Sit down with a brew, it’s a long one……………..
So after finally managing to get a few good runs under our belt, Herbie and I were both feeling confident at Novice and I was starting to excitedly make plans for the rest of the season. It has always been my dream to ride him at an international and it was really feeling like we could be ready to move into the world of FEI and tackle our first CIC* and I decided that Burgham Horse Trials at the end of July would be the perfect event to start our international campaign. However, you will notice that this paragraph is written in past tense!
The dream came to an abrupt halt (literally) at Warwick Hall horse trials, were I went against my better judgement and decided to run, even though I knew the ground conditions were not suited to us. Due to our location, Herbie and I spend the majority of our training sessions stomping about in the mud, and as such this is his favourite ground to run on and where he feels most comfortable. He does not like hard ground and last year I had to withdraw from a few events because he simply would not jump on the hard ground.
Unfortunately the ground at Warwick was hard. And then it rained meaning it was not only hard but also extremely slippery. This is in no way down to the grounds team at Warwick, who had done a sterling job at preparing the ground as best they could, but event organisers cannot control the weather and it was really unfortunate that after weeks of wall to wall sunshine, the heavens decided to open the morning of the first day of their horse trials!
Off we went to the dressage and I could tell straight away that Herbie was bringing his A game! He warmed up beautifully and I went into the arena feeling like CDJ on Valegro, which in turn made me ride much better than usual, and we produced a pretty foot perfect test. All the while in the back of my mind I was thinking that the ground was just not right for him to be jumping on but sadly the competitive streak in me came out, and knowing I would be in a good position after the dressage I headed over to the SJ hoping that we would be lucky. He warmed up fairly well, a little uncertain on landing at times but was really pinging the fences so into the ring I went. And then it all went wrong!! Cantering to the first fence I was on a perfect stride, but as he went to take off his front feet slipped and we skidded completely through the first fence. Poor Herbie felt me pitch forward and tried to take off again mid skid, throwing his head back and splitting my lip in the process. He rarely makes mistakes when jumping and I could feel him trembling so knew he’d really given himself a fright. Fence 2 was a very small upright on a slight uphill run so I popped that, put my hand up and retired. I was (and still am) absolutely kicking myself that I put him in that position. I think a lot of it came from my ambitions to event at higher levels, but I let that take over and I forgot that he’s my only horse, he’s only 6 and I am not out doing this every single week on lots of different horses so I have to really look after him! So huge lesson learnt and it’s still upsetting now to think of how much worse it could have been.
Later that week I gave him a jump at home and could really feel how much confidence he had lost, and when I took him XC schooling a week later I knew it was going to take a while to build ourselves back up.
So that’s Burgham 1* out of the question and I have decided to drop back down to BE100 for a few events until we regain our confidence to move back up to Novice.
Last weekend I took him to Skipton having asked the secretary to swap me from the Novice to 100 and although he had a few green moments in the SJ, he started to feel like his old self again, especially on the XC course where I went round with the handbrake on much to his displeasure due to the firm going. Thanks to Nick Gill Photography for the fabulous photos!
So we are now on Plan B which is to go and have fun at 100, do a regional final as I have a qualification from last season and then move back up to Novice when we both feel ready. I’m still hopeful we can take on a CIC* this season, albeit later than planned, but if not then it’s no big deal – there’s always next year!
So moral of the story is always listen to your gut instinct!
Next month we will be heading off to Buckminster, Northallerton and Cholmondeley Castle before heading back to Skipton for our BE100RF with loads and loads of SJ practice in between!
Hope you are all enjoying the gorgeous sunshine! Although it does feel very hot I’m not going to complain after 8 months of winter!!