As England and indeed Scotland, have been gripped by Comonwealth Games fever, I got into the spirit of it all by buggering off to Ireland. I had been looking forward to returning to Camphire, near Cork in Ireland after competing there last year. It was such a fun and friendly event, with a beautiful track and a great bar, what was there not to like?
So it was with great excitement that we set off. The truck was brimming with Marks & Spencer's food. For those of you unacquainted with M&S, it is a supermarket store that does great bras & undies; but even better food. I could write a whole blog in tribute to their Flapjacks and their microwave meals are better than any meal I could prepare and they are largely responsible for the increasingly snug fit of my breeches. Aside from the food we had also packed the lovely Mumbo Jumbo who was stepping up to do his first 3*, Digby dog who making his first trip to Ireland, Ratbag hadn't organised her passport in time (typical), Sophie Evans who had miraculously cleared her working week to join us and of course the best blog photographer and filmer you could ask for, Derek. We also had a couple of late additions, the lovely Laura Wallace and her beautiful horse Imperialist or Barney as he is better known.
Before we knew it we were crossing the bridge in to Wales taking the obligatory bridge photos:
And then we spent the next hour trying to pronounce Welsh names.....before getting the ponies off for a pitstop before the ferry.
Once fed, watered, pitted and stopped we continued onto the coast to catch our ferry. Unlike last year, where we had no idea of what to expect and what to do, we felt like old hands at the travelling horses on a ferry thing. We had the back down, windows up and water buckets out in nano-seconds, well Soph, Laura and Derek did. I'm still not entirely comfortable leaving ponies and on this occasion Digby dog, deep in the gunnels of a very old ex-Scandanavian ferry, but one was satiated with hay bags and the other a bone and I was quickly distracted by chocolate.
A few hours later, Mumbo & Barney had emptied their hay nets, Digby had retired to the passenger seat and we were in Ireland.
After a few more hours we were in Cappoquin and very disappointed that Camphire Horsetrials had decided to splash out on signage this year. Last year after a bit of zen navigation, a few post-it sized signs and telephone call that helpfully informed us: "There's a blue bridge, you don't want to be going over that" we finally made it. This year all the fun had been removed by well placed and highly visible signs.
Fortunately, not much else had changed and Camphire was just a beautiful as we remembered and the people just as friendly.
We woke up to a beautiful morning all set for a good day's competition. Well some of us woke up earlier than others....
In all fairness my dressage wasn't until the following day, so a bit of lolling around in bed after the long drive was in order and Digby thought it would be rude not to keep me company. So it was just Laura competing that day and she did a good test, she just had a bit of a sat nav malfunction. She was riding the new 2* B test; but unfortunately the sat nav had rejected the update. I have to confess the symmetry freak in me cannot cope with the new 2* B test - it is not symmetrical, who would design such a test, what sort of sadist are they????
Next up came Mumbo's test. Now we have been working on his flying changes for a few months and he has discarded a few of the less favourable responses to the change aids. The llama impression has for the most part been done away with. As has the bolt out of the arena response. However, to say that his changes were established would be as plausible as believing what's her chops Kardashian's first marriage wasn't a media sham.
So it was with great confidence that we entered the arena, thanks to super-groom, Sophie Evans we certainly looked the part. The little brown pony did a great job. He could have been a bit more expressive in his canter. Unfortunately we jogged a step at the end of a great walk, and we did what can best be described as flying stumbles, (even in slow-mo replaying the video I still can't work out what he did with his legs); but we ended up with a respectable 62.4% or 56.4 penalties.
The horse-hopping wasn't until the next day, so it was time to walk the course, soak up the atmosphere and go to the Camphire drinks party, which Mum and Dad had arrived just in the nick of time for.
The next day was Show-jumping. I have to confess the format of one phase on each day was very relaxing, especially with just one horse. The two other Australians there Lucinda Fredericks and Kevin McNab, were being far more industrious, riding 19 million horses each. However, the relaxed nature of my timetable - show jumping wasn't until 5.30pm on Saturday, gave us ample opportunity to go for a walk and see the famed blue bridge.
Despite being happily ensconced at the venue, Derek was still keen not to let us cross it.
We also had time to indulge in our other new found favourite pastime. Parked next to us was the lovely irish eventer Joseph Murphy and his wife, with their fleet of Jack Russell's. These dogs liked to hang out at the front of Joseph's truck, in particular the dashboard. From here they could bark and growl at the world in general. Everyone once in a while the "Dashboard gang" would have an emergency which would require them to put on the indicators, sometime these emergencies could last a whole night. Anyway, winding up the dashboard gang had now become a new favourite activity for everyone except Digby, who was terrified of them.
Sorry I digress, showjumping. Laura and Barney came away with a respectable 4 faults.
And then it was time for Mumbo. While I had been busy walking the course, Mumbo had been adding to his fan club. It's hard to know who is at the top, Derek, Soph and I often jostle for position.
He was pretty relaxed when I got on to warm him up. I think I was 5th out. First up was Lucinda on Flying Finish, who rode a very accomplished clear round.
The next few out went clear too, so when I entered the ring I was hoping that I wouldn't be the first muppet to take a rail....and I wasn't, Mumbo was a legend. For those interested there is a video to follow.
It was a wonderful moment, made even more special by sharing it with Mum and Dad. You can see Dad in the background videoing above and Mum looking at the next fence and Digby facing the wrong way. So it was back to the truck for cuddles and polos for Mumbo.
So all that remained was cross-country. I was incredibly spoilt to have the lovely Lucinda Fredericks to walk the course with and she was so fantastically helpful that I started to feel increasingly more confident as I walked around. The CIC*** at Camphire is designed by Mike Etherington-Smith and we bumped into him and his wife Sue and after a while the fear of jump 11 started to lessen.
Let me explain: jump 11 was a sizeable ditch with an even more sizeable skinny brush set in it at an off set angle. Hang on this might better explain it:
Anyway, with the course walked and Digby happily acquainted with every inch of the water jumps, it was time to set off.
Mumbo felt great, we were nailing distances and making big jumps feel small. He cruised around the first 10 jumps like a pro; but despite the advice and the help I didn't do the best job on my line at number 11 and Mumbo took off but at the last minute veered away from the skinny and across the ditch. The second attempt was similar in outcome and on that note while we were both safe and unhurt I retired.
Despite the score board it had once again be a wonderful event. We had been welcomed back with open arms by the event committee, I had been interviewed by Irish TV, I had been introduced to the Event President who promptly stuck his tongue out at me:
And we had caught up with our friends from Bucas, Douglas, Eleanor and Clare.
As everyone was packing up to go home I walked with Mum and Dad back over to "that fence" to see how I could have done it differently. I was still pretty happy with Mumbo, as Dad said, "You can't be angry with inexperience" either his of mine. After all, as he pointed out, "That's the point of you being over here, to get more experience." When he's not winding up the dashboard gang, he is a wise man my Dad.
So tired and full of thoughts on how to improve we started the long journey home. As I pulled into Burto's yard some 12 hours later I concluded: eventing is a good leveller and an incredible ride of highs a lows; but for as long as I'm supported by my wonderful parents and fantastic husband, and surrounded by such wonderful creatures, working with lovely super grooms, I'm booking a one way ticket on the eventing express. Although, having said that I wouldn't mind one more return ticket to Camphire.