Firle Place International is known for being a tough BE course with a substantial cross country effort required – and it did NOT disappoint for our Unlikely Eventers Hannah and Sid!
I walked the course the day before with a friend and we were pretty impressed – there weren’t really any “let up” fences and I was going to need to ride, ride, RIDE!
It was another early start (tip: if you are not a morning person, don’t try eventing!!!) and both Sid and I were struggling to hide huge yawns as we loaded up and headed out.
We had a slight satnav malfunction and went a very indirect route which caused us to arrive slightly later than planned. My friends will tell you I’m not great when in a rush (and that I’m never on time – bad combination!) and I was starting to panic when Sid’s studs just wouldn’t go in…… but thank goodness for the lovely eventing community, as the family who had parked next to us lent a hand and helped to get the job done quickly. Note to self: NEVER leave cleaning stud holes for the morning of a competition!!
I have to say, the dressage warm up was quite uneven and Sid felt very unbalanced. The event organisers had done their best but the conditions in the warm up just didn’t do us any favours and our test was pretty lame. I was quite surprised, actually, to get a 36.8 as the test felt a lot worse. I can only imagine that the judge took a liking to Sid (and maybe she appreciated the bottle of purple shampoo I used up the night before to get him clean-ish).
The show jumping warm up was much, much better. Sid was prancing around (why oh why can he never do this in the dressage though…) and very keen. His ears were pricked and he was ready to do his job.
The arena itself was quite spooky, with trade stands packed all around the edges, but the buzzer went and Sid got into the zone. He has started to listen out for that buzzer (or maybe I have) and focus on the job in front of him and boy does he love his jumping.
He did so well and was let down by me on the last jump, when we just got a little deep and rolled the top rail. 4 penalties for us but a big pat on the neck for Sid and a round with slightly more canter, and less gallop, than Aston!
We changed into our cross country gear and my mouth started to go dry again.
The course was much bigger and more technical than anything we had tackled before. What if we couldn’t do it?!
Well, it was a bit late for those kinds of thoughts, so I mounted up and headed to the warm up after a swig of coffee and a chocolate bar.
The warm up was very narrow – essentially a short gallop track – and I quickly embarrassed myself and Sid by riding towards the white tape, realising that was the edge of the arena, and sharply turning into the low branches of a tree…..
My face was fine but my pride was not.
Luckily we didn’t have long to go before our round, so I popped the logs a few times and headed to the start box.
We were counted down and off we went! Sid was keen and flew the first few jumps and then made the big roll top with brush feel like a 50cm jump. We headed over the box with books (bit of an odd jump, I know) and down the hill.
Unfortunately, I had not realised that there were cows in Sid’s eyeline for the next jump.
He had a meltdown and ran out. I circled and he clambered over the brush but then slammed on the brakes and span.
I clung on – I was NOT adding 65 penalties to my score!! Finally I regained my seat and managed to get him to trot through the gate and into the next field adjoining the cows.
We scraped through the hedge jump and finally Sid picked up speed again (perhaps because we were heading AWAY from the cows).
Next up was the tricky water combination – a narrow upright triple rail, to a step down into water, step up and then a narrow log with brush on top.
Thankfully, Sid took this steadily but stayed straight and we got through without issues.
Then over the palisade, over the log and step down and into the field with the “big scary box jumps”.
I must admit, these must be rider-frighteners as Sid flew the table, then the big box and carried on over the narrow box without getting too wobbly.
Then we came up the hill to the jumps alongside the showjumping marquee. He did hesitate slightly but we managed to get over the first brush, over the second (with only a slight disagreement where he wanted to go for the 100), over the corner and over the wishing well by the rainbows.
Unfortunately, Sid was starting to tire from the bigger jumping efforts, and the wagon proved our undoing as we came too fast and a little flat and he decided not to help me out this time.
He jumped it the second time and then flew over the last to finish.
Sadly we did not get our MER (British Eventing Minimum Eligibility Requirements enabling us to move up to BE100) but we still came 15th – so it just goes to show how tough a course it was!
Our next event is Goring – fingers crossed we fare better there!
Hannah Craft and her trusty steed Sid are on a mission to make it in the world of eventing. Starting out at BE90 for their first season this year, Hannah shares the honest and often hilarious thrills and spills of their Big Adventure! Click here to read the rest of their adventures!
You can read more about Hannah and Sid’s progress here!
You can also follow them on social media at :
Instagram: @hannahcraft2711 or @sidgoeseventing
All Photos in this post are credited to Spidge.