In my last blog I quote myself: “Lord Ben and I managed to qualify for ROR Novice Dressage Championships at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, and I am not sure if someone thought it would be hilarious to have two days of retrained racehorse on grass arenas. I guess it will prove how well we have all retrained our racehorses!”
For the record I have not retrained my racehorse very well! We arrived at a friend's yard closer to the venue the evening before, where he settled very well for the night. I arrived bright and early to groom and plait, and we made our 30-minute journey to Blenheim Palace.
This is as good as the story gets!
I arrive and park up and ask the staff where the warmup is and how to get to the arena. They advised me it was ten minutes hack (yes hack) through (yes through) the cross country course, over a narrow wooden bridge (yes over a bridge) and up a long, straight, grassy hill (yes, on a racehorse!). This is also the moment my heart literally stopped!
I had a little pep talk and reminded myself that 50 other people were having to do the same thing, while trying to squash the very loud voice in my head reminding me that Ben spent 12 years in racing, and much of the last two and a half years off the track wishing he still was.
I got the both of us ready and had a little walk around the parking area, made my way up to the horse walk, and everything I imagined came true as we sideways cantered, spun, bucked and I think at one point even locked onto a four star cross country jump! Then we arrived at the bridge, a bridge we most definitely are not going over. I dismount and on foot still need a lead over the bridge. Once on the other side (eventually and very close to my test time) I realise I need to get back on, just in time to tackle the grass hill! I decide a leg up will most definitely make him think racing, so I scramble on from the floor and pretty much gallop up to the warmup arena. Surprisingly once in a fenced area surrounded by five calm horses, he settles a little, with a mere six minutes before my test!
They call my name, and as I enter the arena past both judges, TV scenes, VIP marquees and the audience, Ben decides we would like to go back to the quiet warm up area with the other horses and proceeds to spin and nap the whole way around the outside of the arena, with the odd spook at judges, flowerpots and pushchairs for good measure! The bell rings for me to start my test - looking back this should have been the exact moment I got off. I swallow my butterflies and proceed down the ‘centre line’. I use the word in inverted commas because it wasn't in the centre, nor was it any sort of line. For four and a half minutes, I battle my way around the arena, randomly hitting markers and in my head doing all the correct things, while the determined racehorse underneath me spends four and a half minutes showing everyone, he IS a racehorse with no retraining. We halt, we battle for 30 seconds for immobility, we salute, never once making eye contact and dance out of the arena, all the way down the hill, over the wooden bridge, across the cross country course and breathe a sigh of relief on the lorry that nobody died!
While Ben is happily munching away on some hay, thinking what a fun day it's been, I have a quick walk around the show, find the ROR tent to leave £1 for postage (because there is absolutely no way on earth I was waiting around for four hours for my sheet) only to be met with "oh you were on Lord Ben" a lot of people have asked us to pass on their sympathy who watched." I quickly hand them £5, mutter to them not to worry about the change, buy myself a large coffee and head home.
Three long days later my sheet comes in the post! 41% Placing 48/50, as two people withdraw due to not being able to get to the arena, so last out of all of those who had competed, with the most perfect judges comment of "tomorrow is another day!"
With these comments in mind, knowing Ben does have excellent dressage ability and not to be deterred, we have registered BD, so we can stay within the safety of a surface and his hooves never have to attempt to school on grass again!