• Hannah Craft

Back with a BANG*

*but a moderate one. Think gentle tap on solitary cymbal rather than Phil Collins – In The Air.

Some of you may remember me as "that one that somehow got stuck on the shark's teeth XC jump at Aston-le-Walls"

…not our finest hour.

Post-physio, lots of cold hosing of a swollen knee and a prayer or two, and Sunday saw us back out eventing at Rackham in the BE100.

Our goal – to get round in one piece!

When we arrived I walked the cross country course and, to be fair, it looked relatively straightforward, with a few questions but nothing of concern.

However, I had thought the same about Aston!

Luckily, I had a friend with me who threatened to slap me every time I made a negative comment, which shut me right up.

(First Husband says that the other way to shut me up is to give me food – but I should point out in her defence that we were in the middle of a cross country course and the burger vans were at least a 45 second walk away, hence having to resort to violence.)

I began warming up for the dressage and having a bit of a natter with Sid, before realising that my chatter was even more pointless than usual as Sid now sports some fancy acoustic ears for dressage and could not, therefore, hear a thing I said.

Some would call it a desperate attempt at getting my horse to focus on me and not the more interesting goings on around him: I call it accessorising.

I will admit, at 26 years of age, that when I remembered he had the ears on I called him a donkey just to see if I got a reaction, and then chuckled when he remained blissfully unaware.

And then chuckled again when I remembered he doesn't understand me anyway (if ever there was an understatement).

I guess you could say the happy pills I'd taken that morning were working.

My organisational skills had been impressive thus far and I actually had far more time than I needed to warm up, so I parked Sid up by the dressage and watched a few others do their tests (thereby allowing my horse to fall asleep but giving me the chance to check that I had learnt the right test).

Anyway, overall I was pleased with how Sid warmed up and was feeling rather relaxed.

Soon enough we were trotting off to face our dressage demons.

I have to say, after I had circled the arena 5 times I did wonder if the bell was ever going to ring.

The horse before me must have had some pretty verbose comments on their test sheet!

At last it rang and we trotted down the centre line.

Sid was feeling so laid back that he was backwards, which resulted in me feeling like a pony clubber throughout the test.

I don't know much about dressage but I'm sure it's meant to be the horse that's 'expressive', not the rider

And of course, even with a lack of oomph, he managed to jog in the medium walk.

I have yet to teach Sid that free walk – trot is not a component of a BE100 test.

I left the arena a bit frustrated, only to see my trainer walking over.

Bugger, I thought, I won't be able to tamper with the video evidence and pretend that I rode a brilliant test but was harshly marked (we've all done it)!

Surprisingly, he seemed to think the test was OK – but he had been watching from a distance.

After trying to feed Sid some of his ice cream (Sid very sensibly turned his nose up at diabetes in dairy form – Bailey's treats or nothing, thank you sir) and promising instant death in response to my musings that, if I were to choose a cross country fence to get stuck on this time, it would probably be the stick-pile, he disappeared back into the crowds to stalk Chris Burton's fancy stallion.

Off we went to change tack and psyche ourselves up for the show-jumping.

I think it's fair to say that I let my demons get the better of me here and rode "like a lemon".

I didn’t feel that confident about our warm up and I went into the arena with dread in the pit of my stomach, which then meant, of course, that I had a round that completely warranted those feelings.

I managed to scrape some small ability to ride for the last 3 jumps and Sid flew them, showing me what he is capable of doing when I am not completely hindering him.

We headed out of the ring despondent but I was slightly cheered to find out that we had got a 31.5 for our dressage (thank you oh kind dressage judge) – a personal best at BE100.

I was determined not to let the show-jumping affect the rest of the day and booted up and headed over to the cross country.

Now I should mention that Rackham was my first BE90 this time last year and we had a great day, bar a stop at fence one – the dreaded green astroturf fence.

For some reason, Sid has a real aversion to fake grass (I suppose I might feel the same about a fake full English breakfast) and so it was with mixed feelings that I saw the same jump at fence one this year.

Nevertheless, Sid entered the cross country warm up and perked right up.

It was an effort to get him to trot, let alone walk, but he popped the warm up fences once and we were being called over to the start box.

The starter asked me if I would be ready to go in 40 seconds and I said yes (whilst thinking that 40 years might be more like it).

We must have been out of the box before my nerves had time to penetrate to Sid, because he confidently popped the first and we were off!

I feel like it was the round of dreams – Sid had his ears pricked the whole time and was taking me into each fence whilst listening to me when I wanted to set him up. He didn't even have a meltdown at the fence judges hidden in the woods.

There were a few combinations and he quite happily popped through them. I don't think there was a single hairy moment.

I finished with a great big smile on my face and loudly and repeatedly congratulated Sid on a great round. I probably sounded like a complete wally but I was (and still am) so proud of my horse!

To come back and have such a confident, smooth round after such a disaster at Aston is nothing short of amazing and I am so so lucky to have such a genuine boy.

My street cred (field cred?!) was then further depleted by my inability to carry a whip whilst walking and undoing Sid's girth, resulting in me putting the whip between my legs and hopping sideways whilst pulling at the girth straps…

So to sum up: my horse is amazing, I'm so happy to be back eventing and I cannot wait for Brightling in 2 weeks' time!

PS. Thank you to all of the volunteers that were so friendly and helpful and, in particular, my extremely lovely and helpful dressage steward.

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