Controversial statement: we are all, as riders, far too hard on ourselves.
In fact,my name is Hannah and I am a self-critic-aholic.
I really am a very average rider. I will happily admit that! And most of the time, the main (perhaps evenonly) contributor to a clear round or a nice dressage test is Sid.
But have I ever given myself a pat on the back for a job well done…..or even a job “just about done”?!
Spoiler alert: the answer isNEVER.
And it strikes me that, as much as lockdown is a chance to improve my riding, so too is it a chance to work on a Positive Mental Attitude (or “PMA” – not to be confused with “PMT” which is a very different thing entirely).
My journey to self-affirmation began at Tweseldown.
Post-Westlife-medley (I have reached the age where I don’t evenpretendto be cool anymore), we arrived and headed to the warm up field for our first cross country session since October.
I scanned the field for something tiny and inoffensive, and finally settled on a little palisade. Does anyone else get first-fence-nerves? Mine are ridiculous; it was practically a trotting pole…
Sid’s enthusiasm was infectious – his ears were poking my eyes out - and we headed to the start box to begin schooling over the flagged course.
And we (note “we”: plural) wereawesome! Sid stormed round the BE100 course, with a few Novice fences thrown in for fun, and I don’t actually think I was horrified by my riding.Hold the front page Karen!!!
I still have some bad habits to work on, but as we went from fence to fence, my confidence (and happiness) grew and I honestly had the best time. It was like the cheesiest, lamest rom-com video montage moment.
I would go so far as to say I even saw the odd stride or two.No I swear, I did!!!
Our next destination was Nick Gauntlett’s yard for a show-jumping lesson.
If I were Batman, show-jumping would be my Joker. It literally “evil laughs” at me every time I enter the ring.
But Nick was exactly what I needed.
Sid loves his work – and as he so rightly pointed out, isn’t that the main thing?!
He gave me some advice: “Let Sid jump the fence, that’s his job…you just have to get him there in a good canter.” And I needed to hear that.
It gave me permission to stop over-riding and to relax a bit. Now, I won’t say I transformed into a Whittaker in 45 minutes, but lo and behold we looked a much better picture by the end of the lesson and I had plenty to go away and (positively) work on.
If there’s one thing I beat myself up over, it’s videos of me show-jumping. I can watch them on repeat for hours in some weird self-loathing cycle. Just pass me the Ben & Jerry’s. So that lesson was a godsend.
Our next stop was a yard hack over the Ridgeway.
It began inauspiciously, with my car nearly running out of steam up a rather steep incline (it didn’t help that the lorry in front of us decided to take on the hill in 4th gear, meaning a fairly quick reduction in speed from 40MPH to about 6MPH at best…)
We followed this by getting lost in the middle of indeterminate fields, being surrounded by young cows who were rather too friendly for Sid’s liking (and by that I mean he lost his sweet little mind) and getting back 4 hours and 12 miles later.
My ability to enjoy First Husband in the way God intended has, I’m afraid, been seriously compromised.
Having dosed Sid up with electrolytes, we travelled to the#BanfieldBubble for a lesson with one of Sid’s biggest fans (and one of my biggest heroes#IAmObsessed#Don’tTakeOutThatRestrainingOrderPlease) ….. Caroline Moore!
Sid could not love anything more than:
(a) his breakfast, dinner and any meal in between and
(b) a lesson focusing on technical lines.
He got more and more awesome as it got harder.
And do you know what, I actually listened when Caroline said that a particular line or fence had been ridden well. Yes that’s right, I absorbed a tiny bit of the credit for Sid being so cool, and I didn’t feel too guilty about it!
Sid didn’t say no to a thing; taking inside lines and outside lines, looping back on ourselves, linking fences together, jumping on an angle. If anything, he was game for taking a sharper line than I was aiming for…
The next day, we were back for some straightness practice with Callum. Rewind a few weeks and I had ordered some cavaletti poles that were delivered to Callum’s for me.
I had been offered 4 foot poles but rejected them. We needed to be tested: 3 foot it was.
Well guess what…..3 foot is a lot narrower than I had envisaged!!!
Callum set them up down the centre line and I genuinely wasn’t sure we would get through them. Luckily, Sid’s diet (and mine) was on track and we did manage it, after all.
But when he angled them and asked us to ride through the straight line, I laughed. There was no way our peachy little bottoms were fitting through those gaps.
The new and improved Hannah was a bit hungover, however, and so I just did as I was told for once. (First Husband: take note, this is how you will eventually get your PS5). And we managed it first time!
It was made even more difficult by adding in another line of three cavaletti with very inappropriately placed wings.
But Sid continued to boss it like the king that he is. What a babe! But I was there too!! I helped it happen!
Exhausted, we headed home to a massage rug for Sid and a 30-second “hands waved in my general direction massage” for me from First Husband.
He is noticeably less keen on massaging me since lockdown (I wonder if there is a correlation between that and my lack of shaving, makeup, exercise and/or self-care…)
In any case, he is on the brink of an upgrade, given his newfound obsession with golf. Sadly it is diverting funds away from my attempt at persuading him Sid needs a sibling.
Next we head out for another cross country lesson and PRAY to the rain gods and the pandemic gods that we can go eventing in July!
But in the meantime, there’s no danger of my ego exploding, because we attempted an online Elementary dressage test and barely scraped 60% due to my errors and general cow-handedness. Oops!!!
Stay safe everyone!