Apologies for the rather hackneyed title, but after the experiences of Oasby this weekend nothing but Flanders and Swann’s finest would fit the bill!
Work’s gradually starting to build up now. We’re starting the equine branch of the practice from scratch so were inevitably quiet in the beginning. Most of the work at the moment is vaccinations – great for getting out, shaking hands and meeting people, but I’m beginning to wonder whether the equine inhabitants of North Notts are all fed some particularly miraculous health tonic! In a quiet moment I was fascinated to watch one of my zoo vet colleagues castrating a wallaby, but I was nearly thrown out for asking whether they’d be using an anaesthetic or whether they were just going to ‘tie their kangaroo down, sport’! Oh how they nearly laughed!
After our lovely run over the big fences at Osberton I managed to get my BE100Open entry exchanged for a Novice one (and a bill for the difference in entry fee). So in a fit of gloom after the rain set in on Friday morning I set about cleaning my kit and packing up to compete a day earlier than expected. I had wondered whether there was any point to cleaning my tack at all, but even I have standards!
It was lovely to be facing an hour’s drive, rather than the three hour trek to Oasby that I usually undertake. It was even lovelier to be one of the very few to drive in under my own steam. I was very proud of my car. Even more so when one of the Olympic medallists in the lorry behind me said they’d watched on in awe. Get me! I only wish they’d made the comment about my riding, not my driving!
You’ll have heard how muddy it was. Very. Not a blade of grass to be seen in the lorry park. Or the warm-up areas. Amazingly the actual competing areas weren’t too bad and the XC course was surprisingly good. If it hadn’t still been relentlessly raining I might even have felt quite cheery.
It’s certainly the first time I’ve had to clean mud off my bridle after the dressage. I don’t usually credit Fugly with much of a brain, but our route to the newly-relocated dressage took us through the site of the old XC start box and I swear he knew that was where he was as his big ears pricked up, his stride lengthened and he gazed into the distance to where the first XC fence used to be. We managed to avoid the Pony Trial competitors in the warm-up – running down a potential team pony could be quite hard to explain. Mind you I wouldn’t have minded running down some of the mothers. Either that or buying them radio headsets. All those shouts of ‘MORE leg, Peregrine’ can get quite off-putting! I chose not to work the sparkle out of Fugly’s toes, correctly reasoning that he’d need every ounce of energy for the jumping phases to come, and we had a rather sprightly test. Better than the last one, but professional help still very much required!
In the show-jumping warm-up I couldn’t decide between trying to get him to really operate out of the mud, or just making the best of a bad job so I went for the latter. The decision was pretty much taken out of my hands anyway as the practice fences were bigger than those I’d jump in normal circumstances, never mind the mud and rain that were insinuating themselves over every inch of the horse and myself. So two cross-poles, a 2’6 upright and we went in. It was a really nice round. I saw a lot of strides. Some short, some long, others even longer but they were all strides. The hunting pace I’d adopted paid off and we so nearly jumped clear, just tipping the second last upright.
The usual quick change, Tail taped up (I hate tails swishing in the mud) we set off for the XC which I’d thought was big enough, but not overly technical. There were a couple of big square boxes with very upright fronts that would take careful riding and a couple of ‘hedges’ that hadn’t quite reached adulthood yet leaving the solid telegraph poles within a little too exposed for my liking. I took care with the first fence, an upright palisade, as it wasn’t the usual forgiving roll-top or brush. Unfortunately I forgot to let the handbrake off for the big pheasant feeder at the second, couldn’t see a stride, held and held and held hoping that one would appear until finally we found ourselves at the base of the fence with nowhere to go. Doh! Turned round, three strides and over and once I’d mentally slapped myself, hard, we sailed round the rest. No need for speed after that stupid jockey error but a nice solid round.
Washing off took longer than the drive there. Everything, including the dogs, had to be cleaned before it was packed away. My washing machine is NOT happy with me, however hard I tried to leave all the mud behind. The tractor driver who came to pull me out remembered me driving in and said they’d all been amazed that I’d managed so he got a good tip, and soon we were back on the road, leaving a thick trail of Oasby topsoil down the tarmac in our wake.
Not my finest run ever but I always do something stooopid at Oasby. Last year I fell off one horse and had two stops on another so I’m chalking this one up as a comparative success. I’m very grateful to the organisers for running and to all the volunteers and fellow competitors for keeping smiling and keepin’ on trucking. It really was so wet and cold and muddy that I think if one person had let the facade fall and said ‘actually it’s a bit miserable’ then the whole illusion would have crumbled and we would have ended up sitting in the mud in a quiet corner gently rocking and sucking our thumbs. As it was the smiles kept everyone going and we all got the runs that we needed.
Jerry was supposed to be at an unaffiliated event the next day and there was no-one more pleased than me (possibly with the exception of Jerry himself) that it was cancelled. Being tough for two days in a row might just have been beyond me!
So it’s back to the dressage drawing-board once again for Fugly. His next outing is Draycott whilst Jerry is at the mercy of the Stafford ballot. Wish us luck!