Picture this: it is 11pm at night, I am a leeetle tipsy following a lovely romantic meal with First Husband, and I am attempting to connect my laptop to a fancy WiFi printer so that I can print off my bib number for Tweseldown the next day.
First Husband had obligingly picked the b****** up from Curry’s earlier in the day, but had (quite incorrectly) assumed I could take it from there.
I was also full of cheese (because I don’t care how good the dessert menu is; I will always head straight for the cheese board).
My nerves and excitement (and possibly the gin) kept me awake for most of the night, but I eventually drifted off…just as my alarm started beeping.
At the yard, I was dismayed to find that Sid was STILL clean! That is a whole 16 hours without poo stains or muck on those white legs and bum - a Sid record.
The journey to Tweseldown was a triumph (and by that I mean I hit every note in “This Is Me”).
We arrived and saw eventing bestie Adele (the only person I know that can pull off a range of hats; bobble, cap, fedora - she has a most adaptable head) jogging towards us. Sid had an entourage!
Gulping down my rescue remedy pastille, I looked over at a dressage-ready Sid. It was time to get this show on the road.
I had worked out a warm up plan based on the last few weeks of schooling. Obviously, as soon as we got into the warm up that all went to pot.
I managed to occasionally remember to do something vaguely helpful, like some leg yielding here, some transitions here. Note to self: stick to the plan in future!
Dressage was running early, and so I took the opportunity and headed over to the white boards. I tend to want to get the dressage over with!!
Sid used our test as a chance to show the judge that he’s been working hard on those flicky toes, and he really did himself proud. There was some tenseness in the trot, and the medium walk was more of a medium jog, but he really did try.
Sadly no danger of our test being mixed up with anyone else’s (that is usually how we get the higher marks) because Sid was a coloured in a field full of bay TBx 16.1 cardboard cut-out eventers...
But his lockdown hard work was rewarded with a 31 - close to our personal best (and in a class full of professionals on very smart young horses). Go Sid!
After a few bottles of Lucozade, I was ready to face our nemesis: showjumping. I had walked the course earlier in the day and, whilst I had no problem with the actual jumps, would have quite liked them to be lowered by a few cm.
As Adele pointed out, it was a bit unfair of me to ask for that, given I had entered a BE100 class and therefore should probably expect the show jumps to be at BE100 height. All the same, I was disappointed when the steward refused my request.
Side note: I LOVE the fact that there are fewer spectators and less people in the warm up. It meant that:
a) I didn’t over jump Sid in a weak attempt to settle my nerves and/or try to “get my eye in” - which takes at least 35 goes at an 80cm upright - and
b) we had plenty of space and the ability to jump the things we needed to, at the height we wanted to.
AND fewer witnesses to my riding!
We were called in and I took a deep breath. Earlier in the day I had decided my ‘canter rhythm’ soundtrack was to be “Castles - Freya Ridings”.
So as we cantered around the edge of the ring, I started singing.
The bell went and I turned towards the first, and we were away! I kept in time with the song, and kept singing (apologies for anyone within ear distance).
And it really worked - Sid was flying! We had one pole where he just landed a bit flat following a double, but he was jumping out of his skin!
So well, in fact, that I momentarily forgot where I was going, because I was thinking “wow, this isn’t SO terrible…”
Luckily I managed to swing Sid round (sorry Sid!!) and he popped the oxer, finishing over the final double with only that one pesky pole.
The pressure was mounting for cross country (not because I was competitive - far too many really amazing riders in my section for that) but because he was going so well and I didn’t want to finish on a low…
We headed to the warm up and Sid had a peculiar look in his eyes.
Next thing I know, we are having a bit of a battle of wills because he wants to gallop round like a nutter, and I am trying to pretend to the others in the warm up that I have some semblance of control over my pony.
I can only say that he was UP FOR IT.
We jogged over to the start box. I have never seen a horse “power walk” before, but that is literally what Sid was doing.
We were counted down, and then we were off, and Sid charged at the first fence: a hanging log. On landing, he galloped away like we were trying to make Badminton time.
I managed to rein his enthusiasm in (see what I did there) for the palisade, and then the silver birch oxer.
We then turned to the first question - a ditch combination. Sid has historically been quite ditchy, so I attempted a “coffin canter” (quite aptly named in my opinion) and prayed.
Sid didn’t even blink - over he went, and we were out and heading towards the table, which he swallowed up.
We then veered towards the skinny wall, and I pleaded with Sid to slow down! Happily for me, he listened, and we were through the flags (breathing in)!
We then headed to the water complex - a house, water, raised log, house combination. To be fair, in the heat the water had turned into mud, but Sid was not put off. We took the straight line through the three fences and I felt like a passenger but in the best sense - he was doing it all for me and loving it!
We had a bit of a chat en route to the next combination, heading down the back of the course, and I took advantage of the slight wind tunnel caused by my battle-charger to cool off.
We then popped down the step to the double of raised logs. It was a bit “show-jump-y” so I didn’t know how Sid would feel about it. But he stormed through and whipped to the left over the roll-top.
I then requested (very politely) that Sid steady up, because it was the great big corner, and I was so worried that we would be ducking around it rather than going over it.
I shouldn’t have worried, because my wonderful steed locked on to the corner and made me feel like a bit of a plank for not trusting him!
We then popped over the skinny wall into the water, and out over the wider wall.
Sid was a little spooky at the double of log-piles, but to be fair, there were so many options fence-wise around, that he was probably just considering an alternative.
Before we knew it, we were over the dragon and we had finished CLEAR!
Sid jogged back to Adele rather pleased with himself. And probably thinking of the apple core and stud muffins that were now fully due and payable to him, in accordance with the terms of our deal that had been struck pre-cross country. I’m not above bribery!
So a fab start to our season, albeit that it is in mid-July! And thank you so much to the organisers and the wonderful volunteers - I had a great time chatting to a number of volunteers as I walked the course and Sid and I are so so so grateful that you gave up your time to enable us to do what we love today.
Until next time…stay safe!