• Gillian Keegan

How to do Bramham Horse Trials - plus three kids

So, I have three kids - the Bear (6), the Monkey (2) and Hungry Jack (12 weeks). I've always been a coper, as in 'pile it all on, of course I can deliver [insert ridiculous project] by [ridiculous deadline], why don't I book a competition and buy a new horse together with refence my whole property whilst six months' pregnant' sort of woman.

Piece of advice, if this sounds like you, DO NOT HAVE A THIRD CHILD. I am not sure what has happened to me, but Hungry Jack has ground me to a halt and reduced me to basic bodily functions only. Despite my reduced capacity for any sort of normal activity whatsoever, the chance to attend Bramham, which is only thirty minutes away from my parents' house, for the first time in ten years, was too good to pass. It was on like donkey kong!

My mum, Granny L, was my designated wing woman. Grandad C was having none of a promised 'gloriously fulfilling' day alone with his three grandchildren, so, unfortunately, it was on like donkey kong with three kidlets.

I went at that day like I was preparing for armed combat. The night before I had:

*food prepped;

*kids' snacks crammed into every pocket;

*car packed with nappies and wipes;

*clothes out and ready; and

*kids in bed (I won't say what time, but they did go to bed).

Quite amazingly, we pulled into Bramham Park at 9.15am. COME ON! Battle whoops from me. "Why have you brought us to a sheep farm?" enquired the Bear, obviously perturbed at how excited his mother had just become a what appeared to be a field of sheep. What the Bear couldn't see was the signpost to AN INTERNATIONAL THREE DAY EVENT! Approximately nine minutes later, however, my bravado and good spirits started to unravel.

I selfishly had thought I might browse through some of the retail tents and buy some lightweight (and post-baby size) jodhpurs for India. Granny L suggested that this should be our first stop whilst the kids were fresh. Excited about the prospect of a sea of equestrian outlets, I ran about like a contestant in Supermarket Sweep.I grabbed two pairs of jodhpurs and looked around for a fitting room.

I very quickly found it when the Bear yanked open a curtain on (I'm sure, a very sweet) lady also trying on jodhpurs. "It's here, Mummy!" he yelled across the tent as the poor woman tried to wrap her bare legs in the fitting room curtain. Dear God, forgot trying on, I'm sure they'll be fine. I thrust a credit card at the shop assistant, paid for what must have been the only full priced jodhpurs in the whole bloody place, and left as quickly as you can with three kids, two buggies, packed picnic bags and your mum.

Three steps out of the tent, the Bear spotted an ice-cream van. "I want a frickin' ice cream!" he shouted. No kidding, I heard around ten collective tweed clad intakes of breath. Now, I enjoy an appropriately placed swear word as much as the next person, but never in front of the kids, and I have never said 'frickin'! WTF did frickin come from? At this stage, my two year old also spotted the ice-cream van and made an impressively fast break for the border. I could see a blonde blur as two heads sprinted away in the hope of two scoops.

And that's how my kids ended up eating ice cream at 9.35am as I gulped in a few moments of the Dubarry Young Event Horse competition. Yay! At least I could now say that I had seen a horse at Bramham! A very peaceful few minutes was had watching some very nice 4 year olds perform a dressage test, then going straight into a showjumping round. Knowing how much work I had to put into my (admittedly slightly crazy) horse to be able mount unaided and trot around my home arena, these horses were seriously impressive.

Ice cream eaten and forgotten, we decided to walk around the arena, which was a good size as it housed both the dressage arena, and a showjumping course. I strapped Monkey into her pushchair, Hungry Jack was asleep, and all was good until we rounded the first corner. "Where's Bear?" I asked, as a scanned the sea of people and horses ahead, but not catching sight of any blonde hair.

"Erm," said Granny L, "he disappeared in that direction." And she waved an arm at a white portacabin, which I realised, to my absolute horror, was the commentator's box.

Hungry Jack was jostled vigorously as I hoofed it in pursuit of my eldest child. My stomach lurched as a saw a familiar pair of legs jumping down the cabin steps. NOOOO!! Waving apologetically at the commentator, who was at the time passing very thoughtful insights on a tricky, colourful double, I grabbed the Bear and we carried on around the arena.

"Play area!" screamed Monkey as, literally ten steps later, we got to the entrance way to the showjumping - a tall metal arch for the competitors to ride through.

"Yay!" yelled the Bear, and started to climb the archway.

"GET DOWN!!!" I screamed, as an official had to stop a very uptight bay from walking through. Cheeks now burning, I apologised again, and carried on, feeling completely mortified. After a very lengthy portaloo incident (involving one of my children) which even I can't bear to go into, we managed to do a full lap and I really wanted to see some more riding.

Hot chocolate was the next saving grace. I'm not proud of the sugar intake but needs must. We amazingly managed to watch three full dressage tests before my kids met a very sweet little girl and had a fab time playing chase, in and around the spectator benches. It was a shame that part of this game involved a loop around two very well dressed ladies and reached a crescendo just as Kitty King pushed Vendredi Biats into a very impressive extended trot. "Sorry!" I smiled at two stony faces as once again I dragged my kids away.

By this time, both mine and Granny L's nerves were starting to fray. It was 11.30am. "Lunch time!" I announced and unpacked the picnic, buying myself two more tests. Halfway through the first Vegemite sandwich (the kids are Australian, don't forget :-)) it became clear that Monkey needed a nap. It was also due to absolutely tip it down (it's England, don't forget). "I just need to buy a T-shirt." I said to Granny L, whose mouth made a sound which could have been "ok", but whose eyes showed abject terror.

But I needed an official shirt! The joules tent was on the way out at least, again at super-speed, I grabbed a shirt then threw it at Granny L and Hungry Jack to run after the other two, who had set off like they were in the final furlong at Ascot through the crowds.

As I caught up, the Bear was rugby tackling the Monkey in the mud as people openly laughed. "They remind me of my boys!" one woman commented, clearly relieved that her boys were now in their twenties.

Finally, gripping my Bramham shirt, I manoeuvred the crazies back into the car, and we pulled out of the Bramham gates just as the rain started.

And so, to sum it all up:

1) It is not good to attend equestrian events with young kids;

2) If you are crazy enough to attempt this, ensure you have a designated driver so that you can self medicate;

3) If you even think about camping overnight, take a very long hard look in the mirror - you have been warned;

4) If you manage it, and live to tell the tale - be sure to buy yourself an official shirt!

Until next time!

x Gill x


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