On May 15, 2013 by Sarah Lewis
Windsor is the show of early starts, and this year was no exception. I crept out of bed at 3am on Wednesday morning to get the horses ready and finish packing up to leave by 5am so that I could guarantee walking the course before the Foxhunter started at 7am. Emma and Biscuit were actually in the second Foxhunter class starting at 10.00 so getting there early gave me time to settle them into their stables and get all my stuff organised before I needed to get Emma ready. Luckily Windsor provide lots of help with moving everything as it is quite a trek from the lorry park to the stables, and the stables were the same incredibly smart ones that were used at the Olympics.
I was 4th to go on Emma and as I came round to the first fence she dropped the bridle completely and ground to a very uncharacteristic halt. I rode her very strongly the second time and she jumped a lovely, but very green round. When I showed Biscuit the first fence I could see that the position of the fence made it look as if there was nowhere to land. I rode Biscuit, who perversely wasn’t at all spooky, ”faster than they went to first fence in the National” (direct quote from Malcolm Pyrah!) with the effect that she had the first two fences down, and then jumped really well, if rather strongly. I then rode Ferro in the 1.30 B&C which was a lovely course, but I think we were both rather out of practice at the level and we had a few down – once again I think I was probably guilty of over-riding. My step-mother, Zandra, and her lovely friend David Brooks came to watch, and undertake a little bit of retail therapy. Supporters make all the difference and Zandra is brilliant at saying I did it beautifully even when I really know I didn’t.
Map reading has never been one of my strongest points so my B&B, Alma House, was a bit further away than I had anticipated. Luckily Malcolm was staying there as well, so he was able to direct me in, or I might still be cycling in the general direction of Maidenhead. I was certainly ready for a lovely hot shower and a most delicious dinner at La Taverna. I cycled back to the showground bright and early the next morning to walk the course and ride Emma in the six year olds. The course was strong enough and in the Frogmore Arena which is much smaller with a very restricted warm-up. Apart from being a bit green to the second fence Emma jumped a very good first round. The course then went up quite a lot for the second round which she jumped absolutely beautifully and was very let down by me – who just let her get a shade too close to the first part of the last double – I was so angry with myself as she definitely deserved to be first equal.
Ferro jumped better in Friday’s B&C which seemed a fair bit bigger than Wednesday’s and I then packed up and drove home as I wasn’t jumping on Saturday. It was lovely to be able to turn the horses out for a couple of hours at home, and to see Anna & Sophie who came home for the weekend. Especially as we were able to celebrate the fact that Sophie has just been offered a very exciting new job. Saturday was a complete contrast as we spent the afternoon buying Ascot outfits for the girls – a mission accomplished with a minimum amount of tension!Neither Biscuit or Ferro jumped on Thursday so I worked them both in a free warm-up area and hacked them round the showground. With the Shetland Grand National, the Hunt Relay and several driving competitions this was a pretty hazardous undertaking, with Biscuit behaving very well and Ferro finding it all too much.
It was a 3.15 start on Sunday to take Ferro back for the B&C Championship. The course was easily the biggest of the week, but I do feel quite calm about these courses now. Jo Marsh-Smith, who has given me so much help in my riding career, came to watch, and helped me with the warm-up which was wonderful. Ferro was a superstar, forgiving me a dreadful mistake at the 3rd fence, and very excitingly we found ourselves in the jump-off section where she just touched a back pole but still finished 13th out of 40 starters. I watched a little bit of the Nursery Stakes and then the Speed Class with Jo and then drove my lovely girl home so she could spend the afternoon in the field, and I could turn myself round and have a very quick nap before driving to London to watch Jack Dee at the Hammersmith Apollo with my brother Andy, his wife Caroline and Anna. Laughing makes you feel so good, my face really ached by the end of the evening – hopefully really good exercise for the double chins.
Although absolutely no prize money was gained from Windsor it was a really enjoyable week. I have produced all three horses from the beginning and they all jumped really well, the main arena is a real privilege to ride in, and it is not often that I have Nick Skelton in every single class I compete in. I have just got to learn to ride better on the big occasion, but hopefully slow progress is being made and I am really looking forward to the rest of the season. The South of England and the Hickstead Derby Show are the next two main events in my calendar having decided that the six hour drive to Bolesworth was probably a bit ambitious.