In between all the dressage action, Heather's managed to rub shoulders with equestrian megastars. Here, she explains what on earth she's been up to.
Most of May has been spent getting ready for our next big competition: the BRC Dressage Competition at Houghton International.
Or, deciding that that’s enough flatwork for one week and goofing off with Mia and Ice to explore some new bridlepaths in the glorious sunshine we’ve been having.
I hope you’ve all been enjoying the sunshine as much as Socks!
The main reason I was so looking forward to Houghton was because we’d be riding our first long arena test.
Socks being a long horse, even for a thoroughbred, I thought it might suit her better.
The only problem was that our school at our yard is 20x50m, and commandeering a paddock to set up a 20x60m seemed a bit too dressage diva.
Luckily, my friend Rachel had one set up at her yard, so we popped over for a practice and a natter over copious amounts of tea.
That, plus a session with one of our riding club instructors meant that I was feeling quietly confident.
28th May: Unaffiliated BRC Dressage at Houghton International Horse Trials
There was only one thing on the day that we didn’t consider.
Houghton International is near-ish to the beach, and it was a hot bank holiday weekend.
This meant that the two hours we’d given ourselves for travelling wasn’t quite enough.
My first test was at 11.58, and we arrived at 11.25. Eeeeek!
So, me and mum were stressed because we were late, Socks was hopping because horses were jumping and starting cross country all around her, and I nearly fainted from excitement