What can I say? A wise woman recently said, “some weeks are good weekends, some weekends are great weekends and some weekends are the stuff dreams are made of” — well “wise” woman might be pushing it as it was actually mother but for once she was right. And this last weekend? It was definitely the latter type.
So, I could tell you all about the bathing on Friday, the wood flour, the copious amounts of chalk and the scrubbing. The endless scrubbing. But then what’s the point? You all saw the photos — if my feathers had been any whiter we would have had to issue sunglasses as a safety precaution…
I could tell you about mother being so stressed about me being sound, about me not being able to do my ride with Mary King (who would have probably never recovered from the disappointment) and about me representing an equine welfare charity whilst not looking the picture of health myself that she didn’t sleep at all on Friday night.
Or I could forget all of that and tell you about the good bits; the moments when those of you who were there watched the face of British Eventing be changed forever. Make a date in your diaries folks — this was the moment equestrianism was forever irreversibly altered.
There I was on Saturday, tacked up, groomed within an inch of my life, plaited like the prancing princess I’m clearly not, waiting to meet the woman whose long and illustrious career had bought to her this highlight. All her appearances on the international stage, all her runs for her country and all her moments of glory, all of it leading to this: ME!
She came over to see me and together we walked across to the warm up area, a powerful duo, an international superstar and Mary King! Mum was babbling away about my long litany of health issues and how I couldn’t do much while I glared at her with such intensity I’m surprised she didn’t spontaneously combust. Mary asked for a leg up and Aunty Emily nearly ended the day prematurely by chucking her with such enthusiasm that she nearly went over the other side and then we moved away from mother (who by this stage looked like she was going to throw up) and went to hobnob with my true peers. Andrew Nicholson trotted over and enquired if I was Mary’s new ride, and that he’d been under the impression that she’d been after something with more blood. Mum says this was a gentle slur on my carthorse genetics but I think it actually means he knew who I was, that I have mutated blood and am indeed Hoverine. I could smell his fear…
By this stage I had thrown out mother’s rule book of “just walk” and was lightly prancing about the warm up while mother started looking up my public liability insurance limits and praying to whatever deity she could think of. The steward came to get us and we walked (jogged lightly) down to the massive dressage arenas: I heard the applause, I saw the sun glinting off the boards, I heard the commentator talking about my fame and I knew. I was finally where I belong.
Mary asked me to walk down around the crowds, at this point I felt that I needed to show her, despite my mother seeming quite normal, she’s actually a hypochondriac by proxy and actually I was as sound as could be. I broke into a jaunty forward trot and under the shadow of Belton House, in front of large crowds the legend that is Mary King finally got to feel what Destroyer power is like to ride. I think the enormous grin on her beautiful face says it all — never in her life has she been taken around a dressage arena the way I took her around it. Admittedly we had a few communication issues — brakes are so over rated — and at one point I had locked onto the cross-country fence near the commentary box with such laser like focus it took every ounce of skill and a lot of left leg for her to insist we were not going over it. I sensed mother’s hand in that because honestly, I was SO up for it.
We exited the arena and went back to the collecting ring with applause ringing in our ears and a universal sense that Mary’s world had just changed forever…
She dismounted, promised she’d see me later after her cross-country round and with another jubilant grin she was gone. What a woman!
For the next few hours I posed for photos, met ardent members of the Hovite Army and generally basked in the adulation being flung my way. It’s tough but I’m man enough to cope with it…
So early afternoon I was once again tacked up and led to the warm up where my new BFF was waiting in her world famous cross-country colours. I was so excited I nearly let out a bit of wee. We were going CROSS-COUNTRY! Sadly, we apparently weren’t (I so sense she-who-slays-dreams hand in this because I am more than capable of rampaging around a course like that) but Mary did ask if we could have a little canter as she felt that I was very sound. Mother turned pale but met with such a request from equine royalty was never going to say no.
Mary mounted, in we went, had another good old trot around, turned up the centre between the two dressage arenas and she asked me. Now at this point I would like to say in my defence I was a tad excited — I’ve not cantered in a while and I was being asked by Mary-the-eventing-legend-King. Who can blame a boy for forgetting himself? Just a smidge. A teeny-weeny bit.
The fact that the whole incident of me bucking with a national treasure on board has been captured on video and posted across the internet is unfortunate but I like to think I did a sterling job of demonstrating that feathers really do make you fly by taking all four hooves off the ground. I’m pretty sure the reason mother’s head was in her hands was that she was simply overcome by emotion. Possibly…
Mary didn’t seem to mind too much and we exited the arena to more rapturous applause and journalists waiting to record this momentous occasion and wanting quotes about her “new ride” from the woman of the hour. I could get used to it I can tell you.
I do so want to partner with Ms King but a boy has to cover his bases, particularly when visited later in the afternoon by British Eventing team performance coach Chris Bartle. Chris and I had a mano-y-mano chat about my options and he warned me that such a stir had been caused that he predicted much rider tensions as they all tried to convince me that they were worthy of partnering such power.
And boy that man knows his carrots.
In the space of only a few hours, Sir Mark Todd came to pitch himself as my future partner (although being on a team of Kiwis bothers me a tad — they taste disgusting), as did the Irish team in the form of Jonty Evans. I would like to say my top tips about cross-country clearly helped the man as he cruised to victory the following day (and we met again but more on that next week). But it wasn’t just the big guns, the new young up and coming riders also clearly see that a partnership with me might be the way to make the final leap to the big time and both Ben Way and Rosalind Canter came to plead their case. It a seriously tough decision and one that I do need to think about carefully.
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I will tell you about the Sunday next week, but before I sign off and ponder my future, I would just like to say the following thanks yous:
To the wonderful Mary King for being such a good support.
To all at Bede Events who made this possible — from the management team to the volunteers and stewards on the day.
To Sir Mark Todd, Chris Bartle, Jonty Evans, Rosalind Canter and Ben Way for coming and posing for photos to the delight of the Hovite Army
And to the Hovite Army themselves who watched from around the world, posted hundreds of pictures on my Facebook pages and who were probably as excited as I was.
I’m one very happy Hovis.