Ever since I went to watch Clayton and Cinda at the Hickstead Eventer’s Grand Prix three years ago, it’s been a dream of mine to have a crack at the Derby Bank in front of the huge crowds. I can now officially say that I’ve done it, although not quite in the style I envisaged!
As a reserve rider, I didn’t expect to get in as I was pretty certain there would have been hundreds of others who were just as keen to go. However, Clayton and Cinda (and another who will be embarrassed if I mention her) were brilliant and managed to get me a fully fledged place the day before the competition. So, surely enough, I gave my trusty stand-by team Elodie and Mark a call and the next morning we found ourselves trundling along the M3 on our way to Hickstead!
We arrived a couple of hours early so we could get our bearings and so I could catch some words of wisdom from Clayton and Cinda. I’d decided to take Maggie as I thought that she’d deal with the enormous atmosphere the best. Also she’s the easiest to adjust and so I thought the twisty nature of the course would suit her. I was ninth to go and so I had enough time to watch the first couple go. Having seen Dan Jocelyn ride a stunning fluid round I thought to myself, doesn’t look too difficult!
Maggie was good going in and even though there was a lot for her to look at, she didn’t really spook at anything, which I took as a good omen. Although she was a bit hesitant and hangy over the first three fences, I wasn’t too concerned as she was really jumping her socks off and I thought she’d settle down a bit as we got going. Unfortunately she didn’t, and after a couple of crashes and near misses, I finally found my legs before we came back into the main arena and by the end we looked like we knew what we were doing again! Although the result wasn’t what I was hoping for, we managed to pull though some sticky patches and finish strongly and confidently and so as a partnership I would say that is was a very good, educational experience!
Next day, we had Aston-le-Walls advanced with Chico and Jeans. I have mentioned before how amazed I am at how Jeans has grown up mentally and his dressage test was a perfect example of this. His previous owner must have had a very nice indoor school as every time it even drizzled last year, he used to have a full blown tantrum. But at Aston, even though it absolutely bucketed down during his test, Jeans remained focused and he did a very satisfying 33pen score which was good enough to put us in fifth after the dressage. So, having got me all excited he was then not such a good boy in his show jumping and we racked up quite a few time penalties after I had to fix a half lost bridle! He then pulled his finger out and gave me a great feel across country.
Chico was the complete opposite. I knew that his first outing after the Barbury high jump (where he was like an over excited kid on blue smarties!) was going to be more than interesting and he certainly did not disappoint. He spent the whole test showing off his changes and half-pass in all the wrong places. We ended up with a very poor 45pen score which actually could have been a lot worse. Having dispelled his excited energy, Chico then jumped a nice show jumping round with just the one down.
Chico was incredible cross country as always but we did have a near miss at the first water at fence five. Jeans had pecked slightly on landing and so I sat behind the movement ready for another little slip. However, instead of landing, Chico’s front end disappeared completely under the water. At this point I got a face full of water and had already resigned myself to having a nasty wet ending to the day. Certainly, the last thing I expected was to find myself back in the driving seat with Chico under me, gunning for the skinny out.
He gave me a great feeling all the way round until I finished and got off. Unfortunately, he had cut his knees badly when he tripped in the water and was bleeding rather a lot from his near fore. Elodie grabbed him off me to sort him out while I found someone to quickly radio a vet. The competition vet was very quick and swiftly calmed our worries. She didn’t think he had pierced a joint capsule, which would have been a very bad situation indeed. She cleaned and dressed the wounds and to be on the safe side, I got our vet Clive to inspect the damage the next day. Having looked pretty ugly the day before, 24 hours had worked its magic and it looked a whole lot better. Nothing that a bit of salt water and Dermoline won’t sort out!