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!

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