When I was 19 years old (clue – not yesterday), on a cold but bright September morning, myself and three others piled into Caroline Douglas’ 4×4 and began the drive to the TTT.
I’d heard a lot about the seemingly mystical farm, having frequently admired Caroline’s eventing pictures, taken at the now sadly gone Shamley Green cross country course, and felt a great sense of anticipation at seeing Charles teach. I was bound to be well received – I was, after all, the best rider in the world.
Ten hours later I trudged back to the car, clutching a membership pack. I hardly spoke all the way home. Once back at the yard I cried into my horse’s mane, mixing snotty ‘I’m sorrys’ with remorseful wailing, until he got fed up with me and went and stood at the back of his box. I was, after all, the worst rider in the world.
I went ‘on my feet’ to the Trust as often as I could after that, until Caroline had retrained me enough that I wouldn’t be disgraced at an SIC. Since then there have been many SICs and International Clinics, on a carousel of horses provided by many excellent friends. I met my now husband and several life-long partners in crime. I’ve introduced people just as I was introduced. I’ve watched classical dressage go from something that was just for us lucky few, packed under the heat lights in the indoor at East Whipley, to something that is beginning to really challenge modern methods.
Then in November the news came out that we would have to say goodbye to the TTT. That was it. The final SIC would take place at the end of November, and after the arena doors closed after the last horse at the last clinic in December, there would be no more.
What will we miss? Everything. We’ll miss Charles ritually breaking the microphone. We’ll miss Stephen’s jokes, Tucker’s huge smile, William falling over under a huge sack of carrots at the raffle. Andrew’s hilarious introductions, Ali’s warm welcome. We’ll miss the cobbled yard, the warm up arena on a cold morning, the clunk of the arena doors behind us. The bunk beds in the club house, from underneath which I was once pulled, screaming, in the grip of a nightmare.
We’ll miss the newsletter, the thrill of the indicative booking form, the bigger thrill of the confirmation letter. Hell, we’ll even miss that £1 a go shower.
But amidst the sadness, there has to be hope. Those of us lucky enough to learn from Andrew, Ali, Charles and Arthur need to take the torch and run with it. We may have to work a little harder, travel a little further. We still have access to great resources – I may be biased, but if Andrew isn’t one of the best trainers around today then I’ll eat my hat – we just have to get organised. The TTT made us all bright lights in a big dark sky. All we have to do now is shine.
To the Sewell family, and everyone who made the TTT what it is – thank you. Thank you so very much.