I’m now back home in Wilberforce, New South Wales. My trip away was 8 weeks and one day in total; somehow I managed to survive the English weather with 8 weeks of sunshine and only one day of rain, yes I know this is unheard of. The UK conveniently just happened to put forward the best summer since 1976 during my stay. It has been a little bit of a shock to come home to the very cold and windy mornings, which consist of mini dust storms; yes you hear right- dust storms. It is winter here and we are having the worst drought ever in OZ. In my past trips to the UK over the last 25 years or so the weather has always been pretty gloomy, cold, with lots of rain and wind, this trip I discovered just how beautiful England can be. Everyday I would pinch myself that I was actually living the dream. Despite the less than ideal end to our campaign I wouldn’t change it one bit. We had a go and gave it our best. You never know what is going to happen in one’s life and over the last two years of my life I’ve experienced things I wish had never happened, I lost my self confidence in who I was and I lost something that I never thought was possible- the passion for my sport. So to be competing in the UK campaigning for the World Equestrian Games and representing Australia at Aachen with my amazing partner Adelaide Hill was truly an extremely surreal experience. This trip was frankly something that I had accepted long ago was not possible, and in time I had come to terms with that. Despite the highs and lows I still wouldn’t change it one bit because I took a chance, chased a dream but most importantly I have a story of a lifetime to share.
This trip would not have ever been possible without the support of so many people. Firstly, my family for not only the financial support but also the emotional support. My friends that have put up with my shit, when let’s to real they shouldn’t have. To my sponsors, supporters and followers for believing in me when even I didn’t. To Adelaide’s number one fan and breeder Beth Turner and her family. Alongside these amazing people the guidance and aid that I received from Equestrian Australia’s High Performance team, especially Gina Haddad and our Eventing selectors Georgia Widdup was invaluable. Sarah Neville who financially aided Adelaide’s flight over to the UK with the new travel bursary. To my management team, vets Agnes Banks Equine Clinic – Christine Smith, farrier - Mark Colbran, Muscleskeletol Vet - Nicola Finn and massage therapist- Sandy Stewart but also Nathan Anthony, Robin Bell, KP and Graham Potts, Equestrian Australia’s team of vets for making sure Adelaide was in the best shape of his life. To every single person that donated to either my fundraising pages, donated gifts to my online auction or purchased an online auction prize, this trip was only possible through your generosity. Sadly I do feel like in some way that Adelaide and I let everyone down despite everyone’s best efforts as it didn’t quite go to plan and we did not achieve what we set out to do however one thing I do know is that my amazing Adelaide gave everything he had and that’s all anyone can ask for. So thank you everyone.
While Adelaide was waiting for treatment on his tendon I decided to hire a car and go and visit some friends. This included lunch dates with Sarah Martin who was based at Catherine Burell’s property, currently home to Amanda Ross and Koko Popping Candy, which was conveniently only 10 minutes away from where I was living at the Nicholson’s. Sarah had been very helpful during my stay in the UK; she also had a very special newly purchased eventer that I was hoping to check out! A lovely young 3-year-old warmblood gelding. The new boy was certainly an impressive type and a lot taller than Sarah’s polo ponies Nero and Max. I look forward to seeing his progress!
I also caught up with long friend Sophie Allison. Sophie and I first met some 28 years ago on my first trip to the UK back in 1990. I had travelled with a team of junior riders from Western Australia to compete in the British Show Pony Society Championships in Builth Wells, Wales. We were the only team riding borrowed ponies out of 17 nations competing. I was fortunate enough to compete Sophie’s awesome pony Louis. Since then we have stayed in contact, along with my parents and Sophie’s parents. Sophie’s family have been owners of many top eventing horses over the years. Ironically Matthew has known Sophie for nearly as long as I have from when he was a working pupil for Andrew Nicholson all those years ago. One of Matt’s best mates Blair Richardson dated Sophie many moons ago. It does always amaze me how truly small the world is at times.
It was then down to Dorset to catch up with Sam Griffiths and Jess Green. I was lured under false pretences, come have dinner and stay the night they said. Sounds great, I thought. Well we did have a great dinner and catch up that’s for sure! However, It was then can you ride one tomorrow at the gallops? Sure no problem sounds fun I said. Oh and by the way can you drive the lorry to the gallops as well? So, the next morning Jess Green and I headed off to William Fox Pitts to gallop two of the 3 star horses that were getting ready for Gatcombe. We arrived back from galloping as Sam was heading off to teach at the local pony club. Sam’s parting words ‘Oh and by the way CP Qualified is tacked up for you to ride’ for old times sake. It was great to have a ride on the big boy; it had certainly been a while.
Whilst waiting for Adelaide's treatments I had the rather large task of re-organising my entire gear ready to transport back to Australia. I can assure everyone that I was regretting packing way too much. Interestingly, I had catered for every weather occasion that the UK would throw at me, except the warm weather. Adelaide in fact probably spent most of the trip naked, many of the rugs that I packed didn’t come out of the bags. When the repacking started I made sure every bit of leather gear had been saddled soaped, everything and anything that would fit in the washing machine got washed. I even went as far as picking out any bits of grass, shavings and fluff out of every bit of gear that had velcro on it. Yes I’m very OCD. What I did manage to do was reduce my bags numbers from 20 down to 13. Every bag was relabelled and a list of every item in every bag was made, this list was then sent to the freight company that would be bringing Adelaide back to Australia. I then commenced the packing of my suitcases, which turned out to be little harder than I thought it would be. As my suitcases had come over in the AKE with Adelaide’s gear bags I had just presumed that I could do the same on the return trip. Luckily I was informed that unless I wanted all my clothes sprayed before leaving the UK sending clothes and personal items home with Adelaide would not be a good option.
So like Adelaide’s gear I personally packed for every occasion, as my previous experience travelling to the UK was I always needed more layers even in summer time, again this was overkill. I eventually sent two boxes (23kg) back to Australia via post 240GBP. After a little investigation this seemed to be the quickest and most reasonable way to get it all home. Shipping was cheaper but would take up to 3 months to arrive and paying for excess baggage was out of my budget. Unfortunately I’m still waiting for my boxes to arrive, as of course they were returned due to electronics being in one of the boxes (my teaching headset and a hairdryer). Hopefully one day I will get my clothes back. The other issue that presented itself was thinking I could bring back 30kg of luggage plus carry on on my flight home to Australia. Well well well note to self- check fine print more closely. After leaving my empty suitcases to return with Adelaide I was feeling pretty confident I had everything organised and ready to go, I had even gone to the lengths of weighing my bags (one large suitcase 26kg and one carry on 11kg) before heading off to Heathrow. Apparently my bag weighing skills suck as the large suitcase weighed 29kg (6kg overweight) and my carry on was 12kg (5kg overweight), I then proceeded to get slugged excess for 11kg. This was a costly mistake, another 150GBP out of pocket. The check-in air hostess felt sorry for me, well not sorry enough to upgrade me to business class although I did manage to get an exit row for the first leg of my trip to Doha and a spare seat next to me on the second leg of the flight. I certainly had a more comfortable flight and managed to get in lots of sleep. Finally back in Australia.