On July 20, 2013 by Sarah Lewis
Because I felt unusually tired and even more dippy than usual after Hickstead, and also was struggling with pain in my right shoulder and neck I made a trip to John Harris the Osteopath who established that I was still a bit concussed, and that my neck was out, so he tidied that all up and made me feel a bit less pathetic.There were obviously a few things to sort out after Hickstead, and as Shane went straight to Aachen from Hickstead, I spent the first week trying to work it out for myself. Ferro had obviously taken confidence from David’s riding and therefore I practiced riding her with much more leg and off a slightly more forward distance. I used some old blue plastic to construct various water jumps for Biscuit and practiced not pushing Emma. I then took the horses to Pyecombe where they all jumped well, so I think we were facing the right way again.
I then felt ready for some training with Shane. We had a very traumatic first session where it probably took me 50 goes to manage to canter Emma over a series of canter poles correctly, a slightly less traumatic go with Ferro, who is very easy to do canter poles on, and then a good session with Biscuit. What was established was that I was not riding any of them with nearly enough constant leg, causing Emma to panic and Ferro to lose a bit of confidence. Also perhaps, even though they jumped fantastically over the practice Speed Derby before Hickstead, this had worried them a little bit. Once I had recovered from lesson 1, and had canter poles all over the school at home, we were ready for lesson 2. Still really hard work, and still I have got a long way to go before I ride Emma as well as she deserves, but they all jumped really well and I felt clearer in my own mind about what I was supposed to be doing. On the back of this lesson I decided to enter all three horses for the CSI2* at Keysoe. This had been a vague plan all season, but looked rather out of reach after Hickstead. David Simpson was entered too so I knew I would have a bit of moral support if I needed it.
Between the two lessons I had the most fantastic, horse-free, weekend. On Friday Mark and I had tickets for the men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon, and so saw the fantastic Djokavic – Del Potro match, followed by the heart-stopping Murray – Janowicz match; then on Saturday the Breens kindly took me to the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park – what a truly fantastic evening. The Stones were out of this world, and the atmosphere with 75,000 people in Hyde Park on the most beautiful evening was a real “I was there” moment. A very good weekend was rounded off by Andy Murray’s wonderful Wimbledon triumph – what a fantastic and a very well deserved victory in a very good year for him.
We had a quick jump at Crofton Manor to establish all was really well and then on Monday afternoon were slogging our way up to Keysoe. It’s never great news when after an hour you are still stationary in East Grinstead! However, having arrived and trotted up the horses were soon all settled into their very smart, and relatively cool stables in a big barn, I was unpacked and had sorted my accommodation in the back of the lorry and I was ready for the extremely welcome free drink and nibbles of the first night reception.
The first day started with Emma, first horse to go in the Small Tour 1.15 two phase class. She was a bit tight and had one fence down in the first phase, and I then had a very quick turn-round to jump Biscuit 15 horses later. She was a little star and just had one down in the jump-off which was probably down to me. The next class was a 1.20 two-phase for Ferro who jumped a lovely clear round, and then we were both a little over-excited in the jump-off and she had a couple of poles, but she felt very good, and in fact all three horses were placed, so we had made a good start.
I am tempted to leave out the bit where I drank two and a half glasses of rose on an empty stomach – suffice to say it was very difficult to get the haylage into the haynet and I had the mickey severely taken out of me, and was not proud of myself!
Luckily I felt relatively OK in the morning as once again Emma was first to go and she was wild – only having one fence down, but really being very silly. Neither of her initial rounds were helped by the fact that both mornings the PA system came on while I was riding her, and appeared to terrify her, also being first to go meant that she spent quite a lot of time in the ring on her own, rather than entering the ring while another horse was still jumping. Once I had ridden the others I rode her until she calmed down and could accept both the PA system and working with the other horses. Rather similarly to Hickstead she benefits hugely from being ridden in a jumping arena without jumping. Biscuit was a little star and jumped a good clear in the 1.20 speed class to finish 10th, and Ferro jumped a very good round in the 1.25 speed class, just making a bit too much distance up in one related distance. The second day was rounded off with a free hog roast, several glasses of water, and then an early night.
The final day started with the 1.30 Grand Prix for Ferro. It really was a decent course and she jumped the most perfect clear round, sadly I rather spoiled the whole effect by failing to notice that I had headed her at a set of wings when I turned to the second fence the jump-off. You would think having survived 30 years of eventing I could judge a line by now. She jumped it perfectly second time and I pulled up as there wasn’t much point in carrying on. She still finished only just outside the money. Emma and Biscuit then jumped the 1.20 final. Emma was a bit tired and had two fences she would never normally have, but I had learnt a lot about her. I bought her some sound-proofed ears which made a huge different, and now know that she needs a lot more work before a class. Biscuit jumped very well once again, but I underestimated her tiredness and ended up chasing her down a distance, but once again she showed what an amazing temperament she has for competition.
All in all we had a lovely show, it was really well organised, with beautiful courses designed by Kelvin Bywater, and there was a great atmosphere and great competition. All the horses went well, and I learnt a lot, both about myself and the different approach and amount of work that each horse needs.
Back at home we are in the middle of a lovely family summer weekend, and have had our first barbecue for two years. I have retrieved Homer from his three month holiday up the road. Having struggled to keep weight on him all winter I can’t believe how fat he has got. My first job is going to be to find a girth that goes round him.