After a rather adventurous journey on the way down to Portugal we have started with a very successful show which I will fill you in on next month.
I will explain to you the details of our long journey down. The trip itself is just over 1600 miles which we do over 5 days on the way down and 4 on the way back. Depending on the route taken, the amount of drivers you have and the experience the horses have in travelling, driving it can be done in less stops but I was the only driver on our lorry and with 2 young horses that had never been further than a couple of hours on the lorry I wanted to give them plenty of time to rest and try and keep the time stood on the lorry to a minimum.
As we are based almost 6 hours away from the ferry at Dover, we normally try and spend the night there on the way out so we can get up and on the boat early in the morning. We always stay at John Parkers who have a great stables 20 minutes from the port and being an international transport company they also arrange all of our paperwork for exporting the horses. So after stopping there we get on the boat in the early hours of the next morning, usually in time for the famous trucker breakfast if we can! Then it’s about 6/7 hours the other side from Calais to our next stop at Le mans. So far the journey was going well. At Le mans we met up with 3 other lorries with friends of ours to travel the rest of the journey together. Another early start and off we went to start the 8/9 hour drive to the next stop at Dax which is only an hour from the Spanish border. Dax is normally the first stop where it begins to feel like we are getting closer to warm weather and sun. However having driven through a fair bit of snow already, being the beginning February when we left, it was freezing at Dax and our lorry was having a blip with the electrics so I slept in hundreds of layers, jackets, scarves and numerous duvets, international showjumping is not always as glamorous as people think! Another early morning start, this time to head towards Madrid for our final stop over, again approximately 8/9 hours drive. Stopping for coffee a couple of hours in, we walk into the services resembling the walking dead having very little sleep, and so far 3 days on the road. Really looking forward to arriving at the final destination now! Approximately an hour after leaving here, one of the other lorries with us had a puncture, luckily not too far from a motorway services so managed to limp it to there to wait for hours for a new tyre, only for them to bring the wrong one, and then have to wait another few hours for the next tyre to arrive! As we were unable to do anything, we and the other 2 lorries continued our drive through the mountains. With an hour to go before reaching Madrid, we were coming down the mountains when the lorry in front of me, belonging to our group, suddenly emitted a large cloud of black smoke and started to pull over. We assumed it was another puncture, or blow out as it’s referred to in the lorries. This is fairly common with the trucks, even after they undergo extensive checks before we leave on these long journeys, obviously they are driving for long periods of time with a lot of weight on, often trailers on the back too and driving up and down the mountains is also a lot of strain. However on examining the lorry as we pulled over it was not a blow out and instead we were collecting sections of brake disc off of the road! They were actually very lucky it wasn’t more serious as we were travelling down hill and they had 6 horses on board and a trailer hitched to the back! After finding somewhere to safely park up all 3 lorries and calling roadside assistance, in Spain which is always a fun conversation when you are in a foreign country, we took the 2 lorries that were ok and hitched the trailer from the broken lorry onto ours and took them all to the stop over stable in Madrid. After unloading them, we turned around and went back for the remaining horses as it was clear that not only was the broken lorry going to need to be towed, but there was going to be comprehensive work to be done to it!
We managed to get all the horses safely to Madrid and also ‘re joined with the first lorry we had lost that day at the beginning of the days drive with the blow out. A few hours left and we and 1 other lorry left whilst the others awaited for the broken lorry to finish being fixed through the night. We were finally on our last leg of the journey with a 10/11 hour final day to push through. At least the weather had now improved dramatically. On crossing the border in Portugal we were very confused that the time had changed on the sat nav? Apparently the time in Portugal is the same as the UK, something I never knew, just always assumed it was the same as Spain and the rest of Europe so that really confused us! After a small detour at the end as we couldn’t find the showground, we arrived safely and set up our stables and the ones for the other 2 lorries that were a few hours behind us, making 12 stables to prepare in total and 24 water buckets to carry back and to. When everyone finally arrived, we had a quick celebratory drink for finally arriving and had a very well needed sleep! Looking forward now to competing over the next 4 weeks with Billy Conveyor (Fleurie), Billy Cevetti (Murphy) and Ashdale Luxara (Tempra).