After the ups and downs of Addington I took Emma and Ferro to Crofton Manor, mainly so that Ferro could jump the 1.25. Walking the Newcomers I realised how big the courses at Addington must have been, it looked very small and Emma obviously thought so to as she didn’t treat it with much respect and had her first four faults since the South of England. Ferro bagged an easy double clear in the Foxhunter and another in the 1.25. Sadly two sat nav failures in the jump-off meant it wasn’t very fast – particularly frustrating as we still didn’t get time faults so she must have been going quite fast. The following day I took Homer and Biscuit to Felbridge. Homer won his first money in the Discovery and barely breathed on a pole in the 1.05, and Biscuit felt full of confidence for double clears in the Discovery and 1.05. I have always thought she should be an eventer, and she was certainly thrilled to be jumping the 1.05 in what turned out to be a shallow pond after a downpour that actually stopped the show for 30 mins.
As it continued to rain the outlook for Hickstead looked bleaker and bleaker. I don’t know how they do it, but the office managed an amazing reshuffle of classes using the all-weather warm-up for as many as possible and Ring 4 for a few on the first day and subsequently Ring 3 for a few. This made for very long days, but easy viewing and the main arena was amazing – it actually walked firm on Wednesday morning.
One of the conditions of my job was that I couldn’t ride at the Royal International, but as Prince Torki doesn’t usually come on the Tuesday I thought I would manage to slip under the radar and get one class on each of the girls. Even setting off really early I still had to wait to be towed in, but the organisation was amazing. There was slightly more pressure than normal as Malcolm Pyrah was already present to watch the Old Lodge horses, and Emma’s warm-up technique is nothing to be proud of. Emma warmed up in her usual wild way before jumping round very well for a double clear and a low placing, and Biscuit just rolled a pole when I didn’t sit up enough in a related distance.
We were sitting watching when I got a text from Michele (in charge of absolutely everything at Old Lodge) to say the Prince was on his way. After lunch I realised that if I was going to have to confess that I still had another horse to jump in the 1.30. The Prince very kindly said I could jump her. I then asked Shane if he thought that was a good idea, the reply: “I think you’d be mad!” was not the most encouraging, but the ring is tight when the fences get bigger and I am not always to be trusted to keep going forward. I then walked the course with Malcolm who, when we got to the second fence said, “do you really think you can jump this?”, so full of confidence and under no pressure whatsoever I went and got Ferro. Admittedly by this time Shane had changed his position to “Ah kick on!” and I was actually as confident as I ever manage at this level as Ferro has been jumping very well recently.
She was a total star! We did have a bit of a helicopter jump over the big hedge fence in the jump-off, and now I am kicking myself for missing two turns, but she jumped the first double clear of the class and ended up 5th. A first placing at 1.30 for both of us, and fairly smart company too.
The rest of the week was just work, and very, very busy. The Old Lodge horses went well, there were some big Breen wins, and the Irish trounced everybody in the Nations Cup. But as always the excitement of the week builds up to the King George V Cup on Sunday, the extra excitement for all the local jumpers being Louise Pavitt and the Light’s Don VHP. Clears in the first round are hard won, so the excitement was mounting when among the nine clears were Shane on Cos I Can and Louise on Paris (Don VHP). The cheers for Louise were almost deafening in the first round, and they nearly took the roof off when she went clear again to finish 4th. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a tear in my eye.
What an amazing week, and the team at Hickstead were truly heroic against seemingly unbeatable odds. By Sunday lorries were driving on and off, the competition had been as fierce and exciting as ever, there are always good stories to be told, both in and out of the ring, and the atmosphere was friendly and sunny in spite of the weather. Some of the reasons why we all love Hickstead.