‘There is no glory in practice, but without practice there is no glory’
After my slightly disillusioned last blog entry, life chez The Eventing Vet has been about knuckling down and trying to find some answers. It’s neither as fun nor as glamourous as competing; although it is slightly more gratifying than languishing at the bottom of a results table and definitely involves fewer sparrow’s fart alarm-calls. Inspiration came to me today from a rather unlikely source whilst I was mucking out. I was just finishing sweeping-up and watching a small drip of sweat drop off the bottom of my nose when a disembodied voice boomed out across the yard with the quote from the top of this page. It was neither divine inspiration nor a long-dead philosopher communicating from beyond the grave but in fact the dulcet tones of Chris Evans coming from the yard radio. I stopped, wiped away the unattractive droplet, propped my brush up and gave it some consideration. There is truth in every word of that quote and it perfectly summed up what I’ve spent the last 10 days trying to achieve. Hoorah for the British Broadcasting Corporation!
I’d come to the conclusion that I was riding poorly XC, and a lot more defensively and backwards than last season when we flew round some serious tracks. The same pretty much applies to the show-jumping (although with slightly less galloping!). It was time to have someone give us a metaphorical kick up the behind and to that end I set out once more for the soul-sapping drive to Aston-le-Walls for a SJ and XC clinic with Nigel Taylor. Back in the mists of time I had had some XC lessons with Nigel under the EHOA programme and I knew that his style suited exactly what I needed – no in-depth technical analysis, no talking you through every movement of every stride with second-by-second instructions but a good positive old-fashioned ‘get out there, ride positively and do it right’ approach. With added innuendo… We came home having had a transformation over the course of the day – luckily we made the magnitude of this transformation possible by starting out with some pretty dodgy riding and a particularly naughty horse. I like to get my money’s worth! Suddenly I felt myself riding positively to fences again and seeing those slightly longer spots which suit this horse so well. Whoopee!
Jerry’s been the star of the week. He went to Vale View for the Arena Eventing – a chance to get him out in the hackamore and see whether I actually had any semblance of control in an area larger than 20×40. My husband – generally known as Chef d’Equipe – came with us to provide his own special brand of ‘constructive’ criticism. We had a naughty run out at a very skinny skinny, but hackamores aren’t famous for providing power-assisted steering and I figured that you don’t generally find many 3ft wide fences on a SJ course anyway! The round though was fab. I don’t know whether it’s the change of bridle, the endless reschooling or the Cool, Calm and Collected that we’re trialling, but I had a very rideable horse and a nice flowing round. Chef d’Equipe said it was the best round he’d seen us jump, although to be fair he hasn’t seen Jerry in competition since Belton last year – the day he picked up his injury. Still it was praise indeed from the Chef d’Equipe. Comment of the day was that he didn’t understand why we couldn’t always go straight from the SJ to the XC without even dropping out of a canter, let alone spending half an hour back at the box faffing about changing boots, tack and clothes. He’s got a point! Maybe it’s an idea for BE – how to run 500 horses in a day? Canter straight out of the SJing ring and on over the first XC fence!
Jerry was even better yesterday when we went to Arena UK for their regular course practice session. I always feel a little bit amateurish at these fixtures as inevitably the mid-week spot and flexible nature of the concept draws out lorry-loads of pros wanting to give their whole yard a pop round a course. There’s a BSJA-type course set up, normally with 13-15 fences and you choose what height you want and get two rounds (and some feedback) for £17. Most importantly for me there’s Someone Else to Pick Up the Poles!!! The person before me had been jumping 1.25ish so I rather whispered ’90cm’ when asked what height I wanted. Eventually the fences had been dropped and Jerry and I jumped one round, had them put up a hole or two and jumped again. It was brilliant! Two forward, flowing rounds, no poles so much as breathed upon and such unexpected praise for the horse and my riding that I had to turn around to check that it was actually being addressed to me!
So a happy smiley Eventing Vet this week. I’ve got a pretty full-on week and weekend working ahead of me but hopefully there will be the opportunity over the Bank Holiday weekend for a spot of BS and maybe a spin round a hunter trial for both boys – although it does coincide with Badminton XC day… Still, I should repeat my new-found mantra and abandon the idea of a day on the sofa in favour of a day of self-improvement. We’ll see!