So bloody happy to be MEDIOCRE again!

October 18, 2018

Munstead/Tweseldown BE100.

 

You may have been wondering why things have been quiet lately on the event updates front.

 

Firstly, I abandoned Sid for a few weeks to take a holiday.

 

For those with horses that don't know, a holiday is "an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or travelling".

 

I went to what I thought was a classy, peaceful hotel in Rhodes, only to be woken up at 10:00am the next day with "Good Morning" blaring loudly from hidden speakers and three annoyingly cheerful reps circling the pool.

 

Being British, I find it very hard to say no, but equally hard to enjoy forced fun, and so that's how I found myself, at 11:30am, in a pool full of elderly German ladies with a foam noodle, half-heartedly taking part in some aqua aerobics.

 

Matters escalated very quickly towards the end when I found myself facing the sky being floated around the pool by a stranger, which I thought was surely the peak of my embarrassment, until we all held hands and walked to the edge of the pool and took part in a bizarre Bollywood-esque group dance.

 

You'd think after all of that I would find the courage to say no in future, but in the interests of honesty, I actually just took to running away every time the aqua aerobics hour was upon us.

 

I returned home a little fatter and a little redder, and set to preparing Sid for Munstead. It had been our first event of the season (and our first BE100) earlier in the year, and I was looking forward to seeing how much we had improved.

 

Well, our dressage was average. Our showjumping was better, with 1 pole to the 3 we had in March. However, Sid is a lot fitter now and I was probably not being disciplined enough in the XC, resulting in him rushing the trakhener and the corner, having a run out at each. We continued on, but my foot was stuck in my left stirrup and I was riding like a melon drop, and Sid ducked out at the coffin combination. I put my hand up and retired – today was not our day.

 

Feeling pretty depressed, we headed back to the trailer. This is my second reason for the lack of updates.

 

I am never one for overreactions, and so I announced loudly that I was probably quitting eventing and I've ruined my horse and I will never ride again…..you get the picture.

 

First Husband was quite excited at this prospect.

 

A few days later and I began prep for Tweseldown 4.

 

We headed out schooling two weeks prior and I tried a new tactic of actually riding each jump and not allowing my wonderful steam train to dictate the pace and approach. Revolutionary, I know.

 

The night before and I was feeling confident. I was, in any case, determined to enjoy what would probably be my last event of the season come what may.

 

Top tip: an Indian takeaway the night before an event, given the competition norm of nerves plus portaloos, is not a winning combination. Sorry.

 

I woke up and decided to put on a little bit of make-up. I meant business.

 

Leaving the house looking almost human for once, I started the day off well by forgetting various items (and almost my lunch – horror of horrors!!!) and ran up and down the stairs to my flat several times before finally setting off for the yard.

 

I quickly stopped at a cash point for the start fee dolla (I don't know why, but I am always super edgy at cash machines – will I be mugged today, who knows?!).

 

I then drove past the turning to my yard whilst trying to change the music on my phone to something upbeat and motivating.

 

It turns out I really like sad love songs, according to iMusic, which is probably Siri preparing me mentally and emotionally for First Husband's affair with a younger, sexier model that doesn't come home smelling of horse.

 

I arrived at the yard and Sid had been partying. All of my hard work plait-wise had been undone.

 

I re-rolled those mofo's and washed his disgustingly stained legs at high speed, and off we rolled. I also managed to split open a knuckle putting stud blanks in but this is standard procedure and no blood was spilt on his white coat! 💪🏼

 

After an uneventful journey (no tanks en route today - dullsville) we arrived at Tweseldown and parked up. I headed off to walk the course and came back with my number and crippling self-doubt. Luckily there wasn't much time to waste and I tacked up and headed over to the warm up.

 

Sid was a little keen but going really nicely. This was an auspicious start.

 

However, as we headed over to our test arena, I felt myself stiffen up and Sid became stickier. We did an alright test but Sid tripped twice, finding the ground a little rutted perhaps (or just having hoof-eye coordination issues) and was tense at times.

 

We finished the test and headed back to the trailer, remembering at least to collect our dressage whip on the way (I have a habit of losing them). In the end, the judge gave us 33.5 which I'm happy with, all things considering.

 

It was time for show-jumping and Sid was feeling rather keen in the warm up.

 

We couldn't quite find our stride, though, and I felt like I was being pulled into the jumps.

 

Our round was more of the same – Sid found it all a bit exciting and tanked around like he was a BSJA pony (but without the ability to go from any stride and pick up those legs).

 

I wasn't quick enough to get him back and this resulted in 4 poles rolling.

 

To sum it up: long, flat and unsatisfactory. The show-jumping round, that is.

 

 

 

We got ready for cross country and I was feeling a bit determined. We would be finishing this course if I had to carry Sid over the last jump.

