My name is Sarah, and I am feeling incredibly lucky and excited to have qualified for the Mitsubishi Cup BE100 class with Brother Bertie ( Danny). It is 44 days until Badminton, so that’s 1050 hours I have to keep us both safe and sound, yet fit and ready to do our best. Hmmm. Best not to dwell on that!
In this blog I hope to take you on our journey though the final run up – the ups and downs of trying to compete and hold down a (very) full time job.
Firstly I will introduce us both and tell you a bit about our journey to qualifying for the MM Cup.
I live in Kent with my partner Chris, Truffle the Labrador, Danny, Casper his retired friend a few sheep Danny likes to bully, and Peter the pet pigeon.
I am old ( looking at 50 fading in the rear view mirror) and fatter than I intended to be at this stage but at least just about going down, not up – due to some very dull eating habits and ignoring the well known rule that says biscuits in meetings have no calories.
I fund my Eventing habit by being Chief Executive of the Grocery Division of AB Foods, which includes brands such as Kingsmill, Pataks, Jordans and Silver Spoon ( so if you haven’t any in your cupboard please buy some!) The job means it’s hard to give Dan’s work a routine, but being the boss has its advantages – means people are too scared to ask where you are going at 4pm on a Tuesday ( answer: “ lesson with Francis Whittington”)
Danny is rising nine, 16.1 Irish sport horse. He arrived with us in the summer of 2015 and I called him Brother Bertie in memory of my eldest brother who died of cancer not long before Danny arrived. All the prize money Danny wins goes to Hannah Francis’s Willberry charity and so far I’m chuffed he has managed to donate £165.
We started our affiliated eventing career at Isleham in March last year – an ignominious start as we withdrew before the show jumping. I am properly scared of show jumping at the best of times, and it was wet and deep, so I chickened out and went home to try another day. I think it was the right thing though, as we managed to get placed a number of times throughout the season so gained a handful of qualifying results.
Our first regional final was at Firle. I spent the Saturday dressage writing for the Chairman of the Ground Jury in the 1* so thought I was in the zone (and could spell rhythm!.) unfortunately my test was spoilt by us having a disagreement about a canter transition when a car went past. Then in the SJ I forgot everything I learnt about “riding the canter” and “ let the fence come to you” so had the smallest fence in the course down. A lovely clear XC didn’t do enough to pull us up, so off we went to Goring for another try. In between we had entered the 105 at Wellington. I was 2nd to go, so a 3,30am start meant we were the second lorry in the lorry park – right next to the coffee van! A lovely test and double clear was spoilt by a large lump appearing on a hind leg after the cross country. Eek. Iced it, worried about Goring the following weekend. Delight in a win was tempered with worry. Next day, perfectly sound but still a lump. Called the vet, who came on wednesday and said he wasn’t sure but didn’t think we should run on Saturday. Eek. He took some videos and pictures and went off to confer with our normal vet (who was on FEI duty) which led to revised instructions. Do dressage and SJ. If in contention go XC. If not, don’t. Not a ringing endorsement, but off we go, me, Dan, Chris and our puppy Truffle. Chris is not particularly horsey, but is a great calming influence and a good horse holder. Dressage was going well until the Free Rein Walk. Someone crashed through a show jump just next to us, and Dan took it as his excuse to leap, jog and tense, so last bit not great. We had a long wait before our SJ times, so hacking back to lorry I thought we’d just go home( spoilt brat) As we went through the SJ warm up I asked the nice man if he was running in times or numbers-on-board. He pointed at empty collecting ring and said “we are turn up and go at the moment.” I gave myself a talking to, changed saddles and went straight over. 1 person in the collecting ring, so one canter round and one jump we went in. Jumped a lovely clear round ( just shows what I know!) Decided we should go XC… another lovely clear, bang on time. Our dressage score was announced.. 35.5. I was really disappointed, but Chris told me I was going deaf in my old age, it was actually 30.5 and I misheard. A very stressful few hours followed – I decided we had to go home as I couldn’t wait 5 hours to discover we’d missed qualifying by a place – we were showing as 10th as we left. I ranted at poor Chris in the lorry. “I wasn’t going to try and qualify again. I put too much pressure on myself, it wasn’t fun”. He kindly didn’t tell me to pull myself together and stop whining, but he did rather mildly say perhaps I should be happy we finished on our dressage score as that was normally a “good day out”. He is right, of course. Dan was a star. We were stationary on the M25 when Chris, who had been surreptitiously checking his phone for live scores, announced we’d done it and were 7th – the last qualifying score. I felt bad for the person who finished 8th who got 1 too fast time fault, such bad luck, but delighted that we made it. A friend kindly attended the prize giving and collected our rosettes. Yippee. Thankfully, because that was the end of Dan’s season, as a scan the following week showed the lump was a splint and a gentle few weeks followed.
