So as many of you may well know… Saturday cross-country day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials was not a great success for Ben (Master Monarch) and I.
I walked the course very early in the morning with Mark and Tanya Kyle and analysed each fence and the lines I would be taking, which left me feeling confident and excited. I was lucky enough to watch the first few riders go from the big screen in the riders’ marquee by the stables, which confirmed the view that this was an attacking course.
Lucinda Green then called me for the third time that week to go through every jump and how it was riding. After having a walk and graze in-hand early in the morning, I got on Ben 45min before my start time. Our warm-up went well and despite the nerves I couldn’t wait to get out there!
Everyone was right, as soon at the starter said go, I was away, all fear and distraction of the crowds vanished and I was totally focused for the task ahead, and so was Ben! He flew the first few fences like they were Pony Club, sailed down the Leaf Pit and through Discovery Valley perfectly — we were enjoying every minute.
Through the Trout Hatchery we took a flyer in the water, however neatly put one stride in the step to brush coming out, couldn’t be going better! The Maltings loop rode beautifully, we had a great rhythm and met every jump spot on.
However, then came the dreaded Rolex Combination, a rail with a ditch underneath, two strides followed by a narrow corner on a straight line. Having got my line sussed out and taking in the advice I’d been given and how it had been riding for those before me, I kept coming to the rail, to get a good forward shot for two long strides out over the corner.
However, as I sat back waiting for the second stride, Ben took off on one. Then that’s where my memory goes blank.
The next thing I remember is sitting in the ambulance, with my hat, boots, body protector on the floor and my stopwatch beeping at 40min! My Mum and Dad then arrived and apparently all I kept asking was is Ben ok? What happened? Was it my fault? Over and over again.
I then asked had I done my dressage and what mark did I get? When my mum said yes, I’d got 60, I said oh no, that’s rubbish. At the time I had no idea of the day, where I was, and definitely not starting the course. However, after being very worried and tearful, I then began to remember more and more and all I kept saying then was… People were cheering me, it was so fun until then!
We went to the hospital for a check-up and a CT scan, and, after the all clear, Tom and Sarah Attwood, Ben’s owners, took us back to Burghley. The first stop was Ben’s stable, where he got a lot of carrots and kisses. He was a little stiff so had some physio, but otherwise in fine spirits, a little annoyed he had his round cut short.
After a lot of analysing we think he either may not have read the back rail on the corner and therefore would have cleared it if there hadn’t been one, or he was a little over enthusiastic and had possibly wanted to show off for the crowds by doing what no other horse had tried, however I will never know.
In hindsight I would have come in a lot steadier and tried to just pop the first rail so he couldn’t have jumped so big, but you can only learn from your mistakes and the possibility of doing one stride hadn’t crossed anyone’s minds. At least we both lived to tell the tale and I can’t wait to get back out there and try again.
I have the safety frangible pins to thank for that, along with my Point Two air jacket and Champion hat. My hat itself had a big stud hole in the back, which would explain the large bruises on my forehead, nose and lip. I took my hat to the Champion shop to show them what happened and a photographer at that fence had already shown them a sequence of photos of my fall, with Ben actually standing on the back of my head. Just made me realise how lucky I was.
Waking up yesterday morning, my body ached all over, but Ben trotted up completely sound and a little annoyed at being left behind when all the other horses went off to showjump. It was a thrilling end to the week seeing the amazing little horse Lenamore win, also huge congratulation to my friend Lauren Shannon who finished 12th at her first Burghley and best under-25.
Burghley really is a fantastic event, I had a brilliant time and it was to huge privilege to be riding there, especially on such an incredible horse. The only question now is what to do next… Our time is definitely not done yet.
Thank you to everyone for your amazing support and help, especially those who came all the way up. Katie Preston for taking great care of Ben and making him look stunning! Thank you to Mum and Dad for looking after me, to Ben’s fantastic owners, Tom and Sarah Attwood and Richard Constant, and Whitney my vet friend who stayed with us for the week.
I can’t believe how generous, kind and supportive people have been. So sorry for worrying you, I hugely appreciate all the messages of support, I hope I didn’t let you down too much. We’ll be back soon, I hope.