The last month has been as full of first time experiences for both myself and the horses.
First things first (keeping with the theme of the blog there), I would like to take a moment to introduce you to another four-legged team mate called Hugo, AKA Baby Hugo AKA Hugo a Go Go. Hugo is out of my first event horse Whizz of Bellhouse who took me from BE90 up to CIC*; This makes Hugo a very special young chap with big boots to fill.
I had never had a foal before so that was the first first in this whole situation. I have also never broken a horse in, so I left this to the professionals in the very capable hands of Andrew Downes; and a wise decision as he did a fabulous job with him as he was a rather nervous nelly when he arrived at Andrews.
After a winter off to recover from no longer being a field ornament like he had been used to for so long, he came to Arley to join the rest of the team and start his life as a big boy. April was about getting started again and, apart from the giant sliding door to the indoor, he found his brave pants and took it all in his stride. He was now thinking ridden life was a doddle so we decided to throw him a few curve balls. The big first for him this month was jumping his first ever jump; We had minimal drama and he proved to be braver than I expected, bonus!!
The only logical thing to do now was take him to Richard Carruthers for his first jumping lesson. For the most part this went quite well, there was no major dramatics warming him up and we popped over a couple of cross poles without incident. “Just come around and pop the barrels”, Richard is the master of making things sound so very simple. It wasn’t simple. Hugo was sceptical about the strange shiny round metal things and couldn’t understand why he would need to go over the top of them. He considered his options and then contemplated jumping and just as he stepped forward to jump them one of the barrels BIT HIM (video on AC Eventing Facebook page if you want a giggle). It would be boring if it was easy right? After a bit more persuasion he launched over them taking no chances on getting bitten again. First jumping lesson completed.
For his 4th birthday we surprised him with his first trip round Somerford Park farm ride (not quite the kind of surprise he was hoping for). Zena and Diddy lead us round the farm ride, and Diddy showed Hugo how it was done. By the end of the ride we had conquered water, steps and ditches and he was going so well I had to keep myself from following Zena over the big jumps. Everything crossed that he may turn out as brave as his mum!
I experienced going to Badminton Horse Trails for the first time (on foot obviously, Goldie and I decided we just hadn’t had enough runs yet this season but there is always next year). It was amazing weather and just such an incredible experience to see so many of my childhood heroes up close. Watching it on TV definitely does not do justice to the size of those jumps!! I took plenty of videos to show Goldie in preparation for our first BE90 run at Somerford.
The week of Somerford rolled around and armed with my badminton inspiration I was raring to go. Goldie and I had a cross country training clinic and the firsts really rolled out; We managed to end up in the big group for the first time, with people who actually do know what they are doing so we did our best pretending act that we belonged. Pretending was going exceptionally well, that’s not to say Goldie wasn’t his usual sassy self and was constantly remining me that with his new-found confidence he was a strong independent horse that doesn’t need my help; that was until we met a jump in the water. A jump in water is a first for us, Goldie couldn’t quite work out why I kept pointing him at it when we clearly should just go around it. He eventually decided to stop pretending he knows best and get with the programme for a moment, but he wasn’t going to take any chances jumping into the unknown, so he leaped 20 foot into the air (give or take a few foot) over the fence and almost knocked me out on landing when I fell headfirst on his neck. Luckily as no water gremlins had attempted to snap at his ankles when he jumped the fence it was a bit less OTT the second time. As we came to the end of the session, when any normal horse would now be a bit tired and a bit more sensible, Goldie decided after the water incident he needed to be a bit more careful about life. He decided to have a spooky moment in-between jumps and I was taking a zero tolerance policy on this and gave him a smack on the bottom, his response was a swift buck to tell me if I didn’t like the ride he was conducting I was welcome to get off. And there it was, my first time falling off cross country schooling. On the plus side was Goldie gave himself a good bit of fitness training by galloping off as fast as he could to the other side of the field and with only my pride wounded I got back on and we jumped well to finish.
The final first. Our first BE90.
After a week of Goldie reminding me why he is king of all things sassy I wasn’t overly positive about him keeping the sass to a minimum. I wrestled his plaits in while he refused to stand still for more than a minute because he is just too fabulous to be touched *queue hair flick* and off we went.
He had a morning of standing on the wagon ahead of him while his little brother Arley’s Eros (Spyder) completed his first event doing the BE80 with Ally. Goldie must have had a team talk with him about keeping a close look out for jump gremlins as Spyder made Ally work hard in jumping disciplines, but they completed with just one blip on the cross country which took them out of the running for a rosette. A very promising and educational run for Spyder.
Then it was our turn. Studs were in, toes were still attached, sass was contained. Off to dressage we popped. A change in the ground on the walk to dressage almost saw us heading back home as Goldie refused to step over what was essentially a wooden pole onto a sandy surface; this was practically jumping in his eyes and we were wearing a dressage saddle how could I expect him to just walk over it in these conditions?! With a hop skip and a jump we made it to the other side and into stressage warm up. We were met by a friendly face as one of our training buddies was volunteering for the day, I would just like to say a quick thank you to all the people who give up their day to help at these events and make it possible.
Bond Girl (Gina) and Ally had just finished their test and were heading back to the wagon without Goldie, so it took a bit of gentle persuasion (I learned my lesson when I was sat on the floor earlier in the week) to get his attention and focus on the job in hand. The beautiful sunshine we have had meant the going was a little firm, you just can’t win when it comes to weather, and Goldie felt a little stompy in the test, but we managed to pull a 28 out of the bag so it could have been worse.
A couple of hours rest on the wagon and then it was onto show jumping. Goldie was on fire, he flew round the jumps. He was so keen that the most challenging part was managing to turn to the fences because he was off on such a mission. With a good dressage and a clear show jumping the pressure was on.
A quick outfit change and we were off to cross country with a feisty Gina in tow. When I saw the course pictures online I thought “yeah we’ve got this” but when I was out walking it the thoughts were more “well that’s quite big/that’s quite spooky”. We jumped the warm up fence twice the height required, which made sure I was sitting tight. We let Ally and Gina go first, because they wanted to get going, not because I thought if Goldie watched Gina gallop off he might be more inclined to follow…..
My biggest worry was fence 2 jumping into the darkness of the woods, if we could make it over this one we had a good chance round the rest.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO…….. we skipped over the first and then we could see the dreaded second jump, Goldie backed himself right off and I just sat in behind him with my legs actually on and working for a change and let him have a good look; we sprung over it and we were away. Then all I had to do was not fall off in-between jumps while Goldie jumped out of the way of any potential gremlins. I opted for no stop watch this time as I have no skill there and we just went for it. Double clear in the time to finish on 28 and scoop up 5th place. Not too shabby for our first BE90, onwards and upwards, hopefully we can manage to get some Regional Final qualifications now ?
Abi Clare- Saddles Select of York Brand Ambassador
Pictures: Diddy and Hugo in the River
Hugo doing interpretive dance when the jump bit him
Goldie flying round Somerford