Started Early…

…took my wellies.

And a bloody good job I did!! Drive hundreds of horse boxes and trailers through a single field gateway and what do you get? Mud. And lots of it. They had to tow everyone one with tractors actually, because the boxes were all getting stuck. The entrance looked like it had been ploughed up, it was that bad. Crazy! It was remarkable to see how one day without rain dried it all up though. We were able to drive out at the end of the day without a hitch.

Today was my first experience of any horse competition whatsoever. I went along with the owners of a nearby stables to a one-day event at Broadway. They were competing two horses today, one who was being brought down a grade to try and stop him from being such a “lairy shit” and the other a five year old on her first proper outing. Because the rider is Advanced, however, they were both competing Hors Concours. Which, for anyone who doesn’t know, means that they completed each stage of the even as normal and received points/penalties in the same way but were not ranked at the end of it. So even if they had got the best scores, they would not have been placed. Which is ideal for young horses starting out, building up experience of this kind of thing.

After my early start and minor detour on my way to the stables (they’re a two minute drive literally straight up the road, and yet somehow I got lost in the dark) we bundled into the lorry and drove off. I had a dog on my lap for the whole journey so my clean clothes were not so clean by the time we arrived. After the debacle of being towed across a field to park up, we had to jump out and start getting the first horse ready straight away.

While it was a very busy, quick change kind of day, it was nothing too manic or stressful. There was a lot of super fast tack changing and last minute checks, but it never felt like there was anything to worry about. Christine and Colin are old hats at this game, so they knew exactly what they needed to do at each point, which made it easy for me to just slot in and do what was asked of me. As the day went on I gradually got more confident with picking up what kind of things needed doing and when, but for the most part I waited for instruction as I didn’t want to mess anything up by trying to run before I could walk. I was quite happy handling the horses, so I made myself useful holding them while the others changed tack/boots/jackets etc. And once I knew what tack the horses were wearing, I was perfectly content to chuck on a bridle and brushing boots etc. I even re-plaited a forelock (using only one plaiting band I might add….mad skills!). It had come out while the horse was in the box and Colin asked whether my plaiting was any good. I said I’d give it a go but that I hadn’t done it in a while. So I did. And it turned out pretty well. He asked whether I was happy with it and I looked at it critically for a while before saying “actually, yeah, it’s not bad” to which he said “it’s very good, I’m happy with that”. So, I can still plait. Fist pump!

I also got to watch a lot of the stages. Obviously, Colin and I went and watched Christine complete each stage with both horses, but I was also observing many of the other riders and their horses at the same time. I found it quite stimulating to be in an environment with so many horses doing so many different things. I did spend some of the day doing my best not to get run over though, as to get to the dressage arenas we had to walk through the warm up area which meant dodging and ducking through various 20m circle and centre line practices. I found myself getting quite involved with some of it, in a quiet kind of way. I picked up the dressage test movements quite quickly and recognised when someone was going wrong etc. I was also able to observe a number of riders battling for control over their horses in the show-jumping stage and found myself thinking at them “slow down, slow down”.

Even watching the cross-country, something I’ve no experience of myself, I was looking and wondering whether maybe that horse wasn’t going quite well enough to make it over the jump; hence the refusal. Or maybe the rider shouldn’t have kicked on quite so hard as they approached the water, they might not have skidded if they’d taken it slower. I could definitely see the difference in riders and horses who had done this kind of thing before, and those who were just starting out. There was a kind of nervous energy around the pairs that hadn’t been to such a big event before. And this was quite a small one apparently.

It was great though, I really enjoyed it. I’m delighted that Christine and Colin wanted to give me the chance to go with them and experience it. Working with them, even if it’s only now and then, is a really fantastic opportunity for me and they’re such lovely people that I can’t help but feel comfortable and happy around them and their horses. The eventing season is coming to an end now, but I still intend to go up to the stables and help out after college when I can, just to continue working with different horses and gaining extra insight into another part of the equine world.

I also saw the lovely Louise today. She was competing her horse, Winnie, at the same event. I missed her dressage test, as I was busy fixing up Christine’s second horse, but I was able to catch her doing her show-jumping and cross country stages as she was only a few horses in front of Christine. She did really well and I was really pleased to be able to watch her in action. And to meet the beautiful Winnie of course. I don’t know how she did over all, but I thought she did well regardless. So, well done Louise and Winnie. Nice work ladies.

My day was almost ruined by a diabolical journey home. 35mph the whole way with every passing vehicle throwing spray over my windscreen and an Audi sitting so close on my bumper I couldn’t even see his lights! Delightful. He nearly went into me on several occasions. And there was nothing I could do about it. That’s the worst thing, is when there’s a wanker driving behind you, you can’t do anything. You just have to ignore them. But given that I was also sitting behind a complete pillock who slammed on the brakes at every bend in the road or oncoming vehicle or falling leaf….it was not an easy journey.

But with a cup of tea and a Ruby Roo I was able to chill and remember that I’d had a pretty awesome day after all. I fully intended to take pictures while I was there, but I just didn’t have time. And I completely forgot as well. There is that.

And this evening it has been just me and my parents as Ben was out at a party (apparently dressed as a TMNT). It was quite a nice relaxed evening really. Just what I needed. With homemade apple pie. Mmmmmm. Tasty!

I am completely and utterly shattered. I got up before it was light, spent the entire day in the middle of a series of fields playing with ponies and/or travelling, and am going to bed after the light has gone. Pooped doesn’t cover it. But I am also heartened. I had a good experience today and I know it will have contributed something to my person.

Now for a joke. This one is something pretty special. For the most part it was made up by my Mum when she was a little girl, with only one slight alteration by me this evening to make it all the better. Here goes:

“Why did the cow eat the grass?”

“Because it wanted to be a lawn-mooer”

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