I am sat here looking back at my non eventing season, thinking, that was not part of the plan! If someone told me I would achieve the ignominious achievement of entering and withdrawing from more events than I actually managed to run at then I would have laughed.
It has just been one of those seasons where malingering has become a full time occupation for both the horse and the rider. The horse has had minor setbacks such as a sore mouth, slight virus and an abscess in his foot, while life has interfered with the rider.
So rather than bash myself around the head in order to try and make it eventing and lose £77 like I did at Dauntsey, I have decided to have fun and do stuff that the horse is good at. Namely galloping around the countryside in various guises. The ultimate aim is the Cotswold Team chase where I have roped in hunting friends who are pretty adept at staying on their horse and even better are pretty sensible. Working backwards in best planning traditions, I have worked out a comprehensive plan to cram the grey horse full of crossing the country knowledge and getting the horse galloping fit.
My new favourite addiction is hunting clinics and I am hoping they will do a brilliant job of preparing us for team chasing while both the horse and I have serious fun. I even have one coming up at Dauntsey with Beanie Sturgis. I told a friend that this was planned and she looked at me like I was nuts because of Beanie’s reputation on the hunting field. Oh well, I have one option – kick harder into the fences.
I have not cantered a circle, unless you count galloping round the outside of fields or done any dressage since September, nor jumped a single show jump as I have been galloping the horse, cross country schooling and doing fun rides. In the process I am enjoying my riding all the more doing things I am good at (being brave while riding like a hick) and the horse is pretty cheery. Will this see a change of career? I am not sure, we will find out after the 25th October when we go straight out in the intermediate team chase.
Normally I would come out of an eventing season with a plan, an XYZ of what needed to be done and how I was going to proceed with it. But this season I have kind of lost my enthusiasm for it all. I have pushed the horse hard to learn a lot in a short time and I think it’s become a process for both of us. Every training session is pushing the horse harder to strengthen up, learn a new skill, and improve the quality of something else. It’s all become a bit of a formulaic and I have become fed up with it.
Ultimately I appreciate I am the worst type of conundrum because I want success and you don’t get success without doing the hard inches but I also don’t ride well with being hit constantly by doing the things I am bad (show jumping) at which is the thing I need to practice. So instead my approach for the next month is to do the things I am good at. I will be intrigued by the results. I have a feeling that it will improve my riding for the better because I will stop overthinking and I will be back to riding more naturally. I may end up looking more like a hick in style but it might be the price I have to pay to get back all my natural instincts that I have eroded away this season with effectively having a cycle of endlessly working on things both the horse and I find ridiculously hard with no let up.
A friend came on the fun ride on her novice level eventer and had a good weekend the following week at Calmsden with a show jumping which was forwards and a cross country round which was quick. It possibly was to the detriment of their dressage but that could also have been the shortened warm up due to running late! This friend often suffers the same issue of trying too hard and the fun ride was a great chance to just ride forwards over stone walls and post and rails and to have a let up with no pressure.
So I am embracing fun and if fun is what you are good at then that is even better. Next season when I am lamenting my lack of ability to see a deep spot or to be able to even do sitting trot then you can point me back to my crazy decision back in October to let sense disappear. I have a feeling though that this decision will instead make me work harder and train better knowing I have given myself and the horse a break from all the pressure I heap on us. The joy I will have had flying round over hedges will make the standing around at winter show jumping just that little bit more bearable.