• Hannah Craft

We got what we came for…(but it wasn't pretty)

Firstly, let me start off by saying that, however much I love eventing, a 4am alarm is not the one.

Particularly when you've been struggling the night before with:

(a) stud holes that won't co-operate; and

(b) a very dirty skewbald (more white than brown genetically speaking, but more brown than white in reality, because apparently white hair attracts mud and manure like a magnet attracts paperclips).

Take it from me, you will curse the day you bought said cow pony.

You can spend hours lathering away with £30 (yikes!) bottles of purple shampoo, but they will never look truly clean and your fruitless efforts will end up causing a mental breakdown (think 2007 Britney).

Thank goodness for Adele, the owner of my yard, who helped to wash Sid and plaited up whilst he stood (relatively) patiently on 3 legs for about an hour.

Can I just say, I have no idea how farriers do it – I could barely stand up straight afterwards and looked a bit like the beggar woman from Beauty and the Beast for a good while – all hunched over and shuffling along uncomfortably!

And because what are mums for, if not to embarrass and annoy, here is Sid in his new 50 shades of purple ensemble (in a desperate bid to try and prevent him from amassing further stains overnight).

Stunning, no?! Hehe.

When my alarm started to make unwelcome noises at 4am I JUMPED out of bed and headed to the barn!

Well, almost……

I rolled out of bed, staggered around for a few minutes, fumbled for a toothbrush and put my top on back-to-front. Anyway.

Sid was in a similar state of zombie-fication. He was also pretty depressed, as I suspect he had been bullied by the others all night long about his lycra body suit.

He's just not got the body for lycra, and he did look a bit Verruca Salt (google 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory purple brat' if you're too young to get the reference or have never owned a TV).

Mortification behind us and onto the trailer and off we went! The journey went by quite quickly, despite not being allowed to sing (sob!) and with a noticeable lack of 'Mario – Let Me Love You' or 'JoJo – Leave (Get Out)' – and we soon arrived and parked up.

After a chai soy latte (yes I know, I'm a horrendous London coffee drinker) we tacked up and headed into the dressage warm up.

I think my last event had knocked my confidence quite a bit.

I felt like we just wandered around the warm up and didn't really loosen up and I was far too busy wondering what everyone else was doing.

Poor Sid headed into the dressage ring with a very tense rider on board and that reflected in our test. Our left bend was non-existent and our suppleness had taken a mini-break to Paris! Sid tried his best and the judge was generous for a 36.

Moving on…..

Onto the show-jumping and I still hadn't quite shaken the demons of our last event.

Our warm up was, again, pretty lukewarm and we headed into the ring. I managed not to forget the direction of the course, but I think that's all that can be said for my riding!

It was a fast round, and a flat one (surprise…), and Sid had two rails where he ran on, buried himself a little, and his haunches just weren't underneath him enough and so he knocked the top rail. He has never been a particularly careful showjumper, so 8 faults is not disastrous for us, but I definitely didn't help him out.

Moving on again….

As we walked over to the cross country warm up, I gave myself a quick talking to.

I played the Rocky theme tune in my head. I envisaged myself in some sort of awesome hard-core montage with scenes of us soaring round Badminton, Burghley, Blenheim, the Olympics….we were going to be kickass.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love live music, but as I was psyching myself up, what did I hear but a man and a guitar playing a slow love song/ballad over by the trade stands…?!?!

I needed Radio One Extra, not Mellow Magic!

It was very bizarre walking along to the dulcet tones of Lionel Ritchie and co. Sid was thrown – were we going cross country, or were we off for a gentle stroll around a beautiful park at sunset?

We arrived at the warm up area and I was asked if I was ready to go. READY?! I just got here!! NO….

But we popped the warm up jump a few times, had a canter, checked we could slow down and speed up in said canter, and headed towards the start box.

My countdown began…30….20…10…5…[quick halt as had slightly misjudged how long 10 seconds was and nearly left the box too early]…and GO!

Out of the start box we went, towards the first jump.

I'm a big fan of anything rustic, and this was a nice brush fence, so over we sailed.

Sid can be funny about gateways (fear of the unknown?!) but I kicked on and we cantered through and towards the rolltop at number 2. Again, lovely fence, as was jump 3 (a bench with brush on it – how on earth is anyone meant to sit on that – so impractical).

Jump 4 was, for many people, the bogey fence. A nice, up to height corner. I was determined not to let Sid duck out (and incidentally, that is a pun, because we were surrounded by geese who had commandeered the course and caused as many issues as the jumps themselves…) and steadied him up with steely determination.

I gritted my teeth and focused on my line and was rewarded as he popped over nicely.

Then it was a sharp right to an upright log before the water.

Sid, being Sid, spooked at the puddle in front of the jump (water – fine, puddles – NOT fine), but a quick smack on the shoulder and he popped over and into the water and out we went towards the next.

He flew up the step and then decided to launch himself off the step down (clearly they're not scary anymore!) and sailed around the next few jumps.

I'm not great at twisty courses (or, in fact, any form of navigating) and had forgotten about the next left – so we quickly swerved round (and thanks to the commentator for letting all and sundry in on this, by announcing that I wasn't looking where I was going!!) and headed FOR the jump rather than AWAY from it – and up and over.

We then headed through the gap in the hedge and over the table and the house, no issues whatsoever, and out of the clearing and over the skinny and step up combination.

The house-ditch-brush flew by in a blur and then we were over the last brush and home CLEAR!

What a great feeling, especially as Sid had plenty of running left.

Fitness is something we are really working on. He's naturally 'big-boned' (#lovetheskinyourein) so doesn't quite have the athletic ability of a Thoroughbred. It's something that we will definitely need to keep plugging away at if we want to get round the 100s.

Bottom line: not our best day overall but we got our 'MER' (also known as minimum eligibility requirements).

Our trainer has casually suggested we try and aim for a BE100 before the end of the season, but there are new rules meaning that I need to have gone clear cross country twice at a 90 before we can enter.

Despite having run at 3 BE90s before Aston, Aston was actually our first clear cross country round due to silly stops at some of the easiest fences on the course at prior events.

So we only need one more clear cross country run and then we are good to go!

We will be putting all of Aston's lessons into practice at Firle next weekend – wish us luck.

There's no rest for the wicked!

H&S

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