Former international pony dressage rider Katy Willings’ latest update on her progress training for the Mongol Derby

It’s Monday morning and i have landed in a heap at my desk again, though the feeling of crash landing is happening earlier and earlier with each passing week. Over the course of the weekend I have laid waste to my parents’ house in my quest to squeeze every minute of Derby training from the time I had. Here’s a quick inventory, to add to my working week of Monday circuits, Tuesday x-train and weights and 9pm ride on Tucker, Wednesday 6am ride, Thursday running sprint intervals and weights. Zzzzz….

Dressage tests: 3. Wins, 0, placings, 3. Total times my mother expressed dismay at the professionals who beat us being “pot-hunters”, and the judges who put us second being “in their pocket” c. 12.

Spare rides picked up: 2. the strapping Logan, and the elegant Owl, with a slim possibility of Owl’s feistier housemate, Sky, to follow.

Total hours in the saddle: c. 8

Total hours in the bicycle saddle: c. 2

Total time spent in a sports bra: c.37

Total waking hours: c.37

Total sports bras used: 4

Total sunburned area: c. 15cms squared — those dodgy racer-back marks from cycling. Dang!

Total flies or other flying insects swallowed/stuck down sports bra/sucked into eyes/up nose: c. 50. Bit of a shocker as I winged through the lovely Hampshire countryside on aluminium (with carbon seatpost) horse, hand stuck down top in attempt to release pesky flying insect which had taken a serious wrong turn… I wheeled round a bend and passed quite a slick middle-aged peloton of gentleman riders, the sort who wear those mini little caps on their heads in homage to Tom Simpson, who looked suitably disapproving. I’d like to think I could have been adjusting my heart rate monitor. I think my look of shame confirmed to the contrary.

Total “love my family!” moments: countless. Some selected highlights here, it’s not really relevant, but here they are anyway… Mum and I polishing one riding boot each under the shade of an old apple tree in the garden. I express surprise at the almost deafening cacophony of birdsong. “I know”, she sighed dolefully. “they are costing us a fortune in birdfeed”. Hmm.

We have also accumulated 4 chickens, rescued from sudden evisceration and the pot by my step-father who fancies some eggs, and they arrived to be enthroned in their new run — “it’s actually big enough for eight, but I wanted them to have some space” — on Saturday afternoon. I was riding so missed the ceremonies, but did get involved in the naming of them, so they are suitably ridiculous. From largest to smallest, Lavinia, Hettie, Delia (a blonde), and Marjorie. On more than one occasion I have been asked to go and ‘check on them’, though to be honest have no idea what I am checking for. They could be perilously sick for all I can tell, but, to my eye, I think they are feeling pretty lucky, the punks. Eggs to date: 0. I wonder how long this is going to last…

Top Gun was on on Saturday night. You probably missed it, as you probably had a social engagement, and more energy than me. Anyway, I had forgotten that I knew pretty much the whole script. Having just pre-empted the old guy with the cigar warning Maverick and Goose that they would be flying fake dog turds out of Hong Kong if they so much as screwed up this much, my older brother, for whom Mum and I had been babysitting, returned from his night out, promptly plonked down next to me, exclaimed the same delight at ITV1’s movie offering, and repeated the same phrase, verbatim. He even did the same silly voice. I think Ma was a bit horrified. We had to leave shortly after that.

Katy