Happy campers

What a great time we had at BD camp last weekend.

Having packed the entire contents of the tack and feed rooms into the lorry, I set off to Keysoe with a mixture of excitement and nervousness about the weekend ahead.

Once we arrived, Rupert settled into his stable well and I met up with fellow campers for prosecco and dinner! We had the first lesson on Saturday at 9am, so it was a very early start as I wanted plenty of time to lunge and wander round the venue beforehand. Rupert came out the stable like a fire-breathing dragon and bucked and squealed around the lunge pen like a hooligan. I can’t say I was particularly relishing the prospect of getting on board at this point and it went through my mind that I could slope off home without anyone really noticing. But I knew I had to do it, I just needed to put on those brave pants and get on with it!

Once on, Rupert settled really well and we had a fantastic lesson in the outdoor arena with Teresa Edmonds, who is an absolute diamond. I normally have lessons on my own, so it made a nice change to have a partner this time. Steve and his lovely horse Woody, were brilliant company and it really helped to settle my nerves and start to enjoy myself. Apart from constantly spooking at the railings at the A end, Rupert was great, so I felt more confident about the test riding in the afternoon.

It took several attempts to get him back into the arena for his test – as he had taken a real dislike to the railings by this point and decided reverse was the best option. Once I’d been towed in by someone on foot, we wobbled our way through the test with no major mistakes but with some spooky moves thrown in. I was delighted with him though – he’d coped with the first day brilliantly, warmed up well with lots of horses and settled enough to get a 66+% result, coming third out of a large group.

Our lesson on day two was in the indoor arena, complete with the shiny pink satin bunting which had worried Rupert a few weeks ago. But nothing was as scary as the three people sitting in the gallery! Rupert was very tight and worried through most of my lesson but he held it together and manged to get a little closer to the scary monsters in the gallery towards the end.

Test two started in a similar way to the previous day – reversing away from the railings and into arena 1 this time. Not ideal! I knew it would be fruitless getting cross with Rupert, as he was nervous and needed reassurance more than anything. Thankfully, help came from another lovely camper and after much persuasion, we got to arena 2 and performed a pretty good test. Despite my idiotic riding and doing two 20m circles instead of 15m, we achieved another 66+% score and came second! Clever boy.

In between riding, there were some great workshops and a pilates class, as well as many, many trips to the stables to muck out, feed, tack up, groom and check the horses. It was exhausting but we had a great time. Rupert thoroughly enjoyed the attention and was pretty miffed when we returned home to only get two or three visits a day. It’s not the kind of service he had become accustomed to! Back to reality Rupert – I’d keel over if I had to do that every day.

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Getting ready for camp

On Friday, Rupert and I are heading off to a BD camp for the weekend. With a mixture of excitement and dread, I’m slowly gathering random items into a pile and filling the washing machine with musty old blankets from the lorry, brushing boots and rugs – in between washing school uniform and other important garments. I hope the school jumpers don’t come out too hairy!

So far, the pile includes:

  • Bandages and sadllecloths in assorted colours – must have some matchy matchy options
  • A box of out of date tea bags, coffee and hot chocolate
  • Rugs ranging from summer sheets to arctic duvets
  • A couple of light bulbs from the lorry – I’m hoping Google will tell me how to completely re-configure the electrics so the lights last more than 2 hours
  • Four uncharged phone chargers
  • Two new bags of feed (although enough for five feeds would be sufficient)
  • A miniature chopping board
  • Gin

OK, so I might be missing some essentials but it’s a start. I probably need to write myself a proper list!

First party

I have been putting off going to our first competition. The prospect of taking a young horse out for the first time was keeping me awake at night. But when a good friend offered to come out with me while she had some time off work, I knew I had to do it.

I trawled the BD website looking for the most suitable venue. Requirements included as much space as possible for warming up and somewhere to lunge. Keysoe was the obvious choice, and with a mid-week option, I booked in for two prelims in the hope that it would be relatively quiet. As I pressed the ‘pay now’ button, my heart did somersaults, so I tried to forget about it for a while and pretend that it wasn’t happening.

When I could no longer bury my head in the sand, I started practicing the tests. Rupert picked them up very quickly and started anticipating the movements, so I had to learn them at home by ‘trotting’ round the living room to make sure I knew where I was going.

As the day drew closer, the nerves got stronger. I’m a master at imagining what might happen, so various disastrous scenarios were running through my head. The warm up was my biggest concern, as we had only ever worked in with one other horse to that point. I knew he’d be spooky as he’d already shown his dislike of the bins, banners and inflatable champagne bottles at a recent clinic there.

I was grateful to get some early times but it meant a 5am start on the day. As I drove up the A1, there was part of me that was hoping we would stay driving forever so I wouldn’t have to face the day! When we arrived, we promptly got him ready and into the lunge pen to work off some energy. It was still quiet when I got on but it quickly got busy and Rupert dealt brilliantly with the growing number of horses joining us, the tractor harrowing the arenas and the the rain hammering down on the roof. The rest of the morning was a bit of a blur.

When it was my turn to enter the arena, we had a sticky moment with a red bin and our entrance was more sideways than centre line. But we got round the test with some baby wobbles and spooks, as that pesky red bin kept appearing, and he tried really hard to listen and keep it together. The second test was indoors. This time Rupert had to contend with layers of bright pink satin adorning the arena and a pile of flowers big enough to fill a florist’s shop peaking out from behind the boards at M. With a few body swerves to avoid the scary monsters, we did most of the movements in roughly the right places. As I turned down the final centre line I was so delighted with him, I put my leg on for a swanky trot and ended with a super square halt – at the wrong marker. What a wally.

Anyway, both scores were just over 60% with two penalty points in the second test for forgetting where G is! Marks ranged from 4.5 to 7.5 but the low marks were a reflection of baby moments which should only get better. To me, it felt like I had won the Olympics. Rupert had not only coped with the atmosphere but tried really hard and shown moments of what is to come. It gave me a real boost of confidence and I was very proud of him.

Next time, I need to tell myself to ride more positively and channel my inner diva. Oh, and remember to look at the markers so I don’t halt at I again!