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  • Writer's pictureHannah Craft

Burning the Candle OUT

Well, as some of you know, I've had a busy month!

Despite relocating from London to Wiltshire, and organising a complete refurbishment of my new house, whilst continuing to work 40 hour weeks as a lawyer (I know, I know, you were NOT expecting that as my career of choice!!) I have managed to continue competing Sid at BE100 level. In fact, I've squeezed in 5 events already this season!

However, this weekend it finally caught up with me.

Following a day of chauffeuring my brother around to various shops and getting the half-finished kitchen in a fit state to host a Eurovision party (last place?! Brexit means Brexit!), I awoke at 4am having managed to rest my eyes for 3 whole beautiful hours.

After laboriously scrubbing Sid's mustard-yellow legs until they were closer to a light buttercup shade, and rolling up what I can only describe as a 4-year old child's version of plaits, we began our journey to Tweseldown.

We arrived safely and I dug out a Lucozade (other brands are available) and headed over to walk the XC.

Happily, as I strolled past the showjumping, I saw an electric blue-clad figure running towards me with two doggies, in a "romantic movie" crossed with Baywatch slo-mo style....Adele had arrived! Not even the M25 can keep us apart.

We walked the cross country, with several toilet/sniff breaks (the dogs, not us!), and can I just say it was such a cleverly designed course! But I was terrified.

At 4 we had a skinny house, step down, skinny house combo, then at the first water we had a jump ON THE EDGE so that you were jumping from within water. Then you had some meaty, solid fences, followed by a jump into water and out over a big corner a few strides away on an interesting line.

After that a huge box brush, the dreaded trakhener and a hanging log on a hill with a downward run to a skinny triple brush!

Now Sid and I have had some confidence-building runs at 100 this season, but WOW. The corner in particular, I looked at several times before deciding the line was for dreamers and resolving to just skip it out.

We warmed up for dressage and I was feeling quite "meh". My energy levels were low and I couldn't summon up any particular enthusiasm.

Poor Sid headed into the arena and carried me, with a few tense moments and stumbles where he couldn't quite find his feet. We headed back to the trailer and I felt like my trailer tyre (flat...because someone didn't realise you needed to check pressure and inflate them every now and again aka me).

We tacked up for showjumping and headed over, beginning our warm up by trying to recreate a bouncy, energetic canter. After a few pointers I started feeling like we were getting it. I had been letting the canter die a death round corners/far away from the jumps, with him then charging for the last 4 strides and getting flat, but by keeping my leg on and "revving the engine" whilst half-halting to keep him on his hocks, the rushing became less obvious and I was able to hit a sweeter take off spot!

Eureka, or so I thought, because we got into the ring and his turbo engine was fully charged up, resulting in 4 poles in quick succession where we battled all the way to the base of the jump!

However, after giving myself a mental kick (and Sid a physical one!) we began to look much more the thing and finished the round well.

I'm hoping that was a "getting worse to get better" moment, but I do really think I needed to take back control, particularly if we are hoping to ever move up a level...

Feeling very tired and a bit down, we traipsed back to the trailer.

I debated withdrawing before cross country, because I really didn't feel that either of us were performing, but Adele convinced me to at least go and warm up and jump the first few.

I got on and tried to summon some enthusiasm, but all the while mentally talking myself into retiring almost immediately after leaving the start box.

After seeing my number down on the board of terror, I figured I best do a bit of trot, and a bit of canter, if nothing else.

Sid perked up considerably, and we popped over the warm up jumps a few times, with me even getting a bit brave and popping the skinny house.

We jogged over to the start box and I gloomily told the starter I would probably retire (I like to manage the expectations of everyone around me, just in case they get the wrong impression and think I am an OK rider).

I think he thought I was hilarious, but I was being quite serious...

All too soon I was being counted down (being very mindful of not leaving before GO, partly because I didn't want to leave at all) and we headed onto course.

The first two jumps are Tweseldown "old faithfuls" and so Sid flew them with his eyes closed, as we headed out to the third jump of birch rails.

Again he popped it, and we headed to the first test. After spending 10 seconds or so looking over at Adele as we came round the corner, he steadied, locked on and popped over the house, down the step and made a lovely three strides to the last house.

We upped the speed and soared over the next big, wide, wooden fence (Sid's fence-type of choice) and headed to the water.

Now, I've never jumped Sid over a log stuck on the very edge of the water, but we have jumped two very small jumps in water, so I figured he would hopefully be OK.

After being a bit confused as to why there was no jump in front of the water, he cantered through and I pointed and kicked. After a millisecond of "hm?" he locked on and we were over and out!

With the adrenaline starting to kick in, we charged over the trailer and the table and I hauled on the brakes.

Sid leapt over the hanging log and through the water, but listened when I said "sloooow". I realised mid-lake that it was now black flagged, but I hadn't seen the alternative and we were committed. We made a curved line out of the water, I quickly flipped my whip over to my right hand, gave him a bit of a warning tap and we were over the corner!! I literally couldn't believe it!

Sid then hurdled the logpile and the box brush fence (see photo.......lordy I was nearly jumped out of the saddle!) and we faced our biggest nemesis: the trakhener. Last July we had a stop at this very jump, but NOT TODAY SOLDIERS because I gave him a little tap with my bat of justice and grimly kicked whilst staring at a distant tree and to be fair to Sid he did not hesitate!

I then applied some serious handbrake as we turned to the testing combination of hanging log to skinny triple brush. It didn't help that it was down quite a steep slope...

However, Sid quietly popped the log, listened as I held him down the hill and with a great big kick he jumped neatly through the flags!

We then had a bit of what I would describe as a gungho gallop to the next house with brush, downhill to the military barracks jump and bossing the three long strides to the angled brush (was probably meant to be four...) and through the dragon to finish CLEAR 10 SECONDS WITHIN THE TIME!!

I got off and almost fell over, and tried to keep up with Sid as he strode away with me attached to the girth trying to undo it.

What an amazing horse, to carry me on my worst day eventing, when I probably should have saved both our energy for another day.

Beyond grateful to him and to supergroom Adele. I am so lucky to have these diamonds. I probably deserved an elimination yesterday, and instead I came home smiling, exhausted, but so thoroughly happy.

We are entered into Ascott under Wychwood in two weeks' time, but I think after that we will have a month or two out, to recoup our energy and work on the things we are not quite getting right. I don't think it would be fair to rely on my horse's awesomeness without also trying to contribute a little bit of awesomeness myself.

Perhaps I can't do it all!!! And I think I'm learning that that's OK 🙂 (just about) (sometimes) (maybe)

In the meantime, I will enjoy looking at the photos of Sid being a boss, and me holding (ungracefully) on.

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