• Hannah Craft

Falling off in front of Tina Cook: a beginner's guide to totally embarrassing yourself in front

For weeks I had been eagerly looking forward to this day - a cross country clinic with Olympian and top international rider Tina Cook.

The morning dawned and the sun was shining - a good omen for what was sure to be a #lifehighlight.

I dug out a cobweb-encrusted brush to mark the occasion - I haven't seen Sid's white bits all winter but I figured now was as good a time as any - out with the bay, in with the skewbald!

Got to make an effort haven't you.

We arrived at the venue with plenty of time to spare and enjoyed the unusual luxury of being able to pop to the toilet and unload at a sedate pace.

My modus operandi: "ARGH SID FFS WHERE IS MY - OH GOD WHY DO WE ALWAYS - RAWRRR - STOP MOVING SID I NEED YOU TO STAY STILL - THINK LIKE A STATUE GODDAMNIT - FFSFFSFFS"

And then I realise that his bridle is on his foreleg and his saddle round his ears.

As we headed to the cross country course, I was filled with purpose.

I was going to impress Tina (obv) with my incredible talent and style over a fence and probs get scouted for the next Team GB.

Clearly I would also attract a lorry load of sponsors (#£££) and ride off into the sunset with Ben Hobday or similar*

*not that I'm saying Ben Hobday's are ten a penny but word on the carrot vine is that he is pretty taken (starcrossed lover material I am not).

PS. sorry husband (but at least if you're annoyed I will know you actually read my blog rather than just SAY you did.......)

First things first, I should say that a cross country clinic with your idol is not the best time to whack out some new tack that you haven't ridden in before.

On the plus side, I gave my Premier Equine bridle and breastplate a good trial run (review to be posted next week!)

So here's how it went down....aka the story of my total failure to secure a spot on even the local riding club team and/or bring myself to the attention of my future husband number 2/mistress-man (what do you call a male mistress? a manstress?! a misterstress?!?!)

Warming up over some small block jumps - well this was fine, Sid is after all a 17hh HGV and hopped over those without dramas.

Tina (I can call her Tina, we've met now, I mean I landed at her feet - how much closer can one get) said that she really wanted us to think about our position and staying upright into a fence with our weight in our heels.

Sh*t, I thought, I hope she doesn't watch my riding too closely.

We then moved on to jump an arrowhead. I came towards it, Sid was together, lovely rhythm....and he ducked out of the side door didn't he.

"You're blowing our chances here Sid" I hissed whilst keeping a smile fixed on my face for everyone else's benefit.

Tina was reassuring; "You didn't do anything wrong, he just went green on you". Little did she know how many hours this morning I had spent removing the brown/green tinges to his coat.

I re-presented and this time he flew at it; after a few more attempts it was quite clear he had figured the arrowhead out.

Phew, I thought. Not totally blown it.

We then moved on to a raised roll-top to a palisade to corner combination.

Sid made a good job of this and I started thinking of all the carrots he could be about to earn.

It was all going too well, of course.

We turned to a course of jumps - a double of steps, back over a block jump, around to a wagon, over a table, the brightly painted train, over a small trakhener, over a double of palisades and then up and over a larger trakhener.

It was going so well, Sid was really eating up the ground, and then we came to the final jump.

I knew a few strides out that we were going to have an issue. As Sid slammed on the brakes, my only thought was "I MUST NOT FALL IN FRONT OF TINAAAA".

Somehow, I managed to hook my leg around the saddle and gave Sid an undeserved hug, managing to maintain a death grip and stay on.

I let out a sigh of relief.

Sadly, that relief did not last long - I immediately headed for the jump again and this time I slid straight off and landed in a heap at Tina's feet.

Mortified does not even come close.

I ran and jumped back up onto my "trusty" steed.

For some reason, he just would not go near it. We had to enlist the help of a lead.

We got over it and then jumped it ourselves but I was tomato-faced.

We then moved onto a double of wooden block jumps to an open ditch then three strides to an upright curved narrow jump and then downhill to a skinny house double.

Sid was set to redeem himself until he picked up speed after the first skinny house and near-galloped to the second skinny house, coming to it on a poor stride and bouncing out of the side door.

We represented and Tina had us jump the first, pull up and then jump the second to regain control of the pace.

We then headed to the water and (thank goodness) Sid was foot perfect jumping in and out.

And of course, after a less-than-perfect day cross country schooling, I took the next logical step and entered Munstead BE100.

If we are going to get eliminated out competing, might as well do it in the 100 I suppose.

Just don't tell Tina.

Thank you to Nurstead Court for wonderful ground and for organising an excellent day for all (and some of the photos) and to Tina for excellent advice and tuition.

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