What a month! The countdown to my first events felt like it lasted forever, mainly because I was really looking forward to getting started – I’ve never felt as prepared for the season as I did this year.
The night before Pat’s event, I slept well and didn’t wake up full of dread. We loaded up and, even on the drive there, I wasn’t anywhere near as scared as last year. Hopefully this is a new leaf for us.
A bright start
The event itself went really well, maybe not on paper but I was proud, nonetheless. I felt as though I could actually ride Pat in the dressage rather than just dodge excitable explosions, and I found myself riding for each mark. It meant that we started our season with a very pleasant dressage score of 27.5. The showjumping was a massive success and meeting Ben Hobday in the warm-up must’ve brought us luck because we went clear and into the cross-country phase in the top three.
With a green stop at a trailer we lost our placing, but I was happy with how I handled it. It was a similar situation to our stop at the last event of 2018, although I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter one bit. The focus for me is to build Pat’s confidence, regardless of the results, and if that means we have a silly refusal every time we go out, that’s fine. Numbers and prizes mean nothing if your horse isn’t enjoying his job. With that in mind, I held his hand and we made it around the rest of the course without any problems.
The following day, Pea did her first event since 2014 and she was amazing! She produced a lovely dressage test, scoring 33 – bearing in mind that at our last outing five years ago, her score was 42, I was very happy. We completed the showjumping at a leisurely pace, focused on having a fun time. She stormed the cross-country – there was a bit of confusion at the trailer fence where we ended up scrambling over it, but we finished clear!
A new approach
It really was a great start for them both, and for my confidence. Show day nerves are something I’ve struggled with in the past, and when I look back to my regional final last year, that was probably the most anxious I’ve ever been. I was physically unwell through nerves for the first time ever and what good did it do me?! It spoilt what should have been a really fun day.
My coping tactics have changed since then. Leading up to shows I used to convince myself it wasn’t happening until I arrived, but this didn’t work and actually made my nerves 10 times worse. Now, I spend all week training for the show, making sure I’ve practised my test, jumped a course, hacked and jumped some rails out on our rides. It certainly worked this month.
I also think that not leaving things to the last minute helped, too. I packed the lorry the day before and had all my show day clothes ready to go. This meant that, come morning, I could follow a routine and not feel flustered or fret about forgetting something.
I’m really looking forward to our next events – we’ve got just three weeks to go until both horses will be out again. In that time, I’m going to build a couple more jumps for the field and I’ll take them cross-country schooling again to keep the momentum going.
I hope that you get out there and have some fun with your horses, too! Remember, visualise how amazing you’re going to feel having conquered your fears. It really is the best feeling in the world.
Love as always,
Vic, Pat and Pea