I had a really busy weekend planned to celebrate with a visit to Badminton and then Team Quest on the Sunday. My good friend Craig Nicolai was competing at Badminton for the first time and so, after years of trying to get in, I really wanted to go and lend him my support. I've known Craig for a long time and he helped me so much with my old horse, he is a brilliant horseman and generally lovely guy. I've cheered him round some of the best events so to be there at Badminton supporting him was just incredible.
Craig and Spida looked incredible in the warm up, definitely the best I've seen them, and once he stormed out the start box I could bearly breathe! Listening to the tannoy and commentary he was having a super round and I was waiting for him at the second last fence only to hear that he fell at fence 27. Craig thought it was a miscommunication between them that caused the fall but when I got home I watched the slo-mo footage and it was clear that actually Spida caught his leg on the decorative snail on the fence so nothing either of them could have done. I was absolutely gutted for him and ran over to check him and Spida were ok. They were both fine bar a few scrapes and will live to fight another day. I was amazed to see the outpouring of support for the pair of them on social media and I showed Craig later on when we were relaxing in the bar. He was feeling terrible, like he wasn't good enough for that level and those messages boosted him up - social media did good!
I was utterly inspired by the day. I had watched some amazing horsemanship and spoken to some legends (one of the benefits of going behind the scenes) and it's reminded me why I love the sport so much. I used all of that to keep my mind positive for our Team Quest outing. Buddy felt fabulous in the warm up, really off my leg and working forward. Not as great as we get in our lessons but good enough for this stage in his education. We then went into the indoor school and I knew I was in for a tough ride...
The indoor is very spooky and I had real trouble getting B up to the ends of the school and into the corner. There were horses trotting past and lots of banging when we were doing our test which wasn't especially helpful. I'd chosen to go down the spooky side first to get to the judges box - thank goodness as the judge rang the bell as soon as I'd walked past! I had a think whether I had enough time to get all the way around and discounted it - I think if I'd been able to it would have been fractionally better but not that much. He was tight, tense, spooky and although he really tried it was all a bit much for him. At my final halt the judge said what a shame it was that he'd been so spooky as 'she' was a very smart horse.
I was really gutted as it was a terrible test - the only good bit was our give and re-take - and I had that horrible feeling that I was going to be the team let down AGAIN. I took B back to the box and let him have a graze as we were going to do some XC schooling after Em and Indy had done their test a bit later. I went to check my score a bit later and was prepared for something terrible - it was 60.4% so not as bad as I was expecting and actually I was near the top of the class (we were placed 7th/20) which made me feel like much less of a failure as we were still in with a shot!!
Em did a fab test in the Novice and then off we went to the XC course. We started off over a x pole - popping it from both reins and then I was told to come over to a not very small house. Now considering B can be a bit spooky I was prepared for a stop but no B flew it. My grin started right then and didn't stop for the rest of the session. We were jumping things I would not have considered jumping and he felt incredible. The only thing we had an issue with was a couple of water trays but G gave me some handy hints as he could see B wasn't focused enough in front of the fence and I rode with a whip. A couple of taps (8 strides out, 4 strides out and 2 strides out) down his shoulder to keep him focused on the job in hand made so much difference. I also stopped riding defensively which encouraged B to keep moving forwards too. It was a real lightbulb session and I came away with a huge grin on my face.
Lucy then arrived for her test and she went in and did the best one I've seen her do - she was super - and they nailed it! Down to the scoreboard and we had come 2nd. Phew! Back in the game after our disappointment last time - especially as I then saw our judge was BCA judge!! So glad I didn't know that before the test as it would have definitely affected my PMA. So another frilly to add to our ever growing 2015 collection. Packed away and we started our journey home.... Then we had a drama when my oil light came on and the engine temperature soared. I turned off the engine and hazard lights on and tried not to panic but was thinking the worst! It was incredibly stressful but SEIB recovery were great and had someone there within an hour. I was most anxious whether B would load into a strange box after all our loading issues but I needn't have worried as he went straight on. Phew. Plus there is nothing terribly wrong with the lorry either so that's a bonus and we will be back on the road without any hassle.