Coral Keen’s eventing blog: ‘if you get it right every time, you won’t learn anything new’

After a successful weekend at the office for Team Keen, Farley Hall has really become one of my favourite events. I would just like to say thank you to everyone that helped over the weekend — it was refreshing being around so many friendly people! I have huge respect for the people that run these events as they are still helpful even when the pressure of competing can bring out the bad side of people. It was great to have the success at Farley Hall after the downs we encountered at Bramham.

If I look back to Bramham, it was an event full of emotions. April (pictured at Blenheim last year) seemed to be on flying form during the build-up. I gave her the Saturday off prior to the event and when I went to ride her on the Sunday she was tied up on the yard bucking! She was obviously feeling super fit and fresh, and appeared to be showing no signs of feeling unwell. Even though it is always great seeing a horse this excited about life, it got me wondering how I was going to tame the beast!

She did a super dressage test at Bramham and was pretty much mistake-free. She always tries so hard for me and it is really exciting that there is still so much more to come. We were lying in eighth after the dressage phase, which is where I would have aimed to be in her first long format four-star.

This result had me feeling really positive going into the cross-country phase, thinking the track would really suit her. However, as is with eventing, it doesn’t always go to plan and by fence four April did not feel like her normal self. She has gone a bit green in the past when I have stepped her up a level and she was giving me a similar feeling. I thought I would just keep riding forwards and educate her round.

However, as the round progressed, April didn’t seem to gain any confidence and felt I had to retire at one of the water jumps. The rest of that day and the drive home was really hard and it shows how much of a roller-coaster this sport is. I know it’s all too easy to clutch at straws about what has happened, but I had this niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I would never wish a virus on my horse, I was very glad to find out there was something wrong and I could begin to justify and move on from the events of the weekend.

April at home

It is days like these that can chip away at your self-confidence. Here, many of us are guilty of convincing ourselves that we are not good enough or we haven’t prepared to the best of our ability. Only once you find yourself wrapped up in equestrian sport do you realise quite how hard it is, but this is what makes the highs that much more rewarding. Horses are unpredictable animals and it is all about restarting and re-routing to better things when you have those bad days.

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Equestrianism can be a solitary sport and it is not unusual to find yourself alone with your thoughts, especially when you are working with the horses day in and day out. It is important to remember that it makes no odds the level you are competing, everyone has ups and downs. Never underestimate the importance of mind management, I always aim to keep positive even when things may not be going my way. I try to tackle my negativity by reflecting on what has happened and learn from it rather than letting it get inside my head. I am very fortunate that I have a strong support team around me from staff and coaches, to my family. You may feel lonely at times, but the best remedy is talking to others and leaning on those around you so that you can move on to better and brighter things. I once read a quote which I think can be appropriately applied to equestrianism; “Don’t worry about mistakes, if you get it right every time, you won’t learn anything new”.

Coral

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