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Feel the fear and ride anyway – April 2019

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I’m absolutely buzzing to be writing this after finally managing to get out for a hack after work this week. Just half an hour of extra light has improved my mood so much. 

I feel productive, inspired and ready to tackle whatever the world throws at me… most of the time!

Building better days

It was only a couple of weeks ago I was feeling totally fed up. With £1,000-worth of repair work to be done on my horsebox, I had to sell old clothes and items I no longer use to fund it.

I also had a rare session on Pat where I felt everything I did knocked his confidence. He stopped at a jump in the field and just felt totally backwards, but I didn’t let it deter me from our plans. I took my own advice and put it down as one of those days. The following ride was amazing – we did loads of cantering and jumped a rail out hacking, so I know it was nothing more permanent. 

Good job, as I’m so close to my first events of 2019! Both horses have their British Eventing memberships renewed and I’m nervously excited to say they’ll run at an event each this month.

Easing in

After bringing Pea into work in September and getting her fit, she’ll start the season at 80cm – I expect she’d manage just fine with a 90cm, but I don’t want to rush her, and I want her to enjoy it. She’s so different to Pat, and as she’s got fitter and we’ve been jumping more, she’s started to get a little too bold and brave. It’s a great feeling but, even though she’s small, I’m struggling to hold her and might need to look at our bitting and noseband arrangement for the cross-country.

Pat’s training centres on building his confidence and desensitising him to scary things. Where Pea never questions anything in front of her, Pat interrogates everything – he needs constant reassurance, which can be exhausting. 

I’ve got some banners to put up in the field at home, and the plan now is to focus on getting both horses prepared. I’ll get them out cross-country schooling again in the next fortnight and use their first event as our baseline for the season. 

Setting the standard

For my first events, I want to go with no expectations, just doing the best we can and reflecting on areas to improve afterwards. I want to laugh and scream round the cross-country, and have so much fun I can’t wait to go again.

Every horse is different, but to feel prepared for BE80 with Pea, I’m happy with her working at Prelim level – her test will probably be around mid-30s. She’s still a little unbalanced in the transitions and prefers being on the forehand. She’s happy jumping 90–100cm at home and I like to be confident jumping a bit bigger than the level we compete at. I’m not too worried about her cross-country but, that said, she isn’t keen on water. She never needs much encouragement, though, so I’m hopeful for a straightforward round. 

Pat, on the other hand, is working at Medium level at home. His tests are usually high-20s to low-30s, but I’m going to try hard for some mid-20s this season. 

Jumping is where it comes unstuck – I must ride a forward canter. When you’re scared, the last thing you want to do is go faster than an amble, but this can result in lots of problems, so I need to go straight in the ring and get moving. 

A new recipe for success

I’m going to keep cross-country schooling throughout the season this year and make it a regular thing we do, rather than a show day surprise. I’m certain this’ll help us get braver and, fingers crossed, my column next month will be full of positive post-event happiness. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!

See you next month, 

Vic, Pat and Pea

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