The Region Final: the one with the vomiting!!

So… yesterday was my Badminton Grassroots Regional Final at Shelford. Throughout the season you get to pick up qualifying results (approx top 3) which mean you are eligible for a RF at that level. At the final you have to be in the top 20% to get through to the championship held at Badminton. And as I am the LEAST competitive person EVER, I started to feel very uneasy about this.

Unfortunately, my usual preparation in the run up to an event was scuppered because I had to stay away for work Monday to Wednesday last week. It also marked my job handover and official unemployment so I expect my mind and nerves weren’t helped by this pressure either.

Saturday I walked the course with one of my Team Wimpy members, Becki and I felt comfortable that there was nothing on the course that was dressed with flowers or seemed to be too scary! Result! That also meant the fight for a Badminton slot would rest solely on the other two phases! Heading home riddled my palpitations but not feeling too horrible, I got everything ready, rode through my test and got an early (non booze filled) night!!!

I woke up to my 4.45am alarm and got out the house by 5.2, with no time for bowel emptying or feeling too scared, we set off.

15 minutes into the journey, the nerves came. I used to feel them the month before, then just the week before, this year I’ve narrowed the time spent panicking down to the last few hours… hoping to eventually get rid of them all together I suppose!! But today was the WORST nerves I think I have EVER felt in my whole life.

Worse than waiting for my divorce to be accepted, worse than when Pat got cast and injured at Talland, the worst nerves of my life hit me like a train.

We pulled over so I could use the toilet and eventually made it to Shelford and their line of portaloos. My body was a mess, it was making me physically sick which I don’t think has ever happened before, I felt cold, shivery and light headed. My hands struggled to do up my tack and the tightness in my chest was making me panic. I wanted to cry and not just out of nerves, I felt desperately sad about how I felt. I thought after Epworth, we had turned a huge corner but the pressure of having to be competitive was making me feel this awful fear of disappointment.

I got on and warmed up, he was so lovely, not a single spook or salmon fish impression. In the test he was far more lazy than I’d have liked (this is penalised heavily in Eventing) but I kept him out in the frame just like I’d been practicing, I thought it deserved around a 35 so guess what… I actually breathed!!!! I had resigned myself to never getting through on that score, you’d need sub 30 to be in with a chance, and I was so happy.

The pressure was off, I laughed all the way back to the box at how stupid I’d been!! I hugged Pat and apologised to Daddy Carrot and proceeded to enjoy the morning Eventing as much as I could!

I went show jumping with the biggest grin on my face!! We warmed up and chatted away to a load of lovely people, and in the ring I just breathed and had FUN!!! He never jumps well in the ring at Shelford and he did had a couple of spooks! He was giving the fences a lot of room which made some of the distances quite short and deep resulting in rolling 3 poles but I didn’t care one bit! He was bouncing and I was so happy to be having fun!!

I also learnt that my dressage score was a 35 but not at all that bad looking at the other scores, definitely top half but certainly not what we are actually capable of on our best day.

Down in the XC warm up I was feeling excited to get going!! I decided to test out wearing my stopwatch today too! And here we were, popping the practice jumps with no spooking, just me and my boy having fun!

In the box, I got counted down and actually remembered to start the speedo!! A short run to a kind log at number 1 which he boinged over no bother, to 2 a box with milk churns on, he looked but I was there to catch him and we bounded down to the step up at 3. We rounded the corner before it in a steady canter, probably not as bouncy as it should have been and then it happened…

He fell, he misjudged the height, scrambled and stumbled and eventually scraped his way up. He’s so good at steps that I just usually hold the mane and wait, but today he was left a bit sore and feeling very frightened. I trotted a few strides and he felt ok so popped him back up to canter for the chair at 4.

He stopped.

He was frightened after the step, and I don’t blame him. But I needed to show him it was okay. We circled, I gave him a big pat and we flew over it, cantering our way down to a brush at 5 and a little log, number 6. Both of these had a sticky jump but I knew I had the rest of the course to make him realise it’s okay again.

7, a roll top, he started to get a bit more confidence, splashing through the water and over the log at 8, he lost momentum but WHAT A HORSE!!! He pinged over it and galloped down to 9 and 10 two sets of rails in the hedge lines, ping ping!!! He was flying now!

Down at the double of pipes for 11 and into the woods, we were screaming with joy! He was pulling me into the palisade at 12 and we were flying!!

The jump I got at 13, the straw bale pheasant feeder… was one of the best jumps I’ve ever had!!! He took me in and I very nearly sobbed with pride!! 14 was a skinny house which he jumped well and onto the brush going back into the woods.

No problem for him, he was heading home now and he felt full of beans!! Pop pop over the yellow pipes in the woods and down a step which I steadied him up for. A long gallop to the finish over a brush and log which he was seriously keen for and through the finish!!!

I couldn’t have been happier with how we finished our day, I was and still am, absolutely ecstatic. He was amazing and grew in confidence with every jump after his fall. I helped him and he actually responded and what a feeling that is. Better than a Badminton qualification or rosette that’s for sure!!!

He did manage to take a good bit of fur and skin off a hind leg but I washed it really well and put some antiseptic cream on it before we took him home.

I grabbed a burger, my dressage sheet and my photos and headed home, so stupidly happy for what it might look like on paper.

Our dressage of 35 wouldn’t have been enough anyway, 33 would have but that’s hindsight. With 12 sj to add, a stop XC and a few time faults we ended the day at the very bottom of the most elite of 90 sections. And guess what…. I was probably as happy (if not more) than the 3 people that qualified.

It’s not about winning for us, I say it often but it’s really not. I don’t want to be a disappointment and that’s what got to me this morning. I have sponsors and all you amazing people that I want to do well for, but the truth is, i can’t consistently do well, it’s not reality and anyone that thinks they can is deluded. I want you all to know that you can win even if you aren’t placed first. I’ve never felt like such a winner than I do having my horse bounding into a jump on his own accord and that’s what matters.

I could blame the hideous weather, the comments on my sheet not being accurate, I could have ridden for the clear SJing or walloped him over that chair from a standstill but that isn’t us. We value smiles over prizes and points.

And what a lot of smiles we won today, someone was definitely looking out for us.

Massive huge thanks to all of you, who continue to support me even though our results might not be the best, my riding might not be perfect and without a string of top horses… you are all amazing. Thank you xxxxx

Here’s to the next one!!

Love as always

Vic and Pat


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