‘Happiness is Bacon, lots of Bacon’ – Blog by Katherine Bentz

We were flying high after completing Tweseldown. I really like we were actually Eventers rather than a big ginger sheep in an Eventer’s clothing. Continuing from this I was eyeing up Munstead and knowing we had our best dressage score of 30 there previously, I thought we may be in with a chance.

In-between the two events I continued with my normal routine of stretching myself too thin with working full time, keeping a household, feeding said household, gardening, as well as trying to work George 5 to 6 times a week. I’m sure God didn’t put enough hours in the day and if George and I were going to qualify for the RoR Championships I needed to keep building on our success.

Knowing Munstead is a VERY popular event, along with using my trusted ballot sticker I decided I was going to volunteer. I had never done it before and I thought why not, especially as I had roped in my trusted groom and friend Faye. A whole day with your best friend watching people ride, what could be better..? The day started nice and early and of course we were late… luckily with some sprinting, nifty driving and the ability to eat a bacon sandwich in less than a minute we were on course. The day was really good fun, especially helped by the fact that we had lots of tea, cake and fantastic weather.

So following a day of watching other riders compete it was my turn. Up early and off to the show. Our dressage test was fantastic… for George. He listened, stayed soft and I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately my amazement led to some navigating problems and resulted in a collision with the white boards but we got a 33.

On to the show jumping, and my father was banished from the ropes after last time George decided to nap to him after jump 4. Our warm up was less than impressive with several jumps demolished. But as soon we got into the ring game faces were on and we went clear.

Cross country came and I was getting butterflies, we had a fantastic run at Tweseldown but George does like to remind me he doesn’t always like to do what I want. So off we went and knowing fence 2 was causing some napping issues I pressed pretty hard at the start. Then disaster, just before coming to a fairly tricky combination of a roll top to a step to a skinny I managed to lose my stirrup. Somehow my stirrup was attached to my spur strap four strides from a combination. Well, this close I couldn’t exactly stop, so I found my inner William Fox-Pitt and pointed us at it. George was so good and he shot through clear. I then stopped and got my stirrup back and continued on. Sadly I didn’t have my stop watch so had no idea what my time was. I continued and we went clear and only 3 seconds too slow.

In the end we finished 19th out of 42 and WE QUALIFIED! I celebrated by having yet another bacon sandwich that was made by my friend Vicky.

Overall I was so happy to qualify in only our second event, who knew we would do it so soon?

Next we were on to Larkhill.

Having finished last time on a high, Munstead was our best score to date and we qualified for ROR champs in our second event.

I now had my eyes set on Larkhill before we had a break, eventing every two weeks was not great on George‘s body, my body and importantly my bank account. I really wanted to go to Larkhill as I was told it was a fantastic course for former racehorses due to the hills and openness of the track. All the things we love.

The drive was a little further than we had previously done, but knowing we had in the past driven over four hours to get to Aston-le-Walls I thought we would be fine. The only thing I hadn’t taken into account was family, friends, my very affectionate Staffordshire Bull Terrier and all the picnic supplies we had bought.  Perhaps the journey would have been better in 2 cars…

Packed to the hilt we arrived, the weather was fantastic, 20+ degrees and bright sun. Thank God I bought my sun cream as my pale white skin doesn’t always fare so well in the sun. During the dressage warm up I could feel nerves mounting but tried to calm them down and just ride a good test. Into the arena we went and I went up the centre line like a model at a London fashion show, I thought ‘sub 30 here we come’. Sadly George went into terrified ginger mode and saw a patch of earth where there was no grass. This was terrifying. My beautiful Naomi Campbell entrance was ruined and we made a swift arrival at X. The rest of the test was not bad, until we came near C where we turned into a spider and scuttled sideways. In the end we got a 35.

Onto Show Jumping and it was causing lots of problems. It was the most technical course I had jumped with hair-pin turns and a slope which they made good use of. In we went and I was determined to get round this course, we didn’t squish everyone in the back of the car with the cucumber sandwiches to watch a rearing display. Around we went and the jumps were staying up and we were coming to the last line. Sadly I mucked up and cut a corner too tight so we had a bad stride and the pole came down but that was the only one. So not bad in the end.

Onto our favourite part, the cross country. Larkhill’s cross country was amazing, beautiful views over Salisbury plane and really well built.

Just before I set off, a friend came up to me and said the time was pretty generous and people were getting lots of penalties for going too fast. There were various good combinations out there including sunken roads and jumps that looked like tractors, so I assumed the time must be very generous if people are getting faults there. Off we went at what I thought was a good speed and on film what looked like a gentle hack in the park.

George was jumping really well, the only problem in the first half of the course was when George spooked at a hurdle; George was a hurdler, perhaps this is why he didn’t do well in racing. The only bad point, was when I once again managed to get my foot stuck in my stirrup and then lose it. Again just before a combination. This time we were heading into the water. Luckily George was such a good boy and stayed on his line though I was flapping around like a duck about to take off.

In the end George came home clear, I was so pleased but was upset to find that George and I had time faults for being too slow. I couldn’t believe it.

Note to self, gentle hacking pace even on a 17hh former racer is still too slow.

In the end we finished 17 out of 38! Another top 20 finish which I was so happy about, I was especially happy as George managed to win over some family and friends who came to watch and previously were really not convinced by him. So happy days for both of us and I celebrated with a massive bacon sandwich and a tin of coke #heaven

Next week: What goes up must come down and Chilham Castle