So once again, I am lucky enough to find myself over the other side of the pond "nagging about" as my father would describe it. Only one of my ponies returned with me, Mumbo Jumbo, who has steadily been accruing frequent flyer points, (if only we acquired FEI ones that quickly). Mumbo is of the happy disposition that as long as hay bag is involved he is generally speaking quite happy anywhere, including the gunnels of a plane. As such he rarely loses weight or sleep on a flight and often arrives slightly fatter than when he left. He was accompanied on the plane by Hannah Walls and her horse Quebec NZPH otherwise known as Rex. Mumbo, Hannah and Rex arrived in England mid-May while I was still gearing up for Melbourne, consequently when I touched down in the UK Mumbo was happily acclimatised and ready to go.
So it was straight back into the swing of English nagging about. Burto and Bek have once again very generously agreed to put us up. Not too much had changed since I left. Burto has a few more nice ponies to add to his string. Rachel has some great pics of her Christmas trip to Kenya - in particular one of her wearing her Wallaby Hill shirt while feeding giraffes. Glen is still pretending he didn't miss me and Jade is as lovely as ever and now has her pony Echo on the yard. And Tabitha the pig is still a source of much angst to Mumbo:
Having said that there have been a few new additions to the yard aside from the temporary addition of Hannah and Rex. When I first arrive Seamus Marwood and Wild Oats were here, Seamus has subsequently headed home with Wild Oats not far behind him. Murray Lampered and Under the Clocks are also based temporarily at Grubbins Farm. We also have the lovely mad Belgian, Sybille de Liedekerke based in our side of the barn with her lovely labrador Joy and her ponies. But most importantly we have Bommer or Bomber or BomBA as Sybille likes to call him.
On a horse buying expedition Bek and Burto came across this 6 year old warmblood jumper. They immediately thought of me when they tried him, probably because he is bay with a white blaze and socks. Anyway, Mum went to see him and liked what she saw, she has a great eye for a nice pony and back to Grubbins Farm he came. Hannah had pre-warned me about his lack of ground manners, i.e. he is pretty spoilt and tries to eat everything, "sounds like me I thought" so we should get on famously.
Hannah had thoughtfully decorated Bommer's stable for my arrival and tied a pink bow in his hair. By the time I got down to the yard Bommer had eaten most of the decorations; but unfortunately the pink bow remained.
So armed with 2 ponies, it was time to get back into my lovely Equicruiser truck and head off to some competitions, ably assisted by Digby Dog and Ratbag (Mum and Dad's labradors) and properly helpfully assisted by Sophie Evans.
Since my arrival and writing this blog I have been to 5 comps. I have been trying to work out why I have been so slack at writing anything sooner and have come up with a variety of reasons ranging from: I didn't anticipate how many people would be interested in reading last years ramblings and so may have felt a little pressure this year. The internet connection in Surrey has been come even more useless than last year, until recently I only got a connection in one part of my parents kitchen as long as I stood on one leg, wore a tea cosy on my head and the day was a lunar Tuesday, so after going through the painful process of trying to pay bills on line, I didn't have enough hours left in the day to post a blog. Hannah has come with me to most of the events and being younger, prettier and more capable with technology, she has generally posted a pretty good account of the proceedings before we have managed to leave the event, (mainly because I often spend a good 10 minutes trying to remember where I safely stashed the truck keys). For all these reasons and more I have been, as Burto terms it, a bit blog-blocked.
So here is a quick recap of the events so far.
Salperton, set in the heart of the Cotswolds - if that doesn't mean anything to you think of pretty stone houses on the front of chocolate box covers, narrow country lanes, and bad sign posting that ensured we got temporarily lost. This resulted in flinging the ponies at an ever punctual Sophie Evans, bolting around the cross-country course, which was as beautiful as ever.
This year I had entered the Advanced/Intermediate AI class, (Advanced dressage test, Advanced show-jumping, Intermediate cross country). All done in a space of 2.5 hours, dressage starting at 4pm and all done cross-country by 6.30pm. Still find that hard to get used to. An reasonable dressage, followed by a few rails SJ and steady but clear CC was a more solid start than last year.
Mum got the shot of the day on the last fence CC.
The next day was Bommer and my first outing together at Rackham in the BE100 (Pre-Novice). Prior to this Bommer had done 3 events with Burto, who probably gave him a far more accurate idea of what eventing was about. A quick recap of the test was required, as most British Eventing tests take place in a 20x40m arena, it feels like you are doing endless circles. Feeling like noddy with my back number on, off I set. It turned out I rode like noddy too, I made a sat nav error; but despite that we still came away with a good score. Moving onto the SJ with a couple of rails courtesy of me not getting the hang of his changes I was still feeling quite positive.
Standing in the cross country start box, the starter commented on how quiet Bommer was, when we were still standing there well after she had said,"3, 2, 1, Go" I realised it wasn't a good omen. I scrubbed, kicked, flapped, chicken winged and generally pony clubbed round the course till somewhere in the vicinity of fence 7, a sunken road, here Bommer chucked in the towel, he wasn't taking one more stride in the opposite direction of home. Getting a yellow card for over use of the go-stick wasn't high on my list of priorities, so off we slunk.
