It’s a great feeling knowing you’re well inside the time across country, looking at your watch smugly with two fences left to jump, the lead guaranteed.
But when you’re a numb nuts like I was at Great Witchingham you allow your horse to slip and you fall off in between jumps (pictured) within sight of the finish. In my defence the poor chap had lost a stud, but still? Between fences?!
I tried to do my Prince Philip Cup mounted games impression by remounting at speed, but I am heading towards middle age at warp speed, am short and not exactly Louis Smith, plus Vinnie (The Rutman) is extremely tall, so it was far from slick and elegant. Still, we only accrued two time-faults (a fall between fences is not penalised) and finished third, but it certainly was a case of so near yet so far.
Norfolk is one of my favourite pilgrimages in eventing. With Great Witchingham and Burnham Market on consecutive weekends we were in for a treat.
I had two full on days at Great Witchingham with seven horses running. Earlier in the day, before my mounted games extravaganza I took King (Traveller Royale) in the advanced intermediate where he surpassed himself with a super double clear and third placing behind Andrew Nicholson and his two Badminton entrants.
It was wonderful to see Andrew back after his neck injury, which I bravely told him (he’s quite intimidating to a Joe Bloggs like me) in the showjumping warm-up, to which I got a thumbs up. Splash (Drumbilla Metro) went along for the ride to do a spot of dressage and showjumping practice, but did not run across country. Last, but by no means least, Freddie (Mr Fahrenheit III) is definitely taking after his mother, the former four-star campaigner Little Tiger, as a very good cross-country horse. He showjumped beautifully too, but just rolled the last pole in his second novice of the season. I love him, he’s such a character.
On day two, I took the babies for schooling rounds in the BE100 plus class. It was one of those “no prizes, but plenty learnt about not only them, but myself too” days.
The following week was Burnham Market. The sun shone a little sporadically, but there was definitely a feeling that Spring was here. On the Friday, all four horses jumped super double clears in the BE100 and novice classes. May (Willeys Mayday) got the gold star with a win in her second BE100. She’s a lovely big mare and it was great that her owner Carrie Dewes and Josie O’Leary, who broke her in and started her jumping were both there to enjoy the win.
Unfortunately my inner dressage diva was absent in the CIC3* dressage arena on Saturday. Both horses (King and Splash) performed below par, but it was all about the jumping at Burnham, and I know we can do better. The following day, Splash nailed the most superb double clear and therefore has now qualified for a CCI3* which is fantastic. He was brilliant and great fun, although strong across country this time, so I think I need to reassess his bitting. It was strange not having his owner Merna Merrett there watching. She is such a support and never misses him run but she was sadly busy working in the U.S. It was great having her daughter Catherine and grandson Albert there watching though and keeping Merna informed.
King had one fence down showjumping, but stormed around the cross-country eating up the track and seemingly really enjoying himself. His owner Roly Wilcox squawked “go on!” over pretty much every fence while videoing, and was absolutely thrilled that her boy came home safe and clear. I really do feel lucky and enjoy riding for these incredibly passionate people.
It’s so inspiring competing in international classes, particularly against the likes of Blyth Tait, Pippa Funnell and Izzy Taylor. Everyone is so professional, focussed and appear to have nerves of steel. As I walk round the collecting ring, I find these attitudes a great influence and hugely inspirational. It was great to talk to Pippa after her round on Billy Cuckoo. Her passion for the sport is infectious and I have a huge amount of admiration for her and the consistency of her career. I can only try to emulate her and with my boys trying so hard for me at the moment, I’m very keen to keep aspiring.
Bozzie (Cornacrew) is now seventh on the waitlist for Badminton and has his final run before at Weston Park this week, so I’ll keep you posted. Please keep your fingers crossed for us that we get in. Strangely enough, I’m also lying seventh in the British Eventing rider points table at present which is really exciting and I’m going to enjoy that moment while it lasts.
Until next time,