I was walking the course at Houghton Hall and the lovely chap, fellow event rider Matt Heath cycled up behind me and asked how I was — perhaps a mistake on his part! If I’m honest, I wasn’t great. I was tired, had done a disappointing dressage that morning which I blamed on myself and was marked quite harshly on my other ride when I thought he’d been very good, plus the past few months have been tough in a number of different ways.
“Sometimes I wonder why I bother doing this,” came my decidedly bratty response. Matt was quick to be his usual jolly self and did a great job of bolstering me back up within seconds, getting me looking forward to the jumping phases with my two boys — I think he could get himself a job as a sports psychologist.
Douglas had run very well round Chatsworth CIC3* the previous weekend and so the two three-star boys were well set up for Bramham in two week’s time.
Sadly at Houghton, my old friend Mary Edmundson had a nasty fall. I worked for Mary’s parents, Debbie and Patrick for many years and they were like a second family to me in my late teens. Luckily Mary was only battered and bruised with no breaks, but she nevertheless asked me to ride her horses at Little Downham the following weekend. What a lovely job she has done on Diego (DG Maradona) and Brian (Sunday Driver) — both beautifully produced and jumping double clears for me, their unknown temporary pilot. My regular horses were very good and jumped double clears too, the highlight being a second place for Freddie (Mr Fahrenheit III) in his second intermediate. Freddie is turning in to a bit of a star and it’s so exciting for his owner and breeder Polly Taylor who is secretary at Little Downham. All her friends and Freddie’s fan club were there watching too which was great.
With seven double clears in a row under my belt, I was determined to maintain that record at Bramham.
What a wonderful event Bramham is. The atmosphere is fantastic and the courses big and bold. I personally thought the CCI3* resembled more of a three-and-a-half-star track, but that would suit my two boys as they are super jumpers.
Splash nailed the best test of our career together with a 50. So many thanks must go to Richard Davison and Piggy French for this. They have both helped me immensely on the flat and Piggy is good for me mentally, especially just before entering the arena.
Douglas did a 54 with some absolutely stunning trot work, but got a little hot in the canter which was a shame. I was still pleased, as I don’t know him all that well and this is all a learning curve.
Both horses were amazing on the cross-country. Douglas went a little steadier, as I wanted to look after him, but Splash (pictured top) was so so fit, that he flew, moving up to 12th place overnight.
Simon reports back from his first competition of…
The following day, Douglas showjumped really well — I am so pleased for him, his far reaching fan club, and his owners Vicki and Stuart Irlam, who were thrilled. Splash was incredible, jumping the most fantastic clear round to move us up to 10th place. I was ecstatic — the best result in my eventing career so far. The list of people to thank is endless, but I must especially thank his owners Merna Merrett and Catherine O’Connor, who have been an exceptional support to my riding career for nearly 15 years now, so it was lovely to achieve such a great result for them.
As I stood in the line up for prize giving in the main arena, the crowd clapping, the atmosphere electric and an uncontrollable smile on my face, I heard a voice behind me: “This is why you bother doing it!” It was Matt Heath referring to our chat at Houghton — and how right he is!