Well, it's been a while since I wrote an event report, but after months of mud, wind and rain it was FINALLY time to enjoy the mud, wind and rain somewhere other than home!
Our destination of choice for this first foray back into the world of eventing was Keysoe Equestrian Centre.
Our task was to survive our first attempt at unaffiliated arena eventing at 100cm.
Now, First Husband has enjoyed at least 3 months of uninterrupted Sunday morning snoozes so, as you can imagine, I was BEYOND excited to begin ruining his weekends again.
I won't elaborate as to how he reacted when my secret weapon of choice - a 4 month old Bengal kitten with terrorist tendencies, sharp claws and far too much energy - was placed gently on top of the duvet covers at 6am in the morning, but needless to say I could have filed a police complaint for murderous intent/verbal assault.
I may also shortly be served with divorce papers (Second Husband, I'm coming for you).
I arrived at the yard in a good mood.
Sid's plaits were in fairly decent condition, which I was massively thankful for, given that the night prior he had enjoyed waiting until I was halfway through each plait before stepping carefully to one side, resulting in me slow-motion falling from the children's slide that doubles as a plaiting step.
Little (big) sod.
After a cup of tea and a sausage and egg McMuffin (breakfast of champions - other breakfast available), we loaded up, together with yard owner Adele Ayton (aka "the AA" - all will be revealed later) and her young horse Marley, and headed out!
The journey went far too quickly as I attempted to vlog on my Instagram story. It turns out, however, that being a millenial does not guarantee YouTube perfection (much to my dismay).
On arrival, we went to get our numbers and were greeted by one of the friendliest number-givers I've come across.
We picked up another cup of tea - #british - and went to suss the layout.
Happily, Keysoe had taken into account the windy, sharp conditions and had set the dressage arenas right up against the sponsor boards and moving hedges (!)
I made sure to remind Sid several times as I tacked him up that if he decked me in the dressage I would put him back in his bright orange rug and he would get bullied by his fieldmates.
We warmed up quite nicely I think and, apart from a few glances at the hedge/judge's box at the edge of our warm-up, Sid was listening (exactly what I was saying is another question, but we didn't crash into anyone so that's always a bonus).
We headed over to the test arena and began trotting around the edge, only to stop when we realised that the short side by the judge's box was only about 1m wide.
Never one to turn around (even if I am going in completely the wrong direction) I walked Sid along the tightrope between white boards and hedge.
Understandably, he had a little spook at the judge's box - we were practically on top of her - but he walked past and we carried on.
I had decided to try to enjoy the test (I know, I know!!) so I plastered on a smile and headed down the centre line.
4 minutes later and I was actually unusually happy with our test.
There were a few moments where Sid lost concentration and I wasn't quite quick enough to correct him, but overall it was probably one of our best tests.
This was reflected in our test sheet and score - we got 31.75 which, on a windy day in January, I was very pleased with and put us in 3rd place (only 0.25 behind 2nd!). We even got some 7.5s which is usually the sum of our scores for 2 separate movements.
We headed off to show-jumping and I warmed up, only to find that there were about 7 horses to go....oops!
We gave ourselves a few more minutes to learn the course - but really, I need a few hours for it to stick (I'm not dyslexic apart from when it comes to courses - this should be a separate, recognised diagnosis) - and then popped an upright.
To my utter horror, Sid came to a crashing halt.
Self-consciously apologising to all around me for the appalling "riding", but mainly to Sid, we circled and came around again and this time he flew over. And breathe.
Into the ring and it's fair to say that we are unused to indoor arenas (riding in a dry, warm arena?! Ridiculous).
This one was pretty heavily decorated around the edges, but luckily the various banners and windows distracted Sid sufficiently that I was able to steer him towards the first jump with a minimum of gallop.
Sadly that did not last, and we bounced off the walls with more enthusiasm than care...
Halfway in and I took a breath (probably my first of the round) and tried to gather him up and present him at each fence in a controlled manner.
