I’ve done it, I’m officially an eventer again, well at least in part for one out of two efforts anyway!
So last time I wrote we had had our last competitive outing in preparation for Portman. We needed a few more training outings though to get us as ready as possible, so last week was busy. Bea has hunted the entire season so I wasn’t too worried about her ability XC, but I needed to go schooling for me, so last week we trundled along to Dene Farm which is local to us. The fences only really go up to 90cm but that is ideal for us (and if anyone wants well built teeny tiny fences and up this is the Hampshire schooling venue for you) and more importantly they also have 3 water fences including a fabulous new one. We went round the first half of the ‘course’ as if competing which felt fab before playing in the new water and over a few individual fences here and there. Bea has a history of not being great with water which has been worked on lots but I wanted to have a good school through a couple. This video was after a few times through the new water, as you can see looking pretty confident!
Two seasons ago I had competed her XC in a pelham but she felt good in the snaffle schooling so decided to keep it in……
Sunday we took the opportunity to head to a local yard which sets up a dressage arena and showjumping courses on grass. It took a while but I managed to settle her for a reasonable attempt at our dressage test, then had a quick tack change and popped nicely round the course at 90cm and then a 1m. I was feeling ready for our BE debut together.
So Tuesday I trundled off to Portman with the Sleep Terrorist in tow to walk the course. I haven’t been to Portman before but what a lovely albeit rather hilly venue. I made the mistake of using the postcode which took me to the wrong side of the estate, but in return for a slightly longer journey I enjoyed some spectacular views. I soon though discovered an issue with taking the Sleep Terrorist round course walking, especially on such a hilly course as Portman. I had opted for the pram over harness thing, as well she is already over 10kg at 8months and I mistakenly decided the pram would be easier especially if I wanted to take a few photos. Oh how wrong I was, I’m seriously considering compiling a pram friendly list of BE venues. There was one particular hill that I think even the fence judges were concerned over my ability to get up! I did though, and I was pleasantly surprised at my fitness levels but vowed at least there never again.
Wednesday arrived, the day I could be an eventer again. Now to start the day I had timed my journey (thanks to an exceptionally lovely secretary giving me end of morning section times) to coincide with her normal first nap. The journey was an hour so I was hopeful she would have a lovely long kip. Errr no, she eventually fell asleep 5 minutes away from Portman and woke up as soon as we arrived, not a good start. Next up Bea’s owner, Helen’s car was misbehaving electrics wise so first job was to disconnect her battery to ensure it would restart at the end of the day. Stud spanners have never been so useful! We managed to check out the SJ course get organised and head over to dressage with Helen on Sleep Terrorist nanny duties. Dressage is currently not our strong point, she is capable but she gets a tad over excited especially in a competition environment so first aim was calm, second keeping her rather wiggly bum under control. I was pretty pleased to actually pretty much succeed in the first aim but the second was a work in progress with some bits better than others, overall though was a good test for her with lots more to come so I was really pleased to get 35.5.
Sleep terrorist by this point was getting decidedly cranky, but point blank refusing to sleep whatever we tried, as I’m sure she will happily tell you (if she could talk) there were far too many exciting things to look at in the form of people and especially ponies. On to showjumping, our round was good, not without her characteristic tigger bounces in places, but a nice clear. Sleep Terrorist was not overly impressed though, and unless moving or stroking a pony she expressed her disgust through grumbles. this day was becoming good for both Helen and my daily step counts. No time to hang around as it was XC time already. The course was lovely and overall very straight forward although the water was a bit of a question as not visible until the last moment due to the hill and surrounding mound. The course was also riding very fast so I knew I would have to keep her under control. We set off and I immediately discovered our previously adequate snaffle brakes were no longer adequate. There was no way I was letting her run on and I spent the majority of my time between fences anchoring her back so we could jump them at an acceptable pace. I apologise to the fence judges where Bea decided she knew better than me…! Frustratingly the water jump she clocked at the last second and voluntarily stuck on the brakes herself this time, I managed to keep her moving, albeit sideways, she then hesitated briefly before going in. I didn’t have ‘1st refusal’ shouted out and I didn’t think she had stepped back, but there was a hesitation so I didn’t have a clue if we were clear or not. The judges decided it warranted a stop, I would have loved to have seen a video replay, but ultimately it was given and I accept that. After all the general rule of thumb for fence judges is if you are asking yourself ‘is that a stop?’ it probably is! We did though end up slap bang in the optimum time window so that was a success.
