Last week I got an email from Petplan Equine asking if I would be interested in taking part in their responsible riders campaign, and fancy a day out at Hickstead courtesy of them. Well that was a bit of a no brainer!
With travel snacks at the ready and my sat nav giving the directions (in it’s crooning Irish voice setting ‘tayke da second exeet’) my friend Holly and I set off on our jolly.
Walking into the showground I noticed just how much is has expanded since I was last there in about 1997/1998. When I was at school I was part of our show jumping team and (unfortunately for them) represented them on two occasions in the Hickstead Inter Schools and Pony Club Champs.
I wasn’t particularly good at show jumping (still aren’t) but it was a small school, I had a sound horse and was game to give it a go and that was pretty much the team entry requirements nailed. In prep for these competitions we had some team training with Graham Fletcher and Bina Ford which was a real treat. I can’t even remember now where we came (probably very much out of contention if they had to count my score!), just the atmosphere of the day and the surreal experience of riding at Hickstead, a place until then I’d only ever seen on TV or in magazines!
We walked to the main grandstand and watched some of the Derby qualifier class, the fences are so big I always have a bit of a brain melt down looking at them. Looking at them on their own it seems almost impossible that a horse could jump that, then in they come – ping – and suddenly it seems to make sense.
We wandered around the shopping village and fell 100% in love with this hut on stilts. I know most people buy things at Hickstead like a new numnah or bridle but if I had the money this would be top of my list. I can picture it now at the end of the arena as a luxury viewing/judges’ hut. It has heaters so in the winter it would be a warm and cosy hide out to hole up in with a hot choc. Under the seats there’s storage and best of all a champagne fridge (which I would duly fill with gin and tonic). What could be nicer in the summer after a ride than vegging out in ‘the gin hut’ and watching the yard activities going on?…..keep dreaming Chlo….
We wandered around the rest of the trade stands ‘ooohing and ahhhiing’ at all the lovely leatherwork and exciting new products until we came to the Petplan stand. Clipboard in hand we filled out their responsible rider’s quiz (if you want to take the quiz there’s an online version here) and got full marks (although I think Holly copied my answers 😉 ) which netted us a goody bag! Thanks to my hugely responsible attitude (those who know me in real life don’t laugh at that bit!) I am now the proud owner of a new boot jack!
Clutching our goody bags and feeling exceedingly responsible we tootled off to find some lunch, and plumped for these halloumi and lamb burgers which were top notch nosh!
After lunch we wandered over to the showing rings via the warm up arena. I have to say this was probably my favourite part of the day watching all the jumpers warm up for various classes with the odd showing bod mixed in for good measure, it was mesmerising. The warm up could change in an instant from peaceful and clear to a packed logistical nightmare in seconds. Watching hot horses getting razzed up by the busy warm up and thinking ‘yep that would be me!’ as their riders tried very tactfully to warm them up is compelling. Similarly a few seconds later a tiny tot on a huge big old campaigner trots by cool as a cucumber, oblivious to the hype some of the hotter horses are feeling.
Seeing people’s warm up routine, line to a fence and jumping style is fascinating, more interesting in my opinion than watching an actual class! I could have spent all afternoon there watching that, and obviously I’m not the only one as there was purpose built seating and veranda so that you could chill out with a drink and do exactly that.
Bank balance still intact as I didn’t spot anything to tempt me in the shopping village (except the gin hut but that was a little out of my price range!!!) we set off back home. Inspired by Friday I had a fab jump lesson with Dustry on Sunday and his first ODE entry of the season is in. Finally after waiting for his new saddle, then getting delayed by his muscle injury we are ready to get out there – horay!!!!!