I gave myself a reality check

I wrote a post and never uplaoded it. I wrote about our highs at the Royal Welsh: Lolly and I managed a second in the barren mares in hand, we had a particularly brilliant night out – think a tactical chunder so that I could stop the ‘room spin’ and get a meagre 45 minutes of sleep-time before starting a new day – and had a great time as part of the show’s commentary team. And I wrote about the lows: Prince’s afliction with a random allergic reaction preventing him from competeing at either the Royal Welsh or the Royal International for example, and my random affliction with prickly heat. For the first time in the entire history of my relationship with the Royal Welsh, I didn’t much feel like partying with an itching pizza-face and retired a few hours earlier than usual to the sanctuary of the lorry, desperate to relieve my skin of make up and nurse my itchy side-burns. And neck and chest. Enough said.

I didn’t write about losing Betty, my pooch. I returned to the lorry earlier than expected due to the aforementioned rash, and found no Betty waiting for me. Sometime shortly after I panicked and practically forgot how to breathe, I was informed by an onlooker that a woman with spectables had taken her from the lorry. What happened next – alerting most secuirty guards in South Wales, waking half of my friends to form a search party and a further 20-or-so families with my calling out, envisioning her sold or thrown into a dog fight, and crying – is a low I can’t yet speak of. It’s still too traumatic. The fact that I found her, perfectly safe, eating sausages beside a campfire outside a caravan with my mother’s friend and a dozen others is besides the point. Nadia, who is my mother’s friend, stays with us annually at the Royal Welsh. It transpired that Betty was in fact not taken by a bespectacled woman after all: Nadia took her for a wee-wee and being a sociable pair they found themselves at a party and lost track of time. I have since pressed upon Betty the importance of texting me next time she feels like going out, or at least giving a loud woof when I call her. Repeatedly. In an increasingly high pitch. And with a rising sense of panic audible in each ‘Bbeeeeehhtttyyyyyyy?’.

Then came the New Forest. I wrote about the New Forest, about my knotting nervous stomach, about spending far too long wide-awake in the night, running through the myriad opportunities for mistakes in my individual show. I listened to the rain pummelling the roof of the truck, and knowing that Prince hates working in the rain, my imagination created new setbacks as a result.

Obviously I needn’t have worried as Prince is a total pro. Nothing messed with his head overnight. After I received my rosette, I felt a little overwhelmed. The steward noticed and asked, “Ah, is it your first time qualifying him?”

“No,” I replied, “it’s the 7th! It’s just I get more grateful for it every time”.

The following day, I feigned absolute confidence as Maggie prepared for her round on Paps, still knowing that Paps often has a mind of his own. For example, she must keep her peachy little bottom glued to the saddle, as the minute she feels slightly less anchored, Paps takes full advantage of the situation and sets off at breakneck speed, with Maggie feeling more please-woah than tally-ho, hauling on his reins to no avail. I’m not exaggerating. Mum can’t watch.

This particular course at the New Forest was windy, and to make matters trickier, there were bushes strategically placed to make finding your ideal line to the fence a little more difficult. So there I was, heart in my mouth, willing her from fence to fence, getting more and more excited as she progressed. I found myself whispering to her, ‘bum down, Maggie, bum down’. But then she was almost clear all the way and Paps was getting faster and I could barely contain myself. I didn’t know whether to shout out ‘Bottom!’ or ‘Bush!’ Thankfully, neither actually escaped my mouth else it might have caused quite some embarassment and confusion for the poor unsuspecting public, casually ambling by in search of an average Mr Whippy.

I learned that they were one of only two clear rounds from 37 starters, but concluded as she was pulled forwards in second place that it was just as well: we didn’t feel ready to qualify him yet. I told the lady stood next to me so, adding that I felt if Maggie did qualify she might be sick or worse before entering the final. She replied, ‘But you do realise that she has qualified?’

Agog, I looked across to Maggie, and as I did so, I could see her face change as she spoke to the winner. Her jaw dropped upon realisation that they had already qualified, and she turned to smile my way. I knew then that her aspirations of qualifying a worker had come true much sooner than anticipated, and shed another tear.

So as I was saying, I wrote all this and more and never uploaded it. Reading it back, I realise why: it was tediously detailed and a little bit pants. And frakly, it’s all just a bit ridiculous: I kept myself awake most of the night, shed tears, and risked being misdiagnosed with tourettes just for the dubious pleasure of spending £300 to compete at a show held in a baking hot shed and staying in a carpark in Birmingham. It’s hardly the Olympics.

Still, I’m excited. I’m excited that we’re competing at the biggest horse show in the world. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I figure that at least if I’m worrying about Prince and Maggie’s breeches stciking to saddles, my overzealous sense of danger isn’t convincing me of inpending doom round every corner.

But I must confess, I do sympathise with Rhys. Before he met me, he used to make the most of the annual Chinese holiday that coincides annually with HOYS and rendered most Chinese offices shut to explore some far-flung, exotic location. Poor thing, he now takes annual leave to have his mind numbed by equestrian activity that is for him, only marginally more pleasuarble than a lobotomy.

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