Billy’s Blog – A Galloping Granny and The New Understudy

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Straight from the horse’s mouth… Here we catch up with Billy Bank and Team Ireland as they kick off their season in style with a number of placings and a win at Norton Disney.

Top of the Morning to you,

Finally the weather has calmed down and our season is underway. It was frustrating in the early part of the year that everything we planned to attend was either rained off or the high winds made it impossible to travel. Thankfully now those extremes have quietened down and we can get to business.

The Old Girl rode me first at the back end of March in a BE80 at Northallerton. She was keen to improve on our previous performance at Frickley last year, where the less said about the dressage the better… or the snail like XC round. So we signed up for some serious input from “He who must be obeyed”.

The Legend and I had a private bet on who would crack first as The Old Girl quite often just stops in a session to blow her nose or take off her jumper which doesn’t sit too well with the coach! There was some debate about my bit and noseband which resulted in a change definitely for the better and a joke about the vulcanite snaffle I now use for dressage as being older than The Young Master.

The Old Girl’s mentality of ‘you never know when that might be useful’ paid dividends when we posted a sub 30 dressage score at Northallerton followed up by a double clear with no time penalties either on the XC this time. In fact the ‘Galloping Granny’ as been born and we shot off at such a pace she had to take a serious check half way round to avoid a speeding ticket. Fourth place and prize money saw a spring in Granny’s step that matched mine as I danced my traditional Irish jig back to the lorry after our round.

Half term and the Easter holidays saw a new jockey picking up my reins along with The Young Master who has taken me on some long fittening hacks. Minnie Haha is bogged down with the tedium of GCSE’s looming and riding multiple horses has just got too much so a previous partner of the Legend was promoted… The Understudy.

The Understudy hit the ground running at Breckenbrough in a very competitive BE90 Under18 Open section. Rather like Granny, The Understudy benefitted from some training with ‘He who must be Obeyed ‘ and the newly founded Event Right Club. We enjoyed some great sessions in arena event training whilst the ground was too wet and then a brilliant day over at Norton Disney.

Granny’s best buddy, the Derbyshire Dressage Diva, gave us a weekend we won’t forget in a hurry. I can tell you I have never needed hydrating and slow release energy feeds of Fibre-Beet more than over that weekend, the actual competition day was a piece of cake in comparison.

Anyway it’s fair to say we arrived at Breckenbrough as ready as we’d ever be. There were no Leprechauns in sight and the sun shone along with my halo, of course, after I posted an even lower dressage score than the fortnight before! The Understudy is very accurate so the circles are quite round which the judges do seem to appreciate.

I could feel the tension mounting before the show jumping as the course had caused a few problems but the good thing about these teenage riders is they squeeze and point, which is just how I like to be ridden. The ebbing confidence came flooding back with each fence and we flew through the finish with no faults. I knew from my chat with The Legend that previously this new jockey had only competed at 80’s and often didn’t get inside the time. That was about to change and fuelled with some Fibre-Beet I gave her the ride of her life finishing comfortably inside the optimum time. Fourth place and more prize money, the support team were ecstatic!

More training followed and a pass in the Pony Club C test for The Understudy. The Young Master passed his C plus and B test on me so I know all the moves. I was pleased to hear the candidates repeating the benefits of feeding Fibre-Beet in the equine diet and knowing that Cooked Linseed available from British Horse Feeds gives me such a shiny coat and good skin, not to mention how fantastic it is for tendon elasticity and the old timers like The Legend -Don’t tell him I called him that though!

Next stop… the Blankney Pony Club One Day Event at Norton Disney. Historically I have always been excitable in the dressage there, if you believe the chat. I maintain the Lincolnshire Leprechauns are always prevalent in October.

Anyway Granny wasn’t taking any chances she and I had a little chat on a couple of very long hacks. Naturally I put my best foot forward in the dressage swaggering out with the air of one who knows he has nailed it. The Understudy was heard to moan our test hadn’t been as good as the previous one (she’s getting competitive now) but let’s be honest no one ever comes out of the arena proclaiming that was their best ever test do they?

The judge and I were both on the same page and we headed the leader board. No pressure now then!

I literally didn’t touch a pole in the show jumping giving them all plenty of air and the cross country was probably one of my best rounds, not that I am bragging of course. The day was filled with those rare moments when everything goes to plan. A first win for The Understudy, a day she’ll remember for sure and like most of our days out competing shared with friends.

Granny had four riding across the classes and they all posted good dressage scores, only one pole down and all four clear cross country with everyone taking home a top ten rosette and everyone fed on Fibre-Beet!

There’s more fun on the horizon with a camp soon at Hamley Hagg, a couple more BE90 U18 events and the Pony Club Area Dressage at half term. I will certainly be kept out of mischief and definitely in need of plenty of Fibre-Beet.

Keep smiling!

Billy Bank