Sunday, 9 October 2011

Alconbury hunter trial October 2011

Another long write up from yesterday's hunter trial.
We did one 2 weeks ago too, but I haven't got round to writing it up yet ...
Skip to last 2 paragraphs if you don't want the details  ;-)

So yesterday morning I got up at 6am (erk) to go to a local hunter trial.
One we did for the first time a year ago, and had one run out, but a very positive run, so I wanted to have another go.
Walked the course in the drizzle on Saturday afternoon thinking it was looking a lot smaller than last year. I was also thinking that the ground was quite hard, but had good grass cover on most of it.
It was a 75cm class that should have been a BRC area qualifer until BRC head office changed their minds about the hunter trial competition and decided not to run area qualifiers but make the championships direct entry for 2012!
Anyway feeling very positive about it, Fudge should jump everything well within our capability.
In fact I also walked the 85cm course whilst I was there, thinking that we could jump about 70% of it, but there were still a few fences to scare me!

The drizzle continued, and turned into lots of rain overnight, yuck.
When I got up (did I mention it was at 6am?) I did think I was mad to do XC in that weather and thought about going back to bed.
Glad I didn't though, by the time I'd got to the yard, fed Fudge and got lorry ready, the rain had pretty much stopped.
I drove away thinking to myself it's got 2 hours to soak into the ground rather than being slippy!

Fudge did his usual pipe and slippers act of being asleep whilst I did studs, boots, groomed, plaited and tacked up!
He ambled over to the collecting ring at the slowest walk ever, I started to worry there was something wrong with him, but actually I think he was still mostly asleep!
Collecting ring pretty busy as there was a mini XC clear round on as well, so lots of kids on ponies and adults on youngsters at first outing!
We avoided them all, trotted and cantered round, Fudge very responsive, hoorah he's awake then!
The class was all on time, so I had 10 mins left to hop over the 2 warm up jumps a few times, had another canter, and then ambled around again.
You aren't allowed a watch of any kind at this event and they are strict about it, so I took my watch off and gave it to Hugo to look after.

The competitor 2 before me could not get his horse out of the collecting ring and had to be lead, you have to walk between 2 hedges and through gates, and they lead him through there too.
I think he was given 4 goes at getting through the start and up to fence 1, but didn't manage it, poor man I felt very sorry for him.
So when I got through to the starter, he called out "can I start you in 10 seconds?" I called back yes, and trotted on towards him, approached the start line still in trot, and Fudge cantered off at 3-2-1 Go!
I love my pony  :-)

The entry form for this venue asks for commentator notes, so I wrote something like "Coming back for a 2nd attempt at this event, hoping to go clear this year. Today is the anniversary of when I bought Mr Fudge 10 years ago, so I'll be celebrating tonight whatever the result!" As we cantered towards the first fence, I heard the commentator start to say it all, and Hugo said he adapted my wording to include a mention of some champagne!

So to the course - Fence 1 little palisade, fence 2 tyres, fence 3 step down and fence 4 another bigger palisade turn right canter along a hedge line.
Apparently that's where the photographer was, but I never saw him, too focused on the job  :-)
Nice post and rail fence 5 with straw bales under it, I'm sure it was bigger last year though!
Big circle through compulsory flags, I kicked on here, fence 6 brush and right turn back on yourself, so we jumped it on an angle, I looked right, put my left leg back and we landed on the right leg beautifully - and caught by the photographer too!
Fence 7A step down sunken road and B step up again, kicked on again for fence 8 more tyres but bigger this time, turn to a really wide log fence 9.
On the wrong leg here but Fudge's counter canter is better these days, so he kept cantering where he used to go disunited  ;-)

Fence 10 trotted into the water, turn left in the water, and cantered out of it up the hill. Really kicked on here as it's up hill and I thought I'd been going too slowly so far!
Fence 11 first real full up height, square profile and much wider table - Fudge flew it  :-)
Kicked on again to fence 12 black pipe, jumped from usual canter stride, felt fabulous.
Fence 13 another turn left, got the correct leg on landing again, so we cut the turn through compulsory flags about a metre to the right of the white flag  ;-)
Fence 14 was a choice of 2 side by side, an open tiger trap a little lower than another square topped wide box jump.
Slightly down hill but Fudge in nice regular stride so I aimed for the box jump and another one he flew perfectly.

Through a gate way and yet more compulsory flags, 2 teenagers ambling their way round the course - teacher mode on, I shouted "Behind you!" whilst riding straight for them.
One jumped to the left and one jumped to the right, both shouting "sorry" after me!
Down the hill again, left turn through last set of compulsory flags, I thought we were a bit too fast and risking a slip, steadied up just a little, but as soon as we were on the level again, Fudge powered on towards fence 15 a very solid looking wide pheasant feeder thing! Slight up hill to fence 16 another tiger trap, Fudge turned for home down the hill without me steering at all, I just sat back, steadied him for the last telegraph poles fence which is still on the downhill, and couldn't help but "yee hah" loudly through the finish line. I'm amazed I had any breath left really by then!

I met a couple of people I knew on the way back through collecting ring and on the way back to the lorry, I must have had an enormous grin on my face as they all grinned at me and a small boy I'd never met before asked me if I'd had a good round. Took ages walking Fudge round, washing him off etc, had a cup of tea myself and worried that I'd been too slow, or had I pushed Fudge too much as he perhaps wasn't as fit as he had been last year.
Once he'd dried, had drunk some water, and was breathing normally, I left him on the lorry with his hay.
Went back to look at scores, only half of them were up as the class had only just finished. There were well over 50 entries in it.
Bought bacon and egg sarnies for me and Hugo, looked at photos, bought 4 of them  :-)

More scores up by now, and overheard a conversation between 2 other people about the optimum time. I'd worked it out to be something over 4 mins, maybe 4 mins 20secs or something like that, but given that you're not allowed a watch (and I never feel I can look at it anyway!) I had ignored it. These other people had decided the optimum time was 4 mins 8 secs as the class before ours was the same course, and the winner was on 4 mins 16 secs and had 8 penalties. They were pointing to the provisional scores which showed someone on exactly 4 mins 8 seconds. I nearly fell over when I saw it was my entry number!!
I must have squeaked or something because they turned round and said "is that your time?" and were very complimentary!
Anyway it took another 3/4 hour for confirmed scores and the presentation (we went back to the lorry in between to check on Fudge and put my photos away safely).
When we got back, it was confirmed that I had indeed won it - eeek!
What better day to win a competition like that, on the 10th anniversary of when Mr Fudge arrived in my life, I have to admit, tears came to my eyes.

Oh yes, and we won a sack of organic carrots (from a sponsor) and £22 - I've never won money before so that was great, I got my entry fees back!
Also a lovely red rosette with 3 colours of ribbon in it.
Poor Hugo got the job of carrying the carrots all the way back to the lorry  :-(
Mr Fudge got to eat some of them, and I left the sack at the yard for all the horses to share.
Actually we brought some home for our dinner too, they tasted great with the pink fizz I'd opened by then.