The diary of the home-made livery yard: ‘We weren’t so much showjumping, as bowling’

  • One evening a couple of weeks ago, long term livery, Lauren, persuaded me to enter an arena one-day event that is coming up in June.

    Presumably Lauren had drunk far too much of those fine wines we were duped into buying at a wine tasting evening back in the winter. Okay, possibly not ‘duped’, as such — my hazy memory of the evening seems to recall me merrily and willingly throwing fistfuls of cash at our wine consultant when it came to purchasing time.

    Both Lauren and I are keen and excited for the event, but we each have our individual demons.

    Lauren, you see, has the pony for the job but is yet to find a reputable stockist of ‘Brave Pants’ in our area. We are still two weeks away from competition day, but poor Lauren is already experiencing regular anxiety dreams.

    Chunky and I at home

    In turn, I am a little daunted by the fact that my mount’s, (Jo Bunker’s Chunky) last showjumping outing (alright, his only ever showjumping outing) resulted in the whole course having to be reconstructed in our wake. We weren’t so much showjumping, as bowling. So you can imagine, the prospect of aiming our beloved Chunky at solid obstacles invokes feelings of terror and lunacy.

    With this in mind, we have entered ourselves into the smallest class of the day, 30-40cm, and are fully prepared to be annihilated by a load of seven-year-old kids on their Shetlands and Welsh section As. Should it occur that ‘Brave Pants’ cannot be sourced in Lauren’s size by June then, at 40cm, perhaps a pair of ‘Still Terrified But Willing To Give It A Go Pants’ might suffice.

    I have spent longer than is psychologically healthy pondering whether a rotational fall at the giddy heights of 30-40cm is even possible. But I mustn’t joke about these things, of course, because serious accidents can happen at any height — or even on the flat! (How are those anxiety dreams coming along, Lauren…?)

    Thankfully, Chunky has spent most of the winter pretending to be a Lipizzaner stallion on the ground, perfecting his in-hand rearing (bleedin’ youngsters!). The unexpected perks of this being that Chunky has massively strengthened his hind end and, much to our delight, has developed the ability to (sometimes) leave a fence standing. To the point where I am starting to think we might almost consider going to this event to actually compete rather than merely survive.

    Competing in my new hat

    Entries done and training commenced, the next step was to update my safety gear.

    In the spring of 2017, I managed to swindle myself a generous sponsorship from Gatehouse. I could hardly believe my luck when my smart new Conquest MKII riding hat arrived in the post.

    Recently, the time came for me to approach Gatehouse and see if they wanted to continue to support me. This was not an easy thing to do. Especially for someone who finds it slightly embarrassing even asking for the salt and pepper at the dinner table. Asking for a direct hand out is almost unbearable. But I needed to know where I stood, so I sent an email to my contact at Gatehouse. Quite quickly, a reply came that this lady no longer worked at the company.

    “Oh God!” I thought. “The poor woman has clearly been fired for sponsoring an incompetent and blowing the annual budget on a nobody.”

    As advised, I emailed the recommended colleague who I was told might be able to help me. Much to my surprise, Gatehouse appear to be reasonably pleased with my promotion on social media for the brand. To celebrate a commitment of continued mutual support, Gatehouse have sent me a stunning Chelsea Air Flow Pro Crystal hat. I have been drooling over this helmet for a while now and feel very privileged to own two gorgeous Gatehouse hats (or three if you count the battered old Pegasus that I just use for turning out) now.

    My new subtle cross-country colours…

    I seem to be turning into something of a magpie in my old age and when organising what gear Chunky and I will need for his event, I was slightly concerned at the lack of bling on the average cross country attire. Thankfully, I have found some colours that hit the spot for me.

    I am renowned for my subtlety and taste. No surprise, then, that I have gone for bright red, plastered in huge amounts of gold glittery stars.

    Gilly fitting my body protector

    The final element of preparations was an update of my body protector. My current body protector was purchased from ebay for the princely sum of £10 in the dark ages, when it seems I had the body of a heavyweight wrestler.

    Continued below…

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    I organised a trip to our local tack shop, Barnstaple Equestrian Supplies. I did have the thought in the back of my mind that body protectors could surely be bought much cheaper online than in an actual shop. But, a trip in-store meant that I got professionally fitted by a lovely lady called Gilly Davidson.

    Without Gilly, due to my uncontrolled body dysmorphia, I probably would have ordered a size online more suitable for a seven foot tall rugby player. Indeed without Gilly, there would have been no one to shoot my husband a fierce glare when he commented in all naivety and without any malice, “Get the small size, not the medium. Don’t forget you are still carrying a bit of baby weight.”

    All that is left to do now is to train a Shire x cob that he wants to fly!

    Katy x

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

    This week’s edition (17 May) features a full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show, including all the showing, showjumping and dressage action. We go behind the scenes with the Household Cavalry as they prepare for the royal wedding, plus check out our interview with Irish eventer Padraig McCarthy.

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