Bramham CCI*** with Birch Equestrian – Two horses and a baby!
When I got the call asking me to help groom at Bramham I have to say I was a touch excited. Little did I know what I had let myself in for! So I arrived at about 10.15am on the Wednesday morning and found out what stables we were in, then set the beds out and waited for Birch Equestrian to arrive. They arrived around 10.45am and from that point on until Sunday 7pm, when I arrived home, I don’t think we really ever stopped, well apart from sleeping!
To go from having a baby 10 months ago, to coming 4th at Bramham CCI*** is some achievement, but it hasn’t been an easy ride and after some disappointment the week before at Tattersalls in Ireland, where Sammi and Gizmo parted company, the challenge was real.
When they had parked up, the lorry had to be unpacked, and horses unloaded, then the horses had to be checked in, where to my surprise they retained the horses passports. We then collected horses numbers and trot up times for the afternoon. Hels (Sammi’ s Head Girl) had already plaited Gizmo (Hunter Valley II) up as they had been on the road since 6am. Sammi rode Jester (Court Jester) before the trot up so when he came back he had to be washed off tack cleaned and plaited up ready for the trot up.
The horses have to be extremely well turned out at the trot up – plaited , quarter markings, clean bridle, feet oiled etc. Hels and I met Sammi down there with the horses (which was a bit of a walk and not on the flattest terrain!). The trot up was in front of Bramham Hall – Gizmo was first up and was actually very naughty and nearly knocked Sammi out, you may see it on the video if you look carefully!! Sammi trotted Jester up straight after and both horses were accepted which is always a good start.
Hels and I then took them back to the stables where the bridles were cleaned, the horses had their plaits removed, then Gizmo was tacked up to be ridden. Hels then had to switch from groom to babysitter to look after Charlie, Sammi’s 10 month old son. Sammi took Gizmo to do the arena familiarization returning around 5.30pm then she swapped with Hels so Charlie could be bathed and put to bed as Hels had fed him. I washed Gizmo down, took studs out, cleaned the tack then hels wrapped their legs and we got them fed and put their hay in. We went back to the lorry for some dinner then came back out to the stables at 9pm to rug up and skip-out and put them to bed. We then grabbed a shower, which I have to say were clean. I hadn’t quite expected such a manic day and I could see there was going to be a lot of walking involved! I was in the pod in the lorry for the night and Hels was in the tent with the dogs (yes that’s right we actually had three dogs with us as well!!). Putting the tent up in the day was quite eventful I must say! When I finally got in bed it was so hot, so I opened the sun roof, however the lorry next door decided to have a mini party so it wasn’t to easy to get to sleep!! I was then woken at 1am, 3am and 5am with a horse kicking in the stables much to my annoyance!!.
6am on the Thursday came quicker than I would have liked! Sammi was down for dressage on Gizmo at 9.40 am so we fed the horses, got them washed etc then while Hels mucked out I took the horses for some grass and a leg stretch. Then I went to get some coffee and some breakfast for us both. We then had to plait up and get the tack ready for Gizmo as well as get him studded up. Hels went back to the lorry to get Charlie sorted whilst Sammi came to get on Gizmo. I then met Hels and Charlie and we got a buggy down to the dressage (a little leg saver!). Gizmo looked on good form and actually went in and did a fabulous test, actually breaking into the 30’s! This dropped Sammi in to the lead but she was one of the first to go being number 8!
After the trot up incident Gizmo had nearly redeemed himself with such a great dressage test, but he was going to have to go clear xc to fully redeem himself after Tatts. Hels and I walked Gizmo back and got him washed off, studs out, un-plaited and all the tack cleaned! Hels and I then went back to the lorry to eat our lunch while Sammi went course walking at noon with Tim Price. Hels and I decided to give Charlie his lunch then head to the trade stands for 30 min where we bought a couple of tops and an Ice cream. When Sammi returned we then had time to take both Jester and Gizmo out for about 45 minutes in-hand grazing and take the dogs for a bit of a run. When we headed back to the stables we had to get Jester tacked up so Sammi could ride him, and take him for the arena familiarization, so we got Jester studded and tacked up then Hels went to look after Charlie and Sammi came to get on Jester. Sammi was still in the lead by the end of the dressage on day 1, so they had requested that she go to the media centre to speak to the press! I got the stables sorted, Gizmo fed then caught a buggy down to the arena and then hacked Jester back (this was a relief that Sammi’s hat fit me as saved my legs a bit as it’s quite hilly from the arena to the stables!). I then gave Jesters a wash down and bathed his four white legs. Jester then had his studs removed and got his feed, I cleaned the tack then Hels came to bandage both the horses legs and finished up to go grab our dinner! I made the morning feeds up whilst Hels cooked, Sammi had gone to the cocktail party so I then I went to rug up and skip out then grabbed a shower. Hels grabbed a shower in the lorry so that Charlie wasn’t left alone. Sammi then returned so we got to bed around 10.30pm I have to say I slept well!
