Belton International 14th April
The scheduled departure time of 6.30 am from Sammi's yard was missed due to the fact that despite my having now been there twice my sat nav got me totally lost ( always blame technology for your mistakes) and while team Birch waited patiently I discovered that Siddington has a massive housing estate built on what presumably was once a pretty nice pony paddock. Well it seemed massive as I circled surburbia trying to give Sammi a clue as to where I was. Once she mentioned she lived in South Cerney things became clearer and I arrived in time to leap into the driving seat and we headed off with Hunter Valley ( Gizmo) and The Kincooley Ceili ( William ) on board for their first proper start of 2018.
We went up the Fosse Way which is a pretty good road in a horsebox ( those Romans were good at that sort of thing) but not so good if you are in a nice car and a big truck limited to 55 mph pulls out in front of you. By the time we reached Warwick we had a fair ( massive!) queue behind us and a couple of white faced drivers in front of us who had decided a near death approach to overtaking was preferable to the view of the rear of Sammi's truck for another second. We pulled into Belton in sunshine which was so alien to us we were quite frankly dazzled and when the nice parking man instructed me to park in a total bog I somehow agreed. A 7 point turn to reverse in did nothing to help and once I became truly stuck and was now blocking the entrance of every other horsebox to Belton I then made a further error of taking advice from the first lady in the queue who told me that dropping the second axle would help. The more knowledgeable tractor driver said this made things worse and he was proved quite right.
I was now entertaining half of Belton who found it highly amusing that I was causing such havoc. Thank you so much to Rodney Powell who took the photograph as revenge for my posting his tractor/gateway incident! Tom McEwen and Tim Price were just the tip of the iceberg who sniggered at me ( Sammi had quickly departed the scene on some pretence of getting numbers) I was not entertaining those in the queue behind me I for sure. I have to say that the tractor driver was awesome and having got us back on the road with some nifty tractor work he then pointed to another slot we could reverse into or we could park closer to Grantham than the dressage. Sammi said yes to the parking spot and then promptly exited the truck so she could "see me in". Tractor driver did look a bit doubtful about my chances but since I really needed to get some brownie points back from all the guys that had laughed at me I said it would be a breeze. We removed the red trucks picnic table that they had only just set out and I gave it a go. Francis Whittington's pop out was the possible casualty but I crossed my fingers his kids were not sitting in it and we slotted in perfectly. Even the tractor driver was impressed and the Whittington children lived to see him ride.
Sammi then headed out to do dressage on #naughtyGizmo who belied all fears and did a very nice test for a 30 in his OI section. He showjumped a great round for just 2 time to add leaving all the poles in their cups and several riders looking at him enviously. Cross country for Gizmo is just the best thing of all and Sammi, having not ridden cross country since Pau in October, who had mentioned she was just going for a a hack round, then appeared in front of us looking like she was Micki Jung as she flew through the first combination with consummate ease.
William was in the other open intermediate and he was a bit harshly marked for a 38 on the flat and was so pleased to be out at the showjumping on grass again that he was a bit keen and managed to have a rail. Since William only manged to have 2 rails all season last year this was a bit of a talking point ( Well, Sammi would have talked about it forever but Nelson Pessoa had other riders to help) but then he went cross country like an absolute advanced horse and proved that while Le Lion D'Angers was a bit gob smacking for him he has grown up so much from the experience. At Le Lion he gawped at the crowds, here he showed off to them. He was simply a total pro although Sam did say that he was still greener than Gizmo. Hels and I just looked at each other in disbelief. Giz did actually go to Rio Olympics as reserve and finished 5th at Pau 4 star.....
The drive home was fairly uneventful apart from one "situation" where Hels proved that despite having no idea where the buttons for the diff lock, heated seats, lights etc are she can swiftly, in a nano second, reach over form the passenger seat and hit the hazard button with the speed of someone used to an impending disaster! And it was great to have Jude and Lyndon McLeod over to watch their homebreds ( both of them) and to kick the season off with a great start.
Below: Giz and Sammi through the first combination.