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  • Writer's pictureHannah Craft

Sid Goes Eventing... (but only as a lorry buddy to Cargo, obv)

Well folks, it's been a while. This time last year I took Sid to his final ever event.

Or at least, so we thought.

But it turns out his protegee, Cargo, does not enjoy travelling solo. His name is one of the biggest ironies...

So because I had an 8am dressage time, and I will sell my soul for an extra half an hour of sleep, I decided to bring Sid along for the ride to Calmsden.

I ask you, would you fancy spending the dawn hours standing on a ramp waiting for a part-mule, part-horse to deign to walk onto the lorry?!

Turned out to be a bad idea (who knew) given Sid hasn't been out in 9 months.

As soon as he got onto the lorry, he started bouncing. All 17hh (and lord knows how many lbs) of energy.

Needless to say, we had to drag Cargo up the ramp to join the lorry party. And I can't say I blame him!

We arrived and I took the indirect route to the dressage warm up, because Cargo was:

(a) freshly clipped as of the day before

(b) suddenly best friends with Sid and did not want to leave him

Be careful what you wish for, though, because when he stopped going sideways and backwards, he went forwards. At. Great. Pace.

Luckily we were not the only ones gallop-cantering.

He started to settle and I was lulled into a false sense of security. We were going to perform a beautiful test.

You know the kind where you can legitimately put classical music over the video montage?

Well, my montage was scrapped when I realised I had not learned the test properly.

Cue the humiliation of the judge beeping his little horny horn and telling me I had missed out a movement.

Thank goodness our test was early and spectators were limited!

We finished in a bit of a hurry (half me, half Cargo adding some upwards transitions here and there) and were relieved to see a 36 score.

Which was actually reasonably competitive - people were scoring high 30s and 40s!

In the show-jumping warm up, I went one further by jumping one of the fences the wrong way...

Would you believe I have a successful career as a lawyer and consultant during the week?!

No, me neither.

Feeling like I was about to regurgitate my Lucozade all over the steward (who was, I hasten to add, absolutely wonderful when I told her I thought I might pass out from nerves), I trotted into the ring.

Now although Cargo is very green, and we are still working our partnership out, over the last few months he has turned into an absolute show-jumping MACHINE.

He basically piloted me round the course, jumping a foot perfect clear - I think my "good boy!"s could be heard in the next county.

Suited and booted, we jogged over to the cross country warm up and he immediately spooked at a 'person and log' combination at the edge.

I told him that he needed to be much braver than that if we were going to make it round!

His cross country experience is limited so I wasn't expecting too much. I would have been happy to finish on board.

But once we made it through the gap in the stone wall (are all horses weirdly terrified of big rocks or is it just the ones I ride?!) and entered the start box, Hannah-the-actually-quite-determined-cross-country-rider surfaced.

The wet blanket had dried out, so to speak.

We were counted down - that minute goes so quick! - and I kicked on.

The first fence was an inviting wooden roll top, but it was still a first fence, and I knew Cargo would start off a bit 'sticky'.

I kept the pressure on and resisted the urge to steady him overly much, and we were over and cantering on to the barrels.

He's never seen them before and he swung his left shoulder out... but I had my trusty baton in that hand and one tap kept him straight.

Fence 3 was a table in the hedge line, turning away from the lorry park. I sat back and kicked and before I knew it we were in the next field.

Over the pheasant feeder downhill and he started picking up speed, meaning I had to 'wang him' a bit to make the righthanded turn to the first combination, a brush fence to a rolltop.

He had some pace at this point, and was eating up the fences.

As we cantered towards the tyres, I had a bit of a breather and started to wonder if I might enjoy the round after all.

He backed off the tyres a little, which was possibly not a bad thing(!), but we were still clear.

Flying the corner, we then popped a log-pile and turned sharp left down the hill to my least favourite combination on course.

A reasonable step up to a skinny fence, and I did him an injustice thinking he'd sail past the skinny, because he was a little pro.

At this point I relaxed, and we charged over the castle. As we headed very fast down a steep descent, I hoped the hill ahead might slow him down a bit!

I'm not sure it made a noticeable difference, but he gave me a great feeling over the roll-top to brush combination and the next log-pile.

Up came the wall, and given his aversion to rocks/stones, I was apprehensive...

But he was in cross country mode, and over he soared, before leaping over the cartridge.

Hard right and we came to the water jump, where he took a sideways step before jumping into the water (phew!) and staying straight over the skinny on the way out.

He popped the bench easily out of his stride and we were home comfortably within the time!

Double clear and, although our dressage could have been much better, somehow we came 4th!!!

I'm not sure he enjoyed me hugging his neck, nor the tears on his neck, but I was so proud of him. And - frankly - relieved to make it through my first event of the season, after having almost 12 months off.

What a horse - only his second ever event, having been cross country a handful of times, and finishing full of running with a cool double clear.

There have been times, since Sid's injury, where I have genuinely wondered if I would ever get that cross country buzz again.

And although Sid will always be my number one, I discovered yesterday that I can love eventing with another horse.

First Husband (and my bank balance) are less thrilled.

My elation was slightly dampened when I got back to the lorry and found that Sid had dug a hole to Australia, having gotten wind that there was cross country happening somewhere nearby...

And also emptied his entire bowel so that he was race-ready.

He was very vocal in his praise of Cargo (at least, that's what I assume he was saying!) and would quite happily have joined him on course had the grass buffet not been calling him.

I will finish by saying a huge THANK YOU to the organisers and volunteers for a wonderfully run, welcoming, first event back.

It was truly the best day ever.

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