On Mondays, baby and I attend a baby group called Incredible Years. Headed by representatives from the local childrens centre, Incredible Ears provides a forum for the Clueless and Be-Childed of Islington to discuss the delicacies of poo, puke and midnight scream-athons.
“So,” said the Incredible Ears group leader, “we all know how hard it is to do anything at all when you have a baby. However, it is very important to make time to do the odd thing for yourself. I’d like everyone to try to do one thing this week, that’s just for themselves. Let’s go round the group and tell the others what our one thing is going to be; it can be anything you like.”
“I’m going to get my nails done,” said Clueless and Be-Childed on the far side of the room.
“I’m going to have coffee with a friend,” said the girl next to me.
“Viv?” Prompted Miss Incredible Ears.
I hesitated. Teetered, for a moment, on the brink of conformity. Willed myself to profess an ardent desire to have my hair cut, or read this week’s Grazia.
“I’m going to jump a double clear at my next Novice on my horse,” I said, firmly. There was silence.
“A… A real horse?” proffered Nails, tentatively.
“A real horse,” I confirmed. “Four legs, tail, the whole nine yards.”
“Is that going to be relaxing?” asked Coffee-With-A-Friend.
No, relaxing it will not be. My attempts to get that elusive BE point have thus far been thwarted by my abject inability to showjump. Given that I own a showjumper, it is not entirely clear why I should be quite so rubbish in this phase. In a bid to remedy this shortcoming of mine, I set out with baby, horse and horsey friend to wow the great and the good of Essex showjumping at Norton Heath’s BS show.
I arrived at the yard and fed the baby. She then said that I was not to leave her alone in her pram whilst I packed the pony, so I strapped her onto my front and set about filling haynets. To my intense relief, Horsey Friend arrived just as I was disentangling baby’s grasping mitts from a mass of baler twine, dust and dried spider.
“Do you want the baby or the horse?” I asked, haynet in one hand, sprog slobber in the other. Horsey Friend paused. I pounced. “Here, take the baby,” I said hurriedly, unstrapping her from my chest and thrusting her, dribble first, in Horsey Friend’s direction.
The 1.05m at Norton Heath was run as a speed class. Speedy I am certainly not, so I popped round for a nice clear and finished in a time that was about five hours slower than the winner’s. I very nearly wimped out and came home after that, but I need to get comfortable at 1.10m and a good way to do that, it seems to me, would be to jump more 1.10m tracks. I thought that the course looked on the small side when I walked it and I would like to think that this was because I am getting more familiar with the height. I suspect, however, that the course was just small.
I had hoped that the baby would sleep obediently in her pram, freeing up Horsey Friend to do some practice fences for me, but sadly this was not to be. I cantered round the warm up ring, hearing enraged squawks each time I passed the pram, so eventually I relented and asked Horsey Friend to pick the baby up. The baby was delighted at this turn of events and dribbled merrily away as I went into the ring, squawks and rage quite forgotten in her glee. I tried to ride forward and not bury him too much at the oxers and I thought we jumped a nice rhythmical round, though annoyingly, we just touched no. 2 to finish on four faults. The attached picture provides a nice synopsis of my and my horse’s ability in this area; he looks neat and confident, I look slightly gormless and not completely in control of my lower leg.
Chilham Castle will provide an opportunity for me to showcase my hard-earned showjumping uselessness this weekend. It will be our fourth Novice and there’s a lot at stake on that point. If I can’t manage a double clear, then perhaps I’ll have to feign an interest in haircuts and Grazia….