Once we were back from Opglabbeek and I had gathered myself together again, my thoughts turned to preparations for two weeks in Lier, Belgium from 7th - 14th February. This time Hurricane Heidi will be joining us, so the first job was to get her an FEI passport and an FEI competition licence for 2019, followed by an extra flu jab as FEI competitions require horses to be vaccinated every six months, rather than every twelve. The next job was to find a groom for the show - four horses is too much for most people, and certainly me, to manage at a show by themselves and retain any hope of doing a good job riding. I have been rather slow and stubborn at realising this, but it isn’t just an age issue, if you have to concentrate on everything, and worry about what will happen if you’re drawn early: who will hold the horse while I walk the course; will someone be warming up at the same time as me; will I have time to get the next horse ready and walk that course, etc. you are reducing your chances of making any job of riding in the ring. With less than a week to go before we leave for Lier I pretty much hope I am ready. I have Will Thompson coming with me, who is even going to drive the lorry. The paperwork - export licences, show memo, green card and breakdown cover for the lorry, ferry bookings, etc are all done and in the briefcase ready to go. The vet’s will do the health papers on Monday, the horses will be shod on Tuesday, we will leave at crack of dawn on Wednesday. The horses have all had a chiropractic check and I clipped them all on Monday and Tuesday this week, hopefully they won’t be too hairy by the end of the show, but I will take trimming clippers with me so there will be no bearded ladies on my team. Kvint hates the clippers and needs sedating to clip, which is why he is clipped rather early so that the dope is safely out of his system before the show. In light of the weather forecast I clipped all the girls so that they were safely done while everything here is working.
Heidi is probably a little short on mileage for an international show, but the young horse courses in February in Belgium are going to cater for the fact that this year’s five year olds are actually still four. To get her up to speed, and check that everyone had come out of Opglabbeek happily Steff and I made the trek to Addington on Sunday 20th. This was a true marathon of a day. I was on the yard by 4 am, and joined by Steff at 4.30 in order that we could muck out seven and leave at 5.30. We arrived at Addington to find that they had huge entries, so that even Heidi jumped 58th in the British Novice and then 48th in the Discovery. I was so cold after I jumped Heidi that I thought we might have to go home. However, a nice long sit in the cafe while my socks dried and my boots warmed up seemed to fix me for the rest of the day.
There were 90 in the Newcomers, so in fact I pulled Emma and Kvint out of the 1.30 and jumped them in the 1.20 which meant we got home at 10.30 pm rather than midnight. However, it was well worth the trip. Heidi had never jumped indoors before and seemed relatively unfazed, just being a bit tense in the British Novice and then jumping a lovely double clear in the Discovery.
Askeaton was much more excited than the occasion warranted when she came off the lorry, but once she calmed down she jumped her customary clear round in the Newcomers to finish just out of the money.
I then jumped both Kvint and Emma in the 1.20. I think this was actually a great idea for them, they didn’t have to stretch themselves, the new surface at Addington is very good, and they finished 5th and 4th respectively in a very competitive class, so all in all a very good outing.
We had a relatively quiet week, evening managing to get up to London to do some serious dress shopping and have dinner with Anna, Sophie, Tom and Alex. Anna has a proper little baby bump now and is looking so well which is lovely. I then hired the lovely school at Alder Lake Farm, near Newick, on Friday to give all the horses a jump. Another new place for Heidi, and good practice for everybody else. Philippa Lane and her family have made a really great job of renovating the indoor school and putting in a lovely new surface, and we’ve made two visits here. A very welcome chance to get out of the horrible weather once a week.
So we just have to keep safe and sound for two more days and we will be on our way back to Belgium. I’m always super anxious at this point. So much planning and hard work goes into getting to this stage and still a minor upset can derail the whole mission and horses do love an excuse for a derailment. I just have a lesson with David tomorrow, for a quick tune up, and to make sure I’m not doing anything too terrible and then the horses will be shod on Tuesday, super cleaned and bandaged and we will be out of here by 4.30 on Wednesday.
As always many thanks to Saracen Feeds, their feed plays such a huge part in keeping our horses absolutely ready for work, Precision Joint Solutions whose new total leg supplement is making a real difference to how good the two older horses feel, Just Equine, who provide us with such fantastic horse gear from Kentucky Horsewear and D’yon, and Stride Management who help us on a day to day basis. For more information on the lovely companies who sponsor me: http://www.sarahlewisshowjumping.com/sponsors/. Of course also endless thanks to Camilla, Steff, Izzy and Mark. The weather in the last week has been tough and team work is absolutely essential to making the dream work.