I’m seriously struggling to know where to begin and that’s not like me at all!
Let’s briefly go back to August 2018, the last time I went eventing without having a refusal! That’s right, you might have noticed that things have not being smooth sailing for us in the last year and that is down to one major reason… MY NERVES.
I’ve been checking, holding, nagging and feeling totally done in, and not out of choice. I’ve been more tense than I can ever remember and it’s given me some SUPER bad habits and has knocked my horse’s confidence.
This year I have vowed to change myself; change how I ride, how I feel and how I think… today was the day, the first brave step on the competition ladder.
Yesterday was my birthday, I am now 33 years old. And first off, thank you so much for all your kind birthday wishes! They mean an awful lot. It wasn’t my usual celebration style- in bed by 9 after a long bath! But, being in the dressage arena at 8am the following morning meant that I couldn’t eat loads of rich food, drink myself silly and eat birthday cake at 2am or I would be destined for the worst day EVER!!
The alarm went off at 5am, if my phone had been in the room I would almost certainly have withdrawn from Eland next weekend, I felt sick with nerves and actually really sad knowing how much confidence I have lost lately. But it wasn’t and I didn’t, I got up, got dressed and 20 minutes later I sat in my lorry, tears stinging my eyes as it failed to start…
After much cursing, jump starting and a cuddle from Daddy Carrot we were loaded up and on the road by 6.15am!
Do you remember how bloody nervous I used to be about getting on at a show and about the dressage warm up?! Well, thanks to the calmer help from the amazing peepholes at Equine America, I’m NOT SCARED ANYMORE!! Not at all in fact. I even put him straight into a stretch this morning and used my legs… miracles do happen, that’s a massive deal for me I can tell you!
Into the test, which was not my favourite (be96), he went really nicely for a safe 31. My serpentines could have been better and so could my free walk… costly, costly lack of prep Vic you giant turkey turd!
Anyway, no time to dwell… I only had 20 minutes break before I had to get back on for jumping.
5/6 fences into our warm up, we had a dreaded refusal. My friend Laura was there to sort us out though, she told me how my leg wasn’t on and my hand was too restrictive (again)! I briefly slapped myself and decided I didn’t ought to ride like a foetus forever (wasurk) and I got my act together didn’t it!?
In the ring though, I could feel that nervous paralysis was taking over, my legs numbly dangling and lifeless… the epidural monkey returns: clinging on to Pat’s face and losing the use of my legs, perfect!
A good strong canter, that’s what she said… focus on that! And I did, I didn’t take a pull much either! So, apart from trying to fit 6 million strides into the one stride double and having the second part down, we left the ring with a glorious smile and only 4 to add to our 31. I’d call that “not a disaster!”
The dreaded XC, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to spoil the good day with a display of limp legged riding. I would have gone home if Laura hadn’t have kicked my assark into next Wednesday!
I warmed up so confident with her there helping me, I felt amazing and I was actually SMILING and enjoying it! But then it was time… she left us, we were alone, Pat and I, in the lonely white box of shameful self criticism!!
“5,4,3,2,1…. have a good ride”! Screaming “thank you” in your most up beat voice when on the inside you feel like a sack of spanner’s doing the hula… we were away!
A lady we passed on the way down said the half barrel at 1 was causing a lot of lookie lookie, so I rode for it like a goodun’ and to my delight, he wasn’t bothered by it one little bit! Sailing down to the roll top at 2 he was flying forwards and I didn’t even check him up. I kept my hands down and had a strong leg just as I was instructed and it only bloody worked!! I screamed with joy and bounded down to 3.
Down a little crevice and back up over a wagon, firm leg… hands down… he only went and jumped it in his stride AGAIN!
This was too good to be true, I was properly sobbing on landing. I couldn’t believe this change, that feeling of confidence rushing back and consuming us both.
Pat made nothing of 4, a dressed palisade and keeping him strong off the turn, we sailed the purple pencils at 5 all on the same rhythmical stride. (There’s no ‘happy tears’ emoji but if there was…)
6 I was dreading. It was a huge narrow table shared with the 100. It was also in the same spot we had our refusal last year. I rode so positively and didn’t take that pull, he sailed over so boldly that we almost missed the turn for the log at 7!
But we didn’t… he popped over, down the bank and straight as a die over the skinny (7b) log pile to more squealing and “Bloody Good Boy” cat calls down to an open set of rails at 8.
He bounded over them no problem, and down to the pheasant house at 9. He did take a look at this, but I didn’t get all flappy, I just sat… gave him time, didn’t panic and let him pop on a short one! No drama!
10, the steps came and went! 11, a little skinny… guess what? because my leg was there he gave me a straight and confident jump! 12,a coffin and role top was a confidence boost (Pat loves jumping ditches) as we galloped to 13 a skinny hanging log!
I was very aware at this point that all the jumps I was fretting over had been and gone, but I mustn’t get complacent! The log jumped lovely so off we trundled to the water with more whooping and shouting “Good Boy”!!
He sprang over the red cartridge at 14 and bounded through the water, another straight confident skinny out, a hedge this time, we hit that on a really good stride! Result!!
15, a wooden trellis which was quite spooky and took him by surprise! But guess who had their leg on! Sailing over, we galloped to the 3 offset hedges. I held my line and my word did he try hard! Boing boing boing and we were howling down the home straight!!!
19, a wooden palisade came and went without drama and the final fence, a White House caused no trouble for him today, galloping through the finish flags with tears stinging my eyes once more.
We did it boy, we did it!!!
I can’t stop crying, I really thought it was over for us. I thought we would be resigning ourselves to dressage or early retirement (honestly), I felt beaten. I didn’t think I’d ever have this feeling again but today I did.
In the 3 seasons I’ve been doing this now, this was by far the most monumental moment of them all. Not even a placing but it means so much more to me as; “The day that wasn’t the end”.
Thank you so much for your endless support and encouragement, you keep me going when I feel lost and I’m very proud of today because I didn’t let you down, I didn’t let Pat down.
We were a team again, a happy team and that means more to me than anything in the world.
Massive thank you to Topline, to KBIS and to Voltaire Design for their support to and a massive shout out to Racesafe for my new colours that were made so quickly and I couldn’t love them anymore if I tried!
Have an amazing weekend guys, dream bigger than you dare and please don’t ever let those dreams go!
Love as always
Vic and Pat xxxxxx