The winter has been endured doing dressage and show jumping, with the odd beach trip to try and keep Dan sane.
But now the 2017 season has started in earnest for us.
Our first trip to Isleham wasn’t a great success. I like Isleham, but haven’t had a lot of luck there, and this year was no different. We warmed up nicely for stressage, but tensed up a bit going in to arena so ended up on 33. Over to the show jumping, where Dan asked what had happened to the lovely all weather surfaces he’d spent the winter jumping on, and he wasn’t sure about the mud.
Now instead of throwing the reins at him and kicking as I should have, I got all cautious and tried to collect him and get power. Bad move. Huge. We hit the first fence, panicked, ran into the bottom of the second and clouted that out too, and the third. This was not going well. Took a deep breath, tried to calm down and then jumped better, but the damage was done. Oh well, put it behind you, off to the cross country. Started doing the same thing in the XC warm up. Now the XC warm up in Isleham and I have history. In 2013 I had a nasty fall when my then eventer failed to take off over a tiny log, rolled on me and cracked my sternum and broke my thumb. I now have a fear of hanging logs and the Isleham collecting ring. “For heaven sake drop your hands and kick him” says my friend Sharon ( who rescued me the time I got squashed so knows perfectly well I was scared). Another deep breath. Quick lecture to myself. “Ok, come on. We do this for fun. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. Just get a grip woman”. Into the start box, “3,2,1 Good luck” we are off. Lovely ride round, with only one hairy moment when Dan slipped on a corner so climbed over a hedge, otherwise fab fab fab. Of course we do it for fun! That was amazing.
Long week at work punctuated by a lesson with Francis (“just move on and ride better next time” was his helpful advice re show jumping disasters ☺). Friday night came round again, lorry packing and horse washing in the dark ready for Twesledown and another go. Civilised times meant the horses could have an hour in the field before we left, which suits Dan. On work days they go out at 4.30am anyway so we are all used to early starts.
First attempt at a new dressage test resulted in me going wrong ( doh) but it was a pretty nice test from Dan. Shame about the pilot. Over to the Show Jumping. JUST KEEP COMING was the mantra for the day. It felt wild and out of control. The video looked nicely forward. I am going to have to get better at this. An unlucky pole but so much better than Isleham. Phew. Maybe I won’t give up quite yet.
Lovely clear XC round a long (5m40sec) and up to height track, so a good day out. Finished just outside the places but very happy it felt back on track.
It is hard to remember you don’t start the new season where you left off the old one.. it’s about finding your feet again. Its such hard work in the winter, working long hours, only seeing the horses in the dark, riding in the dark, turning out in the dark – its tough staying motivated. Now spring is on the way it’s all feeling better.
Busy week at work this week with half year reviews with my boss. Don’t tell anyone but the most important diary date of the week is “Badminton entries open”. Woohoo!!
Day off on Friday and a trip to Great Witchingham as I really need to practice show jumping on grass and there aren’t too many chances left.
Will let you all know how we get on..