My Lummen adventure started on Sunday evening when having had a lovely busy weekend with my eldest brother and his family, and having made sure all the catering and bed-making for Easter was done, I collected two Breen horses from Hickstead ready to set off from Nutley at 4.00am on Monday morning. I crept out of bed at 2am, mucked out and loaded and was on the road by 4.00. I had bought a new sat-nav for this European adventure which, although it worked perfectly in the kitchen on Sunday, flatly refused to work at all on Monday! A few panic calls to Mark who got Garmin to send me a long email, which I have now read, and the sat-nav has now been plugged into the computer at home and is working perfectly. I resorted to my AA routemaster instructions - it's not that difficult as once you are out of Calais it is just one road the whole way to Brussels. A very kind lady directed me out of a housing estate in Lummen and I arrived at 1.30pm Belgium time. Leo Tierney and Michael Duffy helped unload the horses, the admin was completed, Emma was trotted up and worked, and we were all ready to compete on Tuesday.
Lummen is cleverly organised so that the 1* and young horses jumped one day and the 3* horses the next day maximising the number of horses everyone can ride. We had decided to start the week with a 1.20 jump-off class, which luckily was in the afternoon as Emma is best when she is worked early and then put away for a few hours before warming up for her class. It also gave me a chance to watch the Breen Team in the six and seven year old classes. Emma felt as if she was just playing with the 1.20 fences and just had one down when I turned quickly to the double in the jump-off. She still got a low placing and 12.50 Euros off the bill.
The next day was the first day for the CSI3* horses and a quiet day for Emma, just working once in the morning and grazing in the afternoon. It was a good Breen afternoon with Darragh and Andino Z winning the 1.45 speed class. However, just as Aoife and I were about to watch Shane jump poor Louise Pavitt had a horrendous fall in the warm-up and I ended up going in the very ancient ambulance with her while David Simpson drove his car to the hospital. The Belgium hospital experience was interesting to say the least, and we finally got back to the showground having established that Louise had broken her shoulder blade at 11.05.
On Thursday Emma jumped in the 1.30 jump-off class in the main ring, just touching the third fence, having been a bit unsettled coming to the second, and otherwise jumping a great round. It was the first time I had felt really calm and organised at that level and she felt amazing.
Julia and Helen Cruden, who now own Biscuit, treated David Simpson and I to dinner in their hotel in Lummen which was absolutely lovely, delicious food and wine, and nice to be away from the showground for a little while, and it was easy to relax when I wasn't competing on Friday.
Friday was another chance to work Emma quietly and watch the big boys jump. It is amazing to be at a show where the ranking classes have enough entries to be split into two sections of 87 and 91 competitors respectively.
The CSI1* Grand Prix was scheduled for 12.30 on Saturday and I was second to go. The day didn't start brilliantly as while Emma was defending her breakfast the mare next door bit her across the nose causing her to have a torrential nosebleed. Her stable looked like the shower in Psycho as she had shaken her head violently in her fury. Luckily I had ice-packs which I held across her very swollen nose and I had to work her with the noseband very loose. The course for the Grand Prix was strong but I thought it was OK, Shane helped me warm up, and after a less than perfect shot to the first we were away. She jumped a really lovely grown-up round, only to be let down by me, as I set her up too late for the last double and she got too deep and just had the back rail going in. I was furious to have let her down, but otherwise thrilled that she felt so brilliant, and made it all so easy and such fun.
Packing up always takes longer than expected, but I was on the road by 4pm. After 20 minutes I stopped for diesel and the lorry wouldn't start. A call to the lovely Matt at S&M Motors established that I needed a Phillips screwdriver to remove the casing from the steering column and hot-wire the ignition. Neither I nor the filling station had a screwdriver, but luckily I spotted some very large fellows getting into a camper-van and felt convinced they would have a tool-box. I gave them some fright as I ran at the van, but they luckily found me a screw-driver and a few sparks later I was away. I was back home by 11.30 and Emma was very happy to be back in the field.
40 hours later the last load of washing is in the machine, and I have had a lovely Easter with Anna, Sophie and Mark. Lummen seemed a long way away after church, a delicious lunch with Simon and Louise Lewis and a visit to Mark's mum who is in hospital. I have had a lovely hack on Ashdown Forest today with Emma who has come out of the trip very well - albeit with a slightly bent nose.
It was great to see Helen Cruden and Biscuit (Little Penny) really beginning to cement their relationship and jump some fantastic rounds over the two weeks in Lummen. I loved producing Biscuit, and am thrilled that she has such a lovely home now, and am glad to see that she is going so well for Helen.
I have been giving Louise and her lovely Lady Ballina a hand with their jumping as they gear up for the Pre-novice Grass Roots Championship at Badminton. Louise is a good pupil, a quick study and unbelievably brave, and obviously calm under pressure as her trailer broke down on the way to Hambledon. So far they are well on track with 8th place at the South of England and 2nd at Hambledon so fingers are crossed for a good result at Badminton.
Meanwhile I have a quiet 10 days ahead before gearing up to Windsor with Emma, and getting Luendi and Espirito Santo back on track for the South of England and Hickstead.