Day 3 or the second day of dressage was a very very busy day!! We started at 6.30 I took the horses for a leg stretch and some grass, whilst Hels skipped out, we then got the feeds made for the evening and grabbed ourselves some breakfast. Sammi was going to walk the course again and the weather was not playing ball! I went to walk the course with Sammi – the course I will tell you was a long walk and most certainly not flat!! The XC time was 10min 10 seconds so we located all the minute markers and Sammi talked through some of her lines and decisions, Hels had little Charlie at this point. Upon our return Sammi and I had got a little wet to say the least, we looked like drowned rats, so a quick change of clothes was required! When we got back Sammi was going to give Gizmo a jump and wanted him ready for 11.45am so Gizmo got studded and tacked up then Hels and Sammi did the usual swap over. I went up to the jump schooling arena and set some fences up. Gizmo looked fully on form so Sammi took him for a quick hack, I then went back to stables to find Hels had started to plait Jester up, Charlie was happily playing in the hay in Jester’s stable! Gizmo returned so he got washed off, the studs taken out and all his tack cleaned. Jester was to dressage at 4.30ish and Sammi wanted to be on him for 3.50pm, so Jester was next on the list to get ready, so studs went in, I went to get the tack and made the evening feeds up. We then got Jester tacked up and then the usual swap over took place! Sammi went down to the dressage and I met Hels, however the queue for the buggies was far too long so we decided to walk it! Whilst Jester was warming up we heard that Oli Townend had just gone into the lead this was about 4pm on the second day!. However Jester did a lovely test and popped Sammi into third place. So the end of the dressage saw Sammi lying in 2nd and 3rd place with her dressage diva’s! We then walked back with Jester and Charlie, I washed Jester off, took studs out and un-plaited him I then took Gizmo and Jester for a quick graze and leg stretch. Hels took Charlie back to lorry to feed him and Sammi walked the XC course for the third and final time. I finished up for the evening making morning feeds and, re-filling the hay, then we got our dinner. We went back out at 9pm to rug up and skip out. We got to bed early as we had a very early start as it was cross-country day!!
So day 4 Cross Country Day was soon upon us! My alarm went of at 4.40am, we went out to feed and then I took the horses for their morning graze whilst Hels mucked out, we then went to get all the XC kit from the lorry to bring to the stables – two barrow loads of stuff!! I went off to sort out where we got Ice from and then returned with breakfast. Gizmo had his hay taken off him in plenty of time then we started to get Gizmo tacked up and the wheel barrow full of the essentials we needed to take down to the wash down area. Ed (Sammi’s husband) had arrived so he took care of Charlie and Sammi came down to get on Gizmo and we all headed down to the start, after dropping the kit and getting it ready for the finish. Sammi warmed up then she set of on a fantastic round of cross-country and I have to say the nerves I started to feel whilst she was going round was incredible, we all wanted her to come home safe and clear! We then ran down to the finish where there was a tent we could watch her on the TV. When we knew she was at the last few fences we went to the run off point of the XC, as soon as she came in the horses tack got stripped off and a head-collar on. The vets took the horses temperature and heart rate. Sammi had gone clear and just 3 seconds over the time allowed incurring her 1.2 time penalties, this popped her into the lead for the present time but again early days and Oli had to go on his horse that was in the lead after the dressage. We cooled Gizmo off with buckets of ice water Hels one side me the other and Sammi’s father sweat scraping. Ben (Australian Team vet) walked him round, the heart rate and temperature were taken again, when he was given the all clear his legs got iced and we threw everything in the wheel barrow and headed back up to the stables! Gizmo then get a full wash off, his studs taken out then a little graze I started to clean the tack ready for Jester who was running later in the day (12.06). The ice on Gizmo’s legs stayed on for 25min then we removed it and got the ice machine ready and then popped that on after half an hour. At this point you may notice from the pictures that Hels and I were a touch wet – in fact we were soaked! Gizmo had the ice machine on twice again with half an hour interval. We then got Jester tacked up and I took the kit down to the cross-country finish as a couple of other riders had asked if I could help them get the horse cooled down as they had no grooms. As I got down to the cross country the first rider should have been on course and I could here nothing over the tannoy, I started to get a growing concern – had she fallen, did I need to go get the horse? Had she withdrawn but I hadn’t realised and everyone I asked didn’t seem to be able to answer they were also unaware as to why she was not on the course, then suddenly I saw her walking back much to my relief both horse and rider sound. We gave him a quick wash down and got the tack off etc. The next rider was due in so I grabbed her head-collar and then waited at the finish, as soon as they came in we got tack off and this time I got the nice job of leading the horse round so I stayed much much drier, also the fan was on in the wash down area so we could take him in front of that to cool down. Whilst the horses are on course there was an area where we could watch it on-screen and buy some food and drink that everyone survived on.
Jester was next to go and Hels had gone to the start, I was still at the finish and was now just awaiting Sammi. However unfortunately Jester was not feeling himself and Sammi decided that it was best to pull him up and retire him for another day. Hels then took the kit back to the stables in case Sammi went back there and I stayed at the box in case she came back to the finish. After a while Sammi returned back to the finish where the vets could give him a final check over we then untacked him and walked him back to the stables to be washed off. As he hadn’t done too much running we decided to just ice his legs the once with wraps.
