• Hannah Craft

Operation GET MER: Take Two

And before I start, can I just say that I am so excited to share this particular event report with you…….!!! So, after my last disastrous outing at Chilham, where I missed out a fence cross country and got myself Eliminated with a capital E (despite Sid jumping clear), I was determined to up my game and get that MER! I therefore signed myself up (and my unwitting sister) to bootcamp fitness classes. Go hard or go home, right?! Our first session was bright and early on a Sunday morning. The birds were singing; I was not. However, we arrived, feeling cute in our sports bras and leggings, and began the session with enthusiasm. “I’m a fitness fanatic and I didn’t even know it…” I mused to myself. What I now realise is that I was experiencing a phenomenon known as: peaking too early. 15 minutes in and our enthusiasm began to wane. I was dripping with sweat (I had serious thigh sweat patches people!!!) and my legs and arms felt like they were no longer able to function. Several hundred burpees in, feeling like I was about to throw up and struggling to walk, the PT I had formerly nicknamed “Sexy Gaz” was fast becoming known by another less complimentary label… If I had any liquid left in my body that hadn’t been sweated out already, I might have cried. FINALLY we were allowed to do some “cool down” stretches, involving standing on one leg. Well, by this stage my vision was blurring and I very nearly fell over. Of course, the natural reaction to enduring what was frankly tantamount to torture, is TO BOOK INTO THE NEXT ONE the following Tuesday. So that’s what I did. Coincidentally, this session was the night before I was due to go eventing. A “pre-event limber up” was on the cards. The next few days were spent in agony. I finally understood what First Husband was always moaning about post-leg day; I was physically unable to walk down stairs. Tuesday came around, and this time I cheated early on and thereby survived an hour of Sadistic Gaz, who becomes less attractive in direct correlation to the increase in time spent at his bootcamp sessions. Feeling like I deserved some sort of medal, I arrived home with the aim of getting an early night before my 4am alarm. However, because I am incapable of life, I managed to misplace my phone and spent nearly an hour looking for it down the side of the sofa, questioning my cats FBI-style and in a rather intimidating tone of voice (they refused to comment) and finally, when all hope was lost, realising that I had put it INSIDE MY PURSE. Said searching involved several trips up and down the stairs, which, although not debilitating this time, were still rather painful. I finally managed to get to bed, and awoke bright and early to a redeeming text from FH stating that he believed in me, but whatever happened he would be proud of me. Arguably conflicting messages there, but sufficiently supportive that I have extended his probationary period for another few months whilst Second Husband takes his time arriving into my life. At the yard, I discovered that I could not find the correct light switches. Not one to give up, I quickly resigned myself to loading up in the dark. Having dragged Sid from his bed (he is rather emotionally drained from moving yards to one with a resident goat) we began our journey to West Wilts. We arrived and the weather was being typically British. Undeterred, I leapt (yes, that’s right) from the car and headed over to the first fence cross country. I was determined to allow myself plenty of time to memorise the course (and ALL of the jumps!), but this quickly became less than fun because I was wearing very breathable trainers. West Wilts had beautiful grass cover, but the downside of this was that my mesh trainers and socks were completely soaked through within minutes. It was going to be a cold, wet day. Back to the trailer I went, to change my wet trainers for wet riding boots. So much better. Sid was unloaded and proceeded to stare at me with sad eyes, whilst simultaneously refusing to stand next to the side of trailer where it was marginally drier. Tacked up, we trundled over to the dressage warm up, me with a wet bum because I had not quite timed the “take off the rug, mount quickly before the saddle gets wet” correctly, and Sid because it had been sticking out of the rug I threw haphazardly on him. We warmed up in a metaphorical sense only. I was trying a new tactic of "no spurs before cross country", and so our warm up felt a little sluggish. It was also not as effective as usual because I was riding in straight lines from north to west only, to avoid a face full of rain. We went in and I smiled beauteously at the judge, before subjecting them to what was a very safe, dull test in the end. There weren’t any huge mistakes, but neither were there any “YES” moments. We ended up with a 31.3 which was more than fair. With the rain stubbornly persisting, we trotted over to the show jumping arena and I took a look at the course, again sans spurs. The warm up was fairly busy, with everyone probably trying to get the job done so they could go home and dry off, and yet again I got a bit flustered and could not see a stride for toffee. We warmed up but I was very conscious of the seemingly professional riders surrounding me with their ability to canter round beautifully and see the perfect take off point each time. Urgh. Before I knew it, my turn had come to take on the show jumping monster. I gritted my teeth and entered the arena. We picked up canter and I started chanting to myself “MEDIUM canter, MEDIUM canter” – as a reminder to not kill the canter in an attempt at seeing a stride (if they are shorter, technically I have a smaller chance of cocking it up, right?!) A shuffling stride is not