Photo courtesy of Bex. Angelic, I think you’ll agree.
Picture the scene – rank amateur event rider turns often-bonkers horse towards show jump, to find she is not alone. Turning into the other showjump in the warm-up, the one right next to the one rank amateur is jumping, is none other than Tina Cook.
If that means nothing to you frankly who even are you.
Ok that’s a bit harsh …but it’s like being a boxer and leaping from foot-to-foot (in that funny way boxers do) opposite Muhammed Ali, or running with a rugby ball towards Paul O’Connell. Actually it’s nothing like that, that would be terrifying.
She rides for Team GB. She’s won individual bronze and team gold at the actual Olympics!
But this story gets BETTER…
My team-mates and I, who for the purposes of this competition were collectively named the Jam Tarts, arrived at the Crawley and Horsham Hunt Relay at the All England Showjumping Course, Hickstead, not without a degree of trepidation.
Team mate one (Cassie B), was riding a very-young-and-not-always-entirely-brave-but-very-well-meaning pony for a friend, which she hadn’t sat on in a few months.
Team mate two (Bex), was on board the sweetest-looking ginger pony, which she’d brought out of retirement especially for the occasion, and she therefore wasn’t entirely sure what might happen.
Team mate three (me aka. the rank amateur) had Bonkers McGraw (Gigi) as my steed – who can be brilliant and also can be bonkers. Having not left the yard all winter my money was on bonkers.
Upon arrival I found out from my fellow tarts that Tina Cook had been spotted on the premises (not a surprise as she has a daughter in the local pony club). But that she was wearing breeches. We laughed that she might be competing against us in the relay, and I fantasised at length about jumping alongside her while the theme tune to National Velvet played in the background, and our photo appearing on the cover of Horse and Hound – under what merit I’m not sure …I don’t think I’d thought that far ahead.
Having discussed tactics (try not to fall off, jump all the jumps. …high octane stuff), I arrived back at my little lorry to find bonkers pony in a muck sweat – the very sound of other ponies walking past and the fact she was on the lorry meant she was sweating to the point of frothing. Lovely.
Having offered to help me tack up, my boyfriend sensibly retreated to the front seat at the sight of bonkers pony bursting off the lorry, eyes rolling, nostrils flaring and hooves clattering not unlike the steed of a Ring Wraith from Lord of The Rings. Terrifying. I honestly didn’t really want to get on.
But get on I did, and thankfully as soon as my bum was in the saddle it was like someone had pressed the ‘be calm not mental’ button. She behaved impeccably all day, thank gawd.
It quickly transpired that not only was Tina riding on a relay team, she was riding against us. I didn’t play it at all cool and got very overexcited about this.
As our two teams (theirs was called The Good, the Bad and the Olympian… excellent) walked into the arena, I showed bonkers pony one of the fences – when one of my team mates incredulously asked what I was up to I told them I was showing her the fence, like they do at the Grand National.
“If it works for AP McCoy it can work for you,” came a voice from behind me.
Yes it was Tina. She was obviously lovely and amazing and rode impeccably because off-of Olympics. But the most amazing part is that hunt relays are a team event, and by some miracle (and some excellent tactical riding from Cassie B), the Jam Tarts prospered. Jammy indeed.