Gizmo then had the ice machine on again twice more, then he was trotted up in front of Ben (the Aussie team Vet). There were farriers on hand to make sure Gizmo was ok, it felt like a real team and a great support team this is due to Sammi being on the Shadow team for Australia. Gizmo trotted up sound and I got the tack cleaned from Jester and tidied up round the stables. We then wrapped Gizmo with Ice again so we could leave him quiet for a little while. We went to grab some lunch, made up feeds and got the hay ready to take back. We went back to the stables and we got them ready and took them for a graze as the cross-country had finished. We then took them back to their stables where we used the ice machine twice more on Gizmo with half hour break between. Whilst all this was going on two riders in our block got drug tested (this is done randomly and the picture that got painted to me by both riders was not quite what I had imagined!). Gizmo was ready to be trotted up for the last time and if nothing showed by this time then he should be sound in the morning. Of course #naughtygizmo was fine and we got them rugged up, gave them their hay and feeds and we actually got finished for 6.30 pm but we had to go back at 9pm. This was such a manic day and I felt like I had been hit with a bus!! I never though I would get nervous grooming for someone on the cross-country but I did and it makes you feel sick when you can’t hear what’s going on or where they are, you know it means so much to them and the team and all you want is for both horse and rider to come home safe.
We had a lovely meal with Sammi, Ed, Hels and I. Ed and Sammi headed off to Tim and Jonelle Price’s lorry for a few drinks whilst hels and I babysat Charlie. Hels then went to finish up the horses at 9.30pm and I tried not to fall asleep in the lorry!! When it got to 10.30pm I went to get Sammi as Hels had passed out and I was not going to be far behind. I had a glass of wine with the Price’s and heard a couple of interesting stories. Then I headed back to the lorry to get some kip ready for the last and final day of Bramham CCI *** for 2016 and with Sammi lying in 2nd after cross-country I guessed it was not going to be a quiet day!!
Another early start, Gizmo was to be trotted up in front of Ben at 6.30am as his final inspection trot up started at 8.50am then we had to get him ready and looking dappa for his last inspection and pray he didn’t knock Sammi out this time. I got the tack ready for Sammi to ride Gizmo after the inspection and got Jester ready for going out to graze. Gizmo passed his final inspection with flying colours as we thought he would, so now the game was on, Gizmo had to jump well! Sammi rode Gizmo at 9.45am to try to get his shape back after the cross-country and he jumped well. I gave Jester a graze who was also a bit more perked up but still really not well. When Sammi got back we cleaned the tack and started to pack up because as soon as the show jumping finished they wanted to get off as it would be a 4 hour journey home. Sammi went to walk the course at noon and we got the #naughtygizmo tacked up and down to the arena for 1.45pm. There were just a few in the warm up arena as Sammi was second to last to go so we had Andrew Nicholson, Oli Townend, Pippa Funnell and Lauren Shannon warming up and to be honest I was dreading this bit! From knowing what the show-jumping collecting rings are like at most events and the tension involved in the last few at Bramham I was not looking forward to the fight over fences! Much to my amazement this was not to be the case, each rider was pleasant and courteous of each other, they let the ones before them have rule over the fence and all the grooms helped each other, the fence could go up and down like a yoyo and every one just got on with it. If these guys can do it at this level with this amount of pressure it is beyond me why the lower level and smaller events can’t run the same! Sammi’s turn came quicker than I had anticipated, and I was so nervous for her I had words with Gizmo earlier in the day but was just praying for him to jump well as the course had been causing problems with many good horses having rails off – in fact I think only one or two had gone clear. Sammi did a lovely round however #naughtyGizmo had a rail and they got two-time penalities which dropped them from 2nd to 4th, this was still an incredible achievement considering that she had a baby 10 months previous! Andrew Nicholson was to win the event and I have to say it was good to see him back on form after his horrible accident.
The prize giving was a bit longer than I thought it would be but still an incredible atmosphere. We then walked back to the buggies and got a lift back to the stables though it was a bit of a hair-raising ride back!! (the girl nearly rolled it twice!!). We then got Gizmo washed off and all the tack cleaned, then straight back to packing the lorry. We then loaded up and said thank you and Good bye to Bramham for 2016 and started our journeys home.
I felt exhausted but loved every minute of it, it’s not every day you get in the same stables as Andrew Nicholson, Paul Tapner, Sam Griffiths, Bill Levett and Vicky Brake and there was some interesting times. The one thing I felt was that everyone was supportive, helpful and it was a great atmosphere, well it was in our stables! I learnt lots of tips and tricks and it was great to be able to bring some of what goes on behind the scenes at a three-day event to you. I can only imagine what it was like for the grooms and riders when they were doing the long format with the roads and tracks!!
I would like to thank Sammi’s Sponsors and owners on her behalf as these guys help make things possible!
Thank you to Mike Bain for the show jumping images of Sammi and Hunter Valley II at Bramham CCI ***
HOPE YOU ENJOY THE VIDEO PLEASE WATCH TILL THE END!
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