Nana Dalton’s ‘getting back on my feet’ blog: it could’ve been worse

  • My son has a storybook called ‘It could’ve been worse’ — well this is a mantra that I seem to be turning to frequently at the moment! We have just returned from an eventful trip to Ireland and, as one thing after another seemed to be going wrong, we would roll our eyes, quote these lines and have a chuckle!

    With Miley not making the cut for Badminton this year, we decided to re-route him to Tattersalls. We were all set, but a couple of days before we were due to travel, having worked superbly in the school, he stiffened up and blood tests confirmed that he had tied up. This happened occasionally when he was an unruly youngster but it’s been eight years since he last tied up, so this set back definitely left me scratching my head. It was disappointing that he obviously was wasn’t right and had to miss Tatts but…‘it could’ve been worse’, and the good news is that he’s back in work and his bloods are where they should be. The focus with him will now be getting him prepped and fit for Burghley.

    Our other horse, Fiddle, was entered to do her first two-star at Tatts, so we were then left with the dilemma of whether we could justify the expense of taking her all the way there on her own. After some maths and scrolling through the diary, it made sense to still go.

    In Fiddle’s excitement of loading into the lorry, our heads connected and within seconds I had a big blue egg on my forehead. Thankfully the swelling eased by the time I needed to wear my hat to ride her the following day, but I’ve been left with quite a black bruise for the two weeks since!

    A minute after our heads collided!

    I have got a fair bit of experience travelling horses long distances, but I had underestimated the effect the journey would have on Fiddle. She is a home-bred horse, and on reflection, we realised that she’d not ventured more than three hours away, so the 13 hour trip to Tatts really knocked the stuffing out of her.

    She is normally forward thinking, responsive and does a smart dressage test, but due to her jet lag she felt flat, resistant and her test was littered with mistakes. Professional pride makes it somewhat embarrassing to admit that we were second last after the dressage, but, ‘it could’ve been worse’!

    Her class really came to the fore on cross-country day though — it was a superb and testing track, full of decent but fair questions. The game plan was to give her a confidence-giving run with no time pressure, so I kept being surprised when I realised we were easily up on our minute markers and despite feeling like we were going steadily, she cruised through the finish flags clear and well under the time.

    Fiddle going for a canter at Fairyhouse Racecourse

    This saw us leap frog up the leaderboard, but it also proved to be only a temporary elevation! A rubbish showjumping round, mainly due to some mediocre riding from me, demoted us back down the order to a final finishing place of third last from those that finished, but… ‘it could’ve been worse’, and we finished the week with a happy, sound horse who’d benefited hugely from such an educational experience. I have huge belief in her and I think in years to come we’ll look back and chuckle at this result.

    Behind the scenes, we ran out of gas in the lorry the first day we were there — the upside of this is we were surrounded by lovely people in neighbouring lorries willing to boil kettles and heat up suppers for us.

    A grape was almost the undoing of Fiddle’s breeder, Sara — one minute we were nattering away and the next she literally couldn’t breathe as it got lodged in her airway. Terrifying but thankfully it sorted itself, as I was a bit slow on trying to do the Heimlich manoeuvre.

    Then for the journey back. We were booked on the 2.30pm boat back so had everything packed and loaded to leave at 12.45pm. I turned the key in the lorry and nothing. A flat battery. With the help of some friendly Irish folk, the lorry jumped in to life at 1.45pm and we sped off on an empty fuel gauge, arriving at the docks at 2.20pm — thankfully they let us drive aboard.

    A very rough crossing meant poor granny got terribly sea sick (she blames it on sticking to water for lunch rather than having anything stronger!). Then needless to say we were last on and therefore first off the boat, but again the lorry was reluctant to start — funnily enough the ferry chaps were quick to help so they could get us and everyone else off the boat!

    Pre-show jumping cuddles between Fiddle and Toby

    Somehow we made it to the petrol station on fumes but then broke down on the outskirts of Birmingham at 10.30pm. We thought it safer to get off the motorway so limped into a services. Granny went to get out to find out the postcode for the breakdown recovery people, but as she stepped down, the steps gave way and they both crashed to the floor. Luckily she was not hurt, but by this point we were almost uncontrollable with our laughter, so much so that even the man at the end of the phone had joined us in complete hysterics!

    Our ironic and overtired laughing had run dry by the time it took six hours for a lorry to recover us, so bless her, Fiddle’s ‘growing up’ initiation went to the next level as she ended up having a 20 hour journey to get home. There wasn’t enough room for us all on the recovery truck, so Toby and I were put in a taxi, which, with only four minutes to spare, got him to school on time Monday morning ready for his school trip to HMS Victory! So, as well as Fiddle being a bit more worldly, Toby managed to fit in the Irish, Welsh and south coast in less than 20 hours, while my poorly lorry was towed off to lorry hospital.

    Continued below…

    As we kept saying though ‘it could’ve been worse’ — we all got back safely in the end and will look back fondly to a really fun trip to Tatts. Toby absolutely loved his adventures in Ireland and enjoyed spending time with loads of other kids also on half term — it did make me smile when I heard his new found Irish friends telling him he sounded “so English!”. The facilities out there are outstanding, the hospitality was second to none and it was refreshing how wonderfully laid back everyone and everything was (we are pictured top having a moment with the dual Grand National winning legend, Tiger Roll, which was part of the entertainment!).

    I also have very exciting news for the future with a relocation on the near horizon for the horses, Toby and I, but I’ve already burbled on for long enough so will fill you in on that in my next blog!


    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

    You may like...