The drought has been followed by a monsoon! Having jumped on slightly firm ground on Good Friday, by Easter Monday we were shivering and slipping about in the mud in a downpour. On Wednesday we had the most amazing hail and thunderstorm, which covered everything in a thick layer of ice and destroyed every bloom in the garden.
On Saturday I took Biscuit and Emma to Felbridge where they both jumped good double clears in the 1.05, I didn’t hurry them, so no prizes. They both jumped well in the first round of the Newcomers, and although Biscuit had the first fence in the jump-off, Emma was 4th, her first Newcomers placing, and a really good result for a five year old in a pretty strong class.
I had recorded the Grand National and we managed to get home without hearing the result so were able to watch the dramas unfold. I was thrilled for Neptune Collonges and his connections. He is one of my favourite national hunt horses, is a brilliant jumper and always runs such a courageous race, and has been the bridesmaid so many times. However, one cannot fail to be devastated at the deaths of Synchronised and According to Pete, nor to have an opinion on why these things happen. For what it’s worth: I think that 40 horses charging down to the first fence may be too many; and that the lowering of Bechers and the easing of the drop have led to too many jockeys taking what used to be “the brave man’s route” down the inside which, together with the turn after the fence, leads to congestion which easily turns to disaster for those behind a horse who pecks or falls.
On Sunday we went to lunch with my Uncle Jeremy, along with my youngest brother, David, and his family. Jeremy is the sole survivor of my mother’s family and lives where they all grew up. It was lovely to see my cousins (Alexandra, Benjamin and Camilla) and meet Alexandra’s beautiful toddler, Henrietta. However, lunch was not uneventful as David’s three chidlren, Isla, Flo and Harry went off to play in the garden and Isla managed to pull a statue over onto her foot. Mark, David and Benjamin resurrected the statue with “helpful” directions from Uncle Jeremy before taking Isla to A&E in Basingstoke. Luckily the foot isn’t broken and even more luckily the statue didn’t land on her head!
After Felbridge I decided that Biscuit and Emma needed more schooling than competing and so at the end of the week I took Ferro on her own to Crofton Manor to jump a couple of bigger classes. Although she jumped really well she rolled a pole on the first fence in both classes, making it a rather expensive day! A weekend without competing meant that Mark and I were able to go to the second Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent Point-to-Point on the Saturday, where we saw lots of friends and some very exciting racing.
When I texted Shane on at 8.30 on Monday morning to ask when I could have a lesson the answer was “this morning”. So I rushed round, no time for scraping off mud, and hopefully shoved them all in the lorry. My biggest priority is always Ferro as she has to jump much bigger which makes her very vulnerable to my mistakes, so I hopped on her first and rode up to the big warm-up school, hoping I was roughly in the right place at the right time. There was Shane riding the beautiful and talented Balloon, and wonderful Natty to bravely put up the jumps in the pouring rain. It was over a month since my last lesson and as always my bad old habits had crept back. It is usually when I am having a bit of success that I actually need most putting right. My worst offences are that I lean forward and pull my hands into my body; resulting in not having the horses in front of my leg so that I can’t always go on the first stride I see – i.e. the forward one. Ferro jumped beautifully, one of the great advantages of the big school is being able to jump a proper course, with related distances, dog-legs and combinations – all the things that used to derail me. Once Shane had put Balloon away and got into some serious waterproofs, he also helped me with Biscuit and Emma. Applying the same principles: sitting back so I can keep the horses up in front of the leg, meant that I could both control them and see the forward stride much more easily. By the time we finished I was absolutely soaked. My ancient waterproof coat had totally failed to cope. I started riding at 10.30 and got in the lorry to go home at 2.30 – a lot of rain had fallen on me. I think we were all exhausted, but now I have several week’s worth of home-work to practice to try and make my default habits the good ones rather than the bad ones. Only two weeks now until Windsor – our first big outing of the year.
The saddest news of this week has been the loss of the Light family’s Unbelievable Darco (Fred) who succumbed to colic on Monday morning. The many triumphs of this charming horse, especially latterly with Louise Pavitt, have been great to watch, and he will be very sadly missed.
Having got quite so wet on Monday I wasn’t really sorry to spend a day in the dry doing my induction for a new job today: a support worker in a residential home for young adults with Autism and Aspergers. A very different day which I was very nervous about. Having spent two years working in research into the neuroscience behind Autism and ADHD it will be really fascinating to be seeing Autism from the outside in, rather from the inside out. I think the day went OK and so I am now looking forward to my first shift as a member of the bank staff. I have also been doing some academic coaching in the evenings which is very different from anything I have done before. Very enjoyable and hopefully will prove helpful. Actually it’s going to be a busy week as I am doing a day at my old job on Friday, trying to finally do the statistics from our study and force myself to finish writing my paper for publication!
I have also spent the past 10 days following Claire Lomas’ preparation to walk the marathon in “the wrong trousers” and since Sunday her progress with her walk. Claire was a very successful event rider and broke her back five years ago when her horse swerved while going cross-country and threw her into a tree. Her life was changed forever in a split second and her bravery and determination are the most amazing inspiration. Claire is fundraising for Spinal Research, so if you haven’t already sponsored her the link is http://www.justgiving.com/Claire-Lomas.