“Don’t get bucked off,” joked Polly (Taylor, owner of Freddie) as I teetered on the top of a non-competing young horse (that shall remain nameless) who I’d brought to school at Norton Disney Horse Trials. “I’ll try,” I laughed. His back was up, but I was not concerned — yet.
However, the classic moment came two minutes later as, with his back still up, I thought, “Maybe I should have lunged this?” Cue the little tinker rodeoing comprehensively across the lorry park. “Yup, definitely should have!” And then the sudden realisation: “I’m in a bloody dressage saddle and he’s not stopping — this could get messy,” followed by a torpedo like motion as the little darling fired me into the floor. “Loose horse,” I pathetically called, rolling around in a rather large pile of equine excrement where someone had obviously emptied their skip.
Eventing pals were quickly to my aid with Jonesy (Richard Jones) proudly pointing out, “My friend, that is called getting BURIED!” I had dislocated and then relocated my thumb, but otherwise all was well.
Pride comes before a fall
I’d had a brilliant Burnham Market the week previously and that morning at Norton, Freddie (Mr Fahrenheit III) had jumped double clear for third, with a sexy 27 dressage and Lulu (Louella Z) had jumped a superb double clear with a 29 in her first BE100 after an intensive week of skinny fence practice.
So I was feeling, I thought understandably, rather pleased with myself. But that torpedo moment is one of many, common to all riders, that are a horse’s way of reminding us, “don’t get cocky sunshine, we can easily make you look really silly — any time, any place!” It’s what makes equestrians such grounded people and I think why I like so many of them.
So, with my hand strapped up, Hugo (Woodland Rock) rounded off the weekend with a win. He did a really sweet test and was what can only be described as incredibly fun in both jumping phases.
Hugo is a homebred gelding owned by the wonderful Christine (Sloman), who is eventing’s most erratic time keeper. At Lincoln, I was standing at the showjumping, next to go, class about to close, on my phone with Christine on the other end exclaiming:”I’m literally 30sec away darling, just driving in — hang on!”
It’s very entertaining and adds an extra dimension of the unknown to a day’s eventing — will Christine make it or won’t she? She’s an absolute diamond, a fantastic support (with her husband Roger) and was there a comfortable 10min before our showjumping at Norton Disney.
The next day I went for dressage training where all went well, so I was hopeful Belton weekend would be a hit.
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Belton Horse Trials
I was really pleased with how all four went in their dressage tests at Belton, although one or two of the marks didn’t quite reflect how I felt it had gone — but let’s be honest, sometimes that’s dressage!
Jumping wise in the CIC**, Splash (Drumbilla Metro) jumped an outstanding double clear. He was just effortless and a pleasure. King (Traveller Royale) had the very last fence down, but flew round the cross-country making it all feel very easy and both finished in the top third.
Chatty (The Loudest Whisper) has always been a proper girl, and either she goes or she doesn’t. The Feng Shui was clearly all wrong to her mind at Belton, so she dug her heels in at fence seven in the intermediate and we ended up walking home. Disappointing, but I’m sure she’ll go well again soon when she thinks the karma is right.
Chapman contested the CIC*** and jumped the most fantastic double clear. He really is a class act, but sadly we broke a frangible pin but bouncing, rather than taking a stride, at the Lycetts Leap after the ditch. Therefore we were awarded 11 penalties, which rather put us out of the reckoning.
It’s questionable as to whether he would have fallen had the pin not been there, but there was a chance he would have. It’s a relief that the safety element of our sport is so paramount. Thankfully it is still a qualifying result thanks to the efforts of the Event Riders Association.
In January ERA argued, successfully, against the FEI’s decision to make breaking a pin a mandatory 21 penalties and therefore not a qualifying result. ERA is a brilliant organisation and it’s fantastic that we as riders have a voice. Thanks to that Chappers and I are qualified for a CCI*** — exciting!
Horses are such levellers, but I feel so lucky to have some really good ones to enjoy at the moment and am loving every second of competing them. Roll on the next competition.