 

Our warm up was slightly erratic, in that Sid tried to kill me several times. I grimly kept control of my horse (just about) and forced him to canter each jump rather than gallop at them. Sid retaliated by doing the most elevated walk-canter transitions I have ever seen (and by that I mean he jumped up in the air, tossing his head around dramatically, each time I touched his sides with my heel). I'm sure the steward thought I had an electric pulse spur on.

 

A few moments later and it was time to head over to the start box.

 

The lovely Chris was starting us, and he kept me chatting as we circled the white rails. I swallowed the butterflies and we were counted down.

 

Sid clearly can't count, because he tried to go on 5, but when that didn't work we headed backwards at 4, 3 and 2 before finally 1 came and we left the box.

 

I can't say it was our most relaxed start ever, but I was still on board and we headed towards the first fence: a raised log.

 

I sat back and did my utmost to get him back on his hind legs. He must have been on at least one of them because he popped over and we were away.

 

I hung left and we were soon over the pheasant feeder at 2.

 

Next up came our first challenge – the fairly big table at fence 3. Sid has jumped this before whilst schooling, so it wasn't so much the fence that I was worried about but the intermediate trakhener a few strides before the fence in the hedge line.

 

True to form, Sid wet himself and skirted sideways when he realised what he was next to. I employed every single ounce of strength in my 5ft4 body and straightened him out and back onto his line, whilst flapping the jump whip in my left hand for added emphasis. It wasn't pretty, but he stopped being extra and popped over.

 

 

 

Then we came to the ditch combination. The ditch itself was so wide I had to leap over it rather than step over when course-walking.

 

I gathered Sid up into our best XC/SJ canter/"holding back the beast" and he jumped the first, headed to the ditch and, after a very quick perusal decided it was safe and popped over.

 

I then swerved left towards the skinny brush and prayed, and Sid jumped straight over it!

 

He then made light work of the angled log through the trees, and the fairly meaty trailer, and we headed to the first water combination.

 

After some last-minute acceleration (i.e. Sid wanting that l-o-n-g stride) we had a less than perfect shot at the first, but he managed to pop over and into the valley.

 

Whilst loudly apologising to him for the previous bad stride, I set him up for the raised log into water and he jumped enthusiastically in. A few splashes later and we had two strides out of the water to a large brush, so I waved that brightly coloured little whip annoyingly around again and he obliged me by jumping nice and big over the brush.

 

We then got a nice shot at the logpile and the silver birch oxer. The next jump was the army barracks, which almost went wrong when someone was fixing the 90 jump a few feet away from where we were, but Sid's distraction was only momentary (he was obviously having a Rambo kind of day) and he locked on and over we went.

 

Next we came to the fallen tree, then downhill to the offset brush combination. Tehnical is not our forte, but I made sure we didn’t overjump the tree and then sat on Sid's arse down the hill. We lined up the brush fences and I sent up another quick prayer (I'm clearly a very religious XC rider!). Without blinking, Sid made the distance and popped them both.

 

We headed over another wide but straightforward fence and towards the combination that was catching people out: the second water. It consisted of a fairly big and spooky step up, followed by 3 strides to a hobbit house, then 2 strides to another house all on a curving line. Both houses were skinny – this was prime territory for Sid's jump avoidance strategy.

 

He had a split second where he considered not jumping up the bank (to be fair, we have jumped that water so many times and never gone UP a bank before) but he worked it out and popped up. He then took me over both houses without hesitating.

 

We then jumped the banana brush and the final dragon (bar a moment of "how do we get to the dragon" when I was blinded and confused by a lot of white string).

 

I could not believe it – we had gone clear!

 

Poor Sid probably wondered what had happened as I collapsed on his (foamy) neck. He felt like he could have gone another round to be fair.

 

Given he was pretty sweaty and snorting (more from the effort of fighting to go faster all the way round than the jumping I think) I took off his saddle and carried it back whilst leading him with the other hand.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, this was a stupid idea because:
(a) I have now got a sprained wrist – not sure if from the effort of containing Sid's enthusiasm or carrying the bloody saddle and
(b) my trailer was much further away from the XC finish than I had thought.

 

Sid has now got the horse equivalent of diabetes from too many treats, and I am still grinning as I think of the round.

 

What a way to finish an up-and-down season and our first at BE100 - and a great reminder of why I love this sport so much.

 

It makes all of the 5:00am and 9:30pm rides (after a full day lawyering in London) so worth it.

 

What a horse.

 

Also, thank you to the people parked next to us, who realised I was flying solo and kept offering me help and checking that I was OK throughout the day, and to the volunteers and stewards, who made it possible.

 

I would also like to thank my long-suffering coach, Alex Mersh, who has turned my horse into an eventer and myself into an event rider (inasmuch as that is possible given what he's working with!), my yard owner and friend Adele, who goes above and beyond and does so much for Sid and I, and acquaintance Paul for his help but mainly for his sarcasm and inappropriate use of emojis!

 

Also I suppose I should thank First Husband for his support (but it's highly unlikely he will read this far down the report).

 

 

 

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