Amber The Event Horse: Kelsall BE80

Amber The Event Horse: Kelsall BE80

30419903_1644750595607453_1955091924504804563_oWell it’s official. I wasn’t eliminated, I have a score (albeit rather a big one!!) therefore I have successfully negotiated a BE Event with my awesome orange pony-partner. I am, she is, we are EVENTERS. Woop woop. I am so happy with her I could cry. In fact I have. Alongside the silly grin that keeps breaking out over my face.

Her dressage was as good as I could expect it to be really.

She did nothing wrong and our marks ranged from 5.5 to 7.  (The judge described her as a ‘smart horse’ which I assume refers to her innate qualities and not my imperfect turn out skills – she only has half a mane after a winter of full necked rugs and she wasn’t plaited. And she bathed in mud all day yesterday!) So anyway, SHE did nothing wrong. Her ditzy driver however did go wrong. TWICE. Quite impressive especially as the only course error I made was getting to the final centre line. (Yes wrong at the same place. Yes twice).

Then show jumping – she was forward and keen but not totally out of control which is always nice. She had 4 faults. Her ditzy driver however went wrong. Argggghhhhh. I was setting her up nicely for number 8 as I went merrily past number 7 and had to circle back. Oh dear. Still we were never going to trouble the leader board anyway and so I was far more interested in how she went than where we came. And she was great.

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That meant the dreaded XC was up next. And I was absolutely terrified.

My confidence about doing this was at a high after a great XC clinic last week. Amber was amazing as ever. Bold, honest and jumping HUGE – youtube clip to demonstrate!

And then I walked the course. Jumps seem a lot bigger when you aren’t looking down at them from a 16.2 powerhouse of a horse! I felt sicker and sicker as I went past number 3 (huge table), number 5 (weird pink thing), number 7 (big hanging log downhill), numbers 9 & 10  (skinny related distances), number 14 (ski jump), number 19 (huge brush with a drop the other side). Oh bugger.

I went home, poured a huge glass of red.  Then went to bed and tossed and turned all night, waking up before 5am feeling sicker than ever. I just could not see how Amber would jump them all – never having seen any of them before. Just 3 stops and we would be out.

She was completely wild on the warm up. I jumped one log and she tanked off on landing so I decided to leave it and just walked her round. Nerves were not improved by a 40 minute delay on the course when a rider came off. Then another 10 minute course delay a few horses later. Sobering reminders of the stakes we are playing with in this game. By the time I was walking over to the start box I had pretty much decided I was never, ever putting myself through this again. My aim to not be eliminated had morphed into a simple wish to come home safe.

And then my awesome horse just took off and flew everything as if she has been doing this all her life. Not one moment of hesitation or doubt. It was very clear pretty quickly that she was going to jump whatever she was presented to.  All I had to do was get her in front of each fence vaguely straight! Not that that was entirely straightforward! She was very, VERY keen. I did a fair amount of trotting into things, especially downhill as she was not wearing studs. The time was irrelevant today.

First BE80 and no XC jumping faults! I am humbled and amazed by this horse. And I can’t wait for our next run! So it looks like I will be putting myself through it again after all!!

I enjoyed it more than Weston Lawns and I honestly think Amber did too. There was plenty of energy and spirit around but no chaos and carnage! She was lively and somewhat challenging to contain but there was no sense at any point that she was sterssed/overwhelmed. Quite the opposite – she seemed to be having a whale of a time! What a relief. Sunshine helped too of course….

Photo creds to the awesome Aisa Wright of Thorncliffe Equine Transportation. When I booked horse transport to take me to and from Kelsall I did not realise I was also getting a super-groom, sports psychologist and photographer. She could not do enough for me all day. Even had a spare bobble when mine snapped just before the XC! If you ever need anyone to safely transport you and your horses and then also entertain and look after you all day then head over to https://www.facebook.com/thorncliffeequinetransporation/

You just could not be in kinder, calmer, better hands. AND it was cheaper than a self drive box would have been!!!

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Chasing Rainbows

Chasing Rainbows

Well I had my first experience of an affiliated multi-day show at Weston Lawns. And my first experience of a busy free-for-all warm up ring. It was an eye opener for sure.

Picture the scene: A smallish arena with up to a dozen horses in it going in either direction. Many of the horses were disobedient: napping, bucking, rearing, spooking, shooting backwards, tanking off. This did not just give an overall impression of dangerousness. It WAS truly dangerous. On day 1 I witnessed 3 serious accidents in the warm up ring all caused by disobedient horses running people over, rearing over backwards etc.

I started off my warm up in the lorry park as that felt a far better place to be than in that circus ring. The actual rounds were a doddle compared to trying to warm up for them!

I was reliably assured by several people that I would get used to it and ‘it’s always like that’ at the bigger multi-day shows.

I also noticed how many of the horses who seemed incapable of just walking forwards in a straight line on request in the warm up would then go in and jump faultlessly round at 1.10 or 1.20.

I recalled something Buck Brannaman said at last year’s clinic: “You English are crazy. You ride horses you have no control over and think it is ok because usually they let you”.

Amber usually lets me ride her these days but we are still a very long way off my personal ‘holy grail’ of total rideability in all situations at all gaits without any kind of a fight. She was hugely distracted by the horses in the warm up ring. And I want her attention to be on me not on what is going on around her. Maybe that degree of focus, that degree of obedience is as fictional as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but we are absolutely nowhere near that. And judging by the behaviour of many of the horses at Weston Lawns, age, experience and success don’t translate automatically to rideability or focus.  Maybe you have to care enough about it to train specifically for it. I am not a brave or skilled enough rider to cope with ‘airs above the ground’ by Amber in a warm up ring so I intend to keep chasing that rideability rainbow.

In the meantime I am scaling back the SJ plans and focusing (again!!) on basic control/flatwork. 5 steps forward, 4.5 steps back. But we HAVE done 3 full up 80 SJ course and survived them – the best one being just 4 faults. Next stop Kelsall BE80T. I really feel the dressage could be anywhere from 30 to 50 (or even elimination!) depending on how co-operative she is being on the day. We shall see. Gotta start somewhere and I could put off our first ODE forever if I waited to feel ‘ready’.

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