Back at it after lockdown

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Top of the morning to you,
And how long has it been since I uttered that sentence? It seems an eternity. Lockdown has proved challenging and COVID has impacted so many lives but let’s hope; now restrictions have been eased and the vaccination programme well underway, we can all return to some normality. The Young Master and I spent much of lockdown hacking around enjoying the countryside. The Old Girl likes to use the tracks and off road riding as part of our schooling and often makes me shoulder-in and half pass, well that’s her excuse if anyone sees me going sideways with her! After several weeks of no arena work it was good to be allowed back for a lesson with ‘He who must be Obeyed’ and put through our paces in readiness for a training event at Northallerton at the end of March. I had lost count of the weeks since our last outing and shot up the ramp. I was travelling with Duchess the Diva who was kindly was giving us a lift as Bettsy was in for attention to her ramp. DD told me in no uncertain terms I was not to entertain sharing her haynet and to keep my Irish humour to myself, I should consider myself extremely honoured to be allowed to stand next to her and be seen in her company! I snorted, “Listen Mrs, I’m knocking on the door of becoming a Legend so put that in your pipe and smoke it.” We travelled to Northallerton ostentatiously ignoring each other, listening to some rather tuneless singing from the youngsters on board who were evidently as excited as us to be having a trip out for the day.

I think it is fair to say The Diva had a mighty shock when she discovered she actually had three phases to complete and it was a toss-up as to who was more exhausted her, or her very determined rider. I loved being back at a party with the grass under my feet and I danced an Irish Jig all the way back to the box after the cross-country. The Diva was much more humble on the journey home and hopefully took a bit of advice from this old Irish bog pony who told her, “You want to keep that nice stable and regular feeds of Fibre-Beet on the menu, you have to keep the humans sweet.”

My next outing popped up quickly with a visit to Oasby, a new venue for me, and the BE under 18 open 90 with Minnie Haha taking up the reins. Glamour Girl was on board too for the same class and Bettsy fair flew into Lincolnshire having had a good overhaul from Nick Blake, the wonderful mechanic who is The Old Girl’s saviour and hero. The wind blew a cold tune all day which saw the humans wrapped up to the nines with The Old Girl joking that if she fell over she would roll away and never be able to stand up again. The kettle seemed to be constantly on with hot drinks and bacon sandwiches coming off the hob like a factory production line. Glamour Girl and I had quite a lot of time between the different phases which enabled the Old Girl to give us hydrating and warming Fibre-Beet mashes. Here I was with my favourite girl, doing what I love best, enjoying the best food. Heaven! Best not forget we were here to do a job. The pair of us posted respectable dressage tests leaving us in fourth place in our sections, so far so good. Glamour Girl headed off for the show jumping, which was apparently causing problems due to the number of Leprechauns that had blown in on the North wind. There was also a report of a huge Leprechaun at the start of the cross country but Glamour Girl, the consummate professional she is, wouldn’t let such trifles annoy her and she posted a double clear to finish on her dressage score.

No pressure for me then! It was good to see a familiar face down at the show jumping warm up where Phil Brown, the East Midlands under 18 coach was giving assistance. He told me not to worry about the Leprechauns and advised Minnie Haha to keep her shoulders well back. Grand advice as it turned out when approaching fence three a pole picker walked straight out behind the fence. How I didn’t knock her over I do not know but having locked on I was determined to go clear. Cross-country was ace (aren’t I hip and trendy using young people’s slang) and Minnie Haha really had to slow me up so we didn’t pick up reverse time pens. Observing the arrive, compete and leave protocol, we set off home with the humans glued to the eventing scores. At the Humber Bridge it was confirmed Glamour Girl was second in her section and I was third in mine. Wow prize money for both of us and extra Fibre-Beet for tea that night.

With the Easter holidays underway I had a pony club rally on the cards plus another visit to “He who must be Obeyed”. It was just like old times as “No, No, Again” rang through the air and The Young Master and I practiced every movement until finally “Good” could be heard. The Young Master was fired up for Breckenbrough BE100 where we encountered the full range of British seasons all in one day, including snow in the dressage. I don’t know what it is about this dressage malarky but I do seem to be enjoying it more these days, maybe it’s an age thing but I posted another sub 30 score in a very competitive section. I was pleased to see The Diva had heeded my words of wisdom giving her rider an enjoyable day with much improved performances in all three phases of the BE80. Fancy Piece and Son of Thorr had posted double clears and picked up ninth place in their 80 sections which delighted the team. Fat Boy Slim who recently had a bit of boot camp with us did a cracking dressage test and show jumping round but picked up an annoying stop in the cross-country when blinded by the low sun at the second water jump. The Young Master looked very debonair in a new green jacket when we headed off to the show jumping, never the favourite phase for The Old Girl. What was she worrying about I popped round giving everything plenty of air. My earlier power feed of Fibre-Beet and oats really helped my energy levels and a cruised round the cross-country to finish just one second over the time and take home fifth place. What a start to our season!
It does sound, listening to our humans, we have a busy schedule ahead of us but when the work load increases so does my Fibre-Beet ration. The cold weather has been made much more bearable by the warm mashes The Old Girl gives us morning and night.
Stay safe everyone, keep alert.
Best wishes
Billy Bank x

Look out for Billy Bank’s next blog next month and click here to read our other news.