The next week was spent with Burto helping develop our go button ready for our next weekend's outing at Eridge in Kent. Saturday Bommer and I were accompanied by Sybille and her pony Castella. When, 10 minutes before getting on the truck, Sybille still hadn't plaited her pony, Hannah and I stepped in. The day continued with that sort of theme, we had to bolt round the CC course, Sybille got lost walking it, so naturally did the same riding it. But we had a great day and, as I suspected eventing with Sybille was not dull, or for that matter organised. Bommer performed better in the dressage again, I remembered where we were going, we scored 26.7 which equates to 73.3%, we went clear SJ left us with just the CC to contend with. While running the course I noted how none of it was on flat ground and while panting about, I also noted how some of the fences looked a little trappy, especially a palisade, ditch, skinny combo and had set my bench mark at getting my go button working and finishing. We had a green stop at the ditch, he then leapt it which led to wet reins slipping through fingers and a malco-ordinated attempt at steering which meant the skinny was cantered passed, but happily jumped when actually presented at. The rest he cantered round well and so my not very high bench mark was achieved.
The next day Hannah and I returned to Eridge with big guns, Mumbo and Rex to use it as a combined training exercise. The day was subsequently more organised and at a little slower pace. We managed to catch up with some old friends. Laura Wallace was in fine form and helped me deal with a squeaky Mumbo, who was having abandonment issues when Hannah went to warm Rex up. We also caught up with the lovely Stevie Webb and her friend Laura Milne. Some years ago Stevie worked with Hannah and I at Wallaby Hill and it was fab to see her looking to so well. Hannah who has been instructing me on the modern art of the Facebook selfie pout, got some good ones in:
We also got a bit of time to see the way to go watch eventing English style. Necessary items, a chair, a cheeky-butcher's hat and a dog.
Next event off the rank was Barbury Horsetrials. A quick recap of Mumbo and my performance, dressage a respectable 63%, show-jumping (in a very spooky arena) a very unusual and unwelcome 4 rails and CC a very naughty run out at number 18 an apex (he had already jumped 3) which resulted in an attitude re-adjustment which then saw him go on to jump it easily - bugger, bugger and bugger. To say I was disappointed with our performance would be an understatement.
But not to dwell on the bad points, the good parts were, Derek arrived just in time for Barbury and once again begun his quest for a decent coffee in England. A few years back Carrie, Simon Derek and I went to the US to WEG. Landing in New York and driving down through Washington to Lexington the noble quest for drinkable coffee began. After countless tastings and discards it turns out someone has now developed an App called Bean Hunter which locates the closest good coffee to you. However, undeterred by modern technology, Derek valiantly continues his quest, currently single handedly (until Caz's arrival next month). Despite the cute array of coffee vans, the coffee remains mostly undrinkable and along with my poorest performance to date, Barbury also holds the award for most undrinkable coffee.
But back to the good parts, Sophie Evans was able to join us again. Hannah's Dad, Tony Walls got to join he officials TD-ing the CIC classes, the place looked amazing as always and Burto won the CIC ** on Mum's horse Nobilis and came second on his other horse - bloody show-off!
Of course a recap of Barbury wouldn't be complete without a comment on how far you had to hack to the dressage arenas. Below is Mumbo half way back to the stables after his test, the grey roofing in the distance is the stables; but then again the view is still spectacular. And of course it wouldn't be complete without the selfie pout.
Hot off the heels of Barbury came Tweseldown. We managed to squeeze in some CC training of ditches and drops and were off. Again Bommer performed a decent test marred only by a sat-nav error again from me. Even with a rail in the SJ we were still sitting up in the ribbons. There was a tough toothbrush skinny coming out of the water which had an option as it was a big ask; but Bommer felt great and I got ambitious. It didn't pay off and we had to do the option; but he was pretty fab over the rest of the course and we are in real danger of posting a clear round CC soon.
So it was home in time for tea and scones. Actually, Derek headed off that afternoon to do the theory part of his truck license and I spent the afternoon cleaning dog hair out of the truck.
So I hope this goes someway to making up for blogger's block. To those of you holding the fort back home, Geoffois, Michelle, Will, Blink and John - thank you for looking after the place.
For those of you who saw/heard the story of Sammy the labrador going over the edge of the escarpment, you'll be pleased to know he is now fitted with a hefty tracking and training collar and while he is still short on spacial awareness skills, he is long on radio communication skills, well for as long as Smudge doesn't eat the aerials.
Keeling, I hear that your show was a huge hit, with talent like yours it was never not going to be. I'm sorry I missed it. I hope you are enjoying New York and not knackering yourself out - we're not getting any younger you know. XX
Lauren, good work at Tamworth, I'm with you on the frustrations of ponies, but I'm not sure we would be so hooked if they were more predictable creatures. XX
Michelle and Carrie good luck at SIEC. Michelle, I hope Capone is a good boy and Yogi behaves himself. Caz, can't wait to see you in August until then - GO KODA, GO! XXXX
To the rest of you reading this, thanks for still being interested, sorry it took so long to write, miss you all.
Next stop, Ireland - I'll keep you posted.....hopefully.