The First Event Report of 2019 - We're Back, Baby!
My first event report of the season and first event post-injury - I’m not sure where I even start with this one!
A little back ground to those who are new to our story: Woody and I came up from BE80 to compete in our first Novice in 2017 however shortly after he tore a significant hole in his SDFT. We treated him with Libogems and he had a year off, coming back into work very gradually to try and give us maximum chance of a full recovery and a return to eventing.
Fast forward 20 long months since he first went lame and we are ready for his first run at Dalkeith Park Horse Trials, the first Scottish event of the year. I hummed and hawed over what class I was going to enter because he’s feeling incredibly well and jumping better than ever but it has been a loooong time since we have done this, so I decided to play it safe and entered the BE90 so we could (hopefully) have a stress-free, confidence boosting round to kick off our season.
Four days before we trot down the centre line and things weren’t going to plan. I got thee worst sickness bug I can ever remember having AND I pulled a muscle in my butt which ultimately got taped up with bright blue tape – not a good look under white breaches, especially as rain was forecast! Never the less, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me, so Saturday morning came, and I still hadn’t eaten anything, but I was stocked up on Lucozade and ready to go!
And OF COURSE the heavens opened and the rain fell (we do live in Scotland after all) but we were bathed, plaited and ready to go so it was into the lorry and off we went with a full squad of grooms aka. mum and dad. We arrived to what can only be described as a mud bath and although the rain had stopped it had left behind a low, thick mist which meant you really couldn’t see as far as the other side of the show jumping ring! I’ll take the time now to say thank you to the organisers and ground jury who did their absolute best to give us the best going and moved the show jumps between each class – your efforts were very much appreciated.
Off to the Dressage we went, and I won’t go into much detail because the test was less trying to do beautiful dressage and more trying to stay on our feet and not disappear into a boggy hole. As Woods is a bit on the *ahem* heavier side of Eventers he does sink in more than a light TB type would so the overall picture wasn’t great which was reflected in a disappointing mark of 35.5. But alas, least I never fell off/ fainted/ vomited in front of the judges so I’m winning so far!
It was a long, soggy wait until the SJ but we kept ourselves amused and reasonably dry. My non-horsey other half also appeared to watch for the first time ever – we’ve only been together for six and a half years – and now thinks we are even more mental than ever for willingly standing in a field in the rain all day for all of about 10 mins competitive riding. But very sweet that he appeared to watch Woody’s return – he even held him for a bit while secretly huffing because his cool designer trainers were getting dirty.
SJ finally came around and by this point the warm up was trashed beyond repair so I had a canter round, three jumps and then just kept him walking so he didn’t get cold. Woods is an “if in doubt take one out” kinda guy and we’ve been trying to get him closer into the fences so he jumps up and over instead of going long and low but yesterday I opted for the “just keep moving” tactic in the ring as I think if I’d tried to shorten him chances are we would have struggled to get up out of the mud without taking the poles with us. It wasn’t pretty but it was clear, and I came out the ring with the biggest cheeser.
Now, the fun part. We got changed as quickly as possible as it was about 5.30pm now and visibility was getting worse by the minute, so I didn’t want to waste any time. Anyone who knows Dalkeith knows you have a gorgeous hack through the woods to get to the start so we didn’t need much warming up when we got there – another quick canter round and a jump and we were ready. Woods knew EXACTLY what was going on and I could feel the fire in his belly as we circled at the start, raring to get going and do what he does best. Into the start box we went, stop watch at the ready and the first fence just visible in no more.
5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . GO
And we were off!! Minimal kicking required, just point and shoot and we were away – I had missed this feeling. He makes it feel so easy so it’s difficult not to ride round with a stupid grin on your face when you’re sitting up there. He was eating up the ground, constantly looking for the next jump and we were both enjoying every minute - after splashing through the water and I even heard the commentator saying that was “excellent riding” through there but really, I just point him at the flags, hold on and embarrassingly yell “good boy” and occasionally “woohoo” over the jumps!!
He finished full of running and towed me around the field for another lap even when we were out the end of the ropes. I had a little emotional moment to myself while my arms were being pulled from their sockets as at one point, I had feared that this day would never come. To be back out Eventing my boy itself was so special, but to finish fighting fit and with a double clear inside the time was just incredible.
We were very lucky to get to go XC as shortly after our round the day was abandoned which was such a shame for the organisers and for the few competitors who were still to run – I felt truly gutted for you.
Woods was untacked, ice boots on and got stuck into his well-deserved garlic lick while I popped off to pick up my Dressage sheet only to discover he has finished 7th in the section and was even coming home with a frilly!
What. A. Day.
I went home nackered and ready to drop but absolutely buzzing - I’ve not quite come back down to earth yet. I am pleased to report that Woods bounced out to the field happy as Larry this morning so everyone that is going through box rest/rehab STICK IN THERE – it’s so worth it.
Thanks to everyone who helped out and has supported us but the biggest thanks goes to the most special horse in the world for giving me absolutely everything.
Incredible photos by Dave Cameron Photography