All my troubles were so very present!

I didn’t post yesterday because by the time I got home I was so shattered I could barely remember my own name, let alone write a blog for you.

Open Day was a complete success. The way I see it, we all completely aced it. And I mean the whole set up, not just our individual bits. I’m pretty impressed with the way we all worked together to put on the displays we did and give the visitors something to remember. Not only did we manage to field questions from the crowds, strut our stuff in the school and make the horses look more beautiful than I’ve ever seen them, we were also able to stay on top of the yard work and get all the beds skipped out, clean all the tack and keep the yard looking tidy the whole day. Fabulous!

The displays, however, were absolutely and most definitely the biggest success of the day for all of us. The parade at the beginning of the day was pretty amazing to watch. Even though I knew every single one of the horses and had seen them all before, watching all of them in the arena together looking simply stunning was just a fantastic sight. We worked so hard to clean them up, and my god it worked. The impact of 15 super shiny horses cannot be denied.

The Level Two students kept up the standard with their musical ride to Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere. It was great to watch it all the way through for the first time, and I was very proud of all the riders and their horses for the show they put on.
We then set up the gymnastic jumping grid for Vicky, Izzy and Poppy to fly through. They were all brilliant, and Poppy’s little tumble only added to the impact as I heard several crowd members uttering gasps at how high the jumps were getting.

I missed the end of the jumping, however, as I had to go and prepare myself and my horse for the Level Three musical ride. By prepare myself, I mean not eat my lunch because I suddenly felt very sick, sit on the floor to stop myself from shaking and try not to burst into tears at the thought of having to go and ride in front of a crowd of people. Oh, and put my hat and gloves on.

I was so nervous. I wasn’t worried about falling off, or even about going wrong because I knew the bloody thing by heart. My anxiety was all to do with the fact that there was going to be a crowd of people watching, including my entire family, and all those questions of whether I am actually good enough came back in full force. I struggled to catch my breath at one point and was fighting back the urge to burst into tears, find my mum and ask her to take me home so I wouldn’t have to do it.

Even during the warm up I could feel my stomach turning in knots. I tried to calm myself, as I knew Oscar would react if I was tense and nervy during the ride. Eventually I think I managed to relax purely through focusing on the horse. He was another reason I was so nervous; not because I thought he was going to be any trouble, but because his owner, Becky, and her whole family were going to be watching me ride him. I desperately wanted to do him proud for them.

Fortunately, he seemed to understand what was going on and responded beautifully when I asked him to, and ignored my feelings of panic. In a way, he helped me chill out a bit, by being so chilled himself. It was reassuring that everytime I spoke to him, he flicked his ears back at me to show he was listening. He also did that whenever I gave him an aid, which reminded me that he was really paying attention to what I wanted him to do. That gave me courage and reminded me that the only thing that mattered at that moment was the horse I was sitting on, and the other pairs in the arena. Somehow I almost forgot the crowd was even there.

Once we had lined up and the music started, my stomach had stopped knotting. At least, I didn’t notice it if it was still going. I was totally tuned into Oscar and had half an ear on the music. I sang quietly along some of the time, to remind myself to breathe, and remembered to chat to Oscar occasionally to let him know what a good job he was doing. He was nothing short of perfect throughout. Everyone else was superb as well. We managed to stay mostly in time to the music, worked together exactly as we should, and the minor hiccups we did make were barely noticeable in light of the bits that went phenomenally well.

I am, in fact, still reeling over our grand finale. It was the best wheel we’d ever done, and having never watched the routine before, when I watched back the video that my Dad took, I felt tingles when I saw the wheel. It was better than we could ever have hoped for. We were in line the whole way round and oh my god it looked impressive.

The claps and cheers from the crowd at the end gave me a feeling of euphoria. We’d done it, it was a complete success, and I wanted to do it again! Looking down the line at Louise, Hollie, Poppy, Leah and Tillie, the only thoughts going through my head were of utter pride and delight in both my friends and myself.
I tried to post the video, but it doesn’t seem to be letting me, so I guess you’ll just have to imagine it. It’s up on my facebook page, but I don’t think anyone other than my friends will be able to access it. Ah well. Such is life.

The rest of the day, after my musical ride, seemed to fly. I helped set up the cross-country course and stayed in the arena as a runner for when poles got knocked down. It was a shame to see Becky splat off when Oscar decided not to jump one of the fences after all, but she got back on with a smile and tried again. After the cross-country display, we set up ready for the Handy Horse competition and were then told to have a break.

I helped unplait most of the horses, and then got to cleaning the tack that had been used. Which, of course, was all of it! But that’s okay, because I quite enjoy cleaning tack. There’s something really quite satisfactory about treating the leather and making it all shiny and supple. It helps that I like the smell of clean tack, of course.

Unfortunately, I missed the handy horse competition while I was cleaning the tack, which meant that I didn’t get to see Emma or any of the others in action. From what I heard though, it was a successful show with the crowd encouraging the riders and their horses throughout each task.

By the time that was over, it was time to start turning the horses out and finish off the yard work for the day. As it turned out, the delights of the day were not yet over as a bunch of us then had to go and retrieve all the shards of clay from one of the paddocks that were left over from the Clay Pigeon Shooting stand. Some of the punters were obviously not very good shots as we found an awful lot of whole clays. Which we then threw at trees to see if we could break them. I missed. Tragically. We realised the shooting had obviously been very popular though, as there were shards of clay EVERYWHERE. It took us a long time to get rid of them all!

So, after a very long, sweaty and tiring day, we were finally released and allowed to go home. All the crowds had gone an hour earlier, and we were left in a very quiet campus. The horses all looked like they belonged in a fifties sitcom with their beautifully permed looking manes and tails, and were happily grazing out in the sunshine after all their hard work. They certainly deserved it.

I am still full of joy.


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