• Hannah Craft

From baking to swimming...

Chilham BE100.

You may recall that we had a slightly-less-than-perfect-but-still-encouraging day at Tweseldown a few weeks ago. One cross country outing (and one concussion-inducing fall to keep my long-suffering trainer on his toes) later and our next trial by ordeal was to be the BE100 at Chilham Castle.

Well, T – 1 and Sid managed to get his bridle stuck on his stable door in the 10 seconds in which I was not keeping an eagle eye on him after our hack.

The result was a bridle of two halves.

He is VERY lucky it wasn't his expensive flatwork bridle (a thing of beauty and my "throw money at it" answer to the problem of stressage) as HE would also have been in two halves to match!

Being (as always) a beacon of positivity, I reasoned to myself that bad things come in threes, and therefore we were basically guaranteed that one phase would go well at Chilham - YAY.

My times were rather late, which meant that I was sadly unable to ruin First Husband's Sunday morning with a 3am wake up call.

However, I pride myself on my ability to think outside of the box, and so on Saturday evening I headed to the West End to watch Dreamgirls with a friend. I then waited until FH was comfortably in bed, before calling him in "desperation" late at night for a lift home from a station that is conveniently very far away from our house.

Yes, I suppose I COULD have waited 5 minutes and taken the correct train from Charing Cross, but what is a husband for, if not to chauffeur me around in the dark of night?!

Happily, he remained silent for most of the journey home and so I was able to serenade him with my favourite power ballads from the show without interruption. On a side note, his smallish sports car has excellent acoustics – my voice really filled the space.

Fast forward to the morning of Chilham and I opened my curtains to see RAIN. My dancing had worked.

Unfortunately, it turns out that I was perhaps a little too enthusiastic (standard) because my rain dance had summoned a torrential downpour that continued for most of my (cold and wet) day out eventing.

I arrived at the yard with insufficiently waterproof clothing and proceeded to attempt to wash Sid, which due to his unreasonably large size and my lack of coordination resulted in the majority of the water pouring down my top and sleeves.

Satisfied that Sid was now slightly closer to white than canary yellow and that I certainly was stain-free, I began to plait.

In destroying his bridle, however, he had also destroyed my fingers, and so this was a painful task.

With a determination that I did not know I possessed, I gritted my teeth and rolled up those tennis balls of glory, stopping at the end to quickly sponge off the drops of blood that were trailing down his neck and turning beige to pink.

The upshot is that I can finally (truthfully) refer to #bloodsweatandtears all across social media like some nutty Rambo eventer to impress non-horsey friends.

A further benefit - can tick 'enter unchartered medical territory' off my bucket list as my blood is probably a higher concentration of mane-and-tail-conditioner than haemoglobin now.

All this was achieved in record time and so I leisurely enjoyed a cup of tea and a sausage sandwich (my slightly healthier alternative to McDonald's because I am living my best life) and then loaded up in time for my friend to arrive.

We set off in the rain and I pressed 'Go' on my very untrustworthy satnav (was feeling generous with second chances).

True to form, before long we were creeping down narrow country lanes, praying at each corner that there would be nothing coming the other way. Full disclosure: I am a very average trailer driver going forwards, let alone backwards. The body shop at my local garage is the principle benefactor.

It was all going smoothly until we rounded a bend in the road and were waved down by a van on the other side, who told us there was a tank coming down the lane.

My friend and I laughed, but our smiles quickly faded when a gigantic green tank and army lorry did indeed come round the corner towards us (WTF....)

To my eternal relief, the tank driver was some kind of emotionally unstable psycho and casually mounted the bank on the opposite side of the lane to get past us near-vertically, whilst we nodded emphatically and waved at him in gratitude. As he crawled along the bank, I prayed that Sid wasn't looking out of his window.

Our journey was rather mundane after that, bar Google Maps arguing loudly with my shitnav over the best route to take (we followed Googs, the "other woman" - my loyalty reserves were now depleted).

After parking up and checking I still had a functioning horse we headed to walk the cross country course.

The first few jumps looked OK but then (as normally happens, I know...) they got BIGGER. Whaaat.

I know that logic dictates that the maximum height of the jumps is 1m, but there seems to be a whole lot of discretion with those measuring sticks!!

I was also quite distraught to find out that I would be jumping a rather chunky hippo and when I realised that the rail-ditch-rail combination had a ditch big enough for me to lie in (which, incidentally, is the sort of thing that has been forced on me by Sid before).

