I should probably start with The Furious. Although The Wrist-Slittingly Gutted and Slightly Mardy would probably be more accurate (nb. for the information of any foreigners and/or Southerners reading, ‘mardy’ translates roughly as ‘mildly peeved’). Some of you may remember my amazingly awesome foray into the world of horse-dancing where I not only made my Medium debut but also won – consequently qualifying for the BRC National Championships at Lincoln. Thence began a period known as The Summer of Dressage. Months of tears, toil, sweat (mostly I was spared the blood) and frustration followed as I watched my scores sliding steadily downwards. The harder I worked, the more I tried… the worse I got. Utterly devastating; and my inability to differentiate a perfect pirouette from a proper pile of pants slowly eroded any remaining confidence and self-belief I had. I mean, seriously? I can understand needing a bit of self-confidence before tackling a 1.20 show-jumping course, but for poncing down a centre-line in collected trot? What had happened to me?
In the event we went to the Champs and achieved what the dressage bods call a ‘clear round’, which apparently isn’t tackling a course of vertigo-inducing show-jumps and leaving all the poles in the cups, but merely doing all the right things in the right places. So the half-passes lacked a bit of flair and the medium trot was more medium crawl, but in the terms of a dressage ‘test’ we’d passed. About eight hours later they put the scores up and I saw a 50 next to my name. I’ve got to admit that I cried. A lot. Actually for about the next week. I mean I’ve done some bad tests in my time and that wasn’t one of them. I felt that if my judgement was that far out of kilter it was time to go home. Permanently. Whereupon I gave my poor put-upon horse who tried very, very hard to be a poncy dressage pony a big hug, cried some more, drank a bottle of wine and then cried again. In fact I think I pretty much cried solidly until I got a text several days later from a friend suggesting that I check out the results on-line. Which I did. Then I cried some more. The ^**&*^%*$s at the Championships had put my scores in the wrong columns and it was my collectives that were 50. My score was 62.88%. 62.88%? That’s more like it!!! I would sue for mental anguish and potential post-traumatic stress syndrome but hey, they’re all volunteers which means that I’m not allowed to be furious, right?
The Summer of Dressage had pretty much worn us both down and thoughts of blasting round a couple of BE100Opens for a bit of season-finale fun were scuppered by the increasing demands of work and the inability of local event organisers to include the relevant class. Putting on a BE100U18Open is all very well but when you’re pretty much double that age it’s going to take more than some wrinkle cream and grey hair disguising dye to sneak in as a junior! And so Fugly and I had hit a bit of a rut until a very conveniently-timed phonecall got us our mojo back…
Team-chasing? You’ve got a team that’s short of a member and someone suggested me as the sort of reckless gung-ho braincell-lacking adrenaline junkie who’d happily throw herself over 5ft hedges flat out? Where on earth did you get that impression? And where do I sign up? Clearly my reputation had preceded me, though I thought it best not to mention that we’d been doing dressage all summer and hadn’t jumped a XC fence since April. Nothing that 3 weeks of solid cantering couldn’t fix…
If ever a sport was invented for Fugly and me then team-chasing was it. He’s perfect – fast and bold but never strong; happy to go first or last, clever enough to fiddle a stride if he finds himself on a misser travelling at 100mph towards a stout post and rail, and with the ground-covering gallop of a Gold Cup winner. I’m just about stupid enough to throw my heart into it without thinking too much of the consequences. Best of all my Husband is incredibly proud of me – he used to team-chase back in the day when they rode dinosaurs and safety equipment involved tying your stock extra tight and digging out a hat with a chinstrap. His previous experiences of course give him the authority to lecture at length on speed and line and to deconstruct my performances afterwards with valuable insights into where I could have angled a fence more sharply, taken one pull fewer or just have ‘put my bloody foot down’. Thanks for the advice darling! I may mock a little, but it is nice to see him getting involved. He never got this worked up over dressage!
To add to my ‘yee-ha’ winter we’re also having some big-hedge days out with the Bloodhounds – perfect for a horse who never could settle to ‘proper’ hunting. I may even have made a resolution to partake in a hunt race in the spring… We will return to eventing in 2014, I’m sure. Right now we’re just far too busy having fun!
Photos all with permission for internet use: dressage – Katie Mortimore Photography ; team-chasing courtesy of Stephen Clark and XC Photo; bloodhounding – Emmelleff Photography.