Sally’s eventing year so far
Having not written a blog for a while, she took the opportunity of some downtime between events to reflect, and realised what a rollercoaster Sally’s and Russell’s eventing year has been so far!
Russell and I were making great progress with our showjumping through the winter – somehow surviving 1m British Showjumping Discovery and British Eventing Arena Eventing classes. We still had so much to learn though and this became very apparent at our BE Jump Training sessions in January. You’re provided with a BE coach in the warm up and they share feedback after your first round, with a 2nd round to put it into practice. Russell was on fire in the 90cm, but crashed through most jumps in the 1m and I have never cried so much on the way home, feeling completely useless and scared I’d ruined my lovely horse ☹
I knew our round was bad, but I didn’t expect it to affect Russell as significantly as it did – I couldn’t even get him over a cross pole in subsequent lessons thereafter and it was looking desperately doom and gloom ahead of the eventing season.
But, as ever, we worked relentlessly and with all the great support around us, we rebuilt our confidence over the following months. So well that we went out to our first event at Isleham in March to finish 3rd and achieve our 2nd regional final ticket for the Badminton grassroots qualifier.
Not that I think we have much chance of getting to Badminton, with such strong dressage competition at these finals! We’ve landed ourselves a few decent marks and have often been in the top 10 after dressage, but when you’re up against the best of the best, a sub 30 may not be so competitive, let alone the pressure to deliver a double clear!
But, we’ve got 2 chances to go for and we live in hope! Our jumping went from strength to strength throughout the year – with a record run of clear rounds (I actually lost count!), but typically our dressage had gone backwards and it was always one thing or another. I guess that’s the point of Eventing though – being able to deliver it all on the day!
I have a fantastic career which I throw myself into with just as much passion and determination to succeed. I love my job and it took me on some awesome trips to the US this year, but I do have to remember this when I’m frustrated at not progressing with my riding – when work is full on it does mean we’re not always able to build on all we’re learning, but you can’t have it all.
We’ve certainly faced our fears this year – something that may not bother others so much, affected me far more than I thought was possible when at Spring camp again with Ingatestone & Blackmore Riding Club. We had been thoroughly enjoying jumping all sorts in our cross-country session, until we attempted a small drop into water. Now we all know Russell doesn’t like water, but I didn’t realise quite how scared I was of this until that moment! Unfortunately, I had previously witnessed my good friend have a bad fall where her horse misjudged a drop into water and this has always left me a bit fearful of such obstacles on course. Thankfully we have a great instructor who helped us get through this but not without a version of the Riverdance by Russell and lots of tears from myself.
However, I’m sure everything happens for a reason. Only a few weeks later, I was feeling rather brave and entered the 100HT at our most local venue at Stratford Hills. I was helping jump judge at the Pony Club Hunter Trial and competing myself later that day. I was there on my own and suddenly felt very alone as I walked the course to find several novice-sized fences and of all things, a drop into water!!
But, my friends surprised me and popped up in the afternoon so I was well supported with them filling me with confidence as me and Russell tackled the course. We had a little moment at the water, but we survived it – alongside the trakhener and HUGE table at the top of the hill!! It wasn’t the smoothest of runs we’ve had but even my friends admitted that they thought most of the jumps on course were massive!
Back in February we’d won our Riding Club Eventer Trial, so had a fun road trip to Aston Le Walls where he jumped a super double clear and we finished 9th out of 101 competitors – we were on a roll!
One of the most fun weekends this year was the Horse & Hound 3-day event at Keysoe – I’d never run over 3 days and was super excited! Of course I started the weekend with the biggest calamity going – settling Russell in, unpacking all my items and setting up my trailer, for me to then realise I had left all my clothes at home, a 150 mile round trip away! Then came the difficult decision of going home for them, or just living off borrowed items all weekend in favour of joining in on the BBQ and beers that evening, obviously I chose the later and made a quick trip to Tesco’s for my underwear, only to wake up the next morning and realise that they still had the security tags on them! You just can’t write it! (although H&H did in their online mag)
Luckily our luck made a more positive turn and we delivered another fab double clear and finished in 6th place, getting to ride our first lap of honour in front of the crowds!
Then in the true rollercoaster nature of this year, we thought we’d seize the moment of finding 90s relatively comfortable and step up to BE100 for the first time, to come crashing back down ☹ the most frustrating part of our unlucky trip to Berkshire College was that I’d somehow remembered our first ever BE100 dressage test and Russell rode his heart out to deliver a 27 dressage, then we managed to survive over all the big jumps including tight turns to spreads… all was going great as we turned to the 2nd to last fence – a 1 stride double and it was all over in seconds – before I knew it I was on my feet! We had jumped in at the first part and Russell thought there were 2 strides, I was going for 1 – we didn’t make it. It’s so annoying as you can’t continue if you fall off, regardless of how you fall off, so we completed the walk of shame as I swore and cried and took about 10 minutes before I finally calmed down! I was gutted as I had walked the course and was excited at having a go!
Now unfortunately, despite neither of us hurting ourselves, this clearly affected Russell more than I even considered – he was extremely tight when I arranged for his equine osteopath to check him out. We have since come to the conclusion that a splint he formed earlier in the year had caused him to tighten and therefore affect the long distance..
But, he was treated and we went back to Stratford Hills to run in the BE90 there to have a fun run in our comfort zone again – Russell performed another super double clear and we finished with a 4th place rosette.
We had planned on entering another BE100, but somehow we’ve both suffered from a massive drop in confidence – Russell started stopping at showjumps and I have totally lost my mojo.. If I can’t see a stride, I panic in the last few seconds and go to my hands, or he loses his bottle – the perfect storm where 2 team mates have doubts in the back of their mind and can’t rely on the other always helping them out ☹ None of it makes any sense after having such a great run at Stratford Hills, but I guess that’s horses for you.
So, we’ve had a few quiet weeks and I’ve opted for having a social life instead – all good fun, but the novelty has worn off and I’m not really feeling the hungover Sundays either! So, we’re aiming for a couple of good confident runs before we consider where to play our 2 regional final cards.. decisions, decisions! Let’s just hope we can get our mojo back in the meantime!