As the lorry was labouring, with my foot flat to the the floor, ascending what felt like the steepest hill in Leicestershire on our way to a training show at Ranksborough Polo, I shouted to Amanda: “Whose bright idea was it to take eight horses jumping?”
“Yours!” came the unsympathetic and knowing response. I couldn’t argue with her on that point, and though it pushed the lorry to near breaking point, we had a good outing with all eight horses jumping really well.
I find going showjumping really useful for both the horses and myself, learning that jumping in competition isn’t a big deal. Often at horse trials I see nervous faces and green horses in both the collecting, and actual ring, which I’m sure is down to lack of match practice. You can do as many fancy training exercises as you like at home, but there is no substitute for getting out there and actually doing it, plus I really enjoy it.
The only problem for me is the amount of leg pulling I get from my showjumping mates for being ‘an eventer’, wearing my tweed jacket and, heaven forbid, a crash hat at shows. It’s all in jest (I think), good banter and great fun.
A couple of days later, we took five horses to Great Witchingham Horse Trials in Norfolk. The 3.30am departure time made the girls skip across the yard in excited anticipation — well, that might be a little exaggeration, but Rach and Amanda Panda were in remarkably good spirits considering!
The three BE100 horses went really well jumping double clears with Freddie (Mr Fahrenheit III), finishing seventh and Otis (Master Ricardo) second. Otis achieved his clear show-jumping round despite a set of planks blowing over in the wind as he jumped them. He did a remarkable job to clear them as they literally blew towards him.
Eddie (Edison) went one better and won his section. I’m really pleased for his owner Anne Bondi of Solution Saddles, especially as he won wearing their intriguing treeless jumping saddle.
The two BE90 horses went well, but had to compete Hors Concours as I’ve ridden at advanced level. Lulu (Louella Z), who is a super mare belonging to Aneka Foster, had an educational first event and Silus Mason’s Jack (Guess Wot) gave me a solid ride round and a sparkling test, scoring a 26.
We got home late that night and I was certainly ready for my bed but we nearly had to leave Panda in the lorry as she was virtually comatose.
Jumping clear around Burghley
The following day I was off again to Burghley Park for the Pony Club hunter trial. I love this competition, the people are lovely and the course (built by Guy Herbert, who helps his father Phillip Herbert build the four-star track at Burghley) is superb, running round the famous leaf pit area on beautiful old turf.
Vinny (The Rutman) was a little green, but popped round very nicely. He’s a very talented chap, albeit with a few quirks, but I’m hugely excited about him.
We were pelted with wind and rain which wasn’t overly enjoyable, but it put a smile on my face seeing some really enthusiastic kids and their lovely ponies enjoying themselves despite the conditions. It’s great supporting the Pony Club, and even better to be able to say Vinny has jumped clear around Burghley… already!
The older horses were feeling left out so the next day I took a lorry full for dressage lessons to prepare us for Burnham Market Horse Trials. Then on the Tuesday my sports psychologist came to prep me. Jo (Davies) is a super girl with an amazing way, that I respond very positively to.
This sport is all about confidence, it takes years to establish and a split second to destroy so I think my sessions with her are important.
A thrilling weekend
You could nearly put my lorry on to automatic pilot heading to Norfolk the next day, where we stayed for three nights. All five horses ‘parents’ came to Burnham Market, and Merna (Merrett, who owns Drumbilla Metro and The Loudest Whisper) rented a house for the week near the beach so they had a base.
It was great fun spending time with them all, and enjoying some wonderful cooking from Merna’s daughter Catherine.
Competitively speaking, Eddie jumped a double clear in his first Novice around a pretty tough track — fantastic.
Splash (Drumbilla Metro) and King (Traveller Royale) jumped convincing double clears in the CIC** finishing 13th and 14th respectively in a strong field. Chatty (The Loudest Whisper) was a little keen in the showjumping but jumped a brilliant clear across the country in her first CIC** which is a real achievement, especially as she was ragingly in season with her mind ‘elsewhere’ shall we say!
Chapman contested his first CIC*** (pictured) and did not disappoint. He scored a respectable 56 and was jumping out of his skin showjumping until I got a bit ahead of him to the last rail and had it down — silly Grievesy. He cruised round the cross-country like a true professional. I was in no rush as I wanted him to grow in confidence, but still had a thrilling ride round a somewhat ‘beefed up’ track.
I showjumped and went cross-country on four horses in the space of four and a half hours on the Saturday, which was very intense but hugely enjoyable. It wouldn’t be possible without the team behind me, and those running the event so seamlessly, so thank you guys. Burnham is a super event. I have been to nearly every one since its inception, and it just gets better and better.
So this week I have some cross-country schooling to fit in, as well as some showjumping before the babies go to Norton Disney and Sapey, followed by the excitement of Belton Horse Trials to look forward to the following weekend. Can’t wait — I’ll let you know!