With a confident run at Norton Disney last week, I was feeling MUCH better about this one and also glad that my last XC run was so fresh in my mind.
Having never been to Eland lodge and it being on the perimeter of furthest we would travel for an event, I wanted to leave ourselves plenty of time to get there and walk the course.
Loaded and on the road by 7am and I still wasn’t nervous… quite the opposite in fact!! Carrot and I sang Queen classics and 90s pop hits at the top of our lungs until we pulled in at 9.30am. By the time we checked in though, it meant that I only had 20 minutes to walk XC fences 5-19 and come back later for the rest… not ideal but I still wasn’t stressing!
Tacked up and down to the dressage, the warm up was HEAVING… about 40 horses deep, which ordinarily wouldn’t be too much trouble for the size of the space but with 80% of riders staring at their horses heads, it was far from ideal.
I get that people are in the zone when warming up but please look up, particularly in canter. I got ran into twice before deciding that it just wasn’t conducive to a relaxed test! Queue terrible warm up No.1!
In the test, the ground was very firm and Pat was guarding himself a little. I felt the canter go to break so I gave him a nudge… see photo below! Pat got his first ever “Disobedient” comment for a buck in canter, my center lines were poorly planned and I deserved the 31.5 I got today. Sub 30 next time boy I promise.
The show jumping looked beefy with lots of fillers, but on a surface not on the hard turf which suits him much better. The warm up however… was very little and only letting in 5 at a time, I didn’t jump much! Truth is, I’m not great at knowing my left and right. I was really worried about another crash so I stayed out the way!
In the ring he felt a bit sticky, my rhythm was not overly flowing because he was having a good look, but fences came and went and we soared over number 10 without a pole on the ground… BLOODY CLEAR!!!!
I was conscious not to let this get to me and fluff up on the XC today! Calm and happy, that was my motto!
Having walked the rest of the course and got back on, I found myself in another not ideal warm up situation!!
The XC warm up was part sand track and very stoney. Pat and his low heels and sensitive disposition was not having a nice time. He was really pottery and actually trod on a bigger stone and went a bit hoppy so I decided to cut my losses once more!
In the box I didn’t feel like crying, I felt adrenaline crashing through my veins and my heart pounding in my chest but I was ready. I felt good.
5,4,3,2,1…. go go go!!!
Conscious not to chase or got too fast and to keep my hands soft, we took fence one in our bold galloping stride and it felt great!! Number two however, was a double height brush, he hasn’t seen anything like this before so I forgave him for having a good look at it before deciding to go.
Fence 3 was a smaller brush which he hopped over no problem! Backed off a bit at the sharks teeth at 4 but he was feeling great and I was feeling mega determined! Fence five was a skinny roll top over a ditch which he came back to me for and pinged over! Then it happened…
The easiest fence on the course, a double of rails, just like the ones we jump every b*stard week out hacking… he actually looked at the wood chip in front, then clocked the rail! Surprise Pat! Pay attention fella!
We scraped over the first part (see photos) and gathered our knitting for the second! But I held his hand, squeezed it hard and dragged him with me… I was so determined today I could cry with pride. You see, I’m not like this. I’m not that rider that wants to win or wants to do well. I’m the one that is grateful just to be there at all… but today I had a spring in my step and I was ON FIRE!!!!
Fence 7, the house and 8, the chair both jumped really great! I was now consciously making up time for our scrappy start and galloped up the hill to the water.
Splashing through, he locked onto the spooky up-turned boat and popped out like a pro! I was howling now!! GOOD BOY!!!! You frigging legend!!
Up the steps at 10 no problem and a beautiful gallop through the first wood to the sunken road! We haven’t done one of these before but he popped down and up like he had been here in another life!!
A downhill gallop to the palisade at 12 which he took in this stride. Around the wood for a hanging log at 13. I came in at the most acute angle, piss poor planning on my part, and he nailed it! Boing!!!
Out of the woods to the corner of doom… I checked him up a bit much and I deserved the anchors to drop, but he saved us once again… pinged from a deep spot and I thanked him with a huge squeal and a giant pat!! What a bloody awesome horse!!!
15 was a little water pool and roll top which he would have jumped all on his own, he felt so confident, followed by a log pile and a long uphill gallop to the home straight!!
He was full of beans, a real test of his fitness and he was on fire!
17, the barrel to 18, the brush hedge was on a much more acute angle than I remembered and nearly missed the fence but alas, Pat was obviously paying attention and sailed over both without question!
A gallop to the last, sailing over that big astroturfed box never felt so bloody amazing… home, safe, on a double f*cking clear!!!
I can’t believe it, even now.
I’ve only done this once before and today we did it again!!! It might not seem much to some people to finish on their dressage at 90cms, but it means the whole big fat world to us.
We work so hard together and my horse is just so wonderfully rewarding along the way. He’s definitely not easy but then nor am I?! We help each other, we are a team.
And today, as a team (Carrot ? included) WE PLACED 6th!!!! Finishing on our dressage score of 31.5 in a very tight and competitive section with a beautiful big purple rosette and a voucher for Eland!
We drove home singing once more, feeling so happy and proud of how far we’ve come together.
I love my horses, more than any of these little words could ever tell you and today was just incredible.
Massive thank you to Eland Lodge Equestrian for the most beautiful XC course I have ever had the pleasure of riding at. To my sponsors KBIS British Equestrian Insurance, Voltaire Design and Topline Vet Physio thank you ? for your support. And to my Carrot and my Pat … we are the three musketeers and I can’t wait for our next adventure.
Love as always
Vic and Pat xxxxx