Events not running is obviously a bone of contention at the moment as we’ve seen unbelievable weather ever since the season ‘started’ (and I use started in the loosest of terms!). I know my show schedule hasn’t run at all to plan, and you can see all over social media that many people aren’t happy with the changes they’ve had to make to their schedules.
It’s obviously really disappointing for everyone when, just at it looks to be on the up, the heavens open and yet another event is forced to make the decision that nobody wants to hear. Just when you get going, you find out you have to stop again.
Most recently I arrived at Gatcombe Horse Trials (at the ripe time of 6am) and managed to walk the courses; I even managed to get my numbers and walk back to the lorry before I heard that everything was cancelled. I’m not alone in my ventures as many others were either there with me or embarking on their long journeys to the venue when they found out, and there is always comfort in knowing that everyone is in the same boat. None of us are getting the preparation runs we need at the beginning of a season to set us up for the bigger competitions, or to ease the youngsters into their first events. My spring plans have pretty much gone down the drain as I know they have for just about everyone else. I saw recently that riders are pulling out of Badminton because they can’t prepare their horses, especially the younger ones, and nobody can blame them. You can’t get the match fitness you need just by going up and down the gallops — we all need these preparation runs, and they are becoming more and more valuable.
This being said, it is far too easy to put blame on just anyone or anything. People are pointing the finger due to frustration, but at the end of the day, we are all on the same team, willing for the same outcome. Organisers and officials at these events are working their socks off, trying everything they can in miserable circumstances and surroundings. I know at Gatcombe they left it to the very last minute to make a call to give us the best possible chance of being able to run that we could, because not only is it in their interest not to cancel, but they know how much we need it. I spoke BE steward, Jane Holderness-Roddam, when I found out and her and the rest of team were just as disappointed as we were, but when there is so much rainfall overnight it just wasn’t safe for horse or rider to go out there.
It is so important that we all support each other and not attack those involved in the difficult decision. All we can really do is sit tight and look after our horses the best we can. When needs must, we just have to scratch our plans, be flexible, and adapt. I know I have spent the time since looking at my schedule and other events I can enter to try and turn the start of the season around.
Looking after the horses should be the top priority. Sometimes an event can feel the pressure to push through and go ahead, but this doesn’t mean you have to run.
Speaking for myself, I had two young horses entered for Portman this weekend, which for one of them would have been their first ever event. Ultimately, I’m glad they cancelled, as I would have been forced to withdraw anyway. You’ve just got to think and be careful. Certain types of horses can, of course, go better in deep going but for others it can be so punishing, not just physically, but mentally.
My intermediate mare, Total Belief, jumped her socks off for me at Gatcombe but she just couldn’t get off the ground which resulted in rolling three poles, as was the case for many other competitors. I now feel she has lost some of her confidence from the fact that she couldn’t clear the jumps like she usually does.
A cancelled event means you can just look to the next, but an injured horse can have far worse consequences. The season is long enough that we don’t need to rush to the detriment of our horses.
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In light of the extra non-competing days I have had time to fit in more training with the brilliant Corrinne Bracken, Lucinda Green and Richard Waygood, and the horses have been super and feel on top form. On top of this, I was lucky enough to get three of mine round the novice at Tweseldown before it was called off.
None of this is exactly would I had planned, but I’m still over the moon with how the horses are training and feeling. We’re all in the same boat and will hopefully get our run of events soon, and in a few months we’ll all be complaining about the ground being hard!