped the wrong fence three from home? Me. Also me, and yes you guessed it… me again.

Hello and welcome to my blog.

My name is Amy Rose Howe and despite all the above, as well as being partnered with quite possibly the most unreliable event horse that ever did reluctantly set out of the start box, I am thrilled to be this year’s H&H Badminton Mitsubishi Motors Cup blogger.

I first met my mount nearly 14 years ago and honestly, I wanted to buy the other one. The experienced, compact bay sports horse with an unpronounceable name. Instead I got Charlie (Unchartered Territory), a 15.2hh coloured cob type gelding of the popular amateur rider breeding that is ‘by boat, out of Ireland.’

He was my first horse and as many a Pony Club instructor forewarned, the fresh out of riding school teenager and the green as grass four-year-old were not destined to get off to a good start. ‘The blind leading the blind’ was a phrase I often heard and I spent a great deal of time unintentionally on the floor having been thrown off yet again while my yobbish steed was high-tailing it back to the lorry park, his stable or the nearest patch of lush, green grass. Such were the early years of our partnership.

Charlie and I showjumping in 2005

We stuck at it though and in time, and with a lot of help from some fabulous instructors over the years, we graduated from mini 50cm one-day events to BE (British Eventing) eventing, albeit with mixed results.

I recall a particularly painful memory at Moreton when having scored our first sub-30 dressage and heading down to the cross-country start as section leaders, Charlie dashed my childhood dreams of an affiliated win by taking offence to the very straightforward, knee high brush that was the first jump on course.

It took seven years, a near career ending injury for him and a freak accident resulting in multiple fractures for myself until we finally attained our first affiliated win. We have since gone on to have several more including an implausible string of four consecutive wins in 2016 — although I should add this was also the year when set for a top three finish in the regional final at Firle, Charlie again declined to jump the first fence across country. Things may have improved, but he’s still the same quirky, not always particularly cooperative horse. On a good day he’s great but then on a bad day, well lets just say that over the years I have been subjected to more ‘walks of shame’ than even the most promiscuous of university students!

2016 was also the year we missed out on qualifying at Munstead by a single second, the difference between us and the combination who completed on the same score but went through due to being that miniscule amount closer to the optimum time. I admit that was a bitter pill to swallow and when we returned last year to contest regionals again, we went somewhat jaded and so with minimal preparation or expectations. Quite literally we had stepped neither foot nor hoof in an arena in the few weeks prior and typically, in true unpredictable Charlie fashion, this led to our first sub-20 dressage and a win that was nearly 10 marks clear of the rest of the field. Plus of course that coveted ticket to Badminton.

Charlie and I all smiles

So that’s the story of how we unwittingly find ourselves on the road to the Mitsubishi Motors Cup. I look forward to sharing our no doubt topsy-turvy journey in the coming weeks and then reporting from the big day itself which unbelievably is only a little over two months away. In the meantime, we’ve got work to do.

Charlie has wintered a little too well and is currently looking more show cob than sleek eventer, that is if show cobs had turned out toes and the paces of a sewing machine that has almost run out of battery. Fortunately for us we are based at the foot of the Surrey Hills and so there’s no shortage of steep inclines to help address his expansive girth, plus some undulating canter tracks to perfect our pace too in time for our first event which is towards the end of next month. In previous seasons I have attempted to crack on at the early March events although every time I have been thwarted by the full range of Met Office weather warnings and so I think this year I’ll just be patient.

To those of you at Aston, Epworth, Isleham and Moreton next weekend — good luck, I hope your event season gets off to a fantastic start and finally… pack something warm, I think we’re due snow!

A x

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