“As Woody is slightly on the *ahem* heavier side, I have ALWAYS worried about fitness”

Sarah and Woody head to Frenchfield for their final event of the season.

Here we go! It’s our last event of the season and Super Cob and I are off to Frenchfield in Cumbria. 
 
We had a very casual start to our day as it was my non-horsey other half’s birthday (naughty me going eventing!), so we got up for present unwrapping and a quick round of Happy Birthday before my very relaxed 9.30am departure time. I had bathed and cleaned tack the night before, and even had a glass of wine (or two), which I NEVER do before eventing – this meant I just had to plait in the morning. For once they actually looked pretty good/not half rubbed out and sloppily fixed!
 
Mother Johnstone and I were flying solo as apparently harvest is more important than going eventing with your daughter – outrageous, I know – so I was the designated driver for the two hours across the border and into international waters (Scotland to England counts right?). We made good time and arrived early, so I faffed about a bit before my scheduled tacking-up slot. Two minutes before tacking-up time I realised I would need to get my fancy new helmet tagged (I had treated myself to a Uvex at Blair International), so after being organised I ended up sprinting back to the secretaries tent and running late in typical Sarah fashion!
 
However, new helmet tagged and pony tacked, I was on and had officially crossed the threshold into ‘all the gear and no idea’. He warmed up well in what was a crowded collecting ring and performed a very obedient and accurate test. I reeeeally wanted the high 20s score for my final outing of the season and we were so close – one mistake in the second canter strike off took us from consistent 7s and 7.5s to a 5 and cost us the high 20. However, I ended up bang on 30, so technically that’s only 0.1 of a mark away from my goal, right? So I was a happy bunny. 
 
I had plenty of time to walk the cross country course before the show jumping, so I popped Woody back in the box and headed off with my Course Walk app to map out my minute markers. Having only done the BE90 track here on Hugo last year, I hadn't appreciated the size of the hills on the bigger tracks and I must admit I was blowing a bit myself by the time I got to the top. This made me slightly worried about Woody’s fitness as he has had some problems with his breathing this year, therefore hasn’t done the galloping he would usually do. This conjured up a weird nervous feeling that I haven’t had about cross country in a long time! The jumps didn’t scare me at all, although some technical combinations, but as Woody is slightly on the *ahem* heavier side, I have ALWAYS worried about fitness. 
 
However, show jumping first, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I trotted into the warm-up arena and my god, if I had this much activity in my dressage I would be looking at the high teens never mind the high 20s! He’s an old pro now and knows EXACTLY what order everything comes in, so he was on his toes and ready to jump. Into the ring we went and his canter was bold, so I had to keep him travelling without allowing him to throw himself at the jumps – Woody is very much an ‘if in doubt, take one out’ kind of guy. I over-checked him at the planks and tried to add a stride that wasn’t there, causing them to fall, but apart from that it was a really lovely round with him listening and jumping up and over instead of long and low. 
 
NOW, to the fun bit!
 
He felt mega in the warm-up; there was a bit of a wait for the Novice to finish so we walked, chilled and chatted for a while, but as soon as it was time to pick back up he was on the ball, his stride instantly long and bold. He felt fizzy in the start box and I swear he listens to the count down and rocketed out of the start box as soon as he heard the starter say “GO”. 
 
It was the round of the year – he was foot-perfect from the very first fence, meeting every jump on a natural stride and making absolutely nothing of the drops, the step, the combinations and the large bank. I needn’t have worried at all about the hills as he TOWED me up them and popped the roll-top and double effortlessly at the top. I was also really pleased with my fitness; I felt my position over the fences was the best it has ever been, especially the drop fences and the bank. 
 
I was up on my minute markers – despite his smaller size, Woody’s stride gets really long and he covers the ground very quickly – so I cruised down one of the hills and took a loop to the last to ensure I crossed the finish two seconds over the too-fast time. I was thrilled and couldn’t resist a “Woo hoo!” and a fist pump, embarrassing Mr Cool as usual. 
 
Untacked, ice boots on, washed off, big pats and even bigger smiles, we tucked into the picnic in the sunshine while Woody dragged me around looking for the best bits of grass. 
 
Ironically, this was my best finishing score of the year, but the only event at which I wasn’t placed. However, I had an absolute BLAST with my best mate and I am already counting down the seven months to the next one!