Rebecca Skinner & Darcy XI
BE 80(T) Frickley Park (2)
A few weeks ago, I pledged to dye my hair blue to match my XC colours if donations on my JustGiving page were doubled. As a result, I spent the day before my challenge turning myself into a Marge Simpson lookalike. Oh, and I walked the course… I picked Frickley Park for my challenge event because it's late in the season (plenty of time to prepare), closest to home and I’d watched a couple of YouTube videos that made it look easy… I really got that wrong! I was close to tears when I walked the course – it was long, with a confusing loop, and the fences all looked huge and intimidating, with more technical elements than I expected. Needless to say, I didn't get a wink of sleep that night! On Saturday, as we drove down the motorway, the heavens opened and I nearly turned for home there and then. When we arrived at Frickley Park, despite the team's best efforts, the lorry park and the tracks to and from the various areas were already a quagmire of thick, claggy mud. At that point, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be completing our challenge that day after all. As we were there, I decided I might as well do the dressage, but was prepared to head home after that. As the steward called us to our dressage arena, the heavens opened again! Despite the pouring rain, Darcy was soft and flexible and I was pleased with how he went. However, a couple of slips on the muddy track made for a disappointing score. I was ready to pack up and head for home, but a friend persuaded me to put some studs in, warm up for show jumping and then make a decision. I managed to pop a couple of practice jumps and went into the ring ready to pull up and retire if necessary. As it was, the ground was much better in the ring and Darcy was keen. He jumped everything, but I let him rush at the fences and we ended up having three poles down. Time was tight between show jumping and cross country, so I didn't really have time to worry about it. A quick change and we headed for the warm up, where it became clear that Darcy was really up for this phase – he was forward going and sailed over the practice jumps! Before I knew it we were in the start box being counted down. We couldn't see the first jump, which was behind a tree so Darcy was nice and calm. We set off and the first jump, a big brush, came into view. Darcy's never jumped anything like it before and started to back off. A bit of vocal encouragement was all it took – he made a clean jump and, for the first time since I had walked the course, I knew we were going to be ok. Darcy flew over everything, not even hesitating at the drop or ditch. The only sticky moment was at the first of a double of logs jumping into a wooded area. We came to a standstill in front of the first log… time stood still and I could almost feel the jump judge’s pen hovering over '1st refusal’ on their sheet... but then Darcy launched himself over and we were off again! There were so many types of fences that Darcy just hadn't seen before, and certainly not dressed with flowers and plastic pheasants, but we finished clear! We had a stack of time faults, but I really don't care. We jumped everything, Darcy was forward going all the way round and we both loved it! I am so proud of my horse – he was so trusting and brave – I had a little cry at the end. I’m so glad we Taking part in the Wobbleberry Challenge has been difficult but incredibly rewarding. Hannah's Willberry Wonderpony charity is doing wonderful work and I'm delighted to have raised over £750 for them thanks to the support of family and friends. But it's also a great challenge, inspired by Hannah’s incredible bravery, which encourages you to face your fears and do it anyway, with the comradery and support of other Wobbleberries who know exactly how it feels to be that far out of your comfort zone. There have been many times when my nerves and anxiety nearly got the better of me, but I’m so pleased now that I didn't back out. We’ve overcome lots of small personal challenges, which have made a huge difference to our lives and relationship – I can now drive a lorry, Darcy now loads and travels without stress, we’ve gone from being happy hackers to taking part in camps and competitions and we both have far more confidence in ourselves and each other. Not bad for 5 months work!