I never thought that at the age of twenty one I would be able to say ‘I’m retired’. But I can, well from eventing at least!
For the last five years I’ve tried to run my own yard and event full time, but after my horse picked up an injury in the CIC** at Hopetoun in 2012, and then we lost a couple of promising horses, I decided I’d had enough and wanted an office job. So here I am, nine months on, working in recruitment.
But I miss horses. Well, I think I do - until I’m sat inside, in a warm office, watching the rain lash down on the windows!
The main thing I miss about horses is my friends – seeing people eventing, having catch ups in the collecting ring, a fleeting ‘Hi!’ on the way down to dressage. But I’m very lucky now that with a full time job and no horses, I have weekends to spend as I please, and money to spend on travel. I can go and see friends just because, or for parties. Or I can do proper crazy things like volunteer to help them at Point to Points. With no racing experience. Ever.
Phoebe Buckley has to be one of the nicest, most real people you’ll ever meet. There’s no airs, no side, no ‘I’ve done lots of four star events’, she’s just a normal lady doing something she loves. And this year, she’s got back in to racing and in her words (not mine) "people who had an initial career like mine, don’t tend to come back a second time". But at Barbury last week, I’d say Phoebe made a pretty good return to racing. Not only did she and Big Kev finish the over-three-miles-eighteen-fences race, she came 5th.
Initially I’d volunteered to groom for Phoebe during the eventing season, but there was all of two events left. So she said I could help pointing. I have never groomed for a point to point, but hey, how hard can it be? Hard! Especially when the pointer in question is called Big Kev. Because he’s huge. And I’m not. I’m 5”3. So Phoebe was on the ball and arranged for Richie Eames (horseman extraordinaire, and about a foot taller than me) to lead Big Kev up. Watching Big Kev bounce his way around the parade ring, I was pretty pleased it was Richie on the end of the lead rope (sorry Richie). Phoebe looked so smart in her colours, and Big Kev had nice shiny toes and leather work. I’d wanted to plait and polish him to within an inch of his life, but apparently winning the best turned out can bring bad luck, so I was given a sponge to clean tack, a body brush, and hoof oil. Not a plaiting band in sight. Apparently Big Kev 'likes the wind running through his hair.' – I think it just meant Phoebe had something else to grab other than her neckstrap…!
There was a false start for Phoebe’s race, and I wasn’t sure how it would affect Big Kev – he hadn’t raced for two years. He went back to the start nicely though, and Richie, his wife Helen, baby Esca and I all stood right at the fence to get the best view. Big Kev and Phoebe ran an awesome race, just neatly sitting in the middle of the pack. Apart from one blip where we thought Phoebe and Kev would be finishing separately, he ran like a demon and finished 5th! Not a bad return to form for the Rusty Eventer and Old Timer! Lots of love was given to Phoebe and Kev afterwards, and we then started the long drive home from Barbury, listening to 90’s cheese and eating petrol station junk food.
Kev then gave everyone a scare, to the point Phoebe posted the heartbreaking news to her Facebook that Kev wouldn’t be racing again as he’d picked up an injury at Barbury. It was tough and my heart bled for them both. A week later, Phoebe the Hypochondriac was eating her words as a scan revealed Kev was more than fine, and definitely wanted to go racing again. So the next race is Barbury, again, in February, and Kev is looking pretty fine! Massive thanks have to go to Farrier Tom for helping Phoebe fight Kev’s determined efforts to harbour foot abscesses, but he now seems to be on the straight and narrow and ready to kick some derriere!
Here are some pictures of Phoebe and Kev out exercising the morning of Barbury, it was so cold and misty – very eerie, especially with the red kites circling over us!
Sadly, between writing this blog and it going live, Big Kev picked up a catastrophic injury doing fast work, and Phoebe sadly had to say goodbye to him. Phoebe misses him, but sadly it’s horses and things go wrong. Phoebe is still pencilled in to race on the 1st March at Newbury Racecourse, very poignantly it’s a charity race raising money for Greatwood. They’re a charity that work with neglected racehorses, underprivileged children and SEN young adults. The work they do is invaluable and it’s so apt that Phoebe will be racing for them. Donations can be made through http://www.justgiving.com/PhoebeGoesToNewbury