The title can mean only one thing. Schooling.
We love schooling, there is nothing like taking a three year old for the first time to look at a pole and then gradually make them jump it as the session goes on. It’s every feeling and emotion in one package, a roller coaster ride of an event, so much do we love this feeling that we decided we would do all the three year olds at once!
Cue excitement. The day and morning before schooling is greatly exciting, who knows you might uncover a hidden gem, you might have the next Kauto Star in your string of almost well clipped youths. The jockey, Mark Grant, is booked to give the most important horse the most attention (it’s Dance With Me if you were wondering). A lead horse is specially selected from the ranks of the old hands, Across The Straits is judged to be the perfect candidate, not too fit, not too fresh and an excellent technical hurdler and has a special ability.
Cue nervous dread. Its nearly go time. Are the jumps set up? Kind of, as much as railings and wooden boxes can be set up. Is everyone here yet? Why isn’t that horses tacked up? Please tell me that horse still has all its shoes on… Okay everything is set to go, everyone mount up. Wait! We forgot about Mark! He’s not here for another hour. Cue the kettle.
Okay second attempt, the horses are sent to warm up, just a quick hack round the village and then we can get on with it. The assembled Team in the field wait patiently on foot. Time passes, minutes, hours, days? Regardless they are taking a long time to go round the village. Can anyone see them? Where the hell are they? There they are! On the other side of the valley. Damn. Cue kettle.
Okay take three. After their casual stroll round half of Wiltshire they must be ready to go. They are all lined up with JAG (Across the Straits has a nickname!) taking the lead, they first trot over all the poles to get a feel for the event ahead. Well three of them do, the filly is doing doughnuts about fifteen yards away, but eventually she agrees, with much protestation, to go through the first jump. Up goes the poles and a light canter begins, JAG steams straight through them. Too used to hurdles methinks. And again they go up, JAG jumps like a stag clearing the low pole with grace and poise in a fantastic display of agility over a tiny pole bare inches off the ground! Dance With Me follows up immediately behind him and flattens it. The other two trot over the remains of the obstacle. Damn.
Cue chaos and despair, this continues for sometime. Shot In The Dark has decided everyone is going too slowly for his liking so he is now thundering down the run of small jumps, either annihilating everything in his path or actually doing a little jumping. But mainly causing destruction, at one point he goes through a slightly elderly looking pole and snaps it clean in two, we scramble quickly to remove the debris from the track. The filly (Bondi Mist) is having a nervous breakdown and is running around in circles making bold moves towards the jumps every now and then, agreeing to jump one of them, possibly two but certainly never three. Dance With Me is trying his best to do some work but its all getting a bit overwhelming while those of us on the ground are trying to take photos and fix the mass devastation of wooden jumping poles. Then, in a move of absolute brilliance JAG throws his special ability into the fray. He stands perfectly still. In the middle of the field while everything is going completely to hell in a handbasket he stands with Katrina sitting on board and waits for everything to calm down.
The Boss screams a few tips at his riders, whips crack and reins jangle and a sort of calm descends over the battlefield of the paddock. Shot In The Dark and Bondi Mist are given a couple of attempts to redeem themselves which they dutifully do showing excellent athleticism on the part of SITD and a superb technical ability by Bondi Mist. They are then sent home for a bath and hay while all attention is focused on Dance With Me. JAG leads him and he pops quite a few in very good form, much preferring the more solid jumps where he puts in his best efforts.
Cue relief. As the final pair trot off for home I look back over the field, the shattered poles and knocked down boxes and wooden pallets. For all the drama it went very well, they all jumped and showed great ability and willingness to commit. Nobody was injured (horses included) and we are well prepared for next week. Thats right. Next week.