As Olympia got closer, I started counting down the days and planning our trip. Sox isn’t a great traveller but he was fine for the first hour-and-a-half of the journey – but then he tried to jump over the partition and got stuck. We were all panicking until he freed himself!
When we arrived at Olympia, Sox’s eyes were bulging as he looked around at the lights and buildings. He settled in to his stable and was really relaxed, so we fed him and left him to rest.
What amazed me was how friendly everyone was and how warm it was in the stables as they were in the Grand Hall. We had a walk round – I was feeling quite ill with a very sore throat and was happy to head off to the hotel. Mum and Dad got some pizzas and we went to bed early.
WITH THE STARS
The next morning I was allowed to ride in the main ring for half-an-hour, which was great! I saw Robert Whitaker, Tim Stockdale and Ben Maher working their horses. When I had finished working Sox (who was brilliant) I went over to speak to Mum, who was chatting to Tim Stockdale. Tim shook my hand and introduced himself. He then gave me a few tips on riding in the arena. I still didn’t know at that stage who my partner was going to be.
As we went back to the hotel for breakfast my nerves started to kick in. Soon it was time to get tacked up and changed, and then I discovered I had been drawn to ride with top French rider Roger Yves Bost, and his horse Castle Forbes Vivaldo van het, who had won the first class that morning. This seemed like a good omen! Once I mounted Sox my nerves went and I started to enjoy the whole experience. Roger was really kind and told me just to go for it!
TIME TO GO FOR IT!
I watched the first few rounds on the big screens at the back. Sox felt really strong. He never stands well so while Roger jumped the first six fences I just circled and kept him moving. Roger went clear and it was my turn!
Sox loves to gallop and jump fences and the jumps were about 85cm so I did as Roger said and just went for it! Sox was brilliant and did everything I asked, turning and galloping, it was awesome. I couldn’t believe it – we went straight into the lead. Roger was really pleased! I sat in the riders’ stand to watch the rest of the riders, and Mum walked Sox in the collecting ring.
The rest of the class passed quickly, and when the last rider jumped and I was still in the lead I just ran out to find Sox. I was so proud! Mum was crying and I think Dad had a tear in his eye, too! Everyone was then in a mad rush; they threw a rug at me and a Polo shirt and we had to be back in the ring for the prize-giving in a flash, because they have a very strict timetable to keep to.
A MOMENT TO REMEMBER
It was the best moment of my life, riding back into the arena next to Roger, with the crowd clapping and cheering. Sox was a bit of a handful and wouldn’t stand, but once we were on our lap of honour with Roger he settled a bit – but I think he knew he had done something really special.
We watched the rest of the afternoon performance and I collected autographs. I had friends, the DC of our Pony Club Audrey Brewer, and my grandmother supporting me at Olympia, too, which made it even more special. We all had a huge celebration before loading everything and heading back home to Gloucestershire. I keep the amazing Olympia rug we won on my bed!