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  • Writer's pictureHannah Craft

Bad Things Always Come In Threes...

Well, as much as I’d love to share a successful day’s eventing with you, that would not be a very accurate write up of our latest endeavours. So, now that I have stopped crying / wailing at First Husband that I can’t ride, shouldn’t be eventing at all and keep letting Sid down, here follows my very honest event report….

Our pre-event training culminated in us misjudging a bounce and nose-diving through the second half of it, with (heavy) wooden poles rolling everywhere - but mainly into my left arm. We dusted ourselves off and finished jumping a fairly tricky dogleg exercise, and Sid was awesome (standard).

I decided it was NOT a bad omen for Sunday.

We then went to Tweseldown to help Adele and her young dressage superstar, Marley, on Saturday. I parked in the spectator’s car park, and returned to find that someone had managed to drive into the back left wheel of my car, scratching my white paintwork and leaving their red paint all over it, and driven off without leaving a note.

Not a bad omen, though.

Saturday night, First Husband decided to bring a few people back to ours and, spontaneously, ordered Chinese (unheard of – he’s a pizza kind of guy) BUT I HAD JUST EATEN SPAGHETTI ON TOAST. Chinese is my favourite takeaway. I cried myself to sleep.

Still, not a bad omen, I told myself.

Sunday morning I awoke and headed to the yard to collect Squirrel, only to find that his beautiful white legs had been absolutely destroyed by what I can only refer to as the equivalent of a manure waterfall.

NOT A BAD OMEN. In fact, fairly standard (I’m just being dramatic for effect).

We journeyed to one of our favourite venues, Tweseldown, for an attempt at a comeback after our disastrous day at Ascott-under-Wychwood last month. To recap, I nearly exited the arena in the dressage test, I somehow for the first time went wrong in the show-jumping - resulting in more time penalties than show-jumping faults - and I rolled off at fence 3 cross country because (I can only assume) Sid decided he didn’t like the coloured sand on the landing side.

Our dressage warm up went alright, but had less structure than usual, because I was being experimental. Note to self: don’t.

We went into the arena and did what I thought was a fairly good test, only to find out that we’d been given a 39.5. I was rather disappointed with the score, but it reinforces my suspicions that I know absolutely nothing about the dark art of scoring dressage tests.

Feeling a tiny bit flat but determined to better our regular “Tweseldown show-jumping 16-fault-itus”, we headed to the warm up. I have no idea why Sid rolls so many poles at Tweseldown, but it may have something to do with the fact that he enjoys galloping round the spacious arena.

Sid sees long approaches to show jumps in the same way that an aeroplane sees a runway – i.e. the longer it is, the more speed you can gather and the easier it is to take off…….failing to appreciate that he is not, in fact, a plane of any description and that show-jumping at a gallop results in flat, long strides / pole pickers sprinting around to rebuild the entire course.

We entered the arena and I took a deep breath to calm the nerves. I don’t know what it is about show-jumping but I always feel like I have zero energy in my legs as soon as I enter the arena! The bell went and we picked up canter and headed for the first fence.

Luckily my legs began to function again, and we popped the first spread and made the turn to the next fence, a grey wall. I was very conscious of riding the canter around the turn, as I think that’s where it dies a bit, allowing him to charge at the fence once we line it up. It paid off, as he popped over the wall.

We again turned to the next fence – a combination of a spread to an upright. I had seen this catch people out and to be honest, it caught me out too, as I turned far tighter than I should have, giving Sid a short approach. Luckily he jumped clean over the first part from a slightly deep stride and then made a huge effort to jump out over the upright, like the superstar that he is.

We were gathering pace downhill but handbrake-turned to number four, which he also left up (I was starting to get a bit excited) and we came round and jumped fairly nicely over five and then the double at six.

I clearly dropped the ball at seven because I gave him an impossibly deep stride and, despite his best efforts, we nudged that to the ground (got to give the pole pickers something to do), but he flew the spread at eight and then charged the finish line down, tapping the last but leaving it up!

Feeling very pleased with only 1 pole, we trotted out with big smiles on our faces.

We booted up and walked over to the cross country start, and I was feeling very anxious about falling off. The new BE rules mean that two falls in a row = having to drop down a level and get an MER before being allowed to continue to compete at the level you were at. Being a complete overthinker, it was on my mind, despite me only having fallen off twice (before Ascott-under-Wychwood) in two and a half full seasons of eventing!

I was also feeling the pressure to do well given that the week before I had been announced as a British Eventing Ambassador (for which I heartily thank everyone in this group, because it is 100% wholly down to the lovely comments you leave on my event reports!!!).

I didn’t want to let anyone down.

