I write this update very much with a mix boat of emotions from a full on bank holiday weekend but never one to hide the bad and just spout how wonderful life is (I wish 😉 ) I feel it only right to share very much the good the bad and the ugly.
In the last two weeks I have been as ever busy as a busy thing on a particularly busy day. Last weekend saw my first photography job covering the WSVH showjumping at Stockland Lovell hopefully the first of many more to come. The following day after catching on a bit of sleep it was off to our Riding Club ODE at Larkhill to act as showjumping steward. I totally over used my brain keeping up with everyone using a small clipboard especially when making adjustments in the order to suit everyone but we got there in the end and everyone seemed happy, was nice to get some thank yous as well 😉 .
This last week I have upped Oki’s work load and she has responded well to the point as I suggested I might I entered her for her first ever competition. I had a choice of venues the first being the most low key dressage on grass known to man or the second at Altogether Equestrian which is home to Anna Ross Davies it’s a smart venue which also holds BD and which would be of a higher standard and also far more scary as indoors etc. Me being me I chose the second venue as well I like to jump in at the deep end. 😉
So challenge 1 of the day to come in when everything else was out and stand calmly to be groomed and plaited. Result one Oki falling asleep in the sun big pass! Challenge 2 of the day, would she load in my lorry as I had been very slack and not tried her before the day. Another pass with flying colours and travelled well and then stood quietly on the lorry whilst I went off and actually paid my entry fee (you have to love venues who take late entries for dressage 😀 ). Challenge 3 the warm up the most horses I have ridden her with previously was well 1 so what’s another 5 all in a 20x50m ish arena? Well apparently the difference is none and she took no notice even when a few rode right up her bum! 😀
Challenge 4 was the biggie, go into a proper indoor school with banners, lots of mirrors and white boards (yep not seen them either 😉 ) and perform Prelim 4. The test started well but annoyingly someone thought we needed a few more challenges! On one side of the arena there is gravel the route which you must take to reach the warmup which is obviously noisy, this in itself would probably have been ok but apparently a horse decided it couldn’t cope walking on gravel so kicked up a fuss which Oki could hear but not see so she stopped in her tracks resulting in an extended extra halt. We got moving again for then on the other side a horse decided it didn’t want to be in it’s trailer and ended up jumping the breast bar whilst the ramp was up (eeeek). Again could be heard but not seen and it did create a racket and to add one final distraction in one of the horses in the warmup could not stop screaming its head off! Now we completed our test but it was a bit err tense in places. She wasn’t in any way naughty just worried about what horse eating monsters were creating the noises and to be honest I don’t blame her in the circumstances. Yes she needs exposure to such things but preferably not all at the same time in her first ever test! 😉 The score which is unimportant was yes on the low side but the good bits got good marks including a 7 for her paces. 😀 Even the lovely lady acting as steward said she really felt for me as she could see what was going on but couldn’t stop it. And for me if the worst she does is stand stock still for a short time I can cope with that any day of the week. 🙂
So I took her back in the warm up to walk round before taking her back to the lorry. We had a 1.5 hours wait so on to challenge 5! Washed off untacked and tied up to the lorry where she stood quietly eating haylege even when a horse at the next lorry kicked up a fuss about being loaded. 😀
So tacked back up and on to our second test Prelim 18. Again the warm up wasn’t an issue and she started to give me some really lovely work even with a very short warm up (didn’t think it was fair to do too much as she had already worked hard for first test). We then headed back in for test 2! The lovely steward came in and walked us past the scary gravel corner and Oki agreed it was indeed no longer scary! 😀 To say the second test was 100 times better would be an understatement. Yes it was very far from perfect and not as good as we were getting in the warm up but there was some really lovely work and I was just so pleased with how she put on her brave pants and got on with the second test 😀 As you can see from the photos she really can go very nicely. So that was my day to be proud of but it quickly changed to a day to be sad.
After having taken Oki home and prepared everything for today I spoke to my mum in Jersey who let me know my she had found my 24yo 14h2 pony Santa with colic that morning. The vet had already been up once and he was showing some improvement but the vet would be back up in the afternoon whatever happened. I was out all afternoon but despite not hearing further had that sinking feeling. Sure enough spoke again to my mum and she had had to make the decision to have him PTS. He had deteriorated again and he almost certainly had at least a twisted gut and there was no way we were putting him through colic surgery especially as it would have been done in the field as he wasn’t in a fit state to be transportable to the only surgery on the island. Even if he had been movable at his age it was never going to be the option and given his rapid deterioration there are thoughts there may have been more a foot internally so him being PTS was the only option. Although yes he was old and as with every living thing one day they will pass it was still a shock and has broken my heart somewhat. He was one of those once in a life time ponies he may have looked like a cut and shut job being arab x cob but he had the biggest heart you could imagine.
