The Royal International is a really busy week: the national classes at the show start on Tuesday, which can be a little bit of a marathon if you jump every day. With a very hot weather forecast, and planning to take Emma and Kvint to Le Touquet next week I decided to go a little bit gently at Hickstead. Only Askeaton jumped on Tuesday, with a view to jumping a little bigger by the end of the week. She jumped a lovely round on the all-weather in ring four, and we were home by 10.30.
Wednesday was a seriously busy day. Steff, Elena Watson and I left the yard at 7.30 with five horses on board. As, by Hickstead standards, that is quite a lie-in, we were parked a very long way from the show ground. I set off to walk the British Novice in Ring 4 for Heidi. This looked like a serious Grand Prix for breakers (horses who have recently been broken) and I had serious doubts about how sensible I was being. I wasn't very reassured by such professional riders as Ben Dalton and Alex Hempleman also confirming that it was huge. This would be Heidi's 4th round of jumping and the first time she had gone straight in at 90cms. It was a long way from the lorry to the Polo Arena to warm up on a very lively and noisy four year old, but we made it! We managed to negotiate the ponies practising their gallops and have a good warm up before heading over to ring four. Despite a few acrobatic moments on the ramp down to the arena she was a little star and just had the second fence when she got a bit quick.
Elena went off to watch the JC class in the main ring, and Askeaton jumped a lovely round in a strong 1m class in Ring 3. Steff and I then had our lunch watching the unbelievably exciting jump-off of the 138 championship while Elena rode Lyra. I then jumped Kvint and Emma in the 1.25 in lovely Ring 2. Kvint jumped very well with one mistake in the jump-off, and David Simpson and I had agreed that Emma would just jump the first round, which she did beautifully. We were home in time for a swim and an early night before another marathon on Thursday.
Thursday didn't start so well when the ramp on the lorry would hardly go down and was leaking copious amounts of hydraulic fluid. I took off my white breeches and climbed underneath to see what was going on and found that the reservoir was leaking badly and I certainly couldn't mend it myself. Somehow we were parked even further away and it seemed even hotter on Thursday. I had Camilla and Frankie Walker helping me. So Camilla studded up and tacked up Askeaton while I walked the course. Askeaton jumped beautifully round the 1.05, making absolutely nothing of it. She is so bold and so scopey.
I then jumped Heidi round the British Novice in Ring 2 - her first time on grass, although she's only jumped 3 times on the all weather so it's all new for her, and certainly a very big ring for her. She make a bit of a mistake at the first fence and then jumped round beautifully. By the time I had jumped Heidi I had missed Kvint's course walk, and then having got Kvint warmed up Isaw that the 1.35 was being walked, and I would actually need to jump Emma first. Poor Camilla and Frankie, I had tried so hard to put all the numbers down in the most organised way. Emma jumped very well, sadly having the last fence in the first round, but she was jumping beautifully and gave me a very easy ride. I then hopped on Kvint and gave him a quick jump - he is the absolute opposite to Emma, but he jumped very well in spite of me not having walked the course.
The collecting ring stewards were so fantastically well organised that we were home much sooner than I expected, and I took the decision that we had probably all had enough for the week. Although the Bunns had put over 10 million litres of water on the rings, the continuing hot weather meant that the ground was drying up, and the heat was relentless for the girls helping me at such a busy show. Both Emma and Kvint had the perfect warm-up for Le Touquet, Askeaton jumped three times, and I didn't want to be greedy when Heidi jumped so well by asking more of her. Mark kindly came to help us put the very reluctant ramp up and once again we were home in reasonable time.
On Friday I was very glad I made the decision not to jump. Heidi was a bit below the weather - I think like a small child who had been to too good a party, and until lunch-time the weather was very hot again. Steff and I had a lovely afternoon watching the King George V and the horses had a peaceful afternoon. On Saturday Mark and I had a brilliant afternoon, enjoying the hospitality of Chris Warren and Duncan Gipson and watching the Queen's Cup where Jim Whitaker had a brilliant win, and Pippa Funnell and Billy Congo gave an exhibition of horsemanship to come second. Shane and Can Ya Makan won a thrilling Speed Classic.
On Sunday the weather changed so dramatically that I actually needed a bath to warm up before going out to a lovely lunch party - albeit not wearing the lovely little dress I had planned, but jeans, sneakers and a rain coat!
Now the lorry is all packed up for Le Touquet. Simon Moss for WHB Horseboxes has put new springs on the ramp, so that we can use it, even without the hydraulics which are going to take a while to repair, and fingers crossed that the horses go well out in France.