The only way I can think of to explain it is to call it a mid life crisis. Although hopefully it will be more accurate to call it an Early Mid Life Crisis. Unless I have made a very bad error of judgement indeed…
I am almost certainly now a permanently ex-eventer. I cannot really see myself back out at BE ever again. Once you step away for a while and look at it with an outsider’s eyes the sheer astonishing cost of eventing seems completely unfathomable and unjustifiable. I suspect there are Pacific island nations with a GDP of less than what I used to spend per year running two event horses.
Shortly after my eventing career finally petered out in a completely untrumpeted puff of mediocrity, I happened to find my niche. It would appear that I lack the necessary self-regulatory circuits in the brain that tell most people that galloping flat out to a 6 foot hedge is a bad idea. I have found that I am actually quite competent at it, and without having to put any effort into it at all (unlike the endless, pointless hours I spent trying to reduce my dressage scores by a measly 3 or 4 marks). I ride for an open team-chasing team, have stepped in as a super-sub for other teams, have my name in Horse and Hound more weeks than not during the season and have ridden at the national championships. There was no way any of that was going to happen to me in eventing!
The problem with the team-chasing season is that there is a gap from November to March when there are no fixtures. Most people go hunting, but my horse is, shall we say, temperamentally unsuited to hunting (that’s a long-winded way of saying ‘nutter’), so he has been turned away for a couple of months and I am bored. Not just bored, but BORED.
Time to tick another box then – hunt racing. Just like team chasing, but the others galloping and jumping with you are most definitely not on your side. Generally 25 or 30 natural obstacles – hedges/rails/gates and the like – across country on a 3 mile ‘course’. I say ‘course’, as there is never much of a marked route. So long as you jump all the fences in the right order and keep the red flags on your right you can pretty much take your own line. There are tales of short-cuts being made by casually popping in and out of someone’s back garden!
Although I have plenty of team-chasing experience, have hunted with many packs round the country, have schooled National Hunt horses and even on one occasion had a (winning) trip round a point to point, I have never tried this sport. Time for a go then!
Yesterday I bought a horse for the job. Like me, he has never done it either. In fact, I haven’t even jumped him yet, so I have no idea whether he’ll take to it. He has several years’ NH racing, pointing and hunting under his belt though, so I can but hope. In fact, along with crossing my fingers, it’s really all I can do!
So, ladies and gentlemen of the eventing community, I invite you to follow my progress from the safety of your own armchairs. Will we succeed? I have no idea. Will we have a lot of fun trying? I blooming well hope so. Will there be laughs, gin, and above all lots of hedges? Absolutely definitely.
Until next time….
Photos kind permission of Paula Chaston, XC Photos and Tricia Honour
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