According to Penny, a pre-lockdown jump training session was a double-edged sword. Ronnie held a very different view — he was delighted and rattled the partition in the lorry all the way home to show his support for The Trainer (Carla). Penny was deep in thought and able to ignore the irritating behaviour. Carla laid down an ultimatum — well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, more of a challenge. The time had come when Penny needed steel herself and go showjumping. The lesson had been fantastic, not a near miss in sight. She knew in her heart of hearts Carla was right — the only way to get better at the showjumping phase was to get out and practise with a real course and a real bell.
The trouble with this is the ‘Real People’ that were going to be there, probably criticising. By day, Penny knew that this is ridiculous no-one would really be interested in one small horse jumping British Novice or Discovery (who is she kidding?!). By night, she jumped awake imagining all sorts of scenarios. The main problem was that she was consumed by the thought that young, fit riders would feel that she was too old to be making a fool of herself on her little horse. Carla assured her this would not be the case, but Penny just couldn’t get it out of her mind.
Penny teamed up with The Neighbour, so that she had no get out. The Neighbour’s lorry was packed and Ronnie almost cantered up the ramp. He loves an outing in someone else’s lorry — he doid a large dropping to show his excitement. Penny rushed for a bucket.
The journey was fine apart from the wet spaniel sat on Penny’s lap, leaving a stain on her breeches. Penny tried to tip her off but the dog was tenacious and liked to see out of the front window from knee height. Penny could just see black ears.
Walking the course was fine too, but Penny much preferred it when she only had to remember 10 jumps followed by a seperate, short jump-off course. This was much more taxing being two-phase. She eyed up a wall disguised as a bus with some alarm, and noted a rather bright daisy filler under fence four, but wasn’t really too frightened — she just needed to go over the whole course a few times to fix it in her brain, which had gone a shade fuzzy. Penny couldn’t imagine what it was that she ate the previous evening that gave her such a bad stomach on the day. She really began to feel that she was a little too unwell to jump. No chance! The Neighbour was at hand to march Penny back to the lorry. They unloaded the horses.
Ronnie was very excited. It isn’t his fault that he is afraid of horses getting too near him in the collecting ring — he was kicked once. Unfortunately for Penny, he displayed his anxiety by throwing shapes of some altitude. Penny stayed in the plate, but was unnerved. She covered it up by growling at Ronnie and putting him in to shoulder-in. Ronnie felt that this was over-zealous, but was too curved to buck.
Getting to the practice fence was proving too hard with Ronnie in this mood. Penny removed him from the warm-up for a while and waited for a lull. The Neighbour has done her round and disappeared. Penny considered riding back to the lorry and saying she just had an unlucky pole. Carla then appeared and the thoughts of skulking back disappeared. Penny pulled herself together. Ronnie was taken back to the warm-up where only a few people were left, gently circling. He happily popped a few fences.
The dreaded bell was a dreaded buzzer. It sounded and Penny’s adrenaline level rocketed into orbit. Ronnie hopped and popped and spooked violently at the judges’ box. It doesn’t auger well for the bus wall. Circle, breathe, wait for the fence to come, sit up, hands still. Penny remembered for the first four fences and then it was on to autopilot. Ronnie took no notice of the daisy filler but he did eye up the bus wall with ‘What the hell?!’ ears. Penny’s legs tightened round him and she emitted a fearsome, under her breath, growl. Ronnie’s ears reverted to ‘I’m on it’. Penny obeyed instructions and didn’t increase her pace in the jump-off section, just some slight corner cutting maybe? A clear round is all that was required. That is what she needs to achieve at an event.
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Shaking a little, Penny exited the ring and slid to the ground patting Ronnie, who was already nosing at her pocket for his Polo or four. He was assured of a treat or two, even if they did roll the last pole. Carla appeared beside her. She asked why Penny sped up in the jump-off and cut the corners — not the agreed plan! Penny was immune to anything other than the glorious feeling of having finished. Furthermore, she finished without making a fool of herself — she hoped.
On the way home in the lorry, it didn’t matter that the spaniel had consumed all the picnic, and was still wet. Penny happily ate a plate of cheesy chips with a friend while waiting for The Neighbour to jump the next two classes. It amazed Penny how quickly food poisoning can come and go.
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