You’ve wanted to be an eventer since you were a little girl, when you cut photos of Ginny Leng and Lucinda Green out of Horse & Pony magazine to pin up on your wall. You dream of galloping over the hallowed turf at Burghley, murmuring encouragement to your trusty steed as you fly effortlessly over the Cottesmore Leap…
In reality, though, you last did an unaffiliated hunter trial back in your Pony Club days. To be fair, that was one of the most glorious days in your life, which is why when your yard mates say, ‘We’re planning on doing a few one day events this season, nothing difficult, just BE80s and 90s, maybe the odd 100, want to join us?’, you find yourself saying, ‘Why not?’
Then you go away and Google a BE80 course. Hmmm. That’s a bit bigger and more technical than you expected. Why doesn’t it start with a crosspole? Your jump lessons always do.
But you’re committed now. You may even have signed up for Wobbling for Wilberry, so you can raise some money for a worthwhile cause while tackling the new challenge of a BE80. There’s no backing out of this – so you quickly Google cross-country colours instead.
Now, this is more like it! Cross-country colours have come on a bit since your Pony Club days, when you got a two-tone skull cap and matching rugby shirt in a choice of red and black, blue and black, purple and black, and that was that. You go mad creating a personalised kit for you and your horse, matchy-matching everything right down to your pants (OK maybe not them). The resulting sky blue and gold outfits (for both you and Prince) cost the best part of a month’s wages, but it’s totes worth it, because you’re going to look amazing in the event photos of your first ODE!
Your optimism lasts until your first cross-county lesson. As you don’t hunt, this is the first time Prince has seen rustic jumps in – well, you can’t remember how long – and it’s safe to say he find them pretty exciting. As in, scarily so. He spooks at the steps, backs off the brush, and edges gingerly into the water as if he’s expecting a great white shark to leap out and eat him. Your riding instructor has gone so hoarse from shouting ‘leg, LEG, LEEEEGGGGG!’ at you that you have to stop at the garage to buy her some Locketts on the way back to the yard.
Still, you’re beaming from ear to ear! OK, so there was one unscheduled dismount when Prince decided that only pheasants fly over pheasant feeders, not horses – which meant, ironically, that you flew over the pheasant feeder, just not on his back. But the bruising will go down after a hot bath and a few large G&Ts – and you survived! The relief is mind-blowing – until next week, when you have to go out and do it all again.
But as the season wears on, Prince learns how to fly – and you get used to living in a permanent state of mild terror. Your partner has started muttering about the dangers of alcoholism due to the fact you’re getting through a bottle of gin a week, but you need that Dutch courage to fork out the somewhat eye-watering fee for your BE membership (something, like the gin, that you’re actually better off hiding from your partner) and enter your first BE80. And now you have. It’s on!
Well…if you get through the mysterious process known as ‘balloting’, that is. To BE members, this appears to make perfect sense. To everyone else, it’s mysterious witchcraft. You might not get to ride in the event that you’ve entered if it’s over-subscribed, but you might get a shot anyway if you use the ‘super ballot’ wildcard – hang on, what? You’ve now re-read the rules on balloting in the BE handbook at least 20 times and still don’t understand them.
Luckily, you’re not balloted, which is just as well as you still haven’t a clue whether you’d actually be riding or not. So the big day dawns, you and Prince are decked out in your sky blue and gold kit (which you now wonder is entirely appropriate on a 44-year-old woman, having just seen a 12-year-old ride past wearing the exact same thing. Oh, and by the way, you’re competing against 12-year-olds. And they’re better than you). You’ve done a passable dressage test and a not-too-shabby show jumping round, and now you’re being counted down in the cross-country start box.
Your life flashes in front of your eyes. Everything has come down to this moment. Has Prince totally got over his irrational fear of pheasant feeders, or will you be flying at jump three? What happens if you accidentally mow down a fence judge? Will you have to do the walk of shame up from the water jump, leading Prince and dripping wet with see-through white breeches so everyone can see your pants?
Then you’re off! And as you gallop along, it hits you….You’re actually enjoying this!
Just kidding, you’re still terrified. It’s the longest five minutes of your life – but the relief when you get to the end is worth it. You’ve done it! You’re officially an eventer! Well done, you!
The euphoria lasts right up until the point that you rush to buy a photo from the event photographer to commemorate this momentous occasion, only to discover that, although your sky blue and gold outfit actually does look pretty cool, you are pulling an absolutely ridiculous face in every single photo.
You buy one anyway, of course. What else are you going to do?