Sometimes, in spite of all the careful preparation in the world, Events Conspire against you. Here are some of my least favourite personal examples of things going horribly awry before I even managed to get on a horse.
First, get to the event on time.
Don’t spend well over an hour after loading at the yard waiting for your ‘trainer’ who cba to get up – and then, due to her extreme tardiness, eventually arrive literally 10 minutes before your dressage time. (In my defence, I was a teenager, and the thought of going to an event and walking the course alone was quite terrifying!)
The lorry might not start.
The lorry might not start again once you’ve stopped and filled up with diesel. (This might be simply because you’d forgotten to push the kill-the-engine button back in again, in a moment of spectacular stupidity. I daren’t admit how long it took for a friend to get out of bed, drive to where I was stranded at the petrol station, and find this problem in the first 5 seconds.)
You might get lost en route. (more times than I care to remember.)
On pulling into the event and driving across the ridge and furrow as strictly directed, the tap on the water tank at the back might get knocked off on a ridge, emptying your water tank out completely before you’ve even parked, and sending your then-boyfriend and ‘helper’, who was driving, into a bad mood of epic proportions.
In the mythical “Days Before Mobile Phones” arrive on your own at 7am with two just-plaited horses kept at livery, so you have been up since Absolutely Mental O’Clock, to be told that it has been snowed off. (Yes, really. That was a long drive home.)
Things can only get better… At this point I must say that I have attended many hundreds of events as a competitor over the years, and usually things run perfectly – admirably, incredibly – smoothly, especially considering the complexity of the whole competition. But just sometimes, things go awry…
So, you manage to park up in good time (Yay!!! Phase A of Modern Eventing completed) and toddle off to the Secretary’s. You remember your purse to pay for the customary Daylight Robbery to get your mitts on your number. What can possibly go wrong…? (This happened to me, at a B.E. event. You really couldn’t make it up.)
Secretary/Number-Hander-Outer: “Oh, number XXX…” rifles through pile of numbers, “someone’s already collected your number.”
Me: “No, they can’t have, I’m here on my own.”
S/NHO: “Yes, they have. It’s not here.”
Me: “Nobody has collected my number. Honestly.”
S/NHO: “The owner?”
Me: “No, she’s 200 miles away and definitely not coming today.”
S/NHO: “Your groom?”
Me: “No, I’m here on my own.”
S/NHO; “Your mother?” (Bearing in mind I’m the other side of 40, so I don’t tend to send my mother to get my number any more… and anyway, she’s usually too busy finding the nicest coffee available… but she wasn’t there that day anyway!)
Me: “No…” I switch, in desperation, to Very Slow and Polite Mode, “Sorry, but I… really… am… here… on… my… own. Honestly. Nobody else can possibly have collected my number.”
S/NHO: (still determined to pass the blame and obviously Not Hearing Me) “A friend?”
Me: “No. Nobody. It has to be here.”
They look again, painstakingly. It’s clearly not there.
S/NHO looks totally bewildered. Long pause. I am starting to wonder if I am on Candid Camera.
Me: “Erm, is there a chance you could have given it to someone else?”
S/NHO (decisively): “No. Definitely not.”
Me: “Please may I have a look at the list?”
Sure enough, the number below mine has been drawn through with highlighter, in the time-honoured tradition, but it is still in the stack of numbers.
Me: “So, you gave _________________ (fairly well-known J/YR rider) my number by mistake.”
S/NHO: “Ah… yes… ummm… well… ummm… she collected lots of numbers all at the same time so it was a bit confusing… She’s riding loads of horses today.”
Me: *thinks – oh, how nice for her.*
S/NHO: “Do you know her?”
Me: “No. She lives at the other end of the country to me. I wouldn’t recognise her if she walked into me.”
S/NHO: “Oh.” There is a long pause. “Do you know what her lorry looks like?”
Me: “No, sorry, I don’t. No idea at all.” (This was the truth. If I had even known what flipping colour it was I would have gone and rushed around to find it and try get this mess sorted out asap, although knowing my luck she’d be off walking the course with my number locked in the lorry, or something.) “Do you?”
S/NHO: “No. Umm…” Another long pause. “Would you like to go and find her in the lorry park and swap the numbers over?”
