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Hedging My Bets 2 – The Journey Begins

Tatou SW

Big news this time – The Hedging Our Bets Syndicate has become a reality. We have received support in our quest from the companies below (plus a couple who wish to remain anonymous). I can’t promise much more than some publicity for anyone involved, plus the rosy glow of knowing you are helping a clueless amateur have a go at something crazy, and a bloody good picnic when we eventually do get to the start line, but if anyone else wishes to get involved, either publicly or anonymously, please get in touch. Every little helps! Alcohol-producing companies will be given preferential rates…

Firstly we have www.weezylambdesign.co.uk – a great little graphic design company for all your word art, photo editing, website and business needs.

Secondly www.pcracewear.ie are keeping us warm and dry this winter with some fab clothing. I have always been a fan of their waterproofs – anything designed for jockeys in Ireland has got to be pretty functional – but there are lots of other options now. Take a look – it’s great kit. Some tried and tested reports will follow shortly.

So, with the arrival of Tatou, racehorse extraordinaire, my mid-life crisis fantasy suddenly became a cold hard reality. As I tucked him up for the first time in his deep straw bed I cast a critical eye over the horse I’d agreed to buy after trying him for 2hrs out hunting, without so much as jumping a stick, and wondered what the hell I’d done. I am well known for my lax approach to horse buying – for a vet I am scarily laid back. No second viewings or ‘can I try him over some XC fences please?’ for me. I stick to the bare minimum. Head – check; four legs – check; standing the right way up – check. Then I use my considerable Scottish-born, Yorkshire-married bargaining skills to knock the price down to roughly the value of the spare change in my pocket, and we’re good to go.

Tatou RF jumpStill completely unaware of whether the great white (bay) hope could jump at all, let alone jump a decent hedge, I took my usual highly planned and prepared route and plaited him up for a trip out with our local bloodhound pack the very next day. I can’t deny it, I did approach the first fence with a little trepidation. Unfortunately the occasion of our first momentous take-off was postponed as I’d broken my cardinal rule of hunting (get up the Fieldmaster’s behind, glue yourself to him (or occasionally her) like a limpet, and stay there until it’s time to go home). So pleased was I to be out and about, and so thrilled when random strangers came up to admire my new purchase, that I’d missed my usual spot with the thrusters, and a measly fraction of a second’s lapse (I blame the port) left me way back down the field with the will-I-won’t-I jumpers. I will need to be considerably sharper when (if) we get to the start line of our first race! Consequently when the both the all-the-gear-no-idea horses in front of me simultaneously slammed the brakes on at the piddly rail away from the meet I’d left it too late to take evasive action and ended up as the bottom slice in a three horse sandwich. An inglorious beginning. A scowl, a quick circle, and a cat leap later Tatou and I had cleared our first hurdle. Nul points for style, but no-one ever won a race on style. Just ask Denman…

So, on our first outing together Tatou and I jumped around 40 fences. I had some form of influence over stride/approach speed/take off point at approximately zero of those 40. Somehow I seem to press a hidden turbo button about 4 strides out, a rocket sets off under me, the four strides become three, he takes off, we go into orbit, my head briefly glances off the moon, and we land at warp speed somewhere in the next county.

Tatou RFWe have now had four days out in the fortnight that I’ve owned him, with four different packs and have probably jumped 100 fences. Nothing has changed. He’s sweet as a nut at the meet, walks or trots on a loose rein during the boring bits, but once a fence is in his sights the turbo fires up and it’s like sitting in a drag racing car when the flag drops. I have resolved to drink more, and leave him to it. This plan of action was confirmed yesterday, when he tried to go on a Cheltenham stride at a downhill hedge. I, rashly, disagreed and tried to wrestle another stride in before take-off and the result was a fat lip and a rather large hole in one of Nottinghamshire’s fine hedges. However in jumping terms we fulfilled the criteria as we a) got from one side to the other, b) remained the right way up and c) the jockey stayed in the plate. Like I said before, there are no points for style! I will definitely leave all decisions to the professional in future. The professional racehorse in question was still muttering something under his breath about ‘bloody amateurs’ when I mucked him out this morning, nearly 24 hours later.

So the plan is to keep up the hunting, seek out some big hedge days and probably take him to the gallops for a school over some chase fences. That would be for the purposes of schooling me, not him, obviously. And should anyone happen to know where the turbo switch on a 2004 model French TB is located, please drop me a line. The professional would be very grateful.

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