Years ago I took a very big spooky warmblood to Tweseldown. Moose (who rejoiced in the name “XL” because he was so huge) couldn’t be tied up, I’d learnt that at home as well as at Little Downham and a couple of other events, where the slightest thing (such as someone coming down the lorry steps, a horse kicking in the lorry next door, someone walking behind him, a sparrow farting in the next county, etc etc) would make him leap in the air, pull back and break the string, and then zoom around the lorry park like a panic-stricken nutcase on speed for about 20 minutes.
This, of course, gives you a heart attack and is Never Popular with other riders… or their horses, as Moose is the sort to charge up to anything and go “HI, be my FRIEND!!!!” Pandemonium can follow….
So, the absolute golden rule with Moose was Do NOT Startle Him, because if you do you’ll have to do your best Usain Bolt impression around the lorry park, probably until you have an asthma attack. He’d do the same thing in hand too, rearing was his Thing at the time, and however big and strong and clever you might think you are, you just cannot hold on to 18.2 hands of totally hysterical warmblood when it decides to rear up, spin round and get the hell out of Dodge, not if you’d quite like your arms to stay in their sockets, anyway.
We’d had a decent day and just had a great educational romp around the xc, clear with only one time penalty thanks to his absolutely ginormous stride eating up the ground when I thought we were just loping along, so I was very happy with him.
We got back to the box, I stripped off his saddle, and my long-suffering but by that point fairly well-trained boyfriend (now ex-, but not because of this incident, honestly! We’ll call him “X”), helpfully got hold of the wash-off hose on the lorry, knowing I usually used it for post-xc-wash-down. Nice thought, very helpful. But since the hose always made a really loud noise (because of the pressure) when first turned on, I’d already decided to use buckets of water to wash Moose off instead, so when X said “Should I turn this on” I replied swiftly “NO!”… just as he turned it on anyway…
Sure enough, it went “PSSSSTTT“, and Moose leapt in the air as if a velociraptor had just come down the ramp, and even though he still had his bridle on I had to let go, there was absolutely no way of holding him. He shot off across Tweseldown lorry park as if the hounds of hell were behind him… of course in the direction of the gates onto the road. It was quite a way away but I am pretty sure, because of the amount of traffic in and out, that they don’t keep the gates shut, and he was doing his best Secretariat impression…
I was still in all my xc gear, and boiling hot, as usual after xc. Having to sprint after Moose dressed like that was not my idea of fun. Trying to sprint in a body protector, long boots and spurs is just comical, unless you’re the one desperately trying to do it.
Moose only went about 200 yards (ha, that’s way past the distance I can comfortably sprint at the best of times, let alone dressed like that) before stopping to introduce himself up close and personal to some very annoyed and squealy horses tied up to a lorry. Having done my best I Shouldn’t Be An Eventer, I Should Be An Olympic Sprint Finalist impression, I somehow, heaving for breath, managed to dive in and grab him before any of them booted him or vice versa. The spectre of him charging onto the main road, or causing untold damage and vets’ bills to other people’s horses, was still haunting me when X ran up to ‘help’.
Oh dear. Here is where I need to hang my head in shame. The relief that my horse hadn’t been sliced in half by an articulated lorry, or had a fatal kicking match with someone else’s precious and valuable eventer, hadn’t quite percolated into my boiling brain yet. X really should have stayed back at the lorry. Or maybe disappeared into the beer tent for an hour. Or even hitched a ride home with someone else… that would have been safest of all. Stayed out of my sight for a while until I could calm down, you know?
I’m an Aries. I go up like Etna, briefly, and then I regain perspective… but unfortunately I was still so livid that I’d said “NO” to him turning the tap on, and he’d totally ignored me and done it anyway, precipitating this unnecessary drama which could have had truly horrific consequences… plus I was boiling hot, heaving for breath, face like a tomato, and on an adrenalin jag. Suffice it to say that our appreciative audience probably learnt a few new words as I turned the air blue… and when I’d run out of diatribe I was self-conscious enough to turn to the audience and apologise shamefacedly. I think eventually X and I apologised to each other. Moose just stood there looking smug. He’d had a great afternoon.
I realise this should definitely be filed under How Not To Behave At Events, but may I plead Extreme Mitigating Circumstances, please? 😉 😉