Everything Else Everything else

Trot-Up Tactics, Part 2

In case you missed it, Part 1 is here.

It’s worth practising trotting up at home. Ground Juries like to see that the horse is on a loose rein as you run, and keeping control like that comes with practice! I always tended to rely on good old voice control, or a good deceleratory elbow to the front of the horse’s chest, if absolutely necessary. A really well-trained polo-seeking horse will slow down as soon as you do, hopefully. I’m not normally a Parelli-ite, but a bit of ‘join-up’ at the jog is very helpful – nothing’s worse than seeing the Chief of the Ground Jury have to wave his or her clip-board at a reluctant horse’s rump. Getting someone to watch and tell you at what speed your horse looks at its best when trotting on a hard surface is worth doing, and it’s an opportunity to fine-tune those controls, and hope that the training holds in the carnival atmosphere of a CI…

Got to love a jazzy jacket.

Got to love a jazzy jacket.

Gosh. No slobber in sight. How does she DO that?!

If Attention Seeking Outfits (as described in Part 1) aren’t enough, there’s always the Vertiginous Heels option. Frankly, this always astounds me. I’d rather be barefoot (by the way, if you’re afraid of getting your toes mashed in those pretty pumps by your hyped-up lunatic neddy, staying perfectly in stride with your horse is probably safest, as it keeps your delicate toes a bit further away from the horse’s!)

But some really do opt for Serious Heels. They get to a Three Day (and let’s face it, just getting there is a pretty major accomplishment, as so much can go wrong), and then they willingly run a high risk of breaking an ankle trying to sprint in heels alongside 1/2 a tonne of wildly overexcited über-fit horse?!?! I know event riders are risk takers and all that, but… seriously?

A badly damaged ankle and a perfectly sound horse at a big Three Day is an utterly heartbreaking combination – let’s not forget the British rider (I’ll spare his blushes… if I were him, I’d probably still be sobbing into my soup about it) who had this happen after going half way around the world to the Olympics some years ago…

Although to be fair his wasn’t due to trying to trot up in drag, but was allegedly caused by Chatting On The Phone To The Owner On The Way Back From Schooling, With Reins On The Buckle End, or at least so I was told at the time by a friend of his.

Unfortunately, however brilliant a jockey you are, this is never advisable on a raring-to-go 4* horse, who might imagine a velociraptor behind every blade of grass (particularly strange foreign grass.) A very painful involuntary dismount ensued. That had to be just about the toughest luck ever.

That is one hot po-Tate-er. Sinead’s face says it all. Photo by Calina at HorseJunkiesUnited

Very smart and as much leg contrast as any Ground Jury could ever want!

So, girls, wear your FM (Flipping Mental, whatever did you think it stood for?!) Heels at entirely your own risk.

Of course, flat shoes can get you into a whole heap of trouble too. At another Championships, poor Piggy French, having already had a major public embarrassment at the first trot-up when her hold-ups, ummm, didn’t, then had the ignominy of seeing one of her sensible team-regulation flatties go sailing ahead of her as she ran at the second trot-up. This was the result.

At least because they were flat she then didn’t get an inadvertent and hideously embarrassing Marilyn Monroe wiggle from carrying on with 1 bare foot and one shod foot. Small mercies and all that.

Ground Juries really like lively horses. Horses which get very excited, extend like Valegro, and finish the trot-up with a joyous buck, leap and a fart which broadcast “I am a SOUND and Happy Athlete” invariably sail through, in my experience. If they get really carried away though, you might need Andrew Nicholson stationed at the end to stop them by any means possible (as he is reported to have to do for naughty Lenamore.) Failing which, since we can’t all be that lucky, a well-timed rugby-tackle that an England back would be proud of, aimed at the head, usually works.

Horses getting so excited that they fall over are slightly less popular. I think one flipped itself clean over at Rolex last year. Oopsy. Attention-seeking, self-harming attempts to get out of the competition, at the last possible moment, reaching hitherto-unimaginable new levels.

The red tie just about raises it above the Interview at a Bank level…

Very stylish indeed.

Very stylish indeed.

Ground Juries really don’t like horses which pin their ears back and trot begrudgingly along as if they’ve already done a day which makes Sergeant Reckless’ efforts at the Battle of Outpost Vegas (and if that’s whetted your appetite, here’s the linky) look like a lazy day in the paddock.

Unfortunately my lovely grey, my best ever horse, invariably trotted up like that. Normally very much a Happy Athlete (as long as there were fences around, anyway) she hugely resented having to trot in hand with an audience. At a Three Day in Germany, she was held at the first trot-up after doing her very best Sulking Donkey impersonation. If horses could get Oscars, she deserved one for that performance. A Hoscar?

Anyway, my desperate sotto voce hunting horn impression, a good Emergency Trot-up Tactic by the way, which usually put a decidedly optimistic spring in her step, failed utterly, but she passed at the second attempt. Phew.

By the final trot-up, Sulking Donkey was set in for good – she detested her stable and hadn’t lain down all week, the temperatures were searing (XC day it was 35 degrees in the shade), she was utterly exhausted, we’d had a fall on the flat the day before so she was bruised and a bit sore albeit defiantly sound, being a Toughie, but she was eloquently Not Flippin’ Happy at having to do the public trot-up again. (This was back in the mythical days when pterodactyls soared the skies and you were allowed to carry on after a fall even though you might be so concussed you didn’t know what planet you were on, or have an arm hanging off, or something.)

I said WAIT!!!

I said WAIT!!!

Perfectly contrasting legs, perfectly in stride, showing us all how to do it!

Perfectly contrasting legs, perfectly in stride, showing us all how to do it!

Of course, I now realise that it is ‘the done thing’, for the sake of the Ground Jury being able to see what the hell is going on, to helpfully wear trousers of a contrasting colour to your horse’s legs, but fortunately I didn’t realise that back then. For some reason which my memory has conveniently obliterated I had decided that trying to exactly match her colour was a really great idea, so was wearing some rather snazzy silver brocade trousers. The Ground Jury must have been totally bemused because they passed her first time, presumably because the blur of 6 grey legs was totally impossible to make any sense of: “Ach Mein Gott, es ist Sleipnir, nicht wahr?”


So there you have it. Trot your horse straight, on a loose rein, run fast, don’t break your ankle, and try not to lose a shoe (or a stocking)… let him or her leap about and display a bit of joie de vivre (but not too much) and wear trousers of exactly the same colour as your horse’s legs, and you’re guaranteed to pass. No worries.

All photographs other than that of Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville (Tate) are  by very kind permission of Will Baxter.

About the author