Walking the cross-country at 7.30am on Sunday morning, bacon buttie in hand, I could feel the nerves starting to jingle. However the surge of excitement was greater, especially as the advanced riders were to jump the big corner on a sharp turn after the first water. When I did the CIC*** last year I was, quite strangely, really disappointed at its removal.
My trainer, who just happens to be the course designer Ian Stark, whizzed me round the course on a quad yesterday to help get my lines right, so although the course was big, I felt quite confident. However, we still had the show jumping to negotiate and faultless rounds were appearing very elusive.
Rooey tried his heart out, but unfortunately marred a typically pinging clear with the first pole down. Jumping in the main arena at Chatsworth is one of the highlights of this special event for me. The crowd really lifts the horses, and I can get an inkling of what it might be like to compete at Badminton with the spectators in the stands and the band playing in the background.
We set off cross-country in good spirit — the ground was superb and I was determined to get a really positive round as this was our last run before the U25 Championships at Bramham. (Little was I to know how lucky I was to have an early time, as the heavens opened and forgot to shut from the early afternoon.) Rooey once again proved that he was more than up for the challenge. He bounded round with ease and had a lot of petrol still in the tank by the end, which was fantastic as we recorded about the third fastest round of the day. I was thrilled with the way he’d gone, and even more so when I heard over the tannoy that I was in the lead!
The excitement was tantalisingly maintained from about 11am when I finished until the very last combination in the section, Andrew Nicholson and Ginger May Killinghurst, who ran in torrential rain at about 5pm, and knocked me off top spot. Although this was obviously disappointing — especially as I’ve always dreamt of winning a rug, and the red Nissan one that Mr Nicholson got was amazingly smart — I hadn’t allowed myself to believe that I might in fact win an advanced, let alone at such a prestigious event as Chatsworth. Arriving back home at 1.30am this morning somehow seemed a lot less of a trial than usual, and I still have the elusive honour of achieving an advanced win to look forward to.