• Hannah Craft

And We're Off!

Munstead 1 BE100.

I gently awoke to the sound of exotic birds tweeting and tropical rainfall – i.e. my “rainforest” alarm going off at 4:30am on a cold, dark morning in Kent.

I jumped out of bed and threw on some clothes (usually a good idea). IT WAS TIME FOR OUR FIRST EVENT OF THE SEASON!

First Husband was beyond any attempt at waking, as he had been “out with the LADS” the night before. For those that don’t know, “out with the LADS” involves: - lots of shouting/chanting - matching boyband outfits - jaegerbombs - getting into a disagreement with an ‘unreasonable’ bouncer.

The drive to the yard was a musical throwback – Steps, S Club 7 - all of the greats. I arrived and, joy of joys, Sid had all four legs attached. Auspicious.

Or so I thought, until I hitched my trailer up and tried to pull away.

With a big CLUNK, my brake cable snapped, my trailer fell off my car and the front end crashed to the ground, with my jockey wheel inverting on impact.


Thank God for yard manager, Adele (you may remember her from burst-tyre-gate and broken-ramp-gate), because I am your stereotypical helpless blonde female when it comes to cars/machinery.

For example: Me on the phone to First Husband: I’ve broken down. FH: Why? Me: No idea. Car has stopped going. FH: Do you have petrol? Me: Yes, of course. FH: Are you sure? Me: Oh. No. I don’t. I have zero petrol.

Adele managed to prop the front of the trailer on an old black bucket (that very nearly disintegrated under the pressure) and unwind my jockey wheel.

I then realised why said trailer malfunction had occurred. My trailer handbrake was on.

If I ever find the gremlin that put my handbrake on when I wasn’t looking………

Feeling extremely flustered, I hitched the trailer back up. Adele fashioned a new brake cable from one of hers, and I tentatively pulled away sans handbrake down.

The trailer worked fine this time.

We loaded up the most important half of our team (Sid, obviously) and headed off to Munstead!

We arrived without further kerfuffle and set out to walk the course. Now, I have always thought Munstead was a lovely first event (and it still is!) but there were a few tricky combinations this time around.

I had spent the night prior dreaming, in particular, of the dreaded corner and the step down to skinny triple brush.

No matter how many times I said to myself “you have jumped most of this course before” they all looked pretty gigantic to me (had I accidentally entered a Novice?!) and I wasn’t really sure how we were meant to get round it!!

First, however, we had to get through stressage.

Our warm up was going fairly well and I had a bit of time to spare, so we headed over to have a natter to Adele and watch a few tests (always worth checking we haven’t learnt the wrong one…)

Sid was very happy to be out, but taking it all in super chilled Sid-fashion.

The eventing gods clearly knew he needed something to wake him up a bit, because a fellow competitor threw her schooling whip towards her mum before heading over to do her test, but either her aim wasn’t fantastic or the wind carried it slightly out of the way, and it ended up whacking Sid on the bum!

Sid is so full of blood, he blinked, rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

After reassuring a very apologetic mum (“no really, he didn’t even notice, I almost wish he had”), we finished our warm up and trotted over to our arena of doom.

I felt like we did a fairly nice test, but sadly our judge did not agree as we ended up with 39, which was one of the higher scores (although not the worst) in our section.

My test sheet wasn’t there to be picked up, so it will be interesting to read the comments once it arrives by snail mail and see where we lost marks.

Still, I enjoyed it and, better yet, the sun was now shining!

We arrived at the show-jumping warm up and I felt like I should probably be in the 80. Standard imposter syndrome.

It’s crazy, really, as we are schooling over bigger jumps at home. Apparently I was channelling my inner wuss on Sunday!

We warmed up without (a) cutting anyone up (b) crashing into anything – success.

All too soon I was heading over to get ready for my round.

I think I am possibly turning into a bad omen for the rider before me show-jumping, as I watched a cracking little rider get eliminated for successive stops.

Feeling like I should apologise to her, I headed in and waited for the buzzer.

Swallowing down the vomit and breathing deeply in an attempt to return my heart rate to normality, I turned towards the first jump.

The round went by in a bit of a blur. Suffice to say, Sid jumped out of his skin and I didn’t totally balls everything up.

We had one pole as we went into a double, where he just rolled it with his hind legs.

I still have lots to work on – my MO when nervous is to stop folding or giving with my hands and reverting to “world’s ugliest jump position” so that’s a habit I would love to break this season!

I left the arena grinning but, actually, a bit out of breath (not sure if lack of fitness or inability to breathe whilst jumping).

We booted up and headed for the XC warm up and my nerves increased.

Sid has been going so well lately and so, weirdly, instead of giving me confidence I felt like I was under so much pressure not to let him down by making a silly mistake or riding like a tool.

We warmed up and Sid was feeling keen. We popped the warm up jumps a few times (trying not to embarrass ourselves in front of Tina Cook who was one before us).

Suddenly it was time for us to head to the start box. The lady starting us was wonderful and, in response to me telling her I was about to throw up, reminded me to enjoy it.

She was right, and I gave myself a quick talking to before realising my time had been counted down and I needed to GO!

As I left the start box, I heard the commentator say “…and looking at the entry notes it says Hannah is hoping NOT to fall off today…” I like to manage spectator expectations, you see.

We headed out over the house and I over-steadied Sid, who jumped it from a slightly deep stride and cantered away as if to say “why are you being such a pansy mum?” and ploughed towards the log-pile, which he locked onto and popped over.

I settled a little and we had a fairly nice jump over the roll-top at three and headed for the first question – the corner.

It did have an alternative, but we had practised a corner made from show-jumps the day before and so I steadied him and looked for the line (any line!).

I thought I had got the striding OK, but a few strides out it looked like we might meet it on a half-stride….

I squeezed and Sid took off from a long spot and soared over! I then spent the next 100m apologising profusely for that stride as we headed to the coffin.

He backed off a little at the first jump but he wasn’t playing games today – and over he went, not even looking at a (very wide) ditch and hopping out over the final element without fuss.

We then flew over the tractor and he made light work of the water combination (he could have been a fish in a previous life).

We were through the owl hole before I knew it and over the angled palisade and then our bogey fence was in sight….the drop to triple brush.

Sid has not historically always been honest at skinnies (and I tend to panic and ride them long and flat, resulting in run outs), so I really steadied him almost to a trot. He hopped down the drop and I widened my hands, sat back and tried to keep it together as we aimed for the triple brush - and not the much kinder alternative.

I couldn’t believe it when he locked on and jumped it beautifully!

We then sailed over the box, made a diagonal line over the bullet combination and flew the chair. The house combination he again took completely in his stride, together with the table and the skinny log fence.

I couldn’t believe it when he jumped the last box fence in true Rambo-style and we had gone clear!

Not ashamed to say that I hopped off, undid his girth and gave him a massive hug and had a bit of a cry!!! He was rightfully very pleased with himself.

What a fabulous start to our season, and I have to say thanks so much to Munstead for running such a great event, all of the volunteers and stewards who were so friendly (particularly the cross country starter and commentary team) and of course Adele for being our biggest cheerleader and also for running manically across the country to get some videos of us in action.

Looking forward to Ascott under Wychwood and, for anyone feeling like they might give eventing a try, DO IT! There is no greater feeling than the buzz at the end of a great day out – the nerves are so worth pushing past!!!!

Hannah & Sid xx

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