The day we took on an Olympian …and won!

Yes this happened. Yes it was nearly a week ago. No I’m not over it yet.

Advertisements

Hunt relay

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.

Being British, the naked truth

Polo, rain and a streaker: why bare bottoms never lose their appeal.

Streaker best oneThe streaker at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Final. Brilliant.

There are a few times recently when I have found myself thinking, ‘God isn’t it brilliant to be British?’

Manchester and Borough Market – no explanations needed as to the events, but I felt genuinely proud of the nation’s reaction – our refusal to be cowed or scared, our resilience. I loved the way that we stood together, and I was heartened to hear that people offered food, accommodation and support to absolute strangers in the immediate aftermath. It was Dunkirk spirit at its best. You go Britain.

But I also love the hilarious idiosyncrasies and bizarre national traits that give us an international reputation for being slightly eccentric, off the wall, bonkers.

And I especially love Britain’s collective sense of humour – our dry wit, love of caustic satire and also toilet humour. (I hate the word toilet. It is absolutely abhorrent. I would honestly rather someone said they were going to the sh*tter than the toilet. Seriously.
I am very sorry for saying it, three times. But that is the given name of the genre of humour to which I refer, so it was unavoidable really. Sorry. Bleugh.)

Moving on …last week I was lucky enough to attend the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Final at Cowdray Park. It was amazing, but not for the reasons I expected.

KellyMy friend (on the left) – not haggard.

I was there with a very old friend. (To clarify, she is not withered or haggard, I have just known her for a long time). But upon arrival the heavens opened. It rained cats, dogs, mice, rhinos, elephants – you get the picture, it rained.

Luckily, we are British, and as such the afore-mentioned Dunkirk spirit is part of our genetic make-up. We will not be put off by the weather, we will carry on as planned, and we will stoically smile through the entire thing, even if we’re in the process of developing pneumonia.

On this occasion it was far from that dramatic luckily – we stayed in the VW Polo while it bucketed down outside and had a car picnic that consisted of sandwiches and slightly tepid prosecco (we know how to live). We concluded that our feet were dampened but our spirits were not – I swapped dainty pumps for trusty Chameaus and we were off.

For the uninitiated, polo is just as civilised as you might expect – there were ice buckets, elaborate picnics and tweed capes at every turn. There was even a spitfire display before the game. Oh and seriously good dogs …the calibre of dog on display was exceptionally high – from small sausages and tyrannical terriers to elegant lurchers and an excellent stamp of Labrador.

Excellent dogAn excellent dog at the polo in what I believe to be a cashmere jumper – well, why not?

The standard of polo itself was breathtaking. I do not purport to know much about the sport but the horsemanship, speed and agility of both teams and their ponies was truly amazing.

One team (El Remanso) was made up of Brits, including the England Captain, James Beim, and the other (King Power Foxes) was Argentine-dominated. The Argies took the title in the end but it was brilliantly close-fought.

Particular mention should go to young gun Jimbo Fewster – the one goal English player was on the winning team, scored three goals and picked up the most valuable player (MVP) award. He was amazing. I bet he’s still smiling now.

Polo 2The Jaeger Le-Coultre Gold Cup Final in action.

But my personal MVP award goes to the skinny-legged streaker (SLS – pictured above). SLS made his appearance in-between chukkas from the Midhurst end, running down the pitch stark bollock naked, hotly pursued by security. He even managed to give a cheeky lean-over-and-pat-of-bottom-cheeks to the 12,500 people in the stands en route. What a bloody legend.

I dealt with it in my usual calm and measured manner. I spotted him emerging from the crowds early on and cut across the muted polite chatter of the members enclosure by bellowing: “THERE’S A STREEEEEEEAKKKKKKERRRRR. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!”

The commentator got in the spirit too and declared over the tannoy: “I’d say by the looks of it, it’s a little chilly out there.” Lol. As he also rightly said, SLS hadn’t really thought it through and got to the other end only to look a little sheepish and slope off bare-bottomed. Hilarious.

We hope it was a dare and he got bought LOTS of drinks for doing it. Naked bottoms are funny. Streakers are funny. That was absolutely brilliant. Good work Britain.

His crown jewels were the crowning glory of a simply sparkling day.