Paula Evans & Billy the Cuff
BE 80(T) Little Downham (3)
Billy and I have had our fair share of ups and downs. We were lucky enough to secure a place on the Andrew Hoy clinic back in March, where I unfortunately came of Billy due to an uncharacterist 'buck' on his part, which resulted in me breaking my collarbone and pushing us way back in our preparation. Prior to this mishap, we were on tract to perhaps complete our challenge at LD2. So with me plated and pinned back together and on the long slow road to recovery (due to frozen shoulder and various other complications involved in the repair of said broken collarbone), Billy decides I was getting far too much attention and he wanted his share, so decided to go down with colic in April. An emergency operation within 12 hours of diagnosis of 'strangulated gut' and Billy was in ITU at the wonderful Rossdales in Newmarket. Amazingly, and to all the vets surprise, Billy made a full recovery in record time and we were able to gradually help each other back into work, building up our strength and confidence (well my confidence Billy never lost his). After just 8 weeks of rehab and on vet's say so, I was able to hack Billy out which was the first time I had sat on a horse since my fall 3 months previously!!! It felt amazing and Billy was so happy to be out with his mates again. So with Billy healing much quicker than me, I decided to let me daughter do some jumping with him to keep him moving in the right direction - he loved it, just small jumps and not many of them, just enough to improve his core strength. It wasn't until August that I was able to have a proper cross country schooling session (as I wasn't able to 'hold' Billy properly - he doesn't pull or tank across country but you do need to give him some support and contact) and what better place to school than around Horseheath's flagged course just after their BE event - it felt epic, just knowing that Billy and I were able to do this after everything that had happened earlier in the year. So with things moving at a pace, Billy had his first clip of the year and we were booked into WB Camp at MK - which was awesome and just what we both needed to 'dot the I's' and 'cross the t's' on our preparation for the following weekend. The day arrived and we had a very early start because my daughter was competing in the BE90 which stated at 8am - but this gave me plenty of time to walk the cross country course with the BE Trainer and also the Showjumping Course, both courses were very inviting and not scary at all and I was really looking forward to starting! My nerves didn't appear to be there when we arrived at the venue and I thought that was because I had my daughter to organise first, however, when I was getting ready for my dressage I still felt calm - I have competed in British Dressage previously so i thought the nerves would probably creep in after that phase. However, warming up in the SJ area was a breeze, albeit a bit busy - the steward on the SJ arena is awesome at LD and keeps everything running like clockwork and everyone knows where they are and when they're going in. My turn, in we go and - can you believe it - we go clear - woohoo! Amazing feeling and Billy wasn't even puffing. Cross Country next, surely the nerves were waiting in the warm up - but No! we walked quite a bit at the beginning as we had quite a few in front of us, but when it was time to warm up, we negotiated the allocated warm up fences with ease and even gave a fellow Wobbleberry a lead over one as she was having a bit of a sticky issue!! It was my first time EVER coming out of the Start Box so I thought that might be were the nerves were lurking! Count down, 40 seconds, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - off you go and enjoy says the starter and I would appear to have avoided the nerves altogether - Billy knew exactly what he was doing and took me over the first fence and away ... the rest was a bit of a blur as fence after fence came and went (with ease thanks to Billy) there was a combination around the back of the course that I couldn't remember that clearly when I approached which lost us a few seconds, but Billy said "It's OK Mum, I've got this" and got us through without too much of a stride break. I could feel my breathing getting stronger (which is a good thing I think as at least I was breathing!!), but it just indicated to me how unfit I am (even though I thought I was fit enough), negotiating the rest of the course was amazing, with Billy making nothing of all the obstacles in his path, straight though the waters and ditches, over the step and drop and we approached the last with the hugest grin on my face and I felt so elated that I wanted to just go around and do it again - What an awesome feeling - knowing that we had completed our Challenge, despite what nature had thrown at us,we had "ridden for Hannah" and was absolutely "kicking cancers butt" - Against all Odds. I just want to thank Sally Barr, Julia Godbold, Sam Elms and Georgie Horrell for setting up this crazy Challenge so that the likes of me (and the rest of you Wobbleberries) can fulfill dreams/goals/desires whatever you want to call them - that we would never have had the 'balls' to do previously for fear of what our peers/those people who know what they are doing, might think of us. Thank you ladies (and now my friends) Good luck to all those yet to complete and I hope that my little story can inspire you just a tiny bit to continue with your Challenge even when things get thrown in the way.