Recently my closest friend lost her mother. Her mother had been living on borrowed time for some years; but it didn't mean that when time finally failed her it was any less painful or less awful for those left behind. It's in moments like these that I miss home. I'm not sure how helpful I would be to her if I were on Australian shores; but I feel pretty useless over here. So I dedicate this blog to you, my dear friend. May my inane writing about horsing about in Britain afford you a few moments of silly diversion.
So you would have enjoyed driving in the gates of Firle Place. It is an impossibly grand estate, with ridiculously small entrance gates, obviously built by posh pixies. It does however, mean that getting 400 big horse trucks or lorries causes a bit of queue; but then there is nothing that the Brits love more than a good queue.
Brits queuing for the toilet
We wedged ourselves through the gates though in plenty of time for me to walk my cross country course, have a quick ride on Legs and then get on Mumbo in time for his dressage. I make this sound easy, but Mumbo who has become needier than a teenager in love is incapable of standing either at or in the truck without being accompanied by Legs, so poor Soph had to spend the entire weekend being dragged around by Mumbo, who in between hauling her about and foraging for grass, squealed loudly in her ear.
Anyway I have of course got sidetracked and lost the point to my sentence. Ah yes the cross country course. Set on relatively flat parkland the 1* Cross Country looked relatively straightforward. Some nice big galloping fences and not too many tricky combinations, which was lucky as Mumbo and I have been having a fairly mixed run of it. We took on our CC walk Digby, Mum and Dad's labrador. We haven't been allowed to look after Ratbag as well as Digby, while there are away, as, well as Mum and Dad have rightly assumed any form of discipline they may have instilled in the puppy would have evaporated by the time they got home. Bearing in mind that I'm writing this in bed and Digby is currently lying on the bottom of it - sorry Mum and Dad if you're reading this.
Anyway, walking CC courses in England always makes you feel like you are back at school doing orienteering. A map of the cross country course is a rarity.
The closest we got to a cross country map
As for the distance on the course or the optimum time, this is a closely guarded secret that only be discovered after some ferreting about it the secretary's tent. Thank goodness for the Cross Country App and for its erase button function. Anyway with most of the course walk successfully navigated it was time to teach Digby the art of dive bombing.
So a quick ride on Legs while Mumbo tried to rupture Soph's eardrum and we were all set for Mumbo's dressage. It was set in the most picturesque and serene spot at the bottom of the garden in front of Firle Place, through the bushes, you could spy the local cricket team.
Instead of focusing on the serenity and tranquility of the area, Mumbo chose to focus on the strange lady sitting on the wall by the arena. Subsequently our test had some seriously tense moments; but the lady on the wall was oblivious to her effect and gaily clapped us as I slumped out of the ring.
We packed off and headed off down some narrow lanes and under some low bridges to stay with Laura Wallace at the yard she is now based at in West Sussex that is owned by Francis Whittington. We drank a few bubbles in memory of Tom Gadbsy and generally caught up on Antipodean life. It was very civilised and sedate, in bed early and up early for the next day - I think I maybe getting old!
The next day we were back bright and early at Firle, which was lucky as Sunday was not only the continuation of the horsetrials but also a dog show and it seemed the entire human and canine population of the South England was there.
So show-jumping first for Mumbo and he was a delight, which was timely as Mouse, his previous owner was there watching. So with no more penalties we moved onto the CC and he was great again - so we finally finished on our dressage score. I think we may have even acquired a few BE points for our double clear, plus some money and nice glass cup about the right size for a good G&T.
By now the dog show was in full swing. The tranquility of the day's previous dressage had been replaced by the Ring 2 for the dog show. Unfortunately the commentator who was on a very squeaky microphone had a bad speech impediment, her frantic cries of "Could all the rhippets come to wing thwree" was only out done on comic value watching amateur dog agility.
Anyway, back to the horses and it was time for Legsey debut at BE 100. So with Mumbo squealing in the bushes, Legs tootled around the 40 x 20m dressage arena with me once again dressed up like noddy with my back number on. She was very soft an obedient and still lower in the poll than I would like; but then her withers have only just come level with bum; but she did a PB for 31. something. I have no idea what that equates to in a percentage as BE tests are calculated on a dressage formula on 5th generation scorers know. But the leaders were on 28. something, I think.
Onto the show-jumping and a couple of green rails later, and Sophie well and truly deaf in one ear it was onto the cross-country. When I say it was onto cross-country it was about 5.13pm by the time we set off. By then the "Rippets in wing thwree" had well and truly gone home and I think there were a few hounds a few kilos heavier.
While walking Legs's course it occurred to me that our arrowhead training to date had been minimal to none existent, but it turns out that on course training is just as good. She was fantastic and happily cantered round like an old pro.
So it turned out to be a very contented crew that packed up and headed home. Mumbo was reunited with his beloved Legs, Legs was reunited with her hay bag, Soph was reunited with a semi-working eardrum.
So as we drove in the gate to Burto's yard and the sun had set red across the sky, my thoughts turned back to you waking up on the other side of the world. I hope you know I'm thinking of you and I can only hope that the grief will soon give way to happy memories. Take care and see you soon, Al