I just can't believe what today was like. But I'm going to backtrack slightly to yesterday. As you know, I've been quite ill, and saving my meds for emergencies (like today!) but yesterday I finally managed to get on Barnaby, ride him for half an hour, clean my tack and clean up after the farrier's visit on Wednesday. So all in all, I was feeling quite a bit better.
Last night I had the worst night's sleep ever and woke up this morning coughing and choking. a good start, then. I could hear the wind howling round the house, whilst trying to rouse myself with a cuppa. In the end I decided to brave the outdoors and went to get Barnaby in. I had really wanted to bath him as he's so lovely when he's clean, but I felt a bit mean and just decided to do his legs from the knee down. Then I took his rug off and realised how bad his neck looked so gave that a scrub as well... then a bit of body... then Mr O came out and said we had five minutes left, so I took Barnaby back to his stable, looking a bit like a black and white minstrel. I'd have been better off if I'd left him. Oh well, the judge can only see one side at a time!
I stuck a rug on him, put a tail bandage on and travel boots, and we were ready to load. My dressage time was 10am. It was 8.50am. Cutting it a bit fine, but not too bad.
We drove down the steep hill and pulled up behind a coal delivery lorry. There was a car behind us. The coalmen were determined to deliver all thirty bags to this cottage. A year's supply of coal, presumably. Mr O got out and told the woman behind us what was going on. She wisely reversed up the hill and went the other way. We pulled into a side road and waited and waited until eventually the men finished and drove off, and the tractor behind him and the other ten cars all drove past us, and once again we were on our way.
The next stop was at the petrol station to fill up a bit otherwise we couldn't have got much further. We were now officially late. Mr O couldn't go much faster through the wind and the rain, though. He was driving so fast I was starting to hyperventilate. I had a tingly sensation in my hands and my chest was really constricted. I was worried I was going to pass out and kept talking to myself to calm myself down. I've never passed out in my life and I don't intend to start now. But if I do I want Mr O just to keep driving and sort me out afterwards.
But eventually, we do arrive and pull into Parklands car park. There was hardly anyone there. We got the horses out, then Mr O went to sign in. I had to pull myself together and start tacking Barnaby up.
I hopped on, and to my surprise, he left Zak and made his way down to the indoor school to warm up. He did his 'hoo-hoo' sound deep in his chest, but accepted that Zak wasn't there and settled into a decent warm-up.
I should have been next in but the steward said another woman on a dapple grey would go in next to give me more time to warm up. If I'd had any sense I would have insisted that I take my proper turn, as the next thing I knew Mr O had arrived on Zak, and that's when the trouble started, really. Barnaby did his usual thing of not wanting to be separated from his best buddy.
Sure enough, the previous competitor came out, having completed her test, and then it was my turn to go in. This means leaving the indoor school, going across a little path, then into the outdoor school where the test takes place. Naturally, Barnaby doesn't want to go. I get him to go out, but he spins, then trots back into the indoor school. I try again. We get into the arena, but this time, for variety, Barnaby decides a little rear might be in order, goes up, comes down and trots merrily out of the arena, with me hauling on the reins, to no avail. (He may have got a ten for that, I'm not sure). I go in a third time, with a whip as back-up, smack, smack, leg, leg, you will go in, you little blighter! Bingo, back into the indoor school. By now the judge is wetting himself.
Desperate needs call for desperate measures.
"Come here, please darling!" Mr O looks at me in surprise.
"Get off Zak, please, get on this horse and make him go in."
Mr O leaps off Zak, onto Barnaby and trots him into the outdoor arena. Barnaby spins and then rears vertically. "Sit forward!" I shout as Mr O is upright and I have visions of him going over backwards. Barnaby comes back down, Mr O spins him and enters the outdoor arena. He walks round. By now the judge is nearly falling off his chair. (It turns out to be Darryl Thicket. If I'd known that I wouldn't have had the nerve to enter the arena in the first place!) Barnaby calms down. The next thing I know, the bell has gone. Oh well, Mr O had better do the test.
Barnaby calms down and realises the game is up. The wind and rain are howling, but there is a job to be done and Dad is in charge. The test begins. I am holding Zak and calling the test at the same time. A pallet falls over behind Zak, who leaps forwards but doesn't crush me. I know the test off by heart. It should be me out there. Never mind.
The test is over. Mr O has done me proud. He bows to the judge and leaves the arena. He comes back into the indoor arena and jumps off. I thank him profusely. He leaps onto Zak and prepares to go in again (like Zorro this time) I ask him if he wants me to call the test again, and he does. Remember, Barnaby doesn't want to leave Zak, so I realise he will have to stand outside with me while I call the test. I lead him outside, and he says, "You must be joking, I'm not standing out there getting wet through!" Grrrr!
Fortunately my friend Anthony is there, who very kindly agrees to hold Barnaby while I read the test for Mr O. It goes by in a blur. Zak looked quite good actually, considering Mr O's schooled him five times in his life.
So we take the horses back to the lorry, Barnaby perfectly calm now that his bosom buddy is with him. We tie them up and put turn-out rugs on, as it is pouring.
Anthony appears and says that the results are already up. We run back to the arena to see what's what. And after a great deal of counting and calculating, it turns out... we are fifth! I don't believe it. My clever (naughty) darling (naughty) boy! And I must say that Zak came 6th which is amazing (especially as he put in a dynamic canter where none was required, I think it was the flying change that swung it!) So we came away with a rosette, and a huge grin each. Mine is pink. Barnaby is not impressed.
I got lots of sixes and sevens, and came out with a much higher score than last time, when I rode Lindy. Does this mean that if it's not chucking it down, and Zak isn't there, Barnaby might be able to produce a decent score? Only time will tell, but it has certainly motivated me. I always knew he could do it, and it's not as if we haven't put the work in. Of course, this is all providing I can actually get him into the arena in the first place!
So after an equally traumatic journey home, where Mr O nearly went into the side of a lorry on the roundabout and a car on the road, we are home in one piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, and can't wait to go again. And if appearances are anything to go by, the judge thoroughly enjoyed it, too. It'll give him something to tell everyone back at the yard, won't it?