I Get Knocked Down (But I Get Up Again)
I feel like this blog post needs a dramatic soundtrack, a la Disney "mid-point of movie where character is at rock bottom but is about to make an almost-unbelievable comeback."
Sadly my IT skills do not stretch this far. Use your imagination - pick your fave. OK, now you're ready....
Anyway, to set the scene, it's fair to say that my last event was a total catastrophe! My dressage test was fiiiiine (i.e. not fine at all) and I actually FORGOT THE COURSE halfway round the showjumping. This resulted in a couple of poles from subsequent "panic riding" and more time faults than you can shake a stick at whilst I rerouted my very confused pony.
I followed this up by charging out of the start box cross country, only to find myself unexpectedly on the floor next to fence 3 (a very inconspicuous log) and a sheepish Sid. We had a long, hilly walk of shame back to the lorry park.
For this reason and for other personal reasons that I won't bore you with, Sid and I went on a short competition break.
I felt like I needed time for R&R and general soul-searching, but I was disappointed in myself for needing it - which is ridiculous, right?!
Sometimes I think eventing is a bit of a bubble - I forget about the other things I should also be doing i.e. household chores and seeing non-horsey friends and family. Not going to lie, I didn't get many more household chores done, but I did occasionally wave a feather duster in the air to show willing.
First Husband thus appeased, it was time to get back on the eventing bandwagon!
A few minutes before the ballot for Tweseldown, and I was frantically trying to navigate the BE website to renew my membership. Luckily I'm a tech whizz and my entry got in with a few seconds to spare...talk about excitement.
Event entered, it was time to head to Rectory Farm for a BE100 combined training:
(a) to check that I wasn't a complete-tit-rider still; and
(b) for Sid to have a bit of a jolly at a new venue!
We arrived and I got very confused at the number situation. For the uninitiated: it appears that sometimes you get given a number with holes in, and some string to tie it on. It turns out one piece of string will do it, which left me redfaced returning the 3 other pieces I had taken (thinking I needed to construct some sort of cross-tied number bib).
I studded up (dressage was on grass - perfect for practice but not so perfect given I like to expend as little effort as possible on anything that's not a full blown one day event) and we strolled over to the warm up. Sid felt fairly relaxed and we had some very nice moments as we prattled about trying not to run anyone over.
We were alongside a field of cows, which dazzled Sid for a while, given his physical similarity to the bovine variety, but I soon convinced him to settle and get on with the job in hand.
When we trotted down the centre line I was concentrating more on smiling than anything else, but you know, it's meant to be fun isn't it?!
Hot tip: I used the phase "this.is.school.ing" as my metronome for trot. 10/10 - would recommend.
We began our test and I quickly realised that 1/4 of the test was going to be "tense" because Sid took an extreme dislike to the top corner of the arena.
To be fair, it did edge onto an opening in the fenceline, and everybody knows they are lethal. He really makes me chuckle sometimes, so whilst I tried to ride him positively despite his aversion to going forwards in that corner, I also mentally shrugged my shoulders and carried on smiling despite our unnecessary shoulder in.
We finished and I gave him a huge pat - I was pretty happy to get through it, all things considered!
After a fairly long wait for the showjumping, because I had asked for early times thinking that the 100 class would be first (and it ended up being last so we had to wait for everyone else to jump in the 80 and 90 - oops!) I tacked up and headed over to the warm up.
I was quite nervous after last time, and the course was full up and rather long (get me out quick - is my usual mantra), but I started intermittently warming up/spooking at the poles on the side of the arena.
Sid really did seem to be enjoying himself, putting in a great effort when I gave him a few less-than-perfect strides and not touching a pole. Generally, he was feeling fab and I felt my ability to see a stride was not quite as non-existent as usual, which was grand.
We headed into the ring following a clear round, and I informed the pole-pickers (there must be an actual name for them, surely?!) that they were about to be worked hard...!!
The buzzer went and we were off! My heart was pounding but I tried to focus on keeping the right canter and not pushing for the crazy long strides (they're my fave and my auto-emergency-option, but they do tend to result in poles crashing to the ground!)
Here is where the music gets to the big happy chorus - Sid jumped his heart out for me. I gave him a few bad strides, it was far from perfect, and once, we were on the wrong leg in canter and I didn't give myself enough time to change so slightly winged it, but he was a bloody stag and just kept trying and trying and jumping bigger and cleaner than he has before.
At one point he leapt into a combination, making the stride a little short to the upright on the way out, so I (un)stylishly threw the reins at him and sat back and he picked those beautiful yellow-stained knees right up around his ears.
God bless those knees!
We ended the round CLEAR and I actually couldn't believe it!
To top things off, when I went to get my dressage sheet I realised we had come 3rd out of 19 (and we were only 1 penalty point off 2nd!)
Sid got a massive handful (shall we say an Italian mother's portion) of treats and a huge, huge cuddle before we set off home.
I left feeling like we can get back on track now and I am really, really excited for Tweseldown and the rest of our season.
Huge, huge thank you to Adele for pushing me to go when I felt like cancelling and to Rectory Farm and the volunteers - it was a really lovely competition and beautiful venue.
I guess I would just like to finish by saying that it's the horses, the people and THAT feeling that makes eventing so worth it, but it's so easy to forget about this when you start wanting to become competitive. Ironically, the less I care, the better I seem to do. At the end of the day, if it's not enjoyable, there's nothing wrong with taking a break and coming back to it fresh, energised and KEEN.