Top of the Morning to you,
Well, I can’t quite believe the 2021 eventing season is over! It only seems five minutes ago that we were setting off on our travels to the first event, hoping our aims and goals were achievable. I think it is fair to say the team finished the season having ticked all their boxes and some. We are all looking forward to a bit of relaxation and respite before setting new goals and challenges for 2022.
Our penultimate event was relatively local, at Askham Bryan College, so I was somewhat surprised to be woken up in what seemed the middle of the night and given my breakfast. I am never one to complain when a bucket of warm Fibre-Beet comes my way so I tucked in with relish. King Kato, who belongs to Minnie Haha, was equally bemused, commenting he rarely sees anyone before daylight when at home but like me had soon licked the pattern off his bucket. Although Kato is a relative new comer to our gang he has fitted in well and was the reason The Old Girl and Minne Haha shot off, like scalded cats, to the land of Druids, returning triumphant with an empty Krispy Kreme donut box. I have learnt this is the sign of a successful horse shopping trip, or a competition win and it wasn’t to be the last box I saw this month either!
It was still dark when we were loaded onto trusty Bettsy and rumbled off to our destination. Journeys are always shorter when you have a friend to natter with and despite Kato’s former illustrious career he is remarkably grounded, unassuming and enjoys a joke as much as the next Neddie. At one point we could hear raised voices from the humans, and then it went very quiet. I gleaned it was something to do with skinnies. These super early mornings clearly did not suit some of the Team.
Light was tentatively filtering through when we pulled up, third box to arrive, on the field. The Old Girl despatched Minnie Haha to walk the show jumping course while she attended to me as I was the pathfinder in the dressage. She was soon back, changed and on board. Warming up in front of the lorries meant I could keep half an eye on what The Old Girl was up to while she prepared The King for his test. The Old Girl strode over and beckoned to us, “You’d better give Billy a gallop and get his mind on the job,” she advised. A somewhat unorthodox approach some may say but it certainly stopped me worrying whether The King was receiving more pampering than I had.
Off we went to the arena, my mind well and truly focused now, and I came down the centre line like I owned it. I had lots of praise afterwards while Minnie Haha leapt off me onto The King to produce another good test. Our marks were super close with me slightly ahead at this point. Our times were tight to say the least, The Old Girl had barely boiled the kettle before we were off to show jump. The luck of the Irish was not on my side and I clipped a pole, the first pole Minnie Haha and I have had in our two year partnership. The King sailed round clear edging ahead of me now. I waited back at the box to hear how the cross country was riding, sipping some sloppy Fibre-Beet to help keep me hydrated as the sun had started to shine with some force.
The Team returned jubilant, not only had they gone clear but inside the time which was proving virtually impossible to make. Somehow, I knew I would have some time penalties. Minnie Haha, using the skills the Young Master has impressed upon her, shaved off the corners the best she could opting for the tightest lines possible and I dug deep into my Fibre-Beet induced slow release energy reserves to do my utmost to beat the clock.
No chance, like the majority of the other Under18 100 competitors I had penalties which dropped me down the leader board. The Old Girl greeted us at the finish, quickly slackening my girth and undoing the noseband. “Well done,” she praised us. “Now you’ve got your MER’s to ride at novice,” she told Minnie Haha. “Another clear on Billy and you can do a one star next year.”
Now there was time for a coffee and cake while we waited for the final results. After what seemed like an age it was announced Kato had won and I had narrowly missed out on a rosette. “Well,” I told him “The Krispy Kremes are on you Boyo.”
We had barely got home and been revived with Fibre-Beet mashes when word drifted out to the stables that The Old Girl was shooting off with Minnie Hehe, younger sister of Haha, to check out a new ride. Would the car contain that all telling donut box we wondered as they had been on a few trips returning empty handed? Wagon cat was despatched to keep a vigil and report any news. Headlights swung into the yard, The Old Girl jumped out and headed to the recycling bin, we strained to see what was going in…
Our next outing was a fun ride around Escrick Park organised by the York & Ainsty South Pony Club to raise branch funds and money for the Air Ambulance. Fat Boy Slim, Lacey Long Legs and I did the marathon of 16 miles with The Unicorn Brother and the new arrival (Yes, a donut box hit the bin!) Hot Sprite taking a shorter eight mile route. Humans stayed in the lorry discussing the serious matter of whether Hot Sprite and Hehe should or should not attend Norton Disney with The Krispy Kreme King and I.
The Old Girl announced she was too old for anymore 4am starts, as after all she is a Granny now, and was booking me a stable, which then led to the discovery of Brills Farm Bed and Breakfast which not only accommodated humans but horses too, literally half a mile from the venue. Needless to say three stables were booked, Hot Sprite was on the team.
We arrived at Brills Farm to a warm welcome from Sophie and her family. Our stables had deep inviting beds which of course we couldn’t wait to roll in before we headed off for a dressage practice in the indoor school. The Old Girl went to check out her room and came back raving about her wonderful bed and the fact she could have a hot bath later. The following morning there were no cross words from the humans who had enjoyed a wonderful cooked breakfast which even contained huge mushrooms, one of The Old Girls favourites. Naturally we had lashings of Fibre-Beet to give us plenty of slow release energy throughout the day. I overheard the conversation that Sophie is starting Brills Farm Cookery School so who knows maybe The Old Girl will attend a couple of sessions to brush up on her culinary skills.
The journey to the venue literally took 10 minutes where it was all systems go with our times pretty close together again. The King and I were both exuberant in our tests, again very closely marked with The King sneaking just ahead. He increased his lead over me with a clear show jumping where once again I had an annoying pole. The Cross Country, always my favourite phase, caused us no bother and we both cruised round inside the time. The Under18 BE100 was a huge competitive section with placings separated by fractions of a mark so The King did well to finish 10th. Minnie Haha has made the step up to this level very comfortably posting 6 clears XC out of 6 runs. Somehow I feel, after our holiday, the winter will be spent further improving our dressage and show jumping skills.
The attention now turned to the very new combination of Minnie Hehe and Hot Sprite. The Old Girl took them off in plenty of time to warm up for the dressage, where I could see them zipping around with gay abandon. That wouldn’t sit too well with Granny, who has been heard to say frequently she is getting too old for any nonsense! Thankfully when they entered at A both parties were focused and a lovely test ensued. This was followed up by a smart double clear resulting in second place in the Under18 BE90. What a great start to this new partnership, I predict exciting times ahead.
So now I am having a holiday, feet up reading Horse and Hound enjoying warm my Fibre-Beet mashes as the weather is turning colder. Not being a lover of down time, I often find myself led into mischief so I expect it won’t be too long before the words “Enough!” ring through the yard and I am back on the work rota.
Billy Bank x