A trip to the beach for Team Billy Bank

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Top of the morning to you,
And how glorious the weather is now, it barely seems possible we missed two events in May due to heavy rainfall. At the end of April Glamour Girl and I headed off to Solihull for another under 18 competition with a slight detour on route for a session with ‘He who must be obeyed’. I was feeling very well and a tad too full of myself for The Old Girl’s liking although she was smiling by the time I had finished the lesson. The journey to Solihull was uneventful. After the freezing winds and snow we had experienced at previous events it was nice to feel the warmth of the sun on our backs when we unloaded and found our stables for the night. Arriving so early had many benefits which included being able to go for a hack. How surprised was I when The Old Girl appeared with her hat and boots to announce she would ride me! Blimey O’Reilly, she had me moving sideways, stretching forward and down like some yoga diva. I could see Glamour Girl smirking but I did feel very relaxed by the time we returned to the yard. As everyone knows I love a little trip away and my day was made complete by the arrival of Fat Boy Slim and Miss Irish along with The Young Master who had hitched a ride with Tinkerbelle and Babyface in order to help Minnie Haha. So while we all tucked into a hydrating supper of Fibre-Beet, the humans sat in the evening sun enjoying homemade lasagne.

The under 18’s sections are always hotly contested so I knew I needed to put my best foot forward in the dressage. With the words of ‘He who must be obeyed’ “Ride up the centre line like you own it” ringing in my ears, I did just that. Back in the stable yard it was all go with Glamour Girl ready to show jump when I returned. 

Minnie Haha only had time for a quick drink before being legged up and sent off to warm up. Typically, The Old Girl faffed about and managed to miss most of Minnie’s round but came back to tell me she had gone clear. Then she was off to the cross-country where I could hear from the tanoy’s she zipped round clear making nothing of the course which was causing others a few problems. All too quickly it was my turn to show jump and I knew from the conversations around I had posted a very good dressage score so the pressure was on to go clear to maintain my position. Well, I wasn’t about to let the team down now was I? Off to the cross-country next where the same applied, “And no time faults for going too fast,” warned The Old Girl. “Spoil sport,” I muttered but I behaved myself and came home clear with no time penalties of any sort. It wasn’t long before it was confirmed I had finished second in my section. Glamour Girl was just out of the rosettes in her section, despite her double clear. We travelled home in good spirits leaving The Old Girl to help Tinkerbelle. We heard on route the ponies had both acquitted themselves well and gained valuable experience for the next outing. We all agreed Solihull was a fantastic venue, with such super kind and friendly people and we would definitely return there soon.

It was another under 18’s competition on the horizon for Minnie Haha and me, this time at Richmond in May. Oh how the British weather can be fickle. One week it’s roasting sun, the next its sleeting rain. We were practicing in a down pour, which didn’t let up, the day before and it came as no surprize to receive a message the event had been abandoned. How disappointing for the organisers and competitors, but safety is paramount and a fortnight later Bishop Burton cancelled too. Well, when that happens there is only one thing to do… head to the beach. Glamour Girl and I had a wonderful time on the sands at Fraisthorpe and the yard Guardian came along too. Surely the rain would have to stop soon?
Thankfully the sun shone at half term as I was despatched to an under 18’s training camp at Hexham with Minnie Haha in preparation for our run at Belsay International Horse Trials. And what a ball we had, it was great fun and we learnt so much. Friday afternoon we arrived at Belsay and met up with The Old Girl who had been busy all week with Pony Patrol camp at Hamley Hagg. The Young Master arrived later that evening so the team was complete. The atmosphere was electric in the stable block where ponies and horses were being prepared for the trot up on the final day of the national championships for junior and pony riders. Everywhere you looked, fit, lean equines were being led around by equally fit, lean handlers and it all started at the crack of dawn! I had considered myself quite trim but compared to these athletes I was more like Fat Boy Slim. It concerned The old Girl I hadn’t eaten all my haylage ration when she appeared with my breakfast, also at the crack of dawn (as is her way ) but she assured me she would return with a bucket of graze on grass and Speedi-Beet as a hay replacer. I am not one to complain but I had eaten up and there was no sign of her, what an earth was she doing. I guessed she had run into a crony and was probably gassing as she hardly manages to move a yard before someone is chatting to her! Finally, she appeared looking somewhat dishevelled (that’s quite normal really if I am honest) but also very wet down one side. Turned out in a bid not to disturb the sleeping beauties in the lorry she had mixed my feed in the back of the box and come out down the ramp only to slip and fall heavily off the side onto the wet grass. Whoops… wonder how much she’d had to drink the night before? Selfishly I wondered who an earth would plait my mane if she couldn’t bend her elbow or worse, how would we get home if she couldn’t drive the lorry. Such thoughts passed quickly along with worries about my waistline as I tucked into the Speedi-Beet and graze on with my usual relish…

Despite the early morning drama I was turned out to perfection by the team and went off to warm up for the dressage with plenty of time in hand. I felt good, so good and danced onto the field full of energy. Twenty minutes later I was still walking with Minnie Haha stretching and suppling me in the yoga routine. The tanoy’s were blaring out info about the cross-country which is where I wanted to be. Minnie kept calm, her inside leg quietly moving me left, then change the bend and move right, take the contact forward, stretch your neck. With a huge sigh of resignation on my part, and relief from The Old Girl and the Young Master, I relaxed and put the dressage hat on. I managed to curb my enthusiasm throughout the test, but I danced sideways back to the stable. The show jumping was surrounded by spectators enjoying the wonderful event at Belsay and the ice cream van was extremely busy as the temperature rose. Clear rounds were at a premium in a course that had been cleverly designed to catch out those who didn’t ride a good line. I pinged round clear, and then posed with a family who asked if they could have my picture. Just the cross-country now – my favourite phase.
The cross country course was easily the most challenging Minnie Haha and I have tackled together but how we loved it. I wasn’t interested in admiring the scenery or taking in the wonderful back drop of the old castle, I had one job in mind, a clear round inside the time which I delivered. I had lots of pats and praise from everyone and as I am such a kind boy I meekly let The Old Girl take me back to the stable without a single step or jog as I knew she was still feeling ropey (and she was lame, oh yes she would not have passed a trot up that’s for sure).
Another second place for us was confirmed which made the journey home to Yorkshire much shorter but like Solihull everyone was full of praise for such a great event at Belsay and the vow to return next year.
The Young Master will be picking up my reins again next week when we head to Frickley Park for The Area Festival and a BE100 run. From what I have gleaned we are staying for the weekend with a host of friends. The Old Girl has even dug out some fairy lights for the Gazebo, whatever next? With the hot weather I am so glad to have regular hydrating feeds of sloppy Fibre-Beet on the menu, you really cannot beat it and I know we will have plenty packed when we head off again on our travels.
Stay safe everyone and keep smiling
Love Billy Bank x