‘My life is just drama!’ Rider who sang her way to Area Festivals survives broken lorry to qualify for championships

  • A rider who sang her way to the Area Festivals when her music broke has now qualified for the championships – surviving a broken-down lorry on the way to the show.

    H&H reported last month that Zara Griffiss and Patrick Leg’s 17.3hh Irish draught Allegro had beaten a severely malfunctioning CD, thanks to Zara’s vocal skills, to secure the final prix st georges (PSG) freestyle score they needed to qualify for the Area Festivals.

    Armed with two new CDs, Zara, Patrick and “Leggy” set off for the show, at Kings Equestrian Centre, on 11 August – not knowing there was more drama to come.

    “My life is just drama!” Zara told H&H.

    “We were on our way there in a new lorry – the old one was very old and tatty but had never broken down, and this one is posh and looks very nice – and suddenly, the gearbox was no longer attached to the gearstick.”

    Zara and Patrick, who was driving, were still half an hour away from the venue at this point.

    “Pat said ‘It’s not happening’ and I said ‘What are you on about?’” said Zara. “He said ‘The lorry’s broken, we’ve got no gears.”

    They pulled over and Zara put out a plea for help on Facebook.

    “So many people offered to help but not many people have a trailer big enough for Leggy!” she said. “The NFU had a mechanic coming out but then Pat called the mechanic who’d done some work on the lorry, and he said he thought the gearstick wasn’t attached.

    “He said to really ram it into first, then gently into reverse, ram it into second, and gently back, and Pat did, and as if by magic, it worked.”

    The mechanic was confident this had reunited gearstick and box, which had come apart when the cab was tilted, so the pair “hit the road”.

    “We’d been in the lorry about an hour but because I’d been so organised, we’d left early,” Zara said. We got there with about 20 minutes for me to get dressed and warm up and I thought ‘Oh my god’. I’d got to the point of thinking ‘does it really matter?’ and thought as long as I did a good test, it didn’t matter. I didn’t expect to do well as I couldn’t warm up long enough.”

    But, Zara said, Leggy felt loose up for the test in the warm-up, and after some circles in trot, a line of four- and three-time changes and a few pirouettes, in they went.

    “We went in the main arena and he just lit up,” she said. “He felt so buzzed, as soon as we were in canter, I knew he’d do a good test. All his threes and fours, and pirouettes, were so lovely, at the end, I just collapsed on his neck. I’d been so stressed and the emotions were so high, I was just ‘Thank you. Thank you so much, Leggy’.

    “I’d been so flustered as I hate rushing and it was as if I got on him and he was ‘Mum, this is fine, I can do this’. He did a lovely test, the best he could have done.”

    More tension followed as the online results were not refreshing on Zara’s phone so she walked up to the office.

    “One of the judges walked up to me and said ‘There are little things to improve on but the harmony between you and that horse was really beautiful’,” Zara said. “I said ‘You’ve no idea how much that horse held my hand just now!’ For a judge, and I think she’s a list one, to come up and say that was so lovely; I was tearing up. Me and him shouldn’t really work as he’s so big and I’m so small but it just works.”

    But Zara still did not know the results of the class.

    “I went over to the prizegiving just in case, and then we won!” she said.

    “I’d been saying it was fate that we weren’t meant to go to the nationals; the music and then this, that it wasn’t meant to be this year, but it was.”

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