I was given a late time (16.33) so it wasn't a horribly early start thankfully. Jenny Fudge and I set off from the yard just after 10am. We stopped at South Mimms services on the way there for us to go to the loo and of course to check on Fudge. He was travelling well, and looked totally bemused that we had stopped, and why on earth would he want a drink of water! I hadn't really appreciated how close Windsor is to the M4 so it really was an easy journey, M25 was fine we just cruised along about 45-50 mph.
We left Fudge in the lorry park chomping hay in the lorry so Jenny and I could get our passes and find out where everything was. Closer than I was expecting was the answer! We found the entries list and scoreboard, looked at the arena, and Jenny went off shopping whilst I went back to the lorry and had a cup of tea :-)
We tacked up, and mooched up to the collecting ring (meeting Caroline there) so Fudge had already seen it all before the test proper. No problem, he was a chilled out star. One of the stewards asked if he could take a photo on his phone, but he didn't want me in the picture ;-)
So back to the lorry and a leisurely tack up and get jacket etc on, back on board and wander up to the collecting ring again. Jenny and Caroline checked out who was in the arena, and how many to go before me, sadly they were already way behind the start times we were given.
After an age waiting in the drizzle as the class was running 20-30 mins late, we finally went into the arena. Fudge had a little look at the advertising boards first time round, and then ignored everything else going on. I took a little while to relax properly, and without either whip or spurs I felt Fudge was not really as forward and bouncy as I'd have liked him. However he listened and did everything I asked, when I asked. Left canter got a bit dodgy, but right canter was fantastic :-) Suddenly it was all over!
Back to the lorry, fed Fudge pieces of parsnip (his favourite) gave him his haynet etc, made another cup of tea and ate a jaffa cake for some energy, couldn't eat properly, still too excited! We had made it to Windsor and hadn't disgraced ourselves, and I even managed to enjoy some of it! I took Fudge's plait out, put him on the lorry, and we wandered back up to find scores.
Jenny got to the front and worked out I was in 2nd place at this point, and there were only 2 scores to go up - eeek! There was one person on 150, and there were 3 of us on equal scores of 146, so they were using collective scores to separate us. Mine were 38, which put me in the lead. Total disbelief set in here, I kind of froze, until Jenny told me to leg it back to the lorry park and she would phone me when she'd found out what the plan was.
It turned out there was a mounted prize-giving up to 10th anyway (which nobody had mentioned before). The top 3 were to ride again in the main arena. Meanwhile Jenny phoned Caroline and she came straight to the lorry
park to meet me there, boy was I glad to see her! I threw stock, boots, hat and jacket back on whilst she tacked up poor Fudge who had been unceremoniously dragged off the lorry again. By this point the tannoy was announcing my competitor number to say they needed me in the Castle Arena NOW! Caroline told me not to panic, tightened the girth for me and told me
to trot at high speed across the lorry park as my warm up! I left them trying to lock the lorry door as I hadn't told them the knack, sorry!
It turned out that we really did come 2nd, out of I think 24 entries :-)
Anyway Caroline has already said about the chaos going on at the main Castle Arena, poor Fudge had been trotted and cantered on the way over there, and then shouted out by an officious lady in a hat, he was not best pleased. I got there eventually, to be told the juniors were in first anyway, so it was 10 mins before they needed me - phew! So we walked round and tried to calm down. They were running so late by this point, that in the main arena the steward in a bowler hat told me just to start, so I did, down the centre line only to get the judge shaking her head at me. I got cross at this point, stopped Fudge, and said to her "but HE told me to start", pointing at man in bowler hat, who had appeared next to her, and he said "we have to, we're so behind" - so I went back out of the arena, and she honked for me to start, so I went straight back in again. Grrrr.
Not the best start we could have had in the main arena, and it took the first trot circle before I got a grip on myself and made myself breathe out and relax, Fudge visibly relaxed too, Caroline and Jenny said it was so clear to see! The rest is a blur I'm afraid, apart from the finish and hearing Mike Tucker say "and that was Dr Cindy Wells and the great character Cornelius Fudge" and seeing my name on the huge screens! My few minutes of fame, I was announced by Mike Tucker :-)
The other 2 rode their tests (a lot more calmly than me) and Fudge bounced up and down near a tank, other large military vehicles, tractors with trailers reversing into him and a pipe and drum band starting up. I couldn't cope with a lot more by this point, but back in we went once they'd finally worked out who was 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We were 3rd. Fudge was a star as I shook hands with people congratulating me and pinning rosettes on us everywhere, and one of the judges made a special comment to apologise for the chaos as she realised it had not been the best start for us.
Then the lap of honour, which started as a nice canter, and ended up as a mad gallop out of the arena overtaking the 2nd placed horse, me apologising profusely and giggling stupidly as I tried to stop Fudge (no chance) who had simply had enough. I left Caroline and Jenny to collect prizes and sheets, and took him away from the hovercraft that had just started up as well!
I will admit I had a little weep on the way back to the lorry, Fudge was an absolute superstar all day, and I love him to bits. I'll leave out the journey home, suffice to say we got back to the yard a little after 10.30pm last night.
Huge huge thanks to Jenny for keeping me going all day, and night ... and to Caroline and John for being an emergency groom and cameraman. They were fab, I couldn't possibly have done it by myself.
Right, better go to the yard and sort out the mess I abandoned in the lorry late last night!