a stride Sid likes to jump out of, bizarrely… We headed for the first and my chanting got slightly higher-pitched, but we were over it and then round to the second, an innocuous upright. We were over that too, and making the turn to three and the double at four. I realised my chanting had gotten quicker, so I reset my internal metronome. And.... We turned right to the next spread, which Sid gave plenty of room. My voice started to return to normal pitch. We stuck to the side of the arena, popped the next few jumps and turned down the final line, breathing on the last but leaving it up. I couldn’t believe that I was exiting the arena hearing that we had gone clear! Sid seemed pretty chuffed with himself, so we tacked up for cross country and were about to head over to the warm up, before I realised that he had no boots on (d’oh)! Suitably attired this time, we jig-jogged over to the cross country warm up, where I nearly fell off at the first hurdle when Sid charged the last few strides into a log. Luckily it was more twig-sized than log-sized (I really don’t understand the sizing of warm up jumps cross country; they always seem to be tiny or huge with no in between?!) so although people started to give me nervous looks and wonder if I had accidentally stumbled into the wrong class, there was no harm done. Giving myself a bit of a stern talking to, we popped the warm up jumps a few more times and then it was our turn to head towards the start box. Sid was feeling a bit more like his old self: keen and ready to go. We were counted down and exited the white rails of terror. First up: a bench with foliage all over the seat. I actually had a few doubts when walking this, as it isn’t the sort of jump I would normally like to start a course with! However, Sid saw it, locked onto it, and we were over the first hurdle and galloping away. A slight skid en route to fence two, a hanging log, as I had let Sid pick up a little more speed than I really wanted, but he charged over that and we were cantering towards fence three, a brush fence right up against the lorry park (oh dear….) I was ready for Sid to lose his mind, but I kept hold of his far shoulder and drove him towards the fence with my seat anchored as firmly as possible in case he hesitated. However, I hadn’t given him nearly enough credit, because he didn’t really falter at all! Yes Squirrel! We veered right and ploughed over the rolltop, and then took another right into a clearing with a brightly painted hanging rolltop. I don’t love a painted fence, but I was ready with my little event bat and whilst Sid took a quick look he soared over it. Fence six was a wall, which he did have to work out in his guava-sized brain a few strides out, but I asked and he answered, and we strode on to 7abc, a step up, step down and brush palisade combination. We turned fairly sharply towards it and Sid was not expecting such a small step. He didn’t think it was part of our course, and tried to sidestep it, but I hauled him across with my washing lines and he went! He then redeemed himself jumping cleanly down the step and over the palisade, and again through the double of cottages a few hundred metres further on. We finally turned left, and although Sid did not really fancy going through the gap in the hedge to the next field, he jumped nicely over the brush and then charged over the hedge and wooden box combination. I started to grin and enjoy the ride as we thundered down the slight hill to the other side of the field and over the scooped log. We then made the pair of twisted tables feel like child’s play, and flew the hanging log and headed to the final field, with me scratching Sid’s neck en route but warning myself not to get too excited just yet... The water combination – a rail, splash through the water and brush box on the way out – was taken on with gusto by Sid, and although he again didn’t realise the sunken road was for him to jump, he quite quickly locked on and charged through, jumping the highest bit of brush unnecessarily in the middle of the C element quadrant. With a customary spook at some machinery at the side of the field, we leapt over the final hedge and through the finish line!!!! I was full of doubt – had that side-step at 7a ruined what was otherwise a really lovely round – were we clear?! I let out a sigh of relief: we had done it! Double clear and comfortably inside the time, too!!! When I looked at the results I realised we had come 5th, which is far and away our highest placing at a BE event ever. And we left with two beautiful rosettes: one for the double clear and the other for 5th! Which takes our collection from 0 to 2 rosettes! What a way to come back after some rubbish results lately. I am now feeling like the past has been shaken off and I am READY to get back to BE100 and doing what we love, without worrying about not being good enough or that I am slowly ruining my lovely horse. I had a little tear in my eye as I told my mum, in heaven, that we had done it for her (the irony is that she was always falling off her horses, so if anything it's her genes that have led to all these E's). Cheers mum! Thanks so much to West Wilts for running a lovely, friendly event. I’ve never met such helpful volunteers and the commentators were so complimentary and supportive of all the riders, particularly even after run outs or a parting of the ways. It really makes such a difference to those that suffer from crippling self-doubt and nerves, like me (!) Biggest thanks of all go to my better half, Sid (no, not First Husband, he’s my OTHER half) for putting up with me when I’m terrible and doing his best for me whatever I ask of him. Here’s to a great second half of our season <3





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