Sid Sets a New Record!
For some people, coming 14th means a disastrous day where the stars misaligned and there were invisible monsters hiding next to every other cross country jump.
For Sid and I, it means our lowest score to date and a personal best!!!
The day prior, Adele and I had gone to Badminton to be inspired by the cross country and hopefully absorb some of the awesomeness there via "eventing osmosis".
We arrived at the yard at 8pm and threw some water and soap in Sid's general direction and then left him to get some beauty sleep, whilst we attempted to do the same (I am in desperate need of a few weeks' worth!).
When my alarm went off at 4am, I did wonder why I keep squeezing eventing into my busy schedule - like some bizarre Tetris game where I've reached the final level - but nevertheless I rolled gracefully out of bed and Adele and I began our journey to Keysoe with Squirrel in tow.
One downside to my relocation (apart from the geographical separation of Adele and Squirrel) is that the McDonalds en route to my new yard is not 24 hours and so, when we rocked up at 5:45am for our usual coffee and McMuffin, we were disappointed to realise that it was SHUT.
(My house is now back on the market so that we can move to a better McDs catchment area).
The 2.5 hour journey, throughout which my shitnav used all its ingenuity to direct me AWAY from main roads and motorways and through hundreds of roundabouts instead, resulting in severe clutch-cramp, felt neverending.
I enjoyed the usual level of entertaining conversation from Adele, who fell sound asleep within 10 minutes of leaving my yard.
Happily she woke up for a bit of a sing-song when we got nearer to Keysoe, otherwise I might have been tempted to throw her out at the service station.
After immediately abandoning my car in the lorry park and rushing for an emergency toilet break (long journey), we collected my number and walked the XC course.
Deciding that I would refuse to dwell on the step up to corner, the skinny out of the water, or the giant gappy table, we tacked Sid up for stressage and I mounted from my water container, after refusing the kind offer of a leg up from Adele (who is pretty strong but has never leg-upped a potato before).
The warm up actually went OK - I tried to do lots of changes within the pace, transitions - the usual things that "the people that know what they are doing" tell you to do.
A few minutes before my test, I rushed over to Adele in a panic because I suddenly remembered I didn't really know what test it was.
45 seconds later, with the test fresh in my mind (oops), we headed into the arena.
As we trotted round I realised early on that Sid was going to be shying away from the lefthand long side, due to an incongruous green banner on the fence.
Deciding to try to enjoy the test anyway, I smiled and laughed my way through , resulting in me tricking the judge that I was an OK rider (she wrote "well presented test" on my test sheet, and I've never presented anything well in my life).
It turns out that we scored a respectable 34 (marks ranged between 31 and 39), which I was pleased with.
Onto the showjumping and we warmed up without touching a pole, which is never a good thing.
We went over to the arena and, as if on cue, they announced a 10 minute course walk.
I then spent 10 minutes getting increasingly terrified and counting the number of people watching at the edge of the arena. It was an unreasonably high number.
Finally we entered the arena and the buzzer went off, but as I began my round, all I could think of was the people watching, judging and likely talking about my inability to ride my lovely horse.
As the first pole fell (I think Sid just knocked it behind), my self doubt was reinforced. Why am I so crap, I thought.
I then massively cocked up my stride to a spread and down another pole came.
We obviously punched it out quite far as we then had to cross back over that line to jump a double, and the pole was right in the way! Happily Sid loves gridwork and just assumed it was a triple, making quite a nice shape through the combination!
At this point I just wanted to be done, but I tried to keep Sid together and get through it. We had another pole at the final jump, when Sid was buried into the bottom of an upright, in prime view of everyone watching.
I left the arena feeling pretty miserable and down on myself for such a terrible display of hideousness.
Luckily Adele was ready with a pep talk and some chocolate. Feeling somewhat bolstered, I strapped on my body protector and we headed to cross country to try to finish our day on a slightly better note.
After walking the long way around (we thought there was a hole in the hedge that turned out NOT to be a hole in the hedge) we arrived at the warm up and Sid proceeded to be a bit of a nutter.
I'm not sure what's switched in his adorable little head, but there is plenty of jogging, trying to gallop at the warm up fences and general hooliganism taking place in our cross country warm ups at present.
We went over to the start box and this behaviour continued. I had to remind him that we are really only a very average pair of wannabe eventers, and not the latest Badders entrants...
Well, we started and I kicked on, trying to seem like I "meant it". I am told that, as we started, the commentator read out my entry notes that I was "hoping not to fall off today" and that he "hoped she could do better than that, come on Hannah".
I like to manage spectator expectations.
We headed to the raised log - a Sid favourite - and he charged at and over it. Next up was a cabin. Now, we had an unexpected problem at a house at Keysoe last year, and so this year I was determined that I would not relax too early.
I gathered him up, gave him a bit of what I like to call "the racing whip" (i.e. waved it around his shoulder) and he probably took the cabin at slightly too fast a pace if I'm honest! So much for my worry!
We then headed over the stick pile, which is a fairly solid fence, but which Sid couldn't have cared less about I think, and towards the skinny double of houses.
I pulled with my tiny little arm muscles and sat as heavy as I could in the seat to try to retain control, and Sid amenably came down to a nice canter, from which we popped the first house and swung round to the second. It wasn't the most amazing stride, but he was over and I was loudly apologising and patting.
We then had a nice little gallop down the far side of the course, after which I tried (but failed) to get full control back, and we jumped a bit extravagantly over the boat table and continued (at high speed - it felt like) towards the cord pile.
Again, Sid eats these sorts of fences up for dinner and it was behind us before I even really saw it. Sid's "locking on device" is clearly fully functional at present!
We then came to the open table to brush shoulder combination, with a downward drop in between. I'm not sure if it's because it was so gappy, or because there wasn't much of a groundline, but I completely ballsed up poor Sid's stride to it and we were waaay too close when Sid decided to take off anyway, because he was feeling like a bit of a warrior, and cat leap over the thing.
I just about managed to stay on (Sid probably twisted mid-air to save me) and threw my reins at him, whilst kicking and looking through and past the B element. I couldn't believe it when Sid was an absolute angel and jumped actually quite nicely over it and out!
Thanking my lucky stars, and my wonderful, generous horse, I gathered up my reins and headed to the coffin combination, wondering if Sid might have lost confidence from my idiocy.
I took it very steady, giving him time to work it all out, but I soon found out that was NOT the case, as he jumped it beautifully, and then ploughed over the "V" oxer and made the step up to the corner combination feel easy.
Starting to slightly relax, we headed to another table (less gappy this time) and made sure I gave Sid a better stride.
Next up was the water combination. When I walked this, I was a tad concerned about the C element, as it was very skinny and easy to avoid!
However, Sid charged in over the canoe, steamed through the water and missed out a stride, taking the skinny as if he was on train tracks heading over it!
We then took a bit of a celebratory flier at the final cart and we were over the finish line!!
I was so so so pleased, and to top it all off we were inside the time despite my many mistakes at certain fences - and we have never been inside the time at 100 before!
We finished the day on such a high, and I am amazed at my horse, who suddenly seems to have figured out that cross country is super fun and who gets more honest by the day, despite my poor attempts at piloting him.
Next up for Sid and I is Tweseldown, where we hope to continue finishing with a smile and enjoying ourselves (but perhaps I shall try for a little more control.....)