“All he had to do was keep walking and get his toes wet. But, horses being horses, that would have been too simple.”

With the first two Scottish events cancelled, Sarah and Hugo had a go at a show jumping competition and ended up going swimming in the snow!

As I write, it’s 23 April. By this time last season, I had completed two glorious sunshine-filled days of competition at BE100 with a third planned for the coming weekend (Super Cob finished in the top five in all three runs because he is a straight up legend). This year I’m struggling to even canter in the fields because they are still so wet and BE seems like a far-off daydream with the first two Scottish events cancelled. Forgandenny was cancelled because there was at least four inches of snow dropped on the course a few days before kick-off and Dalkeith was abandoned over a week in advance because it was too wet to even get the fences out!

However, with so many of you having run after run cancelled, I will keep this blog upbeat and resist the urge to focus on the doom and gloom which is the start of the 2018 eventing season!

Our cross country training with Charlotte Agnew at Hendersyde was cancelled last month thanks to the ‘beast from the east’, but thankfully was rescheduled, so we boxed Hugo up and headed off to tackle our first on-grass cross country schooling experience. It was pouring with sleet, but this was irrelevant in the end – even if there had been glorious sunshine, I would have still came home soaked to the skin. You’ll find out why a bit further down…

After a slightly ‘enthusiastic’ warm-up at our first hunter trail, my aim was for both of us to stay calm and to conquer the water – some of you will recall the great white sharks in the water when we visited the all-weather at Greenlands a couple of months ago. 

Hugo was a superstar, jumping some bigger fences, ditches and a couple of tricky lines/angles. The open field and the other horses didn’t bother him at all and we were both having a ball! Towards the end of the session, we hacked calmly down the hill to the water with one of his new pals and ALL HE HAD TO DO was keep walking and get his toes wet. But, horses being horses, that would have been too simple. 

We waved goodbye to Charlotte and Hugo’s new friends as my group disappeared back to the warmth of their lorries and a cosy cup of tea while Hugo and I, along with my poor Mum and Dad, stood in the lashing sleet for 45 MINTUES trying to persuade Hugo to get his toes wet. In the end, it wasn’t going to happen with me on board and Hugo, quite rightly, wanted me to check the temperature of the water before he went in. So, in I went, in my nice Treadstep riding boots! I have never been so cold in my entire life, but after another 10 minutes, my spirit at its breaking point, Hugo went: “Okay, it’s time” and casually stepped into the water. Horses, eh?!

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we’ve done loads of hacking through floods, but last weekend we packed up and headed for the ‘dark side’ – Hugo’s first show jumping competition!

It’s been over a year since I’ve been to a pure show jumping competition, so I was disorientated and blinded by the bling, which is what I’m going to blame for my severe error in judgement when entering my classes! Hugo has scope to burn and the higher the fences the better he jumps, so I entered the 80cm and the 90cm forgetting that BSJA rules mean the second half of the course can be 10cm higher. What. An. Idiot. 

I walked the 80cm and realised my mistake! It’s a really spooky arena down at Alnwick Ford with massive mirrors and I should have popped him around the 70cm to let him take in this new environment before tackling fences up to 90cm. However, it was too late now so it was time to ride positively and pray to the high heavens that we made it to the end of the course!

On entering the arena, the mirrors were as I suspected – terrifying! Especially when trotting head first toward his doppelgänger. So, thank you to the patient judges who gave me far longer than the 45 seconds I was allowed to get to my first fence. When we eventually got there Hugo was still looking at everything but the fence, so we had a baby stop at number one as I genuinely think he didn’t realise what he was supposed to be doing. A quick re-group and a circle sent us flying over the first and something clicked in Hugo’s brain: “Ah, this is what we are doing!” 

He flew around the course and we both finished with a grin from ear to ear! It would have been unfair for me to ask him to tackle the bigger height at such an early stage of our partnership, so I made the sensible decision to finish on a high and call it a day. 

Warning – soppy final paragraph! I’ve always thought Hugo would be a good horse and I’ve very much liked him since the start – even through the naughty phases. But recently my affection for this beaut of a horse has most certainly progressed from liking him to truly loving him and I know we are going to have a very exciting future together. Fingers crossed I’ll be writing an actual event report for you next month, which includes him leading the way into the water, not me!

Until then, you will find me constantly praying for sunshine.