Someone wise once said: ‘The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.’ As a seasoned equestrian I would like to add a third; ‘No matter how well laid the plans, the road ahead is never straight.’
Earlier this year I was privileged to be asked to join the EWW supported rider scheme. It came with the perhaps spurious honour of writing a monthly blog. As someone who has always shied away from writing public blogs, you will dear readers hopefully bear with me, as I flounder through the early days of blog writing, until I perhaps one day produce something you wish to read. It goes without saying that I had hoped to fill these posts with tales of glory and success. As you may have ascertained from my opening gambit this is however not in reality how events have turned out this month. More of that later …
This month began for us like most others with super fit and well horses that were fresh and unbelievably given that it was May, still waiting to start their eventing season, after an extremely wet, long and testing winter.
At this point I should probably introduce my horses. As a family we have for a great many years been breeders, initially of pointers, and latterly eventers. There are few greater pleasures in life than breeding, producing and riding your own horses in competition. Of the 6 I have to compete this season, two are homebred, and are full brother and sister. These are Globemaster a 7 year old by Jumbo, and his sister Starliner, who is 5. When we breed we try to have a theme behind their names. All of this family are named after aeroplanes. These two have a very large older brother, who is too large and too strong for me, and so is ridden by Jonty Evans. Alongside these I have the lovely Sandro IX, a 12 yr old who came to me in unfortunate circumstances having had an extremely tough time, and with a severe neck injury. He arrived with no expectations and continues to delight us all with everything he gives and how hard he tries. Furthermore he just happens to have the most loving and affectionate nature and in consequence has become the most incredible friend and almost like a pet. It would be possible to have him live in the house. In addition to these is the ever charming Alvescot Magic Jewel, Be Mighty a beautiful mare who is a very late starter to being ridden, let alone competing and the feisty, tough ex-racehorse Isla Mayfly.
Sandro IX was lucky enough to run in April at one of my most favourite events Belton. After some months on the sidelines which meant that he hadn’t been to an event since June last year, he was super excited to be out. Stuart, Anna and the BEDE team did an incredible job to lay on the event, and we were both delighted to have a fun, if rather fresh and excitable outing. With Jonty winning his Intermediate with Dreamer I left Belton having had a very fun day and feeling like things might finally be getting going.
Then the heavens opened again! Unsurprisingly Moreton was cancelled but amazingly Badminton took place, and so my pupils in the grassroots championships had even more of my time than would initially have been possible. Being at the MMC at Badminton with riders with whom you have been working with for a long time is a special honour. Both riders learnt lots, had a good time, but sadly silly errors kept them out of the placings. Hugh Nichols did particularly well having not been able to have a practice run at all this year, due to all the cancellations. Sadly his 21 year old mare decided that the mud was just too much. This was her last run and she is now being retired. Lottie Hutton stormed round the cross country had the Ride of her life and is already working hard on returning next year. Well done to Hugh and Lottie! Having more time meant I also got to take some friends on a course walk around the Four star and explain how to jump the fences. It is always an amusement to see people coo at just how large the fences really are. I also got a chance to do some much needed shopping. Shopping is my least favourite past time, and I now find nearly all my shopping is done at events, on a strictly needs only basis. I was especially delighted when Dubarry kindly looked at my well polished and cared for boots that nonetheless had a crack across the foot and kindly agreed to replace them for free. In an increasingly challenging and competitive world companies with good customer service are frequently hard to come by, and I will definitely be recommending and using them in the future.
I have always tried to give my young horses as much of an all round education. This includes showing them wherever possible. At big County shows young horses are exposed to so much more than they are at lower level events. So with this in mind I headed off to my favourite horse show, Royal Windsor. I took Sandro along for the ride and jumped him in the Foxhunter class. Jumping in the main arena at Windsor has always been a personal aim. He jumped beautifully, relished the atmosphere and loved the surface. Unfortunately an annoying rail, which was entirely my fault, kept us out of the placings. Then it was Star’s turn in the Flat Ridden Sport Horse class. She found the atmosphere initially very exciting, she did have to warm up alongside the entire Kings Troop Mounted display team. She then settled to produce a calm and obedient show, and to strip well. We were honoured to have HM The Queen in full attendance as she too had a horse in the class. This provided a wonderful photo opportunity, the like of which may not happen again, and gave me the chance to give my mother who bred Star and had her birthday two days later, a truly memorable photo.
The following day saw a quick turnaround for Aston. Unbelievably having jumped so well the day before Sandro and I had a very surprising altercation in the showjumping and so our day frustratingly ended there. Be Mighty proved a valuable pick me up and did her first Novice with aplomb, doing her best dressage test yet, showjumped well and was unlucky to have two down and then floated around the cross country. The following day a return trip to Aston saw Isla Mayfly delighted to be out and eventing finally, with a fresh dressage and jumping and another superlative cross country round.
Then it was off to Mount Ballan with 3, and things took a slightly unexpected turn. The first half of a our jumping round was going superbly and then a slow reaction on my part whilst riding a green horse saw us having a bad jump. The new ruling meant I tried my hardest to stay on, which probably made matters worse, and instead I did what I have always tried to avoid doing and came off straight legged and broke my left leg in the process. My sincere apologies to everyone who got delayed by my mistake. It’s embarrassing enough doing something like that, but even worse when you know you’ve held everyone else up as well. The Mount Ballan team were incredible, charming, organised, efficient and extremely caring and I am extremely grateful for all their support and assistance in handling matters as well as they did. My particular thanks must go to Doctor Susannah whose experience enabled me not only have superb on site care but also to end up at the correct hospital. From Mount Ballan I was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where I received absolutely first class care. It goes almost without saying that at times like this it truly makes me appreciate our amazing NHS, and our outstanding nurses and doctors. I was lucky to have it operated on the following day and to be able to come home the day after. I must also say an incredible thank you to Annabel Pope who did a superb unflappable job sorting out the horses and ensuring they returned home safe and sound, and to my parents who are now kindly looking after the horses at present whilst I hop around.
I am aiming to be back on as soon as possible. In the meantime I am busy teaching and actually enjoying having some downtime to catch up with friends. A life with horses is so all encompassing and full on, so being able to spend a bank holiday weekend with loyal and supportive friends, going to Giffords Circus is an alternative pleasure.