When I entered the start box, I’m not sure I was feeling particularly confident. I had walked the course, and it had a fair few questions, but it wasn’t that. I had this weird feeling that I was going to fall off, purely because you can’t have two falls in a row and therefore it would be typical for me to suddenly do that.

Maybe a bad omen.

We were counted down by the wonderful Chris Kirby and headed towards the first fence. Sid was a little backwards, but nothing to write home about, and popped it just fine. We then cantered towards the next, wide fence and although he spooked at the sand and the ditch on the edge of the course, again he jumped nicely over the actual jump.

As we galloped down the left-hand side of the course, he was spooking at spectators and gaps in the hedge line, and I started to feel like he might not be as focused as he has been of late (more truthfully, maybe I wasn’t as focused). Nevertheless, he jumped fence three nicely and then attacked fence four, which I was quite worried about given the fairly tight turn (a raised log at the top of a hill to another raised log on a right-handed curve).

We headed towards the trakhener – my fence nemesis. This time last year, at the same event, we had a run out at this. I prefer to deal with them later on in the course because once Sid’s blood is up (and mine) we are far more likely to get to the other side! However, I put my leg on and after a quick look to check there were no monsters he leapt over, with me being a little left behind, but nothing too drastic.

He then popped through the hedge line over the stick pile and we turned to the water. Now, Sid LOVES water jumps, but for some reason as we approached he was too busy looking at spectators and then spooking at the two trees that we had to pass through to make the right line. We got to the base of the jump and he just hadn’t locked on, and came to a stop.

I circled, mentally kicking myself for not being more proactive, and he jumped in and went to look at the water (unusual for him) but realised it wasn’t life threateningly deep and cantered through and out over the C element and nicely round and over the next house on a left-hand turn.

We then had more spooking along the back of the course, but he jumped down over the step / raised log at an angle, which is like the “next level up” version of a trakhener.

He made light work of my least favourite combination on course – the raised step up to log-brush on a very tight angle. Further spooking at the JCBs in the spectator’s car park, but he managed to focus on the trailer jump.

I didn’t make the mistake of sitting back and relaxing at the second water, and he jumped in, cantered through and locked nicely onto the triple brush on the way out, making that combination (which I know caused problems throughout) feel rather easy. The same with the silver birch oxer, and I could see the finish line….

As we came round the corner at the top of the hill, he half-locked onto the novice wall fence. I steered him around, only for him to then “lock on” to the fence judges’ car. We got to the base of the first skinny wall and he very valiantly tried to jump from practically underneath it, resulting in him getting his front legs half over. He probably would have scraped over had I not completely lost my balance and tumbled over his poor shoulder.

I got up and checked he was OK (thank you very much to the fence judges for all of their help - and sorry to have added to your workload by forcing you to fill out “fall at my fence” forms!!) and began the walk back to the lorry park, pretty depressed.

I felt like we had done all of the hard work, and to fall at the (nearly) last hurdle is such a crying shame! But that’s eventing for you!

The next few hours involved plenty of feeling sorry for myself, wondering if I should sell Sid to someone that can actually ride, thinking I am the worst eventing “ambassador” you could ask for and should maybe stick to hacking in future – those sort of thoughts.

The only silver lining was that the doctor who had to check me over after my fall had a rather attractive accent (and face!). I’m not saying I would choose to fall off again at an event that he is covering, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world…..In fact, when he asked me what my number was, I paused momentarily before realising he meant competitor number (d’oh!), leaving him wondering if I had concussion.

I rang First Husband on the way home, not to tell him about the lovely doctor I had met, but to incoherently cry down the phone for an hour or so (and interrupt the TV programme he was watching) and inform him that it was probably going to turn out to be a very expensive day for him because it would take some intense horsey retail therapy to cheer me up.

He was suitably concerned about our bank account and therefore tried to recover my mood through the medium of talking (which is never as effective as spending money, in my opinion) but at least the snotty, ugly crying was done via phone, and so the illusion of passable beauty I have managed to create in our marriage via makeup has been sustained.

I got home, had a shower and wrapped myself up in a duvet. There were possibly more tears.

However, I emerged this morning, like a butterfly from my cocoon, with a PLAN.

We are now entered into a laid back combined training for tomorrow, we are entered into Tweseldown unaffiliated in a few weekend’s time to beat the demons, Sid has the physio this week in case of any soreness, and the lovely secretary has allowed us to drop down to BE90 at Howick the week after to try to get another MER so that we can crack back on at BE100 afterwards.

I have also expanded Sid’s wardrobe, but First Husband does not need to know that yet.

Here's a photo of Squirrel wondering why I am taking a photo, as the pro photography pics are yet to be released.

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