top of page


  • Samantha Lissington

Qualifier in the bag!

We have had a bit of a nice little let-down time after Pratoni in mid-November (so this blog has been sitting on the back burner for a while!) Here’s all the action from the trip, and a bit of an update about what we’ve been up to lately

We (Brayden, Pip, Sooty and I) left in Wally the Whittaker at 2.45am on Sunday morning (10th November).

Sidenote 27: Most people travel the horses overnight or in the early hours of the morning for these big trips – this avoids most of the traffic that causes the already-long-trip to be even longer!

It was about a 3.5hr trip to the ferry, by which time breakfast was on order on the good ol’ P&O cruise! Before we knew it we were in France and were presented with the first of many, many road tolls for the next 3 days – the right hand drive proving very handy for Brayden to do all the button-pressing and money-paying!

Sidenote 28: French highways are amazing though.

Along the way we stopped about every 4.5hrs to get Sooty off and walking, our overnight pit stop routes were in Reims (France) and Milan (Italy). We saw some amazing scenery, in particular the last hour driving towards the Frejus tunnel in France – it was spectacular, and I think I fell in love with big tile slate roofs (one for the dream home scrapbook maybe?)

Over 2100km later we arrived with Wally just outside the small Italian town of Rocco Di Pappa (not that far from Rome).

Nearly in one piece… But not quite! In the 57 hours later (from the 58hr trip down) our maps took us down an impossible country road, hindsight would have told us to reverse the 1km back down the hill… But life would be boring if we all had hindsight at hand – And what are bumpers even made for if not to be bumped – right?

Amidst very limited cell phone reception, we settled in for a week of rain, Sooty-walking, movie-watching and card games.

Sidenote 29: In NZ we hardly ever have limited service – unless you’re in the wop wops! Over here it is a common occurrence, but the funny thing is that once you’ve been in an area for a while your phone seems to adapt and you get better signal after a few days! It really is bizarre!

Sooty travelled impeccably well and was such a champion the whole week away. After the huge effort of getting to this point, the pressure was on to get this Olympic qualifier and make the whole exercise worthwhile.

And worthwhile it turned out to be!

73% on the flat was a dream score for us (I think I might have whooped out loud just a little!) Sooty topped that off with jumping double clear which really put the icing on the cake. We added a few time faults on cross country – with the qualifier being our first priority it wasn’t worth the risk running for time early on, particularly when the ground felt a lot worse than it walked (even though the whole course did hold up amazingly well considering the extensive rain and wild storms that passed throughout the week – any other event would have been cancelled).

And just like that, before we knew it we were driving out of the gates with a 4th place rosette sitting on the dash and that qualifier tucked away. Now eligible for selection for next year, we were all set to tackle those tolls and tunnels on the way home - with the help of Pip’s singing of course!

Sidenote 30: We did actually count them on the way home – 15 tolls and 49 tunnels (one way) to be precise…

Since then we said a sad goodbye to Pip, caught up on some sleep, got sick, got better (well Brayden has anyway), and have enjoyed bringing the horses back into work (including Rui YAY!)

It also turns out that 60+ hours of driving can lead to some pretty serious life decisions being made… and we have added a puppy to the family! Oops - it looks like we might be settling in for a while… She is adorable – named Kiara (from Lion King II). I am sure that you will be spammed with plenty of photos – so check out a couple here to start us off.

Sooty has his shoes off and will enjoy frolicking in a massive paddock for the next 2 months - which is very heart-warming to watch after the big year he has had.

I hope everyone is enjoying the festive season – be that in the BBQ-and-jandal, or mulled-wine-and-welly (gumboot) parts of the world.

Cheers, Sam


bottom of page