This is the point where I got a teensy bit terse. I hope I can be forgiven. I am normally the epitome of politeness to all volunteers. I have been on the other side of the desk (having gotten up at Ungodly O’Clock to do 5 horses then drive for over an hour to sit behind a desk in the cold at 7.30am, handing out numbers to surly half-awake riders, some of whom don’t even bother to say thank you), but on this occasion I hope you’ll understand why I explained through slightly gritted teeth that since I now had less than an hour till my dressage, I really needed to go and get myself and the horse ready, because I was there on my own (as previously stated, I know, sorry), and that since it wasn’t my mistake that led to another rider being given my numbers, I really couldn’t see why I should go and hunt round the huge lorry park for a horsebox I didn’t know and a person I wouldn’t recognise. (Now I finally see the usefulness of everyone having their name on their lorry, it’s not just so your friends know which one to pour you back into at 3-days…)
I asked if they could make me a number with the right numerals on it, with an unused number and a black marker pen, just to use for the dressage. When volunteering, I have seen this done before at events, in extremis.
This suggestion was greeted with utter horror. NO!!! Because then there would be two of us riding around with the same number on!!! I thought it could be explained at the dressage, I could tell the judge before my test and then it could all be sorted out afterwards. Apparently not… this was heresy.
I then suggested asking over the tannoy for the number to be brought back and swapped. This was apparently a stroke of pure genius. I should have received a Nobel Prize for it. 😉 😉
I was told to go and get ready, to go down to the dressage and warm up, and someone would bring my number to me down there. Super. Perfect solution. Yay! Thank you.
Except of course I then had to keep an eye out for whoever they sent the whole time I was warming up, but I had no idea who it would be – someone with a number in their hands, looking hassled. There are a few of those! Someone finally turned up 5 minutes before my test, and I had to get off, put the numbers in the number bib, and then ask for a leg-up, which was given very begrudgingly (and no, I am honestly not that fat and heavy looking!) This wasn’t exactly my idea of the perfect last few minutes before going in to do dressage, but hey ho. Could have been worse… the day improved quite a bit from that point onwards!
Oh, worse you say? Okay. Again, you couldn’t make it up.
Manage to arrive a little early. Yay! Go to get number. This is at a big show centre where I have competed countless times over the last couple of decades and know the owner/organiser. The Secretary says that I can’t have my number as I have not paid for my entry yet, and, she says darkly, they have this all the time, people promise to pay later and don’t. She eyes me as if I am one of these people.
Rather affronted, because
a. I have already paid, definitely
b. I am absolutely NOT that kind of person, thankyouverymuch, and
c. the owner should vouch for me anyway, I hope
I ask the Secretary to call her over.
The owner glances at me, says “Hi, Kerry”, glances at the list and says “You haven’t paid.”
Yes, I have. There’s now a queue of about 25 people behind me waiting to get their numbers, eyeing me as if I’m the stupid woman at the supermarket who suddenly realises she’s left her purse at home and holds everyone up for ages.
I step aside to let all the lucky people get their numbers and carry on with their days, and call up my Barclaycard statement on my iPhone (whoohoo, get me, I even remembered my password for once), and the payment is listed as having gone through. I show the owner. She goes off to get more lists, returns, checks the paperwork and continues to deny receiving the payment. I entered late and paid over the phone, so it’s not a normal bdwp transaction, but I have definitely already paid. Her records don’t agree.
Time is ticking away… I had allowed about 40 minutes to get my numbers, stud up, tack up, prettify my mare a bit, change my clothes, and get on…
Eventually we come to a compromise: I will go and do my dressage and come back before my SJ (even though I only have about a 50 minute gap) and sort it out.
I end up with less than 10 minutes to warm up for dressage, on a first timer. Great, just what we both needed. Little mare excels herself with a good dressage which the judge likes a lot, but I can’t help wondering how great it might have been if I’d actually had time to get her going properly first!
When I go back before SJ they still haven’t sorted it out. More time wasted at loggerheads. I am NOT paying again, I know I have already paid!
I finally go back after my XC.
The owner of the place now HAS finally found evidence that my payment had gone through. The person who took the payment had put it on the wrong page. 100% not my fault. Sigh. Another day far more fraught than it needed to be.
The moral of these stories is simple – allow an extra half an hour at least (I like to allow an hour spare) for such Acts of Random Impossibleness. Then no matter what happens you should still have time for a nice chilled warm-up. If everything goes swimmingly you can use that extra time to have a coffee, chat to friends, watch a few SJ, maybe get to walk the SJ course if there’s a gap, arrange your kit in painstakingly perfect order, do a mental run-through of your test (getting 10s for every movement), that sort of thing. Okay, it’s less time in bed that morning, but other than that it’s Win/win, whatever happens….