Let’s just say our first event of the season didn’t quite go as planned.
It was a bad day in the office. As in a set fire to the copy machine, spill scalding coffee all over your boss, and walk in on your best friend in a compromising position with that cute guy you like from accounts, kind of day at the office. Sunday just passed was the sort that makes you want to crack open a bottle of gin and drink yourself in to oblivion, and certainly not compose a roughly 900-word report of said day to be published on to the website of arguably Britain’s most famous equestrian magazine.
However. In the spirit of keeping this a true and faithful account of our run up to the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, I present to you the disastrous day that was Sunday.
Perhaps I should have taken more heed of the signs. I woke that day feeling absolutely rotten and had to drag my sorry self to the yard where, having earlier chased down some ibuprofen with a cheap can of knock off Red Bull for breakfast, I uselessly pottered about while utterly confused by what time it was. For reasons unknown, I can accept that man has walked on the moon, I can even accept that we sent a robot to another planet and it’s been taking selfies there ever since. What I cannot, however, get my head around is the fact my smart phone knows when the clocks change and adjusts itself accordingly.
Fortunately, I had late times and so having reverted to the tried and tested method of judging the time of day by using the big, yellow orb in the sky that had finally decided to make an appearance, at high sun I headed down to the field to fetch in Charlie, who was suspiciously lacking in white patches. On closer inspection he was plastered in mud.
Bathed, plaited and loaded on to the trailer, we set off for our first event of the season at Munstead.
We arrived in plenty of time, which further contradicts quite how I managed to end up running so late that when we reported to the dressage steward I was told that the one before me had just gone in. Now Charlie doesn’t require a great deal of warming up, however even for him, six minutes was pushing it and I suspect our mark somewhat reflected the fact he wouldn’t turn left. Or right particularly well for that matter. Oh and I had an ‘error of course’ right at the very end of the test too. Never mind. It could only get better…right? Right?
Considering it was day two of the event and the whole venue had been several inches under snow only a week earlier, the majority of the ground was holding up surprisingly well. Unfortunately in the places where the going wasn’t as resilient, it was decidedly tacky and none more so than in the showjumping. ‘Stuck in the mud’ is a great game when you’re 12. Turns out it’s not so much fun when you’re faced with a course of 10 fences on a potato horse that lacks forward momentum at the best of times.
I knew he was going to struggle — he had a couple uncharacteristic jumps in the warm up and looking back I wish I had retired beforehand. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and instead we had a round that I would really rather forget. The highlight of which was my very close brush with the red Surrey mud and the recently introduced one fall and you’re out rule.
We came round the corner to four, a square oxer situated at the bottom of the ring next to the warm up and Charlie chipped in an extra stride, went airborne and launched me in to orbit in the process.
What followed was a bizarre amalgamation of a Mexican wave and that thing you do with your arms on the downward plunge of a roller-coaster. I threw away my reins too, subconsciously deciding that I didn’t need those any more and yet some how miraculously reunited with both my mount and knitting on the other side of the fence.
Granted, I was hanging off his shoulder and staring down at the ground while debating how much it was going to hurt, with only my left leg hooked round the saddle and a feeble grip on one rein preventing me from finding out (pictured top). I should add that throughout this Charlie was quite happy, ears pricked and jogging contently as if me hanging out the side door was an everyday occurrence. In his defence, I suppose it once upon a time was.
Eventually I managed to haul myself back in to the saddle and as the next line of two fences were straight forward and on good ground I decided we would pop those to finish on a good note. Which we did, and then I got greedy as he settled in to a good forward rhythm and he jumped the next one nicely too. Faced with only two fences left we kept going. I think I knew it was the wrong decision even as I was doing it, the ground again went sticky and when I felt him backing off on the approach I stopped riding and we came to a sliding halt, accumulating our third stop and earning ourselves a big, fat E for elimination.
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I should have pulled him up earlier. The first stop he had was naughty, but the second wasn’t and I should have called it quits then, but I guess you live, you learn and you try to do better next time.
Fortunately for all his quirks, Charlie is not the sort to hold a grudge and yesterday he jumped quite contently in our grass arena at home, none the worse for our disastrous round the previous day. I’m planning on taking him showjumping this weekend, hopefully minus any acrobatics from either of us with the intention of being able to appear moderately competent at our next event the following week!