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Feel the fear and ride anyway – September 2018

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I’m relieved to tell you that I’m having a much more productive stint since the last time I checked in. Finally, my event season has taken a turn for the better, with a top three placing at BE90, picking up my first Badminton Grassroots Regional Final ticket and stepping up to jumping 1.10m in training! It doesn’t seem real after years of confidence issues, but the feeling it leaves me with is like no other. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though, and there’s something very important I’ve learnt over the last few weeks that I want to share. 

Taken by surprise

It was a beautiful, sunny day, the lorry was packed, my horse was gleaming and my husband was actually being helpful! We set off to a local show for showjumping and cross-country with plenty of time to spare. Ten minutes into our journey, my lorry exhaust fell off in the road, and 20 minutes later I was transferring all my stuff and my horse into another horsebox while flapping and panicking. Leaving my helpful husband behind to deal with the lorry innards strewn all over the verge, I carried on to the show unaware that things were about to get worse.

Running later than planned, I got straight on and warmed up. Pat was really lazy, but it was good that he wasn’t spooky or sharp as I was still in a flap over the lorry. During the showjumping, Pat refused a fence for the first time in six years. It wasn’t a mis-communication, I presented him straight at the jump just like always, I had my leg on and I was ready for take off. It took me by surprise and I felt dreadfully unprepared. I turned him to it again and, had I not ridden like I was setting off in the Grand National, I don’t think we’d have made it round!

From bad to worse

Feeling very flustered, I went onto the cross-country course only to have another refusal. I felt so deflated. I hadn’t had these problems before and didn’t feel equipped to deal with them. Pat has never said ‘no’. He’s always looked and backed off things, but trust has always come through in the end. Why not that day? After spending most of that evening feeling flat, I nervously picked myself up and decided to take him jumping the following Wednesday to put my demons to bed. 

Not so bad after all

Now I look back on that bad day I realise something – it wasn’t bad at all. It was the day I learnt the most about myself as a rider and about my horse. I learnt that you can never take the trust these animals put in us for granted. Always try to leave behind worries, niggles, arguments and bad days at work before you get on, because horses are more intuitive than we can ever know. 

That day, despite feeling mentally committed to carrying on with my day after the lorry incident, I hadn’t left it behind me. I got on in a panic, rode like a sack of rotting fruit and left my horse to face it alone while my brain was still picking up exhaust remnants. I won’t ever do it again. Pat lost trust in me and nothing is worth that. 

Better than ever

The moral of the story is, respect the trust you have with your horse, keep it safe and nurture it. Don’t let a bad day mean a bad month, write it off and try again. The Wednesday following the bad day, we won our second class and I’ve since been placed BE for the first time this season, too. We’re stronger and more in tune with each other than ever before, and I can only thank that day for making me see it. 

Love as always,

Vic and Pat

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