Sunday, 3 May 2015

Eventer's Challenge: 19.04.15

I can't remember the last showjumping competition I went to. It may have been over 2 years ago, possibly even more - I know I did a clear round in November, but it wasn't an actual competition.

Ernest is 19 this year, and while that's not old, I've been feeling that if I want to get back to our former glory - our highest was 3 ft 3 in 2010 - I really need to get on with it. How many more years can I say, "I really want to start jumping again" before it's too late?

A couple of Tuesdays ago (14th April) I took my adopted little sister (not actually adopted, you know what I mean) to meet Lara Bingle, where we once again got on to the topic of me going competing. I told her to kick me up the butt to get out and do things, and she immediately responded with:

"There's an Eventer's Challenge on Sunday. You should come with us. I'm doing the 2 ft 6 class - 8 show jumps, 8 cross country. Do it."

Well, why not. I'd just bemoaned not competing, so why not throw myself in at the deep end?

I entered the 2 ft 6 class and managed to book a lesson for Thursday 16th. It was such a good decision, as it gave me so much confidence. Having fallen off in February, when I last jumped, and in the warm up arena in November, I was anxious. Ernest gets really excited and leaps about during the warm up for any kind of jumping, which is why I usually fall off, but this lesson taught me what to do when he starts throwing shapes. Instead of backing off, I need to take control so that he listens to me instead of finding everything else more interesting. I also need to show him that he can't get away with being naughty, and that if I give a command he needs to respect it.

Sunday dawned and I felt a mixture of nerves, determination and excitement. The first thing I had to tackle was the warm-up arena; if I could get through that, I would be fine.

Ernest threw a few shapes, to which I responded: "You're not getting me off you little arsehole!". I genuinely felt a rising panic when I went in there, as if my stomach had dropped out and it was just hollow, so I really appreciated Jaime checking on me. After 30 minutes and a couple of warm-up fences, I went out to watch Jaime's round.

She rode well, but Fynn didn't like a couple of fences so they didn't go clear.

There was one rider in between our rounds. My body protector is so tight I can never tell if I can't breathe from nerves or just general constriction, but I certainly felt a bit... breathless.

Then it was my turn.

Coming round to the first fence, Ernest threw his head joyfully into the air. I remember thinking, "Here we go."

There's a saying in showjumping that there are two fences you don't want to knock down: the first and the last. I've knocked down the first fence at a huge championship before, and I still remember the frustration. So, even though I was trying to place, I really didn't want to mess up the first jump. I'd also never live it down as my instructor was there (she was the course designer and so was judging the fences).

We got over the first fence clear. Away we were. 

Ernest was in his element, popping the fences like they were poles on the ground. I was enjoying myself, but also concentrating on all the things I needed to do: sit up after the fences, leg on right up to take-off, straight approach, don't cut corners, slight outside bend, correct leg, sit up between fences... 

We went clear - easily, I might add, thanks to my brilliant steed.

I was completely elated with my round. I corrected him when he was on the wrong leg, was conscious of riding every fence and tried to fold over the fences instead of just sitting there and letting the reins slip out of my hands. Looking at the pictures afterwards, and speaking to my instructor, I think I really rode and wasn't just a passenger. 

We didn't place, as we weren't fast enough, but I don't mind. I'm already dreaming about jumping 3 ft again, maybe even 3 ft 3. I just want to go out again soon to keep building up my confidence.

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