This was supposed to be another jolly blog filled with fabulous photos and tales of outstanding eventing success. Or even just eventing attendance. However unless you’re reading this from the Caribbean (and if so would you like a house guest?) you won’t have escaped the shocking run of bad weather which led to most of the events of the past two weeks being cancelled and me attempting to go to work dressed in pretty much every item of clothing I own all at the same time. I even wore my (fake) fur hat in the office, to much derision from my colleagues – who came to the conclusion that I looked as though a small mammal had made a nest on my head. Some wit even said that there was a dead badger in the post-mortem room freezer if I fancied making a scarf to match. How rude!
So no eventing but I have had a lesson-fest instead. A much needed lesson-fest. A friend had texted to say that she wanted to pick up some more teaching work and asked me to spread the word. I suggested that she warm-up her patience threshold by trying to lick Fugly’s dressage into some sort of sub-40 shape. The term ‘friend’ may become a bit stretched over the next few weeks (it’s probably a bit like trying to teach a family member to drive) but as usual there’s as much work to be done on the jockey as the horse. She also confirmed my suspicions that whilst my dressage saddle looked like it should be a perfect fit on Fugly he just doesn’t go as well or consistently into the contact in it as he does in my XC saddle (a Butet) so the search is on to replace it with something latex-panelled and along similar lines. As second hand Butet dressage saddles seem to be as rare as rocking horse excreta and new ones require a bank balance similar to the GDP of a small African nation I am resigning myself to looking at some other makes too.
Jerry had a jumping lesson on the same day from a well known trainer who holds clinics locally. She said that I was braver than I looked and deserved a medal if I’d jumped Foxhunter tracks on him! She did however agree that my gut feeling about taking him back to 90 level and leaving him there until I get his approach to a fence sorted out was correct. He’s very scared of the contact on the way into the fence – if you use your reins he either over-reacts and wriggles sideways or sucks back and bounces on the spot so we’re giving him a ‘safety pole’ about 11yds from a fence, dropping my hands and leaving it totally to him. This way he should get to learn how to take regular strides in front of a fence and stop panicking about his mouth. I’m also going to try a hackamore to take the pressure off his mouth completely. He’s a nice horse and tries, but the worrying takes over sometimes. I wish I could give him a stiff G&T before jumping!
So far, so positive. We’d nearly reached the top of the Stafford waitlist so I stopped watching the gloomy weather forecasts and crossed my fingers. You know what happened next! Instead of wowing the dressage judge and following it up with a double clear, Friday was mostly spent on the sofa with the dogs watching the snow fall. Saturday saw the cancellation of the saddler who’d astonishingly managed to track down a dressage saddle that I could almost afford and by Sunday I was in no mood to turn out for our Riding Club Area Combined Training team. Especially as by then the wind had picked up, I’d gone from not only wearing all my clothes at once to wearing most of my husband’s too and my dressage time was a not-very-attractive 4pm.
I’d already thought up several plausible excuses when our slightly formidable team manager rang to say ‘you WILL be coming, won’t you?’. It was a rhetorical question.
I managed to cobble together a cavesson bridle to replace his normal grackle – yes, you can do dressage at Badminton in a grackle, but not at a RC combined training – and impressively Jerry managed to pull off a 67% dressage including 7s for our medium trots – quite unknown for him. Actually quite unknown for me! We lay in 2nd after the dressage. Another unknown for me! Unfortunately I managed to have one down over a full-up 85cm (!) track. Depressing really as the last time he was in that arena he was jumping a BS 1.15 Open, albeit over a year and two lots of surgery ago. This dropped us to joint 3rd place, and then 4th place when they separated us via some sort of complicated formula which takes 3 pages of the rulebook and a PhD in applied mathematics to explain. The team was 4th too which was the perfect result for me – do well enough to get a rosette but not so well that you qualify for and have to trek to the championships!
As I type this I’m on the sofa yet again, wrapped in a fleece blanket and I’m still shivering. News has just come through of the cancellation of Draycott in a fortnight, a last minute bid to re-route to Weston hasn’t come off and I’m no further forward in my quest for a new saddle. There’s no point entering the CIC* at Chatsworth or Rockingham until I get a couple of runs somewhere. Anywhere! Worse still my wine glass is empty and I can’t reach the bottle due to the cat and two dogs which are fast asleep on my lap, huddling together in a rare piece of canine/feline cooperation to try to prevent my expiration due to hypothermia.
Time to give up eventing and take up crosswords?