After several months of uni, exams and then travelling, my sister Susie announced when I was finally home that she had had enough of doing the dirty work with Cash, and that if I wanted the ride at HOYS (Horse of the Year Show), I was going to have to qualify him for it myself. This is what led to my resurrection back into the worker hunter pony scene last weekend at the North of England show. Admittedly she didn’t give me a huge amount of warning, so I wasn’t going to have many rides on him before the day (more specifically, two), but I accepted that this was fair enough and preparations started.
A couple of days before, however, there was a blow. Mummy had forgotten that this weekend there was another crucial event. One of the pinnacles of the year. An event that gave us as competitors and, more importantly, her on the sidelines, the opportunity to be eye-pokingly competitive externally of the pony sphere. This event was, of course, my brother’s sports day. This was an issue mainly because it meant that I would have to go alone with someone to drive the lorry to this show. If there is one resounding thing that I learnt from a month of travelling, it is that I am completely incompetent. I cope, but on the whole, I am a half-wit. This obviously posed a problem. I have been going to shows for 12 years — my summers have been filled with them, I have even been without my mother before, but I had always had someone knowledgable about the workers with me, so that I was confident there wouldn’t be a cock up.
This also made the lead up slightly more complex. In my absence from riding it appears that I have forgotten absolutely everything. I had to be reminded of absolutely everything. From the basic grooming of a pony to how to do his quarter marks and the intricate details of how I needed to warm up, and most importantly, how to look after Cash in the heat. Mummy stood with me for hours going through each little thing with painstaking thoroughness.
So, with my mother made redundant, the lovely Jess and I met each other for the first time, took to the roads and returned to a place so familiar that I have almost grown an odd sort of emotional attachment to it. That being, of course, Arena UK near Grantham.
On arrival, and carefully keeping to to my mother’s ordered list of what to do at what point, I opened the ramp, checked Cash was OK, offered him a drink, checked his temperature and went to the secretary’s office to make the entries. This I completed with ease. I had been instructed not to bother with the little details, so doing the bare minimum, I handed it over with a feeling of great pride and accomplishment and went off back to the lorry. The rest of the day panned out equally smoothly, and to my absolute (but apparently well-concealed) joy, we won and went on to be champion, clinching the HOYS ticket.
Despite the fact that I felt physically ill due to the heat, we were all absolutely thrilled, and ready for a day of rest the next day. This was not the case. Mummy, also overjoyed at the success of both Cash and my brother, followed up her congratulations with: “Oh wonderful, that means you’ll be able to go back tomorrow for the M&Ms” (Mountain & Moorland). I have to admit, this did not fill me with enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, we set off again the next morning, really feeling at this point like old pros who were making the trip for the hundredth time. On arrival, without even checking the list, I casually opened the ramp, checked Cash and sauntered over to the secretary’s office to make my entry. This I did without even having to think, just filled in the minimal amount of information and handed it over. However, I was knocked quickly from my high horse when the form was rejected, as, following complaints from the day before, today every single little box had to be filled.
Now, I have heard mummy complaining for years about the complexities of the dreaded HOYS forms. Being obliged to hand over a profusion of irrelevant details for every qualifier without a catalogue — his sex, his sire’s registration number… I have always been sympathetic, but I had never quite appreciated the turmoil of it until I was faced with the task of doing it myself. Hearing the news that I now had to do the whole thing naturally sent me straight to panic mode. I absolutely was not prepared for such a hindrance. All in all, I made about 57 trips back and forth to the office and sat there for what felt like hours while little bits of information for the wretched entry form dripped through from home one at a time.
By the time I was finished, and handing it over for the final time, my presence in the room was so cemented that Stuart Hollings, who had been there when I had first handed it over, left, and now returned just as I was putting it on the table for the 300th time with an embarrassed expression, asked if I had written a thesis. (By the way, Stuart, I know you were hopeful that my mother had been an embarrassment at the sports day so that I’d have some good material for this blog. Unfortunately, after extensive research, I am sorry to report that she behaved immaculately all day. However, I can reveal that the Hollings brothers were her childhood heroes and she still treasures a photograph of one of you astride Snailwell Charles. I hope this makes up for her lack of presence in this blog.)
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After such trauma in the office, I am glad to say that we had another highly successful day, and Cash, although only dropping three marks in the M&M qualifier, was second, just missing out on his ticket. Thank you so much to everyone who was so friendly all weekend — it was almost refreshing to be back in such a familiar environment. A huge thank you to Susie for having Cash on tip-top form, to Ebony for all her help at home, to Jess for being such a help and driving me, and to mummy whose presence was felt if not seen.
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