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NOTES FROM THE SADDLE

Posted: October 2018

Team chasing is full of highs and lows, as this extract from Julie Slater’s blog, Show Horse to Eventer reveals about South Pembrokeshire Massiv’s experience in the Berkeley intermediate.

For the Berkeley team chase we had a slightly different line up as our regular and trusted leader, Gisella, had actually found something better to do than team chase that weekend can you believe.

As my preferred position was bringing up the rear, I certainly wasn’t keen to take on the much-coveted role of leader… far too much responsibility. Russell wasn’t keen on leading either as he was worried about tiger traps. Daisy, who is a brilliant rider on a really brave little mare had lost her nerve a bit and didn’t think Star would cope with the big hedges and Tim, Ges’s replacement, was, in our team captain’s own words ‘a bit wild but a good craic’.

First time I met him was at Worcester team chase, he was covered in mud after a fall … today he provided the port but was a bit non-committal on the leadership front. Basically, after having walked the course we were all secretly bricking it… but at least we had port.

 

Having stayed in Monmouth the night before I managed, for the first time ever to walk the course. To be honest, unless you have to lead, I can see distinct advantages in not walking the course…I can’t say it helped much and only seemed to wrack my nerves. From the ground the hedges looked MASSIVE, immovable and impossible to see over the other side. I’m guessing they were about 1 metre 40 and really wide, dense and full of black berries, sloes and thorns.

In the warm-up area, in the absence of anyone stepping up to position of leader, Russell and I tried to put together a rough plan for the whole course. We agreed that I would lead over the first fence… if I got there first… and we would jump the second fence, a sizeable hedge together. But we hardly stuck to one stick of this.

Suddenly, we were being ushered in. Dais suddenly realises there are no martingale stoppers on her reins…we could swap reins as I have two sets but then it’s too late…someone is telling us to go and in an instant we’re off. This is it, Frank. Please don’t let me down. Frank led over the first – and within seconds fence 2 looms into view. ‘Go on’ Frank I shout ‘go on’ but Frank is going anyway and pulls me into it. He sees the take off point, I shut my eyes and we’re airborne. Downhill then to the third, taking a pull on the steering strings and applying the brakes for the standalone palisade (fence 3). A curve to the left for the 4th, the second massive hedge, onto the road crossing.

Having been spurred on for these first few fences Frank is now galloping flat out. Quick flashback to last year when we competed here in the pairs in a snaffle. Thinking it was a good call to have chosen the American gag over the Cheltenham as I was already having a bit of brake failure.

I’m aware of Daisy now who is upsides on the wide open stretch to fence five, I have time to shorten the steering strings a bit but still going a bit too fast to look around to check on Russ and Tim. Although this is a team thing I’m afraid its everyman for himself most of the way round as survival is the real name of this game. By now Frank has come back to me and pops nicely over 5, which took us from one field to the next. Star is pulling now and Dais takes the lead in the approach to fence 6 – telegraph poles at the bottom of tricky hollow. Fence 7 was the third humongous hedge. Frank’s tucked in behind little Star. Aware of Daisy’s fears I prayed they wouldn’t stop as Frank is right up Star’s backside and hasn’t seen the fence. Well, what a gutsy mare and what a pair of stars these two are, as with huge effort Star lept over it and sped off up the hill to fence 9 – massive straw bales.

Russ and Tim have caught up now and being a bit late to the party show total disregard for course marker flags and cut me up to take up second and third places behind Dais. I’ve committed this sin myself, at Worcester, so i can understand how easily it is done. Russell, it seems, has had problems with the second hedge and fence 5 but is able to rejoin the team in the run up to the straw bales.

All of us managed to get over Fence 10 and 11 but Fox was foxed by the big hedge at 12 and Dais had tiger trap trouble at 13. I could see what was happening ahead and took evasive action which tested Frank’s agility. This kind of situation requires instant reactions and it’s not something you can plan or prepare for. Frank galloped then down to the island chaser hedge at 14. Onto fence 15, the 6th hedge, which has a bit of a ditch and I’m sure it was bigger and wider than all the rest. Trying to catch my breath now and feeling quite alone out there, Frank must sense this and he falters too. Clocking the ditch, he doesn’t quite get airborne enough to get over the hedge but jumps into it and somehow gets one of his lanky legs caught over the telegraph poles.

Anyway, Frank manages to pull himself out of the hedge and we try again. With all our effort combined we clear it and by now Tim is back. “What shall we do?” he asks wheeling round. “The others have pulled up… I think we’ve lost them.”

Knowing that there are more hedges ahead… bigger maybe even wider and one with a big drop. “Oh well, we may as well just carry on,” I said and so we did. The hedge at 16 was followed by a sharp hairpin turn over hedge 17 back into the field we had just left…oh, here comes another one, i thought and as we approach the ninth hedge (18) Tim screamed:  “You gotta kick on for this one…..there’s a big drop after.”.

Check out my face … Frank on the other hand is looking cool as a fairground horse on a carousel with camera face on and ears pricked.

Over a big tiger trap at 19 Tim and I then turned sharp left and managed to get eight legs in the pen which i think given the circumstances was pretty damn cool. We then raced over 22 and 23 into and out of a copse and straightened up for the homeward stretch. A neck and neck race to the final and 10th hedge and on to the uphill stretch to the finish. As Frank flies past the finish his bridle is in bits and my hat silk flies off. Well that was a bit woo flipping hoo. Phew.

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Spring 2018 Season....

DATE EVENT
18 Mar Beaufort, Wilts
8 April Fernie
29 April Worcestershire
15 April Avon Vale Hunt

Autumn 2018 Season....

DATE EVENT
2nd Sept Warwickshire
9th Sept Belvoir
16th Sept Atherstone
23rd Sept Meynell & S.Staffs
30th Sept Berkeley
7th Oct Bicester with Whaddon Chase
14th Oct Pytchley
21st Oct North Herefordshire
21st Oct Grafton
28th Oct Cotswold
4th Nov Essex & Suffolk


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