To add to our day we got back to the trailer to discover a flat tyre, the electrics obviously weren’t enough! After sorting Bea, and with the Sleep Terrorist finally giving in to exhaustion we set to work on the trailer wheel. I think we did a rather impressive job and after rolling about on the floor to get the jack in place (much to the amusement of those at surrounding lorries) we had it all changed within 20 minutes. So our first event was overall a success even with the frustrating 20 penalties and added entertainments.
There was no rest for the wicked though and yesterday we headed to Larkhill, our local event, with the plan of building on our Portman outing. I took full advantage of my husband getting home from work early Friday to allow me to walk the XC without the sleep terrorist, and more so the pram in tow. The course has had a major makeover and although I thought the BE100 and Novice were fair tests I thought the BE90 was rather stiff with some major questions including a half coffin and a big question at the sunken road. The courses normally ride well though if ridden forward, and I was feeling confident that with extra brakes in the form of the trusty pelham we could have a good round.
Our day though was not to go to plan. This time I had husband in tow to look after the sleep terrorist, who once again was refusing bluntly to sleep for fear of missing a horse walk past. To put it simply the day wasn’t going to go our way, maybe I had already lucked out with 2 days of dry sunny eventing weather? Larkhill sunny and warm, yes, miracles do happen. Sadly our dressage test was not a miracle, it was perhaps more aptly described as a freestyle performed on a active volcano! The warm up had been fairly reasonable but the tiniest wrong move of the leg and I got a reaction I didn’t want. I tried to move her as forward as I could into the contact to contain her enthusiasm, but canter strike offs and similar started getting peppered in. I managed to contain the first centre line for a 7 (YAY!) but then the freestyle moves commenced. A few flying changes, some extra canter work, tigger bounces, a proficient jog and a giraffe halt were some notable inclusions. As I came down the last centre line smiling and laughing to myself because there was little I could have done differently, I could see a similar expression on the judge’s face. Her comment especially the ‘keep smiling’ somewhat summed up the test and I was rather chuffed to get a 7 for my riding all considered. The 48.8 was thoroughly deserved, I’m just glad for the two 7s that kept it over 50%! The Husband is completely non horsey so when he diplomatically says ‘I don’t know dressage but I’m fairly confident that wasn’t great’, you can’t but laugh as he was right.
Sleep Terrorist still didn’t want to sleep so husband took her off on a tour of the Wiltshire countryside whilst I showjumped, result she was asleep before the end of the tank track because driving was now sufficiently boring unlike ponies. Our competitive day though was not to improve. Bea was still feeling wild and her trademark tigger bounces were somewhat bigger than usual. We did though jump the majority of the course reasonably well and were clear until 3 from home. She then threw in a mega bounce/leap before 7 which left me with no option but to slip my reins leading to some interesting photos of the double (which she knocked one part of in addition to 7). But as we turned to the last she slammed on the handbrake, it had caused issues for others despite being fairly innocuous. Yes it was running downhill and with flowers but it was plain poles and shouldn’t have caused the issues it did. On the 3rd attempt I somehow got her over (still not sure how myself) but we finished with a personal best showjumping score of 48 penalties which essentially matched our dressage. Oh dear!!
We took the decision that we would start XC but if at any point I wasn’t happy I would retire. She jumped 1 and 2 great, but coming up the hill to three started to pull herself up so I immediately retired, we didn’t get close to the third fence. She is normally a fairly bold horse (other than through water!) and it was now obvious she wasn’t happy about something. There was no way I was going to ask her to jump if she wasn’t moving forward off my leg when solid fences were involved, as that would just be asking for an accident. It could have been the heat, hormones, ground, something else or a collection of things, at this point we really don’t know but the horse I rode yesterday was miles away from the one on Wednesday. I think our dressage judge’s comment would have been incredibly apt had it read ‘not up for eventing today’ instead.
To be honest although the performance and therefore result was very disappointing at least by pulling up early we can now try and work out what the issue was knowing that both her and me finished without injury and can come out another day. Ultimately there is always another event if the sensible decision is made. It is far too easy to want to try and complete especially as a one horse amateur, but the head needs to rule to ensure there are other events to come long term. For this reason I’m taking some small positives and many lessons from the day as it reminds me of a quote from John Dewey,
“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks, learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
To finish the Husband returned with a rejuvenated Sleep Terrorist who was once again thrilled to see ponies. You couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm, well unless you’re my husband, who I think is quickly realising she is unlikely to be happy with just a toy pony as she grows up, and that a real one may well be required 😉