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Goals Galore for Billy Bank

Top of the morning to you,

So much has happened since my last blog it's hard to know where to begin! I took part in the Area Festival at Frickley, attended my first international one star competition and received the exciting news Minnie Haha and I had been selected to represent the Northern Area at The International Youth Championships at Bishop Burton at the end of July. However, prior to all this, a very strange happening occurred on one of my regular visits to 'He who must be Obeyed'. I had my usual breakfast of Fibre-Beet, a good bath and I was loaded into the lorry but there was no sign of The Young Master. I didn't take much notice of this expecting him to rock up in time for the session as he is a man on a mission these days flying here there and everywhere. Imagine my surprise when The Old Girl stuck her hat on and led me to the mounting block. Mother of Mary, she couldn't be planning to have a lesson herself?! And not only that I had the jumping saddle on! The Old Girl gave me a reassuring pat and murmured, "We might just trot over a few poles." That I seriously doubted. If I was feeling bemused the look on the face of 'He who must be Obeyed' was incredulous. "Warmed up are you?" he asked, and with that proceeded to put us through our paces over more than a few poles on the ground. For an old bird that hadn't had a proper lesson since the last time Blyth Tait visited, and that was when I first arrived, she didn't do half bad. Of course I made it easy for her, helping her out when she missed the odd stride here and there, and now she is threatening, having had a couple more lessons since, to ride at an event! Given she has bought a new pair of boots I think she is serious. As they say, watch this space!
Having been tuned up by The Old Girl we headed to Frickley for the Area Festival which was a weekend party and lots of fun with friends. On Saturday Fat Boy Slim, Son of Thorr and the Unicorn Sister all took part in the 80 championship posting respectable dressage scores in their first tests in a long arena. A couple of poles were rolled by the trio in the show jumping where clear rounds were at a premium but they flew round the cross country. Glamour Girl, excited to be out, let her halo slip a little in the 90 dressage but more than made up for it with a double clear to finish just outside the rosettes. The 100 class ran on Sunday where I put my best foot forward in the dressage and received a competitive score. The show jumping was causing more than a few issues and I knew The Old Girl was anxious about the treble towards the end of the course. The Young Master is always very cool but after we had watched horse after horse slide into the parallel at number three even his nerves were jingling.

There was no time to be nervous, in we cantered. The support team were in the grandstand, I had to do my best but the first two jumps were admittedly a bit sticky although we jumped them clear. Coming round the turn to the third, The Young Master really put his leg on, this was more like it. I rose to the challenge and we flew round only rolling a pesky pole in the middle of the treble. Never mind it was the fun bit next. The cross country was a true championship track and The Young Master and I had a great clear round. Somewhere along the line our timing went awry and we picked up too many time faults to make the top 10 just missing out on a rosette. I think I might have dawdled at the start if I am honest and once The Young Master realised, towards the end of the track, we were off the pace he eased me up. There were plenty of pats and polos at the finish and of course a hydrating feed of Fibre-Beet once I had been washed off and cooled down properly. "Always another day", everyone agreed and with a busy time ahead it was imperative to finish sound and still full of running.

Flushed, quite literally, with the success of her lesson The Old Girl took me on several fittening hacks prior to our next outing, the one star at Offchurch Bury, but I was conscious the human’s minds were elsewhere. The Legend, who always knows the score, asked wagon cat what was going on. Debate was raging as to whether we would attend this event as there had been a family bereavement but the family motto, 'The show must go on' prevailed and we headed off. I think it was just what The Old Girl needed, a night staying away with an old friend, who incidentally put me through my paces and practiced another test with even more complicated movements to break up the journey and keep her mind off the sadness.

After the wonderful weather we'd had we drove through torrential rain, with a couple of detours due to the lack of navigational skills from the co-pilot, to Offchurch Bury - a new venue for us and my first one star. Thankfully the weather improved for The Young Master to don his tailcoat and head to the dressage. As this was a FEI event the vet scanned my microchip to check it correlated with my passport and there was a short trot up to assess soundness. Under the new rule our whiskers all have to be intact, trimming now is not allowed. With thumbs up, off we went to another long arena and scored pretty decent marks. I had time for some hydrating Fibre-Beet before the show jumping as the sun had really got his hat on and it was heating up big style.

The show jumping track was as big as I have jumped for some time but The Young Master had it all in hand and we set off in determined mode. Maybe we were a little bit too bold… I took the second fence but sailed round the rest which was a huge relief to the support team who had watched quite a few others having issues. We were down at the start of the cross country in good time only to hear there had been a hold on course. A poor girl had parted company with her horse, who now didn't want to be caught, and if that wasn't bad enough it started to rain. After what seemed an age the light turned green and we were ready to go. The course was the biggest and most technical I have jumped at a competition and a faster speed. We didn't dawdle this time, The Young Master meant business. The questions came thick and fast; off-set skinny brushes, angled roll tops, downhill curving triple line, upright white hanging pole to a big drop and skinny, corner on a related distance to a skinny, they seemed endless but we cleared them all only picking up a handful of time penalties. I breezed through the finish with an ecstatic rider madly patting me. I heard The Old Girl telling The Young Master she'd had a message to say Minnie HaHa and I had been selected to represent The Northern Area at the Youth Champs at Bishop Burton. Not only had our goal of jumping clear round a one star been achieved the squad place had been gained too. The clock wasn't just ticking it had chimed resolutely more like Big Ben!

The journey back to Yorkshire didn't seem half as far and I was able to ascertain I would be shortly heading off for a training camp with Minnie Haha. I also caught snippets of conversations that led me to believe The Old Girl and Minnie Haha might be off on a road trip soon and we all know what that might mean...

So much excitement in such a short time, but believe me nothing stops my enjoyment of Fibre-Beet. With the hot weather you can't beat a sloppy hydrating Fibre-Beet feed. The Old Girl is hyper about hydration and is often heard telling her young team of pupils how essential it is to make sure the horse is hydrated and how performance is impaired massively if the horse won't drink. One of her tips is to put some Speedi-Beet juice into our water which makes it taste sweeter. If you don't believe me give it a go for yourself... taste the difference!

Catch up on how I fare at The International Youth Championships at Bishop Burton in my next blog or better still come along and watch some of the best youth riders in the country battling it out for the top honours. The event starts with the trot up on Wednesday 28th July finishing with show jumping on Sunday 1st August. There's plenty going on at Bishop Burton College for the duration with talent contests and trips round the small animal unit, not to mention the recorder championships taking place there too!

Keep smiling,
Love Billy Bank xx