“What are the qualification requirements for an Intermediate?” asked my husband. I looked at him suspiciously. I knew exactly where this train of thought was going, and I didn’t like it. “You have to have done 58 Novices,” I said, cheerfully. “Of which, you need to have won 31, but it only counts if there were more than 60 horses in the section, and eight were ridden by Lithuanian Olympic gold medallists.” He stared at me. “Five,” I mumbled, eyes downcast. “Clear XC, not too many SJ faults.””So,” he said, “you could do an Intermediate, then.” “I’m qualified to,” I corrected him. “Doesn’t mean I could do one.”
Over the next few days, he stepped up his campaign. He emailed a link to a headcam of Little Downham Intermediate. He showed me the XC course photos of Oasby Intermediate on Shoestring Eventing and Eventing Worldwide. His reasoning went as follows: Vito and I were up and running, we were going well at Novice. I had plenty of time to go for lessons and ride at home. When I went back to work next year, eventing would suddenly be ten times harder, as I’d struggle to ride even three times a week. Didn’t it make sense to make the step up now, rather than try to do it next year? I wasn’t at all sure about this. I’d started the season at BE 90 and I’d wanted to spend my maternity leave getting established at Novice. If my CIC* went well, then I’d have achieved more than I’d hoped for, and doing an Intermediate just seemed a bit unnecessary. Eventually I decided to make my decision after the CIC. If I was even slightly unhappy with so much as one fence, then there’d be no Intermediate for us this year.
I was feeling reasonably well prepared for the CIC. I’d borrowed a tail coat from my instructor, I’d done a 1.15 BS class and I had even, after a prompting email from BE, managed to register Vito with the FEI. My packing list, however, was a little convoluted. Had I packed enough hay for the baby? How many nappies would the horse get through? Would my husband, arriving on his bike, need to show a car pass? Well, if Vito felt deprived of nappies that weekend, he didn’t show it. He was absolutely super and we added one showjump plus a few time faults to our dressage score, to finish in the top half of the class.
So now what? The Novices were seeming easy, the CIC* had gone well; what more did I want, before I felt ready for an Intermediate? My husband pushed a bit more. I caved and entered the waitlist for Oasby OI.
I eyed up the 1.25 fences that I’d set up in my school. If I wanted to go Intermediate, my trainer had told me, I’d have to whack the fences up at home and push my comfort zone. I’d taken his advice on board and was all ready to jump a pretty hefty track, but there was just one problem. A problem that screamed each time I left it alone in its pram and refused to be placated unless I was holding it and breastfeeding it. Vito stood patiently, his reins looped over my arm, as I sat on the mounting block in the corner of the school, feeding my baby. Eventually, the baby seemed to become drowsy. Quietly, slowly, I put her in her pram and buckled her in. She squirmed, sleepily. Vito peered over my shoulder, muzzle nearly touching the baby’s nose. He neighed, very very loudly. The baby’s eyes flew open. For one second, one disbelieving second, there was silence and I dared to hope that she might take this ear-splitting whinny in her stride and go back to sleep. She howled. I sighed, resumed my position on the mounting block, looped Vito back over my arm, and stuck the baby back on the boob.
By the time Oasby came around, I had managed, by dint of perseverance and cunningly-timed naps and feeds, to jump a variety of pretty big fences at home and try to teach Vito some form of shoulder-in. I was prepared for the terror that assailed me when I walked the SJ and the XC. These were the biggest courses I’d ever jumped and the doubts began to creep in. What if I fluffed it? Were we really ready for this? The dressage came and went (with a decent enough score of 36.4) in a haze of petrified anticipation. I froze in the SJ warm up, felt sick before the XC, but my super little horse gave me a great ride and jumped a double clear.
Back at the yard, still giddy with the day’s achievement, I slipped whilst mucking out the trailer and landed, bottom first, in a puddle of Vito’s wee. The smell of horse urine is, even for those accustomed to it, extremely noxious and certainly not something that I wanted to transfer to our car, by sitting on the seat in my sodden jodhpurs. I had little choice. I whipped my jods and pants down in the yard car park, and climbed into the car, starkers between waist and ankles. “So,” asked my husband innocently, “what’s for supper?” “Erm,” I confessed sheepishly, house-wifely duties quite neglected in the excitement of my first Intermediate, “um, nothing.” “Shall we stop at a supermarket on the way back?” he asked. Relieved that my slovenly attitude towards domestic-goddessdom seemed to be forgiven, I didn’t see the trap. Walked straight into it. “Yes,” I said eagerly. “Good idea.” He smiled at me wryly, glanced from my knicker-clad knees up my naked thighs to my bare bottom. “That will be an interesting look when you get out at Tesco at Hackney Downs, won’t it?”