My steam train was on a roll, though, and it was very much a "cross your fingers and toes and squeeze at each fence" sort of round. It WAS in a rhythm, in my defence, just a very fast one...
I therefore could not believe our luck when we flew the last and had gone CLEAR!
I think we are now in a situation where: (a) Sid is finding 100cm comfortable (we are jumping bigger at home) and is giving the jumps plenty of room; however (b) Because he is so confident, he isn't backing off and is quite happily throwing himself over with gusto.
Back to the drawing board to find a tighter flash (current one allows room for a whole bloody hand let alone two fingers) and to add a martingale to avoid "if I throw my head in the air she can't stop me" syndrome.
We headed to cross country after an hour of me standing around in just a t-shirt. I was frozen through but I had made several friends ("please don't tell me you're warm" "you're mad" "why aren't you wearing a coat").
If you ever need a conversation starter, I'm your woman; just don't take my advice in real life because you may or may not get hypothermia.
The course looked inviting but, as with most arena eventing cross country phases, there were a few skinnies.
I am really against skinnies - the jumps, the people, etc.
I overrode the first skinny (fence 2) and Sid went to duck out, but I was determined. Sadly not determined enough, as I forgot to kick and we came to a disappointing stop in front of the blasted thing.
I re-presented and he hopped over.
Whilst cursing myself repeatedly, we then made light work of the rest of the course (including bigger and skinnier jumps).
This is the moment in each report where my coach rolls his eyes.
We headed back to the lorry a little fed up.
However, after a few minutes (and a pep talk from "the AA") I perked up.
Fine, we had missed out on 3rd place, but we had a great day, Sid was really keen and taking me into the fences and the things we need to work on are fairly easy fixes and more riding (i.e. me) than horse-related (i.e. Sid).
Basically, my horse is awesome and I am super lucky.
We headed home in high spirits following a hot chocolate with more cream and marshmallows than could reasonably fit on top of the unicorn travel mug Adele lent me.
It was as we were singing along to "The Greatest Showman" soundtrack (specifically, the first few lines of "Never Enough") that we realised something wasn't quite right....
We pulled over and Adele went to check the source of the smoke coming from the side of her trailer...
It turns out that we had a burst tyre! Apparently this is referred to as a "blow out" although that conjures up rather different images in my mind!
Luckily, Adele didn't panic and did what all sensible daughters do when in trouble: called Dad.
In case you're wondering, I was quietly eating blueberries at this point, being of no help at all.
He suggested we limp to a layby and take the wheel off - it was the middle one of three - and then drive slowly home.
We came off the A1 at the next exit and headed to Mecca (also known as Tesco-in-our-hour-of-need). Adele had the great idea of driving up a curb to lift the wheel off the floor so that we could get it off easily (ha).
I decided to be slightly more helpful and videoed her loosening the nuts (hehe).
We got a bit stuck when the wheel wouldn't come off, but luckily a man in a very nice shiny Range Rover (whose girlfriend/wife was in the car, has horses and had apparently told him to stop and help us because we also have horses - thank you very much if you read this) gave us the idea of driving on it slowly to loosen it.
With a bit of a crunch, and the horses probably wondering what the hell was going on, the wheel came off and we were free to continue our journey sans burst tyre.
First Husband and "the AA" (get it)'s boyfriend were phoned to update on our whereabouts but neither were particularly concerned.
To be fair, First Husband was in the middle of a life-threatening and highly critical situation: his team were down to the last 10 in Fortnite on the EX-box. Sigh.
I think he would quite happily have left us near Welwyn Garden City for a few days, to be frank.
We finally arrived home and unpacked: feeling extremely happy but also ready for bed!!! Bring on the 2019 season!!!
Also, huge well done to Adele "the AA" and Marley, who gave the 90 course far more room than necessary and coped well with terrifying conditions for such a young horse. One for the future!