Top of the Morning to you,
July has been a busy time and a most successful time for the Young Master and I achieving our goals of qualifying for the Pony Club Championships held later in Cheshire. Anyone who has anything to do with the Pony Club will know this is the ambition of most competitive members and the standard at the qualifiers is incredibly high.
Well hydrated on Fibre-Beet we set off to the Show Jumping qualifier, held at Northallerton on a sunny Sunday morning. We stopped on route to collect Glamour Girl and Minnie HaHa who were taking part in the team qualifier. Glamour Girl lets her results do the talking but she did tell me Minnie HaHa was very excited to be picked for the team which was her first time riding in the Novice Challenge Level. I was reminiscing about the first time the Young Master and I represented the branch when raised voices of shock could be heard from the humans! Apparently one of the other members, due to compete in an earlier class, had sustained a nasty injury resulting in a trip to hospital. The poor girl had been kicked in the face, removing a tail bandage, and would require an operation. Not quite the start anyone wants to their summer holidays but thankfully she is well on her way to recovery due to prompt action from the paramedics and the good old NHS.
It was a blistering hot day at Northallerton, but the Old Girl had us both topped up with Fibre-Beet and electrolytes throughout the day and I came off the box feeling full of energy. The Young Master and I were taking part in the Open Novice Competition and could not afford more than two poles down across the day if we were to qualify for the Championships. I was rather opinionated in the first round, showing off a bit if I am honest to Glamour Girl who had already posted a clear for her team, and paid the price of rolling a pole when I failed to listen to my rider! He was not happy, chuntering all the way back to the lorry, and was only pacified when the Old Girl changed the noseband. Glamour Girl said nothing but gave me a look that said, "Buck your ideas up boyo, you don't want to be on the transfer list."
Glamour Girl coolly produced another clear, collected the double clear rosette, and settled down to wait for the jump off. Now was the time to show what I was made of, and despite the deep going in the arena which had already seen 100 horses jump round, I produced the goods and posted a clear round and a win. Phew... off to the champs we would go...
The Young Master gave Minnie Haha some advice on going for a steady clear as poles fell when others tried to race round. The pair reached the last fence, a double, still clear and were so unlucky to brush it with a hind leg and annoyingly it dropped to the ground.
Next stop the Area Eventing Qualifier at Breckenborough. Another tough challenge, where only the top two in my class would gain a championship ticket. The dressage would have to be spot on! More early mornings with "He who must be obeyed" followed. How many times could the phrase "No, again, again. No, again" possibly be repeated? Finally we heard the word GOOD, and we were allowed to move onto another movement. Talk about eat, drink and sleep dressage. Everyone knew the flaming test even down to the yard cat, Alfie who has been threatening to stow away with us just to see what goes on at these events.
The Old Girl disappeared off early to help Minnie Haha and Glamour Girl who had travelled up with Tinkerbelle and her son Babyface who has a pony affectionately known as Barney Big Belly, (he is rather greedy). The Youngsters were taking part in the Grassroots competition, keen to qualify for their championship at Eland Lodge later in August. Well with The Old Girl to whip them into shape, they got off to a good start, posting very competitive dressage scores. Glamour Girl cruised round the show jumping and cross country in her easy style to take a WIN in her arena, much to the delight of Minnie Haha. Babyface and Barney Big Belly had a little blip in the show jumping but their combined scores with the other team members meant the team finished 5th and qualified for the Championship. No pressure now for me as these youngsters are not so much knocking on the door but banging it down!
With the voice of "He who must be obeyed" ringing in my ears I boldly trotted down the centre line and strutted my funky stuff. I actually felt it was an enjoyable experience and judging from the reaction of the support team it must have been a good test. The Young Master rode the show jumping like his life depended on it and no way was I allowed to chip in any extra strides through the combinations. Fuelled on Fibre-Beet and feeling good I flew round without so much as touching a pole. Then off to the cross country where every second would count. No room for sat nav errors or misreading the watch. We were third to go, the adrenalin was pumping, the support team were all hovering anxiously about, the nerves not helped when the first person on the course parted company with their horse at fence four and it galloped home alone. Then we were off, everything to play for. It was just one of those days when everything goes right, we met every fence on a good stride and before I knew it we were cruising home through the finish flags. But had we done enough? Would we be staying on for the eventing at the Champs after the Show Jumping?
Legs iced and washed off, the wait was agonising... Finally the news broke we had finished in our dressage position of 2nd which meant our stay at Cholmondely Castle would include the Intermediate Eventing again. What brilliant news for everyone and more sessions of dressage. Oh joy! This time in a long arena.
Pony club camp then followed with a different twist, The Young Master taking on a coaching role, talk about poacher turned gamekeeper. He cracked the whip making his young ride sweep the yard until the bristles on the broom had virtually worn away, their tack was supple as butter from all the cleaning and nobodies boots shone like his groups. I observed all this at a distance as Minnie Haha took up my reins and Glamour Girl stayed at home to conserve her energy before the Area Dressage (alright for some). Camp - I wouldn't miss it for the world, I love it not least because I get extra rations due to all the increased work. Fibre-Beet three if not four times a day! My idea of heaven. If it rained a bit we were all laughing as we had the use of the indoor school at Askham Bryan College. Before we knew it the last day arrived and another dressage competition. Trundling round with my nose in the right place, hind leg engaged and working over my back I posted a winning score and the Old Girl threatened to buy me a diamante browband. Now steady on! Billy Bling is not really my thing.
So the last of the Area Qualifiers, the dressage followed. The Young Master had decided we had plenty to do concentrating on eventing and show jumping so decided to give this one a miss. Instead he offered his support to the youngsters he had coached at camp. What a day they had with Sprout and Minnie Haha taking individual places in the junior competition, held first in the morning, posting solid tests to finish 4th and 3rd in their arenas, helping the team to 5th place. The Grassroots qualifiers ran in the afternoon and the York & Ainsty Youngsters really flew the flag for the club with both teams qualifying in 2nd and 3rd places. Glamour Girl, fresh from her sabbatical, took FIRST place in her arena individually. Not to be outdone younger sister Minnie HeHe on Sprouts other pony, Spike (borrowed for the day), also WON. Babyface kept a cool head taking a 3rd place and two old team Ireland ponies, Tight Spot and Princess Bubbles drew on their experience gaining 5th places for their jockeys. Wowwee, never have we seen so many rosettes won on one day in this discipline.
So Eland Lodge will have a huge YAS contingent down there in August, the ponies fuelled on Fibre-Beet, trying to bring home the spoils to Yorkshire. Good luck everyone!
And what of the Legend I hear you ask? Not to be outdone he has three championships to head to in August of course. The Riding Club eventing, BS Nationals and the Pony club show jumping grassroots final, you'd think at his age he'd be taking it easy but Fibre-Beet is excellent for the golden oldies too and there is no one more golden than him!
So on that note I shall sign off,
Billy Bank x