We finished walking the course and headed to the show-jumping, which looked reassuringly less solid, as show jumps tend to.

After collecting my number, my friend and I sat in the car and ate our way through the lunch provisions.

For those that are interested, I recreated the Subway BMT – needs work but was not bad for a first go, although I think my six inches were off, which has a lot to do with First Husband, if you know what I'm saying...

A few hours later (I vastly overestimated the amount of time we would need) we tacked a very damp Sid up and swam to the dressage.

At this point, the heavens had opened and I resembled a rat that had been drowned 3 times for good measure and then dunked in a bucket. Probably not the day to ensnare Second Husband.

Sid warmed up nicely and was probably too relaxed, but coincidentally once the wind picked up so did his "impulsion".

We headed down the centre line and performed what I would say was a non-disastrous test, until a little spook away from the flowers at A meant that I forgot to canter in the corner.

With my usual poise, I booted him into canter and swerved to the left, managing a very square circle at medium-extended canter. Luckily he quickly forgot about that blip (oh the male memory…) and finished off the test nicely.

We swapped tack (I managed to drop my dressage saddle on my head in doing so but I have, of necessity, a very thick skull) and headed over to the show-jumping.

Sid was rather keen on avoiding the giant moving tree in the middle of the warm up but, apart from that, was pretty golden once I stopped faffing around, however not before I managed to bury him to an oxer resulting in a very friendly stranger having to help my friend put up all three poles that we had knocked over.

Sid's greatest downfall is that, as a 17hh skewbald, he's very noticeable, so it's impossible to remain inconspicuous after a cock up…

We hid behind the moving tree whilst the furore died down.

After a quick team talk (onesided of course) we headed into the ring and, for once, I did not feel like I was walking towards the gallows. The bell rang and we headed towards the first jump.

I have to say, Sid jumped his socks off, just getting a bit too keen after an oxer and rolling the upright that followed it, and I managed to stay on and navigate the course in a broad sense (our lines were not, I think, how the course designer would have expected it to be ridden…but I like to be creative!)

We managed to exit the arena having only displaced one pole from its cup – our best show-jumping round at 100 to date!

Sid was very pleased with himself (and rightly so).

A few bucketfuls of treats later and we had booted up for the cross country.

After spooking at the gateway into the warm up (yes, really) Sid flew the warm up jumps and I started to, dare I say it, relax.

There weren't many people left to go and so I was called over with only 30 seconds before starting, but that was probably a blessing as it didn't give me much time to overthink and/or spiral into panic mode.

We were given the signal and then we headed out onto the course.

A few jumps later and we were still alive: this was promising.

We turned towards the dreaded picnic table and I sat tight then squeezed with all of the strength in my piddly legs...and Sid hopped over.

We then headed over the barrels and towards the haystack. At this point the rain was slanting into my eyes and so I pointed Sid in its general direction, held on and kicked. He jumped something so I crossed my fingers it was the right jump and headed down the steps.

We put in a circle as planned and popped the skinny log and then down over the pheasant feeder.

Sid was starting to look for the next jump and flew the horsebox and then we headed to the aptly named coffin.

I did my best to give him the steadiest canter ever into the first, he popped over and then - to my disbelief - hopped straight over the ditch and out over the final rail!

We then jumped over the hippo and ploughed through the water, spooking at the novice jump on the way out (clearly not ready for that sh*t yet) and then flew the brush fence and blue cottage.

At this point, my main thought was: do not f*ck this up Hannah.

(I know, two swear words in a row - it's the adrenaline!)

After another spook at the gateway, we headed for the oast houses and Sid jumped those without blinking and then over the final carriage jump....clear!

Sid was rather bemused to find me hugging his neck and patting him as we came to walk - I was (and still am) so beyond pleased with how much he tries for me and how brilliant a horse I have. At our last Chilham in 2017 we were doing one of our first 80s with neither of us having ever evented before.

We had gone slowly so time penalties took us out of the placings but frankly it's an achievement for us to complete at BE100 level, let alone do as well as we did yesterday.

Apologies for such an unusually woolly post but there's nothing like a good day out eventing to put a huge grin on your face, even if the rain has probably ruined the saddles that are worth more (financially speaking) than myself and my horse combined....

First Husband also managed to earn another 6 months' respite from divorce by heading out at 9pm to find a fish and chip shop that was open for tea (although jury's out on whether he considers that a prize or a punishment)!

Onwards and upwards to Smiths Lawn for another BE100. I'm sure the parallel universe will right itself and I will throw myself off at fence 5 or something....

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