July – August 2010
July found us in a traffic jam at the Dartford Crossing. The journey to the All England Show jumping Course, Hickstead for the Royal International Horse Show is usually no problem. Road works and an accident delayed us for over an hour.
Ace had his own “accident” in the back of the horse box. As we were going to be staying overnight I had all the essential equipment; mucking out tools, his feed and a bale of hay – which toppled over, split open and scattered all round his feet. Ace is such a baby: “Monster! Dragon! Get it off!” Stamp, snort, kick. So there I was hanging on to a partition raking cuts of hay from under his feet with the handle of my mum’s walking stick! Fortunately we were only doing 5 m.p.h.
I’ve jumped at Hickstead since I was 15 but this was my first top level aside class - the Costume Concours d’elegance, wearing my green velvet Kings Royal Rifles outfit. We were assigned a stable and I settled Ace in.
There is a wooden bridge from the stables to the show ground. After dinner, I rode Ace down to the exercise area. He did not like the bridge. I tried convincing him there were no trolls lurking underneath, but he did not believe me. Fortunately, a security guard came to my aid and led him over.
As everything was quiet I rode him to River Lawn where we would be competing the next day. He eyed a dried-up muddy patch, then shied at a leaf. Sigh.
Up early Sunday morning. Showing and greys are not a good combination. Mum and I had been giggling the night before because I used one of those stretch cover-alls for him. Mum called it his baby-gro batman outfit. Needless to say all the bits that weren’t covered were filthy. Just as well they have facilities for washing horses at Hickstead!
There were about 20 ladies in the class, all looking very elegant and beautiful. Ace behaved himself as we walked, trotted and cantered under the gaze of the judge, then we lined up ready for our individual show. Problem. It was a hot day, River Lawn is called that because it runs beside the river. Rivers = flies. Ace hates flies.
He was fidgeting and fussing, gave a half rear, kicked out. He did a superb individual show, but I was not called out to join the ten who would go forward for final judging. I was terribly disappointed but in the collecting arena the judge apologised and said she would have placed me but couldn’t because Ace had been kicking out. She said how fabulous my costume was, and then told me I probably would have been in the top three. I didn’t know whether to smile or cry! I opted for smiling, and on thinking about it realised that getting a rosette wasn’t everything. The judge had liked me, Ace had done well, so I was content. Shame about the possible prize money though.
One exciting thing finished the shoe nicely; Mum and I bumped into Martin Clunes of Doc Martin fame. He is President of the R.I.H.S. for the next three years. Lovely man!
The following week we were at Addington Manor, Buckinghamshire for the National Side Saddle Show. What a fabulous event!
I entered the historical costume class but made a mess of it. Opting for something Medieval in theme my costume was nowhere near good enough. Still, it was an experience. In the evening we watched the Pas Seul: dressage to music, in costume. I’m doing this next year - good fun!
A quite night despite rain drumming on the horsebox roof. Mum got up early and fed Ace, then all hands on deck to prepare for the same class as the R.I.H.S. Only there were more entrants and the standard was very high. I felt nervous as I rode into the arena. Please, no flies! There was a wasp instead. Ace was getting agitated but the steward called me forward for my individual; phew, crises averted. Ace performed well, bless him. When you think, I had bought him just after Christmas, he had no muscle tone and went with his head stuck in the air. Now, here I was riding aside with him going in a beautiful, relaxed outline. I halted, saluted, and went back into line. I didn’t care about a place. We both looked nice, Ace had gone well and we had enjoyed ourselves at a quality show where top aside riders competed. That’ll do.
I’ve enjoyed writing this diary, but there’s not much more I can say. I will continue riding aside, learning more as I go along and I will be back at the R.I.H.S. with gallons of fly repellent, and the S.S.A. show next year. Photographs of my costume and Ace are on my blog, or if you want to chat I’m at Brook Farm T.C. most Tuesday evenings helping with course building.
I hope some of you will be encouraged through my diary to have a go at side saddle – it is not as hard as you think! So, farewell and happy riding aside!
Oh, how did I do at Addington Manor in the costume class? I came third. Well done Ace – you’re ace!