Billy’s Blog – The Understudy becomes the Leading Lady

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Here we catch up with Billy Bank, The Understudy and the team as they continue their fantastic form

Top of the Morning to you,

And what a grand one it is at that! They say that time flies when you’re having fun and we have certainly been doing that in the world of British Eventing!

Buoyed up by our win at Norton Disney, and the fact Granny was concerned one of our scheduled events was in danger of being cancelled, the team decided a run at Bradwall Horse Trials with The Understudy would be a good idea. Despite the 4.30am departure it seems Granny was right, although the day was not without a little bit of drama.

We sailed smoothly to Cheshire, most sane folk still in bed at that hour so the roads were clear and we found the venue with no bother. I could hear Granny telling the team her last visit had been way back in the day when No 1 son had been a babe in arms and she had been helping someone at the Pony Trials. I was left with a hydrating breakfast of sloppy Fibre-Beet while they all set off to walk the course.

The team returned but no sign of Granny. Nothing unusual in that she was probably gassing to some old crony she hadn’t seen for an age. Top Groom had me off the lorry and studded up and there was still no sign.

The Old Boy, not generally given much to worrying, gave her a call and the distress in her voice rang clear, “They want to cut my ring off, the paramedic is brandishing bolt cutters. Hang on, I’ll call you back the Doctor’s here now.” Mother of Mary!! What on earth was going on? 

Everyone gave a sigh of relief when Granny finally appeared, her hand raised and her blood pressure lower as the ring was still intact on what was clearly a swollen finger.  Turns out the old bird had been stung whilst walking the course and suffered a massive allergic reaction. The Doctor had dosed her up on lord knows what and told her in no uncertain terms to drink alcohol or operate heavy equipment and if at any point she felt the ring needed to come off to grab someone with a walkie talkie immediately. With all that out of the way we cracked on with the job in hand and set off to the dressage.

I don’t know what it is about this dressage lark but I am beginning to enjoy it and it seems my performance gave everyone an equal amount of pleasure. Back to the box for more Fibre-Beet, as the day was warming up and we all needed hydrating. Then the show jumping loomed.

The course was causing some issues and having watched several competitors fall by the wayside my jockey was naturally feeling a little tense. So how wonderful it was when a lovely lady introduced herself as the Under 18 Coach, dismissing the fact we weren’t from her region with a breezy “I am here to help everyone.”

She set to and talked us through which pitfalls to avoid and emphasised the better lines to take. With nerves settled we cantered in, and if the Leprechauns were lurking I didn’t see them. We posted a good clear round which strengthened our position no end. Then it was quickly down to the cross country. I knew what we had to do, a few wise words from Granny and we were off. The old parkland turf felt grand under my toes and I cruised round retuning to the cheering support team and the news we had taken the lead. Back to back wins don’t come often so I wasn’t surprised there was a little bit of celebrating, Fibre-Beet for me and fizz for the team.  It was great to win a video from Meadow Productions too.

The next weekend was a super fun camp with The Understudy, up on the moors with The Event Right Club, where skills were honed further and attention to details emphasised. In such a competitive sport no one can rest on their laurels that is for sure.

The training paid dividends when we rocked up at Warwick Hall with another relative newcomer on board, The Green Goblin. Half Fairy Queen and half Leprechaun I am never too sure which side will surface but when she’s on form she’s unbeatable, and ridden by Minnie Haha who takes determined to another dimension. The girls went off to walk the cross country with the Northern coach, who gave excellent advice as always, while the team tarted us up.

The dressage went well again with us handily placed and The Green Goblin sitting on the throne. The show jumping was causing problems along with the steeplechase fence on the cross country. Had Leprechauns infiltrated the place in search of their leader?

Fuelled with Fibre-Beet I took the course on and posted a clear which The Green Goblin replicated and then we headed off for the cross country. The track was right up my street, lovely old turf in a beautiful setting next to a river. We cruised round and finished comfortably inside the time. By the time we were washed off the results were confirmed with a third place for me and a win for The Green Goblin. Good results always make the journey home shorter.

An easy week followed with Granny insisting on time for muscle repair and recuperation. I had a lovely maintenance physio session from Tadcaster based Karina Hawkridge who attends to all our needs on a regular basis. Prevention is better than cure is one of Granny’s favourite sayings so I felt great when I set off in half term to a Northern Under 18 Camp near Hexham with The Understudy again.

Our Top Groom looked after all my needs and it was fabulous to return to Belsay, which is truly one of my all-time favourite venues. The input earlier in the week from ‘He Who Must be Obeyed’ and the camp coaches paid dividends as The Understudy and I jointly led the dressage, with another British Horse Feeds Brand ambassador, Ruby Thompson. We both stayed on clean sheets but my slightly quicker cross country round put Ruby closer to the optimum time to take the win and pip me into second. But no one was complaining and what a great endorsement for the hydrating properties of Fibre-Beet as the sun had shone solidly all day making those sloppy feeds essential.

I think it’s fair to say The Understudy has become The Leading Lady and who knows what our next virtuoso performance will be? Check out our next blog to find out and in the meantime if you want to shine and glimmer, eat Fibre-Beet for dinner!

Keep smiling


Billy Bank xx