This month has seen us take on the challenge of the Arena Eventing course at Chatsworth and a terrifying BE90 course at Somerford. The good news is Amber attacked everything with her usual confidence and enthusiasm. And the bad news is, well, Amber attacked everything with her usual confidence and enthusiasm!
We managed to get round at Chatsworth with just 4 jumping faults when she rolled a pole. Then we scraped a double clear at Somerford. My first BE DC!!!! But I was lucky to not exit the arena at speed over the metal barriers at Chatsworth and end up in the river, or to fall off at Somerford during a death defying headlong stirrupless gallop down a steep slope after a fence on the brow of the hill. So the score lines do not really tell the story of either day.
I am embarrassed to say that my frequent comments along the lines of ‘will you bloody slow down’ were apparently clearly audible to others. Sadly Amber does not speak English. She does not listen much to bits either. Not when I’m riding anyway. This is a horse who literally jumps any fence that passes her eye line. I have frequently found myself hurtling towards a fence I hadn’t even noticed before she did. “NO AMBER NOT THAT ONE!!!!”
So mixed emotions about our progress really. I keep veering from ecstatic “I HAVE RIDDEN AT CHATSWORTH!! I WENT DC AT SOMERFORD!!!’ to very despondent ‘I can’t ride my horse. I am a total bloody liability out there’.
So I need to take a deep breath and find the middle ground:
It is not okay to be carted. It really isn’t. It’s bad training for her and it’s unsafe for me. So I need to take that seriously and find a solution. AND ALSO I am slowly but surely getting there with her. At Somerford she jumped a calm, controlled SJ clear which was 100 X better than our car crash at Aston Le Walls. And at Eland we also jumped clear XC near the optimum time in a round that felt very controlled.
- I jumped a freaky fence into space onto a slope and lived to tell the tale. (Last year I trotted anything steep, even without jumps in the way)
- I jumped a skinny after a table at the bottom of a hill (over winter I rarely made skinnies as I appeared incapable of steering Amber in a straight line).
- We made it safely over all the related distances. (Over winter Amber never knew where to go after the first part as I appeared incapable of looking at anything except the great big scary fence in front of me! So we usually fluffed the 2nd or 3rd part of the line)
All in all my seat is better, I look ahead better, I regain balance over a fence quicker, I set her up better.
On the other hand I have a LOT of work to do on brakes and gears. I need to look at how she is bitted. More importantly, I need to get better at riding her! I need more rhythm, more core strength, more balance, more thinking ahead, more effective aids, a better position, better communication with her. And most importantly of all, I need to put in the schooling to give me the control that is still sorely lacking in some situations. Hopefully next time out will be a rather calmer experience!