Billy Bank on Holiday?

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Top of the Morning to you,
And a miserable one it is at that! We have been shrouded in grey mist now for what seems like forever. But on a positive note, it’s not long now to the winter solstice and then the days start becoming longer. Due to the recent lockdown my plans altered, as did probably many other peoples and my winter break started in November. “You need to re-charge your batteries,” The Old Girl told me. I like a little rest as much as the next Ned but my boredom threshold is low and those of you who know me will know I soon start up the mischief if I am not occupied. This year in a bid to outwit me, The Old Girl moved me into a different stable where I cannot reach anything to pull down and throw into the yard. It is also more difficult to let myself out of this stable too. I decided to play along and let her think I was enjoying
time in the field, growing a woolly coat and generally becoming feral thus lulling her into a false sense of security before I struck. I was tied up in the wash area when her mobile rang, I could hear her trying to give some hapless delivery driver directions to our place (not easy to find even when you live here). And don’t you just love the way folk wave their arms about when giving instructions to turn left or right ? The whole yard was having a giggle watching her and with everyone distracted I seized the moment, untied the knot and slipped past onto the lawn. Result! Bounce, bounce, bounce like Zebedee I went, stopping momentarily to paw and dig a big hole before sinking to my knees for a jolly good roll. It came as no surprise when it was announced the holiday was over and I was back on the work rota, admittedly light duties but it wasn’t long before the clippers appeared for a tarting up session.
So through half of lockdown I’ve been ticking along with The Young Master taking me on quiet hacks…allegedly. “Billy seems surprisingly fit,” said The Old Girl, after she had ridden me out on a rare occasion. “Are you sure you have been taking it easy?” The Young Master was non-committal and I wasn’t about to tell her as soon as we are out of sight from the yard we move on a pace! But I had no intentions of being left at home when competitions started up again especially as I had heard a rumour there was a Pony Club arena event on the horizon at Port Royal. This juicy titbit had come from Lacey Long Legs, the latest and newest member of team Ireland, who I have to admit is more than gorgeous and woos everyone with her dark eyes and long lashes. She also has a huge, if slightly untamed, jump and a turn of foot that can leave me for dust.
First weekend out of lockdown off we set to Port Royal. It was doubtful who was the most excited at this prospect, horses, humans or the yard cat who tried to stow away with us! Talk about cabin fever. I’d like to say the sun shone but boy was it grim, dark mist hung in huge sheets making everywhere damp and cold. I was grateful for the warming Fibre-Beet mash we all had for breakfast which would help sustain us on such a miserable day. The thickening fog did not extinguish our enthusiasm and we arrived in high spirits. It would appear from the behaviour of many of our friends they were keen to be out again too. The Unicorn brother and sister rather let their halos slip along with their jockeys who both hit the deck when equine exuberance took over. No one was injured just a little bit of dented pride. Lacey Long Legs was up first, with Polly, and they powered round to finish second in a warm up class. Unfortunately, they had a pole in the 90cms qualifier but still managed 7th in a large field. Much to my disgust The Old Girl had entered me in a dressage class before the jumping along the lines of “It will be good practice for Minnie Haha to ride you ready for next season in the BE under 18’s 100’s”. Oh Well at least they hadn’t dredged up the bling browband so I had that to be grateful for.
Off we went to the dressage warm up where I kept Minnie Haha on her toes for 30 minutes or so before I settled to produce some good work. It did feel good to trot down the centre line after a month of home life but should I really be enjoying myself so much when times are tough for so many others? Social distancing was clearly being observed and Port Royal had all the correct measure in place but perhaps I should remind Minnie Haha to stay alert? A series of high spirited bucks in the counter canter loop followed by some flying changes across the diagonal let her know you have to keep your wits about you at all times. Back into dressage mode for a medium trot that blew everyone away, a good stretch on the circle at C then smartly up the centre line for a square halt. In a test that ranged from 2’s to 8.5’s it wasn’t just the jockey who had to stay alert. A gave the judge a wink as we left the arena on a long rein. Now it was the fun part, off to jump. Minnie Haha was wide awake and well switched on to pilot me and produce the only double clear in the metre class which means we have qualified for the Area final in March at Northallerton. The Old Girl was more than happy with our performances and talk of more outings was in the air including a trip to visit ‘He who must be obeyed’, which didn’t come as a huge surprise after my antics in the dressage!
I hope everyone can stay safe and keep positive, it has been a tough time for so many people on so many different levels but surely now with the new vaccine there to help beat Covid-19 and 2021 will be a much better year. We will be having a quiet Christmas with plenty of Fibre-Beet on the menu. I hope everyone can celebrate on some level and cheers to The New Year.
Best wishes,
Billy Bank x