We made the long trek to Burgham International Horse Trials, where King (Traveller Royale) was to run in the CIC3* as a pre-Burghley run and Joss (Trevidden, pictured top competing at Barbury earlier this year) for his first attempt at that level. I also took Vinnie (The Rutman) to compete in his first CIC2* which was really exciting.
The first timers didn’t disappoint with fantastic jumping performances and reasonable dressage tests for where they are in their training. King was on the cusp of amazing things but a silly miscommunication and run out, plus the last two showjumps rolled meant that we will have to wait for his Burghley experience to nail it!
On the morning of showjumping and cross-country at Burgham I walked the courses early in the morning. I bumped into my childhood hero Blyth Tait walking the course and then further along the track the overnight leader after dressage, Liz Halliday-Sharp.
I don’t know Liz, but we got chatting and she was hugely animated about her wonderful horses and the plans she had not just for that day, but the future too while we discussed lines and distances together as we walked. I liked her, and as we parted I told her: “I hope you win.”
Eight hours later, her beloved horse had been euthanised and she had broken a vertebrae in her neck following a horrible fall. The contrast between the passion, belief and positivity in her that morning and the cruel twist of fate that befell her and her beloved horse in the afternoon is a stark reminder of how unbelievably tough and at times cruel this sport can be. I hope she makes a speedy recovery and my heartfelt condolences go out to her and her team in losing their lovely horse. The lows in horses are so low, but the highs so high which is why we keep going.
I had a busy week ahead with five running at Smiths Lawn Monday, a load to showjump at Field House on Tuesday, then the Burghley media day followed by the gallops on Wednesday, Aston with two intermediates on Thursday, Hartpury for the CIC3* with Joss on Friday and Saturday followed by three running at the new event at Horseheath on Sunday. I was having a great week and everything was going well.
I trucked up to Hartpury on the Friday evening and Joss did a respectable dressage to be halfway down the order. He showjumped well on Saturday morning for one down and so we waited for the cross-country at 4pm that afternoon.
We jumped out of the start box and cruised down to the first couple of fences. He hesitated on take off at the big table at three so I gave him a kick and told him to wake up. As we approached the double of trakheners on top of the bank at fence four I kicked on as I knew the distance was long and part B had a significant drop on it that I was sure would back him off. I was right to get after him as he chipped in an extra stride between the two parts, and unfortunately I knew both his legs were not clear of the fence. My thoughts ran along the lines of “oh f….” and I can’t remember much else.
According to bystanders, Joss breasted the fence and a classic rotational fall action ensued. He missed landing directly on me by inches before rolling over me twice down the embankment beyond, before then kicking me in the head.
I awoke in the ambulance covered in blood and with the most amazing team of people quietly, efficiently and methodically working to get me comfortable and looking after me like a king.
I had dislocated my shoulder, but having seen the images of the fall later, I am incredibly lucky to still be here at all. It was a serious fall, so I’ll take a dislocation. Thankfully Joss is absolutely fine following his ordeal.
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Unfortunately it seems that my season is at a premature end, but one thing I can tell you is that I have the most incredible friends, owners, family and staff who have supported me amazingly through the past couple of days. I feel blessed to have you all and to have been looked after so well by such an incredible team as that at Hartpury and in hospital afterwards. People complain about events and British Eventing, but my god when the chips are down they’re there for us! Appreciate it.
Thank you, everyone.
I have lots of doctors and consultants to see, so I hope I’ll be back sooner rather than later boring you with my riding shenanigans. I’ll let you know how I’m getting on. I’m hopeful to be back before the end of the season.