Graduated and Raring to Go: Back down to earth

I think it's fair to say that March has been a month of determination.

First off, I’ve been determined to sort out my hands. Next, not to disgrace ourselves at our first Elementary test. And finally, to overcome various injuries and get some weight on my horse’s back end.

12/3/17 Pony Club Dengie Winter Championship Area Qualifier, CWA Milton

Our Pony Club area qualifier came up and my preparation had been patchy, to say the least, with some woefully inconvenient work shifts. Our lesson with our wonderful instructor Petros Spiliopoulous, after two early shifts (starting at 5.45am), could have gone either way.

I was so exhausted it was all I could do not to burst into tears and wail about "why can’t I ride like a normal person" and "Socks must hate me", etc., etc., etc. (Was it Socks I said was slightly hysterical? Possibly an oversight on my part…)

BUT not only did I manage to get a grip, I had a major breakthrough about how I’m actually supposed to use my hands – Petros managed to explain it in a way I could understand! After all these years!

Our lesson with our wonderful instructor Petros Spiliopoulous

Our lesson with our wonderful instructor Petros Spiliopoulous

Cue me, the next day after an all-day café shift implementing my new hands and desperately trying to remember (learn?) my tests for the following day, Elementary 50 and our usual Pony Club Open.

Mum was already on her way to Madeira for the week (how dare she?!) so I had again enlisted the help of my wondergroom Mia, in return for flapjacks.

We only made a couple of mistakes in the Elementary including a break from collected canter, which I don’t blame Socks for at all – it’s hard and her conformation is totally against her.

We also managed what must have been a hilarious looking medium trot where I lost control slightly and ended up with extension with the front legs and canter with the back ones!

The test came out as a very respectable 62.8% for second place – I was over the moon! (OK, there were only two in the class…)

Mistakes aside, we got more 7s than I was expecting as well as a 7.5 for our entry in collected trot!

I was over the moon with our scores

I was over the moon with our scores

Yet again, I went into the Open test confident, but also determined that I wasn’t going to get the test wrong again.

Socks, on the other hand, was grumbling that there hadn’t been time to take her tack off and give her a proper break and was totally not in the mood.

Across the arena we came in on a not-too-bad medium trot, but that's when disaster struck. A piece of rubber from the surface, having been kicked up by Socks’ hooves, hit the barrier with a snap.

Well, frankly, it was petrifying.

She leapt sideways and I lost my stirrup. In trying to get it back again, I knew we’d miss the centre line for our leg-yield.

Right. Decisions.

I could either turn up the centre line late and leg yield further than I had to, probably ruining it, or I could circle, take the penalties and do it properly.

I opted for the latter and was astounded to see that (ignoring the penalties) we got a 7 for the leg yield!

Considering this was something after the last test I highlighted that we had to work on, I was bouncing off the walls. Hooray, progress!

In the end we came out with 61% for sixth place. Not last, for the first time this year! Hooray, more progress!

After that, we calmed down a bit.

The following Monday, I felt a slight twinge in my right wrist when I was mixing feeds. Hmm, that's odd, I thought. Next day, same thing.

Luckily I was seeing my osteopath, Magical Hannah, that day to straighten out my hips. As well as helping me with my novel research, Hannah had a look at my wrist and diagnosed a repetitive strain injury. Excellent.

So I strapped myself up with vetwrap and carried on. How are you supposed to rest your right wrist when you’re right handed? Turns out, I wasn’t the only one feeling the strain.

In a fit of defiance against my constantly twingeing wrist, I entered us for some BD combined training at the end of the month. No prizes for guessing what happened next.

Yes, in our lesson later with lovely Phil Wells, Socks went stiff behind, so we were both on rest. Well, Socks was. I had to work.

Never had I ever been more pleased to see Mum when she got back from her holiday, and never had I appreciated everything she’d done while I was at university!

Mum being a legend with Socks! 

Mum being a legend with Socks! 

Elli, our horsey chiropractor loosened Socks off and suggested that we walk her out hacking for a week then build up slowly.

How do you tell and increasingly bored ex-racer that she’s not allowed to run?

On the upside, this was a perfect excuse to get in some quality mother-daughter hacking time, something that has been woefully neglected since we lost our little pony Lego a few years ago. Mia lent me her lovely boy Ice and away we went! At walk, of course.

Enjoying a hack out with Ice!

Enjoying a hack out with Ice!

There was just one final task to tackle this month: the mystery of Socks’ disappearing back end.

More focused work hadn’t helped, nor had linseed or extra stretching. Finally we had a visit from Johnny from Silver Linings herbs, who previously has worked wonders for Socks’ spookiness and sensitivity.

Turns out, unsurprisingly in hindsight, that she has an ulcer (which explains about 80% of her issues).

So, armed with some new herbs, we’re pressing forward – and happily they’ve made a difference already and Socks is ready to go (gently) back into work!

Although we’ve had some setbacks this month, it’s taught me that I may be raring to go, but knowing that I don’t have any timeframes to work within any more is infinitely soothing. We’ll get where we’re going when we get there, and that’s absolutely fine.

Willberry Wonder Pony Fundraising – ouch, my thighs

On the 22nd April, I'll be taking on a dressage challenge that only I could inflict on myself. At my yard’s first dressage competition of the year, I will ride every test on a variety of different horses (not just poor Socks) without stirrups. Help!

If you’d like to sponsor me, you can do so on my fundraising page: www.justgiving.com/Heather-Mussett I’d be so so so grateful!