OH MY LORD, when will eventing return?!
I don’t know about you, but I feel as if the 2019 season is some fuzzy memory I can’t quite recall. Probably for the best, that. We are currently in the hostile outlands, technically known as “the middle bit between the seasons”. Sid is fat. I AM FATTER. And all this had got me feeling rather depressed. Not one to dwell on my own misery (at least, not after the first few weeks) I decided that Sid and I would go on an ADVENTURE. For company, we dragged along a friend and her pony, Murph, who is singularly talented, in that he has managed to get fatter than both Sid and myself over the holidays. Feeling rather svelte by comparison, Sid sashayed off the trailer and into the barn of fellow eventer, Callum Banfield, who had kindly agreed to give us a mini bootcamp. Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account, Sid and I thought we would, instead, start 2020 by sharing our top 5 learnings, in the hope that someone, somewhere, finds at least one of them useful. Here goes. TIT (Theoretically Important Tip) #1 Bizarrely, it is NOT beneficial to suddenly begin wildly flapping at one’s horse a few strides away from a jump. There I was, thinking I was being motivational. In actual fact, I am told that I was being “an irritating distraction” (in the manner of a horse-fly on a hot day - rude). Poor Sid was trying to do his job whilst simultaneously tuning me out (albeit he is very well-practised at doing the latter). As much as I think I can help Sid take off, at the end of the day he has to jump the fence, not me. So no flapping, or flopping, or flipping (which I believe is particularly undesirable). TIT #2 A diet of roast potatoes, bricks of cheese and sweeties (not all together, I hasten to add…) and an exercise regime consisting of occasionally switching the TV channel, does not an eventer make. I was flat out of breath halfway through the warm up. A little bit of acid was churning in my stomach (I don’t know why I keep giving prosecco a second/third/fourth… chance). Sid was soon puffing due to the strain of heaving my Christmas muffin top around. There’s a moral in this story somewhere, but please don’t remind me of it next December, because I shall pretend I didn’t hear you. Note to self: join gym and fast. TIT #3 Eyes up! No, not for THAT reason. It seems that I spend the majority of my time in the saddle, staring at the ground underneath me. This translates into me getting a panoramic view of every jump I jump, which is great. Given how heavy my head is, though, it also throws most of my weight over Sid’s shoulders. It also increases my chances of falling off, which are already disproportionately high. Small wonder he then rolls an upright! Focusing my line of sight on a distant tree or fence sounds really simple, but what a difference it makes. New Year’s Resolution: stare out that Oak tree and do not get distracted by pretty coloured poles. TIT #4 Do not mistake enthusiasm for a wonderful canter. God love him, Sid is a total geek when it comes to jumping. He is the Hermione Granger, sat at the front of the class with his hand in the air, screaming “Me, miss, me, I know it!” Which usually translates into an exuberant approach to a fence - give him a nice, clear line and you will be towed. My mistake has always been to assume that this means we have the power we need (if anything, a surplus). It’s just not true. We are speeding towards our fence, but whilst there is “a party in the front”, a lot of the time the rear engine is totally disengaged. We focused on working the canter backwards and forwards, ensuring that he was engaged properly from behind. He was still enthusiastic, but more rideable and the quality of the canter was better. Revolutionary. TIT #5 And one of the most important tits you could ever be given…. ENJOY IT. Callum allowed us to get back to jumping in a zero-pressure atmosphere. Having had a bit of a holiday, I was actually quite nervous! But we started small, built up gradually, and I ended up with a huge smile on my face. We all got into this sport for love, right? It certainly wasn’t for money! So my pre-season training goal is simply this: to finish each lesson having learnt one thing but, mainly, to be GRINNING. Now that I have shared my five tits with you, I am feeling motivated and energised and will proceed to empty my bank account entering a number of local unaffiliated events and clinics. Only a few months to go! PS. if you are in the same position as me, I would HIGHLY recommend signing up to one of Callum's camps. Fab facilities (Sid certainly approved) and a trainer with a decent sense of humour, which is the main quality I look for, given my extreme lack of ability!)