Escaping lockdown and finally getting out to a show - Laura Mantel enjoys success in France


Berkshire-based showjumper and producer Laura Mantel is joining Jumping Around with her weekly blog and is thankful we can at long last get back out at shows in a belated 2020 summer season.

In lockdown we had a few less horses than normal and those at home enjoyed more time in the field. I have to admit I struggled with lockdown at first but as time went on I actually enjoyed it and got a few jobs done. We are usually far too busy away at shows to focus on the babies and I usually send them away to be broken but this year I managed to back and break in my two three-year-olds and get the four-year-olds going.

Towards the end of lockdown I did think I would go stir crazy and couldn’t wait to get out on the show circuit again. It was lovely to get out of Berkshire and go training with John and Laura Renwick in Essex once a week. To meet and talk with different people and jump different courses was a real treat!

We went to Rectory Farm for our first show since March – it seems an awful long time since jumping at our last show in Vilamoura. It was nice to get out and finally do something but it felt very strange with someone else putting up the fence for me in the warm-up arena.

A week later we travelled to France in convoy with John and Laura and it was so different. It was as though Covid-19 didn’t exist in France. We had to wear masks on the boat but once we reached the show there was no social-distancing and the bar and restaurant at the show were open and it was great to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for months. My father Steve rang to see if we needed any more masks bringing out but there was no need for them, although a few people wore masks when we went to the local supermarket.

The show at Royan is fabulous with a great ring and it was fantastic to hack out to the beach. We also walked to the restaurant on the sea front of an evening. It was wonderful to go from lockdown and cooking every night to eating out and not having to wash up!

I am so glad John and Laura were out there with us – I was ring-rusty the first week after so many months not riding in the arena. It is great to have their knowledge and backing as I ride several of their horses. The second week was much better and the horses jumped fabulously – we claimed several wins in competitive classes.

The beginning of the week was not such an auspicious start. We needed a hire car and my sister Beth’s boyfriend said he would manage the trot-up for the vetting before week two so Laura Renwick dropped us off in what we thought was the right direction. It turned out we were five and half miles away and try as we might we could not get a taxi! We ended up walking all the way – and without sunscreen! When we finally got back to the showground and were told how hard it was trotting the horses up in the sunshine – ‘Now, hang on a minute!’

It felt odd coming back home and going to the supermarket to experience social-distancing again and people backing off away from you. Mind you, it was a long, 15-hour drive from Royan so maybe it was just me they were backing away from!

All horses came home safely although two weeks seemed a lot for them after such a long break so they are chilling in the field on a week off this week before we travel to Le Mans, France, next week.

We have really missed the county shows this season and the up-and-coming horses have missed out on experience in area trials as a step up before going on to ranking classes. Hopefully, 2021 will see a return to the county show circuit.

Photos © Beth Mantel

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