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August with Billy Bank and Team Ireland

Top of the morning to you,

I am sending this blog from my deck chair, with my feet up enjoying a little holiday. August has been a busy month with not a lot of time spent at home.

The beginning of the month saw us at York & Ainsty South Pony Club camp held at Askham Bryan College. The Young Master and I had a great time having lots of fun with our friends. A plot had been hatched which involved dressage to music and a routine was put together for us to take to the Final Area Competition at the end of the week.

What fun it was too, I never thought I would hear the Young Master exclaiming how much he had enjoyed a dressage test but we both got a buzz from it and I have heard whispers from The Old Girl that we might be joining BD and doing some more over the winter!

I don't think The Young Master and I have ever actually won a dressage competition before which made taking the class taste even sweeter and then to be part of a winning team was the icing on the cake. A double whammy, wonder if that will ever be repeated again...

Then the count down to the Pony Club Championships began. We were going to be away for five days so everything had to be packed and organised for all eventualities. Our first event was the Individual Open Showjumping. The first round, which started at 1.15M, went well with just an unlucky pole but the second round defeated me. Perhaps it was the sense of occasion that overwhelmed me but I hadn't really fancied my supper or breakfast or the power feed in between rounds and I just ran out of steam half way round.

Everyone was concerned at my lack of appetite as it is well known how much I enjoy my grub, particularly Fibre-Beet. Turned out in a little paddock I had a nibble of grass then felt very homesick and wanted my pal, The Legend, to tell me everything would be ok. Even though I knew he wasn't in Cheshire but at home in Yorkshire I started shouting to him and The Old Girl had to bring me in or I would have jumped the gate and headed off down the M62 to find him. She is always good in a situation like this and we had a chat and she reassured me, with some tasty apples, it would work out well and I could have a day off and then we would review the situation. Naturally that led to a song from "Oliver" and I felt much more eased, after all her tuneless singing chases everyone's demons away!

It was nice to have a lie in the following morning as the others headed off for the Open Team Showjumping. I did feel bad at letting them down but I hoped I could do a better job in the eventing later in the week.
Other York & Ainsty South PC members did well, with Jewel and her rider, Holly, coming seventh in a strong Intermediate Individual Showjumping class. The Intermediate SJ team had a long and tiring Monday in the competition that started at 8.30am and didn't finish until 6pm, eventually finishing fourth. It was a fantastic result.

Monday morning I tucked into my breakfast with renewed enthusiasm determined to do my best the following day. The Old Girl had organised a massage for me which involved wearing a very high-tech suit, I felt like some sort of astronaut and a real celeb as folk came over to chat to Sean, the brains behind the Cyclo-Ssage equine therapy system. It certainly relieved my tension and I produced another good dressage test… would have been better still if The Young Master had his sat nav plugged in! I'll say no more...

Then it was the dreaded show jumping. My confidence just ebbed away, what if I let everyone down, The Young Master had waited so long to be here, and I didn't think I could do it.
Throughout the week the Pony Club had mentors on hand, sponsored by NFU Mutual, to help competitors. A young lady called Holly calmed me down and helped The Young Master re-focus before we were in. What had I been worried about I sailed round, clipping a pole in my haste. Boy I was cross about that and I had strong words with my jockey who seriously needed to plug the sat nav in again. Good job The Legend has taught me to count!!

We were straight to the cross country with little time to spare. Another mentor took over, Marie, who gave our team some wise words on how the course was riding. I felt invigorated and set off determined to give my boy a good ride. We kept a steady rhythm, calmly negotiating all the obstacles. We were on our minute markers at the water as I popped in over the roll top, two strides on dry ground, then into the water… Splash, bang, wallop! I was on my knees, skidding along the base. "Mary Mother of Jesus", I snorted through the froth, "Hang on my boy we’re not getting 65 penalties!"

Somehow he stuck on like a limpet and we defied gravity and the work of Leprechauns, I have no doubt, and jumped the B element with my laddo sitting on my neck in front of the saddle! It knocked the wind out of us both I have to say, but we dug deep and battled on. The finishing line was a welcome sight for sure and to hear a clear round announced made it worth it.

Bumble, one of our team members, was not so lucky at the water and her rider got an unscheduled bath. In true Yorkshire fashion, with grit and determination Sophie climbed back on and the pair completed the course. With only three in the team it gave us a score and while we didn't finish in the rosettes at least we had all completed.

Back in Yorkshire, never has Fibre-Beet tasted so good and with The Legend by my side all is well in my world. My schedule has been altered and I am enjoying a mini break, but don't tell anyone I said this… it's actually very boring and I can't wait to be back in the thick of it!

Let's see what September brings...

Billy Bank x