• Hannah Craft

Back to earth with a BUMP

Smiths Lawn BE100.

Well, our last outing at Chilham was rather successful and this, inevitably, could not last.

We had enjoyed a very short stay at the heady heights of Hotel Mediocrity, but our bags had been packed and the holiday had come to an end.

A day of work in the City meant that, at 11:00pm on Monday, when I would otherwise quite sensibly be tucked up in bed with a chamomile tea, I was hysterically braiding Sid's straw mane into plaits that even a one-handed 3-year-old could better.

Luckily I made it home before the clock struck midnight (no pumpkin for me!) and managed to get a whole 3 hours' worth of sleep before it was time to get up and head out.

First Husband was dead to the world and so I was denied even the sadistic pleasure of ruining his REM sleep (not the band, although every-bit-of-my-body DID HURT that morning).

I arrived at the yard and hitched my trailer up in the dark, only to be greeted by the shadowy silhouette of a lone man walking across Sid's field.

I quickly grabbed the nearest weapon – a blunt hoof pick, if you're interested – and waited for my attacker to get close enough for me to utilise that one kick-boxing* lesson I had 7 years ago and Strike Like A Cobra.

*Yes, I know kick-boxing doesn't instantly translate into attacking with weaponry. As I say, I didn't have much time for a logical plan to form in my sleep-deprived head…

Happily for all involved the stranger was actually a family member of my yard owner, who didn't know I was competing and had come over to check that I wasn't an unlikely customer (me?!).

The hoof pick was concealed behind my back as I made 3am small-talk ("Quite dark, isn’t it? Yes, rather warm already though. Mm…") before rushing Sid up the ramp and driving out into the great unknown.

Shitnav was on form this time, perhaps knowing that I would take no prisoners before consumption of my habitual bucket of coffee, and took me on a relatively civilised route to Smiths Lawn.

On a tangent, it turns out Virginia Water is full of insanely rich people living in palatial mansions. Perhaps a good hunting ground for Second Husband?

I felt rather bourgeoisie in my year-old, unwashed Audi Q3 and wistfully daydreamed of top-of-the-Range Rovers.

We arrived at the gates of Smiths Lawn at 05:26am.

Luckily, the gates opened and I found myself heading into the most beautiful parkland EVER.

I felt like a Disney princess as a doe and her little Bambi's pranced around my car, rabbits hopped around on the lawn and ducks floated on the lakes I drove past.

A few minutes in and I started to wonder if I was on the right road.

Obviously, there was no one around to ask and I stopped for 5 minutes next to a sign that said "Horses, this way" and pointed to a grass track heading into woods. In hindsight, I'm glad I did not attempt to get my trailer down there, as it turns out it is a bridleway and not at all suitable for cars, let alone trailers.

Finally I arrived at the lorry park and came to a stop.

Sadly, my brain had not engaged and it was only when I unloaded Sid that I realised I had parked next to one of the watering machines. It was making quite a noise, and Sid decided that I had brought him to an event-horse abattoir of sorts.

I spent the next 15 minutes being dragged around by my impressive-looking fire-breathing dragon. When dragging me round got boring, Sid demonstrated some very impressive 2 metre circles in trot.

We then played the #bestgameever, consisting of Sid pretending that he was over it, eating some grass, me tying him up to the trailer, Sid suddenly deciding he was terrified again and breaking his tie up, me walking him round, Sid fine again, tying up….you get the picture.

Finally it was time to crack on with the stressage and my pony was a picture of relaxation (lol x 1000).

We warmed up fairly OK, no disasters or tantrums, and then plodded over to our arena to begin stressaging.

Sadly we spent a lot of time arguing about which way we were meant to be bending (read: completely incorrect bend and me twisting desperately thereby making it worse) and about the particular speed required at certain parts of the test (our trot – walk transition was kindly labelled "very progressive" i.e. I had to haul on his mouth to eventually get him to stop jogging) and the result was a pretty average test.

One thing I loved was that the dressage judge really used the full range of marks…..we had a 5.5 and an 8 next to each other on our test sheet (so a useful one to read and learn from). Quite a sharp contrast to the almost uniform lot of 7s we got at Chilham - not that I'm complaining about that 31!

After a quick tack change we made our way over to the show-jumping arena and this is where bad got worse.

Sid was quite unsettled in the warm up and I rode like a melon/lemon/aubergine/avocado.

We were called into the ring and I proceeded to demonstrate how NOT to ride. Sid was also not feeling at his best and, whilst nothing disastrous happened, we were rolling the top pole of pretty much every jump.

We came out having displaced 6 poles and feeling a little glum.

Having learnt my lesson from Aston, we decided to quietly warm up for the cross country but be prepared to retire if he didn't feel 100%.

Again, in the warm up he never really settled and, whilst he wasn't stopping, his forelegs were tapping the jumps.

We entered the start box and I decided to give him a few jumps to see if he picked up.

We had a sticky jump over the first but then he popped the second nicely. We then headed through the woods for a gallop, before coming out into a clearing.

The third jump was shared with the novice course but was a straightforward ascending box.

I could feel Sid's engine switch off a few strides out and put my leg on, but he ducked out to the left. I represented and he jumped it but I didn't feel he was enjoying it.

We popped the fourth jump and then I put my hand up to the fence judges – it was time to retire.

I am sure I could have got him round the rest of the course, but at the end of the day I felt that the best decision for us was to call it a day and save his legs (and his heart) for another event.

When we got back to the trailer, he was incredibly warm and I wonder if he was a bit dehydrated/overheated. He's a chunky fellow and not built for this bizarre heatwave we are experiencing. He seems much happier in the mud and rain!

Although it was a disappointing day, we are going to rest up, wait for cooler weather (and softer ground) and come back out fighting – hopefully at Firle this week!

I bought the picture of him jumping the trakhener at number four as he jumped it first time – and we have had SUCH problems with trakheners, so the day wasn't ALL bad. And, of course, Sid had no trouble scoffing the usual wheelbarrows' worth of treats and seems happy enough now that we have had a bit of water fall from the sky.

Until next time!

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