“It’s easy to lose sight of everything we have achieved, so it’s important to look back”

Sarah reviews her 2018 season – the twists, the turns and the triumphs – and gives us her top three season highlights. What are yours?

As we reach the end of the 2018 BE calendar it’s time to look back and reflect on a season I didn’t think I would have!
When Woody was diagnosed with such a dramatic injury in August 2017 (which seems a lifetime ago), I never dreamed that I would be writing a 2018 season report, which I guess is what has made this summer quite so special. On paper it’s not been a perfect season, but it was a season!
As most of you know, Hugo, my little knight in shining armour, came into my life by pure chance as I sat mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one dreary winter’s evening. I certainly wasn’t looking for another horse, but there he was; the most stunning, golden swan I had ever laid eyes on. Hugo was the kind of horse I would watch longingly in the warm-up, always wanting one of my own, but I could never in a month of Sundays have afforded such an ‘eventing type’. However, he gave me ‘the feels’ – which is how I make all important decisions by the way – and by some miracle the words ‘for loan’ were printed on that advert. Four weeks later, after an eight-hour round-trip to try him and meet his lovely owner, Woody had a new brother and baby Hugo was stood in our stables.  
It’s no exaggeration to say that Hugo has scope to burn. However, after our first encounter with water I still wasn’t convinced that we were going to have a BE season this year. Those of you who have followed my blogs will be well aware that the water fence is our nemesis. I would love to total up the amount of time we spent standing on the edge of different water jumps at training venues all over Scotland and the north of England throughout the first six months of the year. I’m certain the figure would terrify me and confirm that I really do have the most forgiving/long-suffering parents on the planet, as they too were dragged along to stand in all weathers, just waiting. And waiting and waiting and waiting. 
Anyway, I entered my first event of the season fairly certain that he wasn’t going to go through the water, but I just wanted to get him out into the big atmosphere sooner rather than later, so off we went to Warwick Hall. Not only was this our first BE, but it was also only our second ever dressage test on grass. It turned out to be the best mark of the whole season with a sub-30 score, making this my first season highlight. I’ve never been especially excited by dressage, but I will never forget the pride that was bursting out of me after that test. I was totally convinced he was going to spook at the flowers and I would come flying off or he would throw in an exuberant bronk during a transition and go bowling out of the arena. However, he was a little angel and I couldn’t have asked for more. FYI – although my predictions for the dressage were wrong, my water predictions were spot on and we walked home from fence 11, unsurprised but determined to beat the water demons next time. 
My second season highlight comes from a foggy evening training session at Alnwick Ford. With their BE fast approaching, I booked the cross country schooling field on the last day it was available before they shut it to build the course to try and get an upper hand on those crocodiles in the water. Each time we had been schooling somewhere up until then, Hugo had firmly said no, and I had to go in the water first. Literally. Sometimes I was organised and had wellies with me, but mostly I just gradually ruined my riding boots and got really wet feet! Tonight, though, something clicked in that little brain of his and it took all of about 20 seconds for Hugo to go paddling very carefully into the water with me sat firmly on his back. It was a breakthrough, and within 10 minutes he was cantering through both waters, jumping jumps before and after and having the time of his life. I will never forget that evening because it proved to me that with hard work, patience and determination, you can achieve anything. 
My third season highlight was the day when it all came together out eventing – our very first crack at BE90 at Dalkeith Park. We pulled a double clear out of the bag, water fence and all. He was incredible that day, coping so well with the standard Scottish downpour and knee-deep mud (slight exaggeration). We jumped a foot perfect show jumping round and he showed what a machine he was in the cross country. Once we are 100% over this water thing, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. 
In moments of doubt and frustration it’s easy to lose sight of everything we have achieved, so it’s important to look back and remember just how far we’ve come and how many amazing things we have accomplished in such a short period of time. So many people have said to me this year: “He’s next year’s horse”, and although I hate the phrase, I know they are right. We’ve made it through our first year and done a lot of learning, so we are going to knuckle down on the cross country schooling early next year then come out for a mega season in 2019!
As for Woody? I’m pleased to report that 14 months later he is now back in full work and is loving it. We completed a round of show jumping and a British Dressage Novice test recently. So, I thought I’d use next month’s blog to update you on Super Cob’s road to recovery.
See you then!