Wow, February has brought me one of the best experiences of my life! The Bury Farm Bareback Challenge, so as a bit of an insight the Bury Farm Bareback challenge consists of several fences set at 90cm-95cm and a Joker Set at 1m25, half way through you must stop and chug a WHOLE cup of Tonic as fast as you can before continuing the course, the twist was: you have no saddle!
So here’s a bit of story time!
For the whole entire week before the bareback challenge my mind was set, I would just gallop round a course without a saddle, easy right? Nope wrong!
Day one of my bareback challenge preparation consisted of me practising my eventing dressage tests without my saddle, which actually began perfectly fine, it wasn’t until Day 3 of Bareback dressage where I realised it seriously damaged your thighs! I couldn’t walk for day realising I only had 4 days until the real thing! I quickly got Olaf out his stable and packed up and hired out this lovely little arena called Claverings! All the jumps were set out in a very spooky course, there was even a london bus jump! Olaf, like a legend pulled me around a large 1m10 course completely bareback, whilst my Dad stood at the end of the course like Monty Roberts holding out the likit treats ready for Olaf to run towards him (worked like a dream!)
Then, it was time! At 4 o’clock in the afternoon we drove all the way down to Leighton Buzzard ready for my start time of 9pm! On arrival we parked up and let Olaf have a nice graze, whilst I went and met up with my two lovely and insanely talented friends Grace and Jess (commonly known to instagram as @it.takes.2.to.tango and @jess.eq) We enjoyed our chicken nuggets before we set off to the course walk, feeling rather smug, we walked through the riders only area with our black wristbands on and headed to the gallery pre-coursewalk to watch a very sad but lifting slideshow of the one and only Russell Pearson who very tragically lost his life.
It wasn’t until I walked into the course walk that I realised how big this was, As i walked towards the first fence I looked around me, the crowds were building (over 600 already sat down!!) and the atmosphere really kicked in! Each jump had a spotlight over it, 95 suddenly felt very big! I saw my opportunity for a couple of tight turns mid course, and took my turn at an interview!
I headed out the arena to go get Olaf ready, with saddle first! There were 3 arenas, a flatwork arena, a jumping arena and THE arena, the arena i say lightly, however that is where the action was taking place, saddled up ironically sporting my freejump stirrups numnah which wouldn’t last me long in a bareback challenge! I gave Olaf a long walk and a steady trot “4 to go till Carrie Munro!” ! What! I only had 4 people left! But I am meant to have 10! The panic got to me, I didn’t think of how many people would have fallen off or been eliminated, slow thinking, slow thinking.. I gave Olaf a quick canter before stripping him of his saddle, I popped over a cross pole regretting washing him that day ( causing the slipperiest coat ever!), It felt so real! I was competing against some of the top grand prix riders in our country! and befriending them as we all shared the same wishes of riding a large cob with a non-boney back!
“ Carrie Munro riding Olaf” I cantered through the curtains as if I was at Olympia, was I really here? I had been dreaming of doing this class for years until I was finally old enough and today was the day! No regrets anymore! I gave Olaf a pat as he spooked at the large crowd cheering us on, unsure of wether they wanted me to do well, or to watch me fall off I looked at Grace for moral support, to my luck I heard a couple of girls in the bandstand area shouting “go on Carrie!” “Woooo Go Olaf!” ! They know me? I thought as I galloped towards my first fence, wow this is so surreal! Olaf flew over the first lot allowing me to put to use my very useful jump off turns, then the dreaded fast drinking, I had to drink a whole cup of Tonic ( ew!) as fast as I can and swallow it all? I tried as hard as I could but my gag reflex’s kicked in and it all came tumbling out my mouth, giving me lots and lots of time! I successfully landed the cup on the cup holder before cantering a tight turn over number 7, two strides over this wide oxer and QUICK TURN! I made the perfect turn coming towards number 8 and nooooo! Olaf spooked at the audience giving us our first refusal, I was so proud of Olaf I decided to call it a day, it was his and mine first experience in a crowd this large and he did me so proud. He earns his Likits when he got home!