“As the water approached I prayed for a miracle – ‘Pleeeeeeease go in Hugo!’”

As Sarah and Hugo take part in their first BE event, will they make it into the water?

A friend of mine recently had a lesson with an instructor who I also train with, and I was thrilled to hear that he had described Hugo as being “like a Ferrari!” My first instinct was that he must really like Hugo, but the more I thought about it the more I suspect he meant that, similar to the iconic car, Hugo is flashy, powerful and hazardous in the wrong hands!
 
Hugo has come on leaps and bounds since I last wrote; he is really progressing into a talented horse, both on the flat and over fences. With training heading in the right direction, it was finally time to get our entry in for our first event.
 

Our first event together

Usually, the week before an event with SuperCob is filled with only one familiar emotion: excitement! However, the fear of the unknown on Hugo brought with a rollercoaster of emotions, which started with excitement then progressed through to fear, dread, acceptance of certain death, nausea, excitement again and then sheer terror on walking the course. Either I have lost all sense of what height jumps actually are or BE80s are bigger than they used to be?!
 
However, the course was walked in the glorious sunshine, my shoulders were well and truly burnt and I was pleased to see that the water fence didn’t make an appearance until three quarters of the way around the course, as it was still fairly unlikely that he would go in. At least this way we would get a good run in no matter how many crocodiles were hiding in the water complex!
 
With Hugo bathed, plaited and all tucked up for the night, I cleaned my tack and headed home for a good night’s sleep – something that comes very easily to me, even the night before eventing. I woke around 5am with minimum fear and maximum excitement; it’s been a loooooong nine months since Hendersyde last August! 
 
My realistic aim of the day was simply to make it through the dressage and show jumping without being eliminated. Hugo can sometimes be highly strung and I really had no idea how he would cope with the crowds, the other horses and even the banners, flags and marquee around the show jumping arena. As it was, he came out the box and tacked up rather relaxed, so in an attempt to keep this chilled vibe alive I warmed up away from the busy dressage collecting ring, doing lots of stretching and transitions. We only had one hairy moment when a bird flew out of the hedge and Hugo did his best scared giraffe impression and galloped off for a few strides before we regained composure. 
 
I was second last to go and dressage was running 20 minutes early, which suited me perfectly as I had allowed extra time in case I was riding a fire breathing dragon instead of the sweet sports horse I thankfully was on that day. As I trotted down the centre line I genuinely felt relaxed and even cracked a smile – who would have thought? As I left the arena at the end of the test with a billion pats for Hugo, I actually had to hold back tears because I’m a tired emotional wreck and because I was so proud of everything we have achieved together in such a short space of time. I thought the test was good for a ‘baby test’, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it was good enough to score a 28.5! How amazing is that for a first BE test and only Hugo’s third dressage test ever?
 
On to the show jumping; we had a bit of a hairy round as the flags and banners around the edge of the arena were TERRIFYING, however we manage to complete the course with just eight faults and got the green light to head on to the cross country! Hurrah, we had officially achieved our goal for the day. Anything after this was just a bonus. 
 
A quick change into my signature Apt Cavalier Burgundy matchy set and another check of Hugo’s boots meant it was time to head for my favourite phase. Again, Hugo was calm in the warm up and once we were called by the starter I was pleasantly surprised that he walked straight into the start box. 
 
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … go! 
 
And we were off! Actually, no we weren’t. Time for a quick nap before we got our brains in sync and headed out into the country. We had a couple more sticky/nappy moments when passing the trailers, but made it over the actual fences without penalty. Over the fourth we went and I actually saw the light bulb go off in his head: “Wait a minute, this is actually super fun!” We stepped up a gear and left all backwards thoughts behind us – he was flying, taking each fence that came in his stride, including a scary ditch, a large brush fence and a double of skinnies.  
 
As the water approached I prayed for a miracle, put my leg on and my shoulders back – “Pleeeeeeease go in Hugo!” But, alas, it was not to be. We came to a sharp stop on the bank and that was that. I knew that his mind was made up and a put my hand up, gave him a big pat and headed for home. 
 
Not many people would walk off a cross country course having not completed feeling absolutely thrilled, but I am truly so pleased with how the day went. Okay, we didn’t finish, but we achieved our goal and most importantly Hugo coped well with the day. We both grew in confidence as the competition went on. There’s plenty of time to work on the water; he’s been in before and he will go in again, it will just take time and trust. He is such an exciting horse with scope to burn, so time and patience is something I am more than willing to give him. 
 
Fingers crossed my next event report will bring news of wet hooves and our first BE completion!