Thinking back on the year that had been and what my best personal achievement was for last year I have to say that riding the Nationals for the first time was by far the most exciting,eye opening experience I have had last year! Neither my horse nor I have ever been there before but hubby had been there every year of his life as a Junior rider so it was nothing new to him but he was also still very excited for me and my horse, Stonecroft Ghost. Qualifying for it and then preparing for the ride involved hours of long, hard, physical work not to mention the mental and emotional strain of riding a super fit horse known for her temper tantrums, and for the first time ever having had to witness my husband almost killed not once,but twice by HIS very difficult, but brilliant mare. The first time she kicked in his ribs which penetrated his lungs while leaving the pre-ride vet check and the second time bucking him off so violently as another horse overtook her while on a training run, that he broke his collarbone and one of the previously broken ribs...again...,he also fell himself into a really bad concussion. He recovered and also qualified for Nationals, but alas,his mare injured herself playing in her paddock,just two days before leaving for Fauresmith! We left home a week early to acclimatize my horse to the Free State Winter,it is so much colder there than it is here in Limpopo Province. Cules had slipped into the role as groom for my horse and handled everything so effortlessly in a very professional manner. He would see us off at every vet check and then take the truck loaded with all the equipment needed to groom the horse and I to the next point at some far off destination in the middle of now where. I was adamant to do well, i.e place in the top 30 lightweight riders after the 3 days have ended, so got a good talking to as I entered the first vet check on day one in exactly 1 hour 4 min! I knew my horse was right on track and continued at my own speed the rest of the way,not trying to prove anything other than doing the best we can in the safest way possible...to make a long story short by the end of the second day we were lying 15th in the lightweight division and at the end of the 3rd day we finished 11th! It was nerve wrecking to keep my horse from stiffening up overnight and not to mention all those vet checks! 10 of them all in all! As we were given the all clear at the last vet check there were tears and cries of joy and lots of celebrating all around, for Fauresmith is known to be the toughest test horse and rider can endure in the WORLD today!!
My camera was set on VGA so the quality of pics are not too great.
Approaching the first Vet Check on day one
Getting ready to leave on the second leg, it was really cold OK!
Can you see I come from a Show Jumping background? Yes,the white, super expensive breeches is a dead giveaway! Well not so white in all that dust...
Nr 9069 is us!
Ghost munching away, warmly wrapped up..There were so many vehicles at the vet checks that crews had flags on their vehicles so the riders could see where to find their crews as they came in!!
Look who was there to encourage her Mama! I think I had just saved some other rider's lunch there...
Start on the second morning,I was so cold I had the giggles there...
Start on the last (3rd) day,that's us on the right.
It's a long,long road.....
Finishing on the last day accompanied by a bunch of Junior riders
After 3 gruelling days,cooling the horse down for the very last vet check,lots of horses fell out here...absolutely heart breaking after 3 days of extreme effort from horse and rider.
Team work! I ran off to fetch my vet card!
Our hearts pumping blood like you wouldn't know!!
Please trot out straight and true old girl...Cules and I were both sending up lots of prayers there at that moment!!
We did it!!! 201km's done and dusted! Averaging 20km/ph over 3 days!
I didn't have a lot of words to say here...Huge, big old lump in my throat...just thank you,thank you, old girl.......
It all felt too surreal,I couldn't believe we had actually done it!
Did I tell you I love my horse?