So probably the most important days of the year went off with a bang, but not the kind of bang we were expecting! On Monday morning as I was putting the finishing touches to Ollie, and Gary was busy packing the lorry, I unexpectedly had a horrible accident. I was just passing under the rope that Ollie was tied to in the cross ties and he suddenly put his head up. The rope caught under my neck and flipped me over backwards. I unfortunately clouted my head and knocked myself out. Not the kind of preparation I had in mind! After a cup of tea, some head ache pills, and a long sit down we were finally on our way. I kept on having to convince Gary that my memory was regained, but there was no way in this world I was missing this fantastic opportunity.
We arrived at Arrow at midday where the horses had a few hours to rest before Mark Perry drove them all to Greenwich. We were all transported in a mini bus to our hotel which was only about 200m from the stables. Shortly after arriving all the horses were tacked up as we had an allocated half an hour to familiarise ourselves with the arena.
The main arena was amazing as it had the Queen’s house and the Maritime museum as a back drop that you look over from the Grand stands. The stables were also amazing. They were in American style barns, all rubber matted with a huge walk way down the middle. There were designated wash boxes and tack rooms, so it was all very organised.
On the Tuesday morning, after a few more head ache pills, we set off for a walk around the cross country course. This had the same views and many more over the sites of London so was quite spectacular. Gary was enjoying being a tourist and taking photos. I am not sure too many Para’s made it round the course as the hills were incredibly steep, but I think a place next to the water jump provided enough entertainment for those who couldn’t make it any further!
That afternoon was our chance to show off and test out the facilities. As there was only 1 rider from each grade it was more like a demonstration rather than a competition. There were, however, 5 judges so we were able to get the all important feedback. Richard had kindly agreed to come and give me a hand in the warm up, but it was not as straight forward as we would have liked. The warm up arena was at a slant so it was a bit like warming up on the side of a hill. This really affected my balance and to add to the difficulties there was a helicopter hovering above so I couldn’t hear Gary’s calling. As I was riding with my glasses on, by the time I went in for my test, my brain felt like it was going to explode. In the main arena the music was so loud and the arena was sloping the other way, so I think I need to give myself a pat on the back for being able to complete my test. Needless to say it was not my best performance and I was quite thankful when it was all over. I have never been that disorientated before and it was quite frightening. It is like someone spinning you around with your eyes shut and then putting you on a horse and asking you to concentrate. Not something I would recommend!
In all it was great experience and an honour to be asked. I had some wonderful feedback and some lovely emails, including the photo above courtesy of Heather Foster (thank you!). We are now all back safe and sound and Ollie has had a quiet week in preparation for Hartpury next week. Let’s hope it is slightly less eventful than our last outing!