I was so pleased to be going to Trailblazers. Yes it was unaffiliated, but honestly I was just so pleased to be going somewhere, anywhere for an actual overnight stay, and with the horses. Thanks to Covid this has been long overdue, and really I never thought Ben would come as far as he has. A free, older racehorse who has an incredible amount of race miles under his belt, now proving to be the most giving horse. I took the day before we needed to leave off work, because I forgot just how much stuff (for the horse!) you needed to pack when going away, and I was feeling a tad more stressed than usual, because I was having to do the set up and first day of tests on my own! Thursday morning I am up bright and early, take my son to school - Last ever day of primary school, but needless to say I had bigger things on my mind! - and then hit the road. Ben is all bathed, and normally I would have him covered from head to toe, boots, rug, lycra hood but the weather decided it wanted to be 30 degrees, so back boots it was (and over reach boots in the hope the shoes stayed on), we only make it 30 minutes before my lorry decides to show an entire display of rainbow lights on the dash. I pull over at the nearest petrol station, find a bit of shade in case we cannot drive anymore and ring my mechanic. He is very very familiar with this lorry, sometimes I wonder why I don't get my wages paid straight into his bank account! He thinks it is just the hot weather playing havoc with the electrics and advises me to go home, and travel in the evening when it is cooler! Great! Not the start I wanted but at least I get to pick my son up from school. It then dawns on me, that by the time it gets cool and I do the 2 hour drive, it will be past the 7:30pm arrival cut off. I manage to get hold of the venue who very kindly agree to stay open later for me and even move my test which was early the next day to a later time. Now I am feeling a bit more relaxed and ready to try again, Ben however isn't impressed that he needs to stay stabled in order to stay clean for the afternoon.
So 6pm and off we go - We actually make it at 8:30pm after 2 detours which were not lorry friendly! It was a gorgeous showground with already the sense of friendly fellow competitors. By the time Ben is all sorted and in bed and my tent is all set up it is just turning dusk, so I decide to go for a little walk to find the arena I will be in, the warm up arena and the catering marquee, and then off to bed for an early night.
Friday morning I am up for 6am, ready to get Ben out for a leg stretch, we do a little walk ride, not asking for any work, just wanting him to walk long and low really stretching out those old bones after a long journey the night before and he feels great, and then my gloves rip. Of course they are the one thing I only brought one of. So I put Ben away and rush off to the trade stands for a replacement pair, a "little" bit of spending later and I am all set. I go and grab breakfast and a coffee, take up a seat by the arenas and sit and watch some earlier classes before I need to get ready. Getting ready, thanks to Ben's rubbed out mane consisted on 26 plaits, so I really did need a lot of time. Ben stood like a dream, Mr Chilled while we got ready and 30 mins before our test we headed to the warm up. The horsewalk didn't go too well, it was just pure chance that I was the only one walking down, while four other horses were walking up, so all Ben wanted to do was turn out and follow, this got him unusually worked up, and a kind lady offered to walk her horse down to the warm up as a lead, this worked, however he was now all worked up and on his toes as we entered the warm up arena from hell, the overflow wasn't being used and the arena reminded me of sardines in a can. It was chaos, with people all ready cantering around and Ben hot on his heels we jogged and jogged in 30 degree heat until we were both a sweaty mess, again a very kind lady offered us a lead and this got Ben moving and thinking forward, finally we were going, I thanked her and off we went to warm up, loads of nice trot work and a little canter when and where we could find a free space amongst all the people, horses, spooking and falls.... and then.... 9 minutes before my test a lady falls off ride underneath Ben. Ben jumps and spins and down I go straight on my ribs. OUCH! (sort of what I said!) I peel myself off the floor to watch Ben galloping all the way up the tarmac horse walk while person after person fails to catch him. Finally I see someone has him and is walking back to the arena. I limp slowly up, take him back down, yup - 2 minutes until my test. Well silly me, adrenaline is running, Ben WAS going feeling well - sod it - lets do this. I clamber on and in we go. He walks around the flower pots, the car, the flags, the judges box without a flinch, we go down the centre line and suddenly in the combination of pain and panic I realise I have forgot the test! I transition to walk to give myself longer to think whether I need to go left or right, yes, I remember, great back into trot we go, oh no, ouch, ouch, actually this really hurts! Oh God we need to canter, no actually just trot, it's fine, we aren't exactly winning anything now, oh good walk, free walk on a long rein, I can breathe for a minute! Oh no canter again, OK it's the last one, lets do it - Mistake! Mistake! Lets just trot, down the centreline and halt! I think I saluted? and that folks if how you perform a 46% test!!!!
My partner arrives at the showground, packs us up, we go home. A quick trip to A&E, and a couple of stress fractures and a tonne of soft tissue damage later for me, and a bad back and 2 weeks of physio and rehab for Ben and maybe we'll still have time to qualify for BD ROR champs!