Sid Goes...Back in Time!
Have you ever finished a cross country round and thought, wow, that was flawless?
Well, not me!
I will happily admit that I am pretty far left on the scale of “just trying not to fall off” to “have been round Badminton 4 times…this year.”
I am always over-analysing videos of my riding and tearing them apart through self-criticism. Mostly, I use this to get better (sometimes, I use it to wallow in my lack of talent).
However, for some reason I have never quite taken this approach to cross country.
If I buy a cross country video, it’s because I want evidence of a round that, for once, wasn’t a total disaster!
Basically, I’m buying it for #TheGram.
Bad rounds get written off, because it happens so quickly and there’s usually no audience…
So, after a long, hard day of soul-searching and inadequate broadband speed, I decided to swallow my pride, and go back through some of my worst cross country rounds to date. And I figured I would share it so that anyone starting their eventing journey can – hopefully – learn from my mistakes, or maybe just look at their rounds differently going forwards.
For the record, there were plenty of bad rounds to choose from…
One of my favourite events has always been Keysoe, which would have been running a few weeks ago (sob).
This time last year, I had just moved house (and yards) and unbeknownst to me, my run of bad cross country luck was about to begin.
Funnily enough, my Keysoe cross country round was a clear within the time.
But taking a look at the Eventful Life video closely, I can pinpoint exactly where I started going wrong.
NB: please do not watch the video if you are of a sensitive disposition. It contains some disturbing attempts at riding - you have been warned.
Fence 1 is a nice, straightforward log. And Sid pops it without blinking.
Watching the video, I enjoy that you can see how perturbed I look heading away from the start box. I was clearly not feeling particularly confident that day!
Note to self: a grumpy face is an ugly face. You will never catch Second Husband looking like that.
Next we head to the log cabin, and again, Sid is un-phased. He knows what he is doing; this is not his first rodeo.
I seem to then take the opportunity to rearrange my washing lines. Maybe I think it makes me look more professional (LOL).
Next, I take an interestingly wide angle to the third fence; a boxy and rather solid log-pile. But Sid is having a good time - it’s May and Covid doesn’t exist yet, and so over he goes.
I am still looking rather concerned. Maybe I know about Covid?!
We turn to the pair of skinny houses on a rather wiggly line. We jump the first, and I turn to the second, but clearly a moment of panic overtakes me.
Out come my “emergency wings”.
These wings seem to materialise any time I think I’m on a dodgy stride (which, of course, is fairly often).
The elbows come out, the arms start flapping, and if I am lucky, Sid ignores me and carries on jumping.
They are my equivalent of stabilisers on a bike, with the important distinction that they do not help me in any way whatsoever.
A big pat later, and some more washing line gathering, and off we canter towards the next fence.
I am still in the saddle.
I then have vague memories of Sid enjoying a little bit of a gallop along the back of the course, and indeed you can see in the video that we take the turn to the boat at pace.
I was still in “flight” mode.
It was starting to get a bit hairy, but in typical contrary fashion I suddenly bare my teeth in a weak imitation of a smile.
Still not a winning look to snare Second Husband. I must do something about my face. Does anyone know a surgeon?!
We turn towards a big, solid fence and I give Sid a horrendous half stride. All 17hh of him manages to get up and over the fence, however. I apologise profusely.
Heading away from the fence, I look at my wrist, where the eventing watch I bought in a fit of optimism a few years ago would have been (if I ever was competitive enough to need to make the time cross country).
And this is where it could have gone so wrong, had my horse not been an archangel.
We face a combination – an open table downhill to a skinny brush.
Now, I’m not sure exactly what happens here, but Sid takes a mild dislike to the gappy table.
My natural response is to ‘motivate’ him by throwing myself at his neck on the last stride.
He then does what can only be described as a cat leap over it, whilst I very nearly plummet to the ground, managing to save myself by virtue of Sid’s giraffe neck.
I think at some point in the middle my stirrup gets stuck on my foot.
With a lot of aggressive humping of the saddle and no rein contact whatsoever, I point Sid towards the B element and he, in all of his honesty, jumps it.
He then demonstrates that he has the heart of a lion through the next question: the coffin (despite being a ditchy horse by nature).
However, unsurprisingly, his confidence has taken a knock and so at the next fence he chips in.
I don’t help matters by flapping, but then changing my mind and lowering my hands just at the crucial moment, leaving him even more confused than before!
We then come to the step up to corner combination. Riding like a muppet, I take a wide, curving line instead of the obvious straight line (which may well have ridden better).
Heedless of everything I’ve ever been told (and by “told” I mean “had shouted at me”), I turn with my hands and not my leg or body. Poor Sid continues to compensate for me.
We head to the water complex and Sid gets a reprieve as even I find it hard to balls up a nice, straightforward roll-top fence.
Sid sees the canoe and the water – he’s on it. I finally stop gesticulating so emphatically and allow him to take me through the water and out over the skinny, although I do see a rather long stride and cannot help but give a token flap of those darn wings.
I canter away looking more miserable than ever (which is bizarre, because I swear this close to the end I was enjoying myself)!
We get a nice shot over the final flower cart and we are safely home!!!
Now, that day I got away with the mistakes I made, but even Sid can run out of second chances.
I suppose what I am saying is that lockdown has given me the headspace to start to critically look back at elements of my riding that have remained unchanged for quite some time.
And I think that's an amazing thing!
Hopefully, Sid will feel the benefit of these changes when we head to Tweseldown on Monday for our first cross country schooling session of the year.
In the meantime, if you want a laugh at my expense or to crucify me for some horrendous riding, I have decided to keep the video public (rather than change it to private viewing only) and it is here: https://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/ride/hannah-craft-sir-duke-ii-keysoe-1-2019
However, if you are not quite as brave as me (and I wouldn't blame you!), did you know that:
Eventful Life have changed their pricing structure so that Members can buy a Private video for the same price as a normal Watch video (Au$90 or about 45 GBP, depending on the exchange rate, which is a lot cheaper than it was before) as they have realised that people don’t want everyone to see them fall off or deal with a problem if all the world can watch it. Also, a Member can now choose to make a video Private or Public at any time just by pressing a button so you have more control.
You can find out more here https://www.an-eventful-life.com.au/rider-video/about-rider-video !
Love, as always, from Sid Goes Eventing