After many happy months of riding Miriam (a.k.a Charlie), the opportunity had arisen to compete. Time had been spent exercising her and keeping her fit, with plenty of schooling both on the flat and over jumps, and we therefore entered the Mount Kenya Horse Show to be held at Timau Sports Club in Timau, some 20 kms from Nanyuki. The show ran from Thursday 1st August 2019 until Sunday 4th August 2019 and there were many classes such as dressage, show jumping, combined training (dressage and show jumping combined) and an ‘event’ which consists of 3 disciplines (dressage, cross country and show jumping). There was also a dog show and terrier racing to give the spectators something else to entertain them.
As this was my first horse show in Kenya, and also, it was to be Charlie’s first horse show in her life, the view was taken that we would go to the show early in the week to stable the horse on the premises at Timau, and I would camp there for the duration, to introduce Charlie to her new and different surroundings and hopefully, to settle her. It would after all, prove to be incredibly exciting and I was hopeful that getting Charlie there early would ease her nerves (and mine!). Ordinarily, I am not a fan of camping but I needed to be on site to care for Charlie and so that I was not travelling from home back and forth on competition days. Mr Nomad came to Timau with me to erect the tent but he had to leave me to it as he had to go back to work, although he would join me later that week with the rest of the nomadic family unit!
Although the show did not officially start until Thursday 1st August 2019, all horses competing had to be available for a vet inspection on Wednesday so this was duly completed, and I was able to participate in a clear round class. This was merely a warm up in the show jumping arena and true to form, Charlie jumped a clear round. She seemed relaxed even though it was not her normal surroundings.
The real show got underway on Thursday and Charlie began to realise she was not at home and this was all very exciting. There were hundreds of other horses and riders milling around, lots of people and dogs, lots of noise with the rattling commentary, ringing bells and buzzers to signal the start and finish of a round of jumping; there was flickering tape marking out the arena’s and flapping flags advertising the many trade stands….. the atmosphere was electric and in addition to my apparent nervousness, Charlie let this go to her head and she turned into a leaping, rearing creature, barely able to contain her excitement. I have to admit that this was challenging but after a pep-talk from a good friend, I got a grip of myself (and the horse) and went on to take part in an 80cm Div II show jumping class and another show jumping class called ‘Hit and Hurry’ with the height of the fences set at 1m.
This was the highest that Charlie and I had faced in a course, never mind in a competition so it was nerve wracking. The smaller class at 80cm was underwhelming and we had a knock down, but Charlie was magnificent in the ‘hit and hurry’ class. We were not placed because we simply weren’t quick enough but she jumped out of her skin, with no knock downs or refusals. It had always been my aim to compete safely and to have fun and this was exactly what was achieved.
Friday brought our dressage performance as part of the ‘event’ and we had more show jumping classes to do. Charlie had calmed down from our previous day and thankfully, I had got my nerves under control and whilst our dressage score was poor, I was extremely happy that we had even got into the dressage arena without issue. Dressage has never been my strong point any way but to compete in the ‘event’, a dressage test has to be completed. Following the dressage, I was lying in last place in the event, but I did have the cross country and show jumping disciplines still to do.
We then did more show jumping and entered a 90cm Div III class in which Charlie was superb. She jumped beautifully and even though we knocked down the last fence, we won the class!!!! I was ecstatic! In our first ever horse show in Kenya, I had never expected to win a class. I was just happy to be there, to enjoy the experience and to have fun so to win was a bonus!
We also did another show jumping class called ‘Top Score’ with fences at around 90cms. The aim was to jump round a course with each fence carrying a score and the top score would win! There was a huge fence known as the Joker and additional points would be scored if the Joker fence was cleared. Whilst Charlie jumped very well, we did not have the top score so did not get placed in the class. It was still good fun and Charlie had really proved herself.
Friday also brought the arrival of Mr Nomad and our nomadic family unit – Hound Solo and Princess Zuri came to camp too. It was great to have such wonderful support from my long-suffering husband and with the dogs in tow too, this made for a lovely fan club!
Saturday brought the cross country phase of the event, and the show jumping and it was also our final day of the competition. Mr Nomad and the dogs had joined me in walking the cross country course so I knew where to take Charlie and which jumps we had to go over. The scenery was ruggedly beautiful with rolling savannah grasslands and the imposing Mount Kenya casting its shadow over the land. The dogs certainly made the most of the freedom and enjoyed lolloping along with us, taking in the new sights and sounds and for Solo, the intriguing smells.
The cross country course was challenging in that the jumps were well constructed and there were many which may present difficulties. I was however, concerned over nothing as Charlie attacked the cross country and jumped like a machine.
She loved it, as did I, and rewarded us by going clear! (no refusals or run outs) She was enthusiastic, galloping along with sheer joy and exhilaration and I could not have asked any more from her! We had a further vet inspection to check the horse was sound and able to continue competing, and she passed with flying colours so we went on to finish the ‘event’ with a beautiful clear round in the show jumping phase.
Our poor dressage had left us lying in last place but the superb clear over the cross country course, joined by another clear over the show jumping course moved us up the rankings and we were placed 6th. I was again, ecstatic with this result! It was our first show together and we had been placed even after a poor start! I had gone to Mount Kenya Horse Show with little expectation, with the hope only that we would have fun but Charlie had exceeded all such expectations and despite her nerves and mine, we had not only had the best time, but we had performed very well with a win and a hard fought 6th place. Roll on the next competition!
I should have mentioned that Hound Solo did enter the dog show but his performance was somewhat lack lustre. He was distracted by the smells (he just loves horse poo!) and he refused to go over the jumps, opting instead, to go under them! His performance certainly needs work….