There are not many ponies about who you could jump 1m10 tracks rarely touching a pole, a 1m50 puissance wall, ride a decent elementary test, play polo cross and mounted games on, go cross country, drag hunt and ride side saddle. Together we represented Jersey on junior dressage and showjumping teams and he really did help make me the rider I am today. But I take solace in that he had a great life, he was loved by the owners before us who had him as a youngster and he then was part of our family from the age of 6 ever since. When I outgrew him he had a series of loaners who all loved him as much as me but he never moved away from home as thankfully my mum has sufficient grazing. So yes my heart is rather broken at the moment but he will never be forgotten by many of us 🙂
So on to today which if you hadn’t guessed is my day to write off. Admittedly I was not in the best frame of mind having had the news about Santa but having not evented for 7 weeks I was determined to get out, in hindsight maybe I should have stayed in bed 😉 The day very simply did not go very well but it was at the least educational so I must draw some positives. Almost everything that could go wrong did, for whatever reason Fleur wouldn’t load in the position I had the lorry in after 30 minutes of standing at the bottom of the ramp I moved the lorry slightly and she walked in without a second thought! So that put us late to start, then when driving through Taunton nearing Pontispool all hell let loose in the back of the lorry, it wasn’t safe to pull over so I had to keep driving. When I could check (by which time she had already settled) there was no indication of what she had done or why. It was if she was piaffing and pawing the ground all at once! She came out the lorry without a scratch and walked off sound so I decided to get on with it. I frogmarched round the cross country, brought some new reins (long boring story!) said a quick hello to a fellow e-Venter and dashed to get ready. I had an hour to roll up plaits, stud and tack up and oh warm up! We ended up with a 20 minute warm up which was never going to be enough. She warmed up fairly sweetly but there just wasn’t the time to really soften her over her back. End result a mediocre but acceptable test for 39 frustrating when she has been working particularly well at home the last few weeks but understandable with the brief warmup.
A quick change and over to the showjumping which was causing a lot of problems. A large technical track was meaning clears were few and far between. I literally popped about 5 fences and went straight in. Now our round was in no way stylish well not on my part, she was pretty awesome and got me out of trouble when I quickly discovered the distances were holding ones and I hadn’t held so had to push on for the long strides which obviously therefore meant taking a stride out of the intended distance! Her response to me riding like a pillock was to jump even higher meaning she was also doing her best effort at jumping me off. So yes not pretty in any sense of the word but we somehow were clear, honestly without question all down to Fleur and one of only 6 in our section.
So another quick change and off to the XC, things didn’t start well when Fleur wouldn’t go in the start box which was surrounded by little trees everywhere. Eventually got in and we were off and we were flying, we took the long route at the first water as I knew it was too big an ask to go direct having not been out for so long but popped up the steps and over the skinny despite turning into the steps on 1/2 a stride rather than turn a circle. One of the most influential combinations a large wagon to a very narrow but deep corner claimed a lot of scalps but she locked on and jumped nicely. On through the quarry being clever when perhaps approaching the steps out a little quick over the irish bank and through the second water and over the large oxer of rails without missing a beat but then to the trakenher over a large ditch just three from home. Now 99.9% of the time Fleur is not ditchy but today was that 0.1%. About 6 strides out I spotted a good forward stride and rode for it but about 4 strides out she dropped completely off my leg and no matter what leg I used or growling we came to a halt. I brought her back round but again it was a no, I briefly considered a third attempt but could feel we had lost our momentum and the adrenaline was gone and it wasn’t going to happen so put my hand up and retired and there endeth our Pontispool. I will admit it I sulked for a while due to combinations of emotions but am now looking back this evening a lot more positively. Yes it went wrong but not hideously so and we both walk away to compete another day and up until that point she was making relatively light work of a very tough track. A quick glance at the results will show just how many eliminations and retirements there were.
I will look to take her XC schooling this weekend (once I work out where I have a free half day to do so!) to ensure no lasting dents to her confidence before we head to West Wilts which ‘should’ (famous last words) be a nice encouraging track in comparison!
I also have Oki’s next competition planned in the form of combined training in a few weeks time. I have jumped her a few times at home on grass and she is showing a really lovely jump. Needs to build her strength to jump correctly off both deep and longer strides but for the stage of her jumping education I am really pleased with her progress and she is cantering nicely into and away from fences and proving quite careful as well.
So an emotional weekend here but with a little thought and talking over with friends (e-Venters are a handy lot to act as a sounding board I tell you 😉 ) there are positives and lessons to take away. I think for me the most important is knowing when to hold up your hand and quit, there is always another day and another competition and sometimes it is in your best interest to just stop go home work on the issue and come out at your next competition stronger for it.