"Don't worry, it's over a minute until your turn!" grinned the timekeeper admiring the horse I was riding.
Keep breathing, breathe out Sarah, breathe out. I circled Fletch a few times, he knew exactly what was coming up next as he started to get excited, jig-jogging on the spot with ears pricked to the jumps and the far-off fields. My stomach had stopped churning so nauseatingly, the adrenaline was kicking in to my arms and legs to 'fight or flight' the situation. I was going to do both.
"30 seconds!" said the time keeper.
30 seconds? Still? The slowest countdown. Don't think about it, of course he will jump the first fence. Circle him again.
Oh come on. You're kidding. I need to go now before I cry. I might cry. I think I am actually going to cry. Breathe Sarah, breathe.
"OK, 10...9...8...7...6....5....!" counted the time keeper.
We circled again, a big circle this time and began to trot towards the start flags.
Thank God for that, we were off, over the first with ease and speed, and the second and the third. Flying high in glorious autumnal sunshine, our hearts pumping in unison as we galloped attacking the jumps with perfection. This was brilliant, the best feeling in the world, Fletch was jumping out of his skin and feeling like he was loving it. C'mon, we can do it, I talked to him and praised him all the way round.
We had a hiccup at fence 14. That meant no clear round or rosettes for us today, but on we rode, galloping over the last fence and through the finish.
I never feel so hyper-aware like I do when I am jumping cross country. When it is over the adrenaline courses my veins for hours and I relive every fence, talking about it to anyone who will listen. The relief of being home safely is palpable. It takes all my concentration not to cry, again.
It's hard to match that feeling - that skin-pricking aliveness - addictive, almost.
Photo courtesy of Fizzogs Photography: http://www.fizzogs.com/