Billy’s Blog: Who’s that taking my space in the horsebox?

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Top of the Morning to you,
I hope you are all grand? Autumn is my favourite time of the year and with the rain having fallen the ground has softened up which makes everyone around here happy. I have to say there have been a lot of things happening recently which have given us all cause to smile.
In fact The Old Girl has been exceedingly chipper which I put down, in some small part, due to our performance together at Frickley Park Horse Trials. Oh yes it actually happened The Old Girl rode me in a BE80!
The Young Master and Minnie Haha came along to groom and generally give support and we arrived in good spirits. Babyface and Fatboy Slim had thrown the gauntlet down issuing a challenge that whoever finished lower would be buying the ice creams, and with the sunshine out we would be ready for one!
Phase one… the dressage.
Fatboy Slim unable to help himself, as he is a rotten show off at times, put in a couple of “look at me” bucks leaving the door wide open for me to take a sneaky lead over him. It was only marginal as The Old Girl, in dressage diva mode, had me so stoked up we came down the centre line in the manner of Valegro. Sadly this is where the similarity ended as we skated around the corner at C before falling in on the 20 metre circle as The Old Girl’s legs are neither long enough nor strong enough to wagon me in a 20 by 40 arena.
The Young Master didn’t hold back, “Why did you go so fast? Your circles didn’t touch the sides!” Minnie Haha was slightly kinder conceding, “Some bits looked nice”. I think it is fair to say it was not one of my best tests but The Old Girl was smiling and gave me a hydrating feed of Fibre-Beet while she went off to walk the cross country course.
Phase two… Show Jumping.
Historically this has not been the favourite discipline for The Old Girl, and Fatboy Slim upped the ante by jumping clear. He gave me a smug look as he sauntered off towards the cross country.
The Young Master got into the collecting ring and proceeded to put us through our paces, “come to the oxer”, he shouted as I was steered towards the cross pole for the umpteenth time. “Oxer! Now!” I trundled round and popped it, calmly waiting for the jockey to catch up with me before trundling on.
Finally our number was called and into the ring we went, whatever I was expecting it wasn’t The Old Girl to morph into a Whitaker! Mother of Mary! She sat up, all previous nerves forgotten, and rode me like she stole me. We flew round and fair galloped through the finish, “Well, I wasn’t about to pick up any time faults, ” she argued when eyebrows were raised from the support group. In hindsight, and isn’t that a wonderful thing, that was probably our downfall as I foolishly thought she would finder her inner Ginny Leng on the cross country too.
Phase 3… Cross Country.
Heading up to the warm up we spied Fatboy Slim coming home. He had been victim of rider satnav failure and was not as full of himself now by a long chalk. I had heard the support team muttering we had moved up into a rosette position so I was determined to give The Old Girl a great ride. “Come on”, I urged picking up the contact and zipping towards the practice fence, a small roll top, “we need a speedy clear”. Her reaction was extreme to say the least, “Slow down Billy! Nick, Nick take my spurs off. I think I need a different bit.” What was she thinking?
The guy on the collecting ring, obviously irritated beyond belief, bellowed “Are you going or what?” The cries of “no I’m not ready” were drowned by The Young Master’s encouraging “You’ll be fine, just lean back at the drop” and the starter announcing “30 seconds”. “What drop?” and with that they were counting down “5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Good luck” and we were off.
It was a lovely day for a hack round the park but when I had to trot down a gentle slope to a skinny I began to doubt my rider’s sanity. Still if that’s what she wanted who am I to disagree? We sedately negotiated a combination and headed to the water and suddenly my rider woke up, the handbrake was off and we galloped through the wood. This is more like it I thought leaping over a small ditch and blasting on.
We finished to a rousing cheer from our followers but grim news our run had come too late and we had amassed loads of time faults. The 99’s were on Fatboy Slim but it was agreed we had all had a lot of fun which is how it should be.
On a More Serious Note…
The next outing was more serious, a step up to BE100 for Minnie Haha in the Under18 section at Allerton Park. We didn’t have the best of preparation with Minnie Haha knocked for six by a bug and it was touch and go as to whether she would be well enough to ride. “I’ll be fine,” she croaked but her pallor resembled that of a Leprechaun. I heard a deal being struck that if my dressage was ropey (as if!) and I had a fence down in the show jumping (Moi?) we wouldn’t run cross country and our efforts would be focused on being tip top for another day. Talk about a red rag to a bull, not allowed to run XC we’ll soon see about that.
I was topped up with Fibre-Beet, hydrated and ready for whatever came my way. The Old Girl was pleased with my test, calm and rhythmical and much more accurate than her effort (well even Minnie Haha, not at her best, is better than the ring rusty Old Girl).
The show jumping was in a lovely large arena and we cruised round posting a clear and receiving loud claps and cheers from the hockey mums who, having dropped their girls at a match, had sneaked off to cheer us on. The cross country was a fabulous track, big and bold just to my liking, but I was conscious Minnie Haha was flagging a little. We may have narrowly missed out on a top ten place but I carried my instructions out to the letter and jumped a sensible clear bringing her home safe and sound. To say everyone was elated is an understatement. The Old Girl heaped praise on me with generous measures of Fibre-Beet at tea time, boosting my ego no end by telling me I am a complete treasure.

New Arrivals

I was still basking in the glow of these warm words several days later when I heard Bettsy being fired up. Was I off for a session with ‘He who must be Obeyed’? The Old Girl had barely recovered from the last one and wasn’t the country in the midst of a fuel crisis? We are all up to speed on such matters as Wagon Cat, such a political animal, feeds us all the juicy titbits.
The wagon left the yard without any of us on board and not a murmur it was going for TLC at the garage. This could surely only mean one thing, a new arrival for the latest new arrival to Team Ireland? Yes, The Old Girl is now officially a Galloping Granny (power trotting Granny simply doesn’t have the same ring) and The Young Master is a Father… Norah was born Friday 24th September weighing in at 6lbs 2oz.
After what seemed an age, Bettsy reappeared with the driver grinning manically. “She’s definitely bought a pony,” we all agreed straining to see what would come down the ramp. I couldn’t see anything poking its head over the partition. “I bet it’s a Shetland,” muttered The Legend sounding none too pleased about the prospect. The Old Boy appeared, Mother of Mary did it need a chifney to unload it? It must be a feisty one!
The suspense was killing us as we jostled for a better view, craning our necks in anticipation. “Oh my, it’s a piebald” shrieked Fatboy Slim who is here on boot camp. “What!” The Legend was even more put out. “And it’s hogged,” added Fatboy Slim gleefully. I could see he was going to be put in his place soon if he didn’t shut up. My burning question was simply would it want my ration of Fibre-Beet?
Relief and much amusement flooded through the stables as we watched the newly doting grandparents carrying a rocking horse into the house. The air turned blue at one point when Granny bashed her hand on the door frame but unlike its real life namesake it didn’t make a bid for freedom or roll on the lawn. So you can see there has been so much to smile about around here. I predict Norah is going to be spoilt rotten as Wagon Cat tells me she is utterly gorgeous emulating her parents, Nick and Katie, and if long legs run in the family I might still be rideable when she is tall enough.
With the eventing season soon drawing to a close I have two more outings with Minnie Haha in the Under18 BE100 classes then a holiday is on the cards! Those of you who know me well, know I soon get bored and mischief leads me astray. I had better watch my step though in case a new real pony takes my stable and worse still my Fibre-Beet!
Keep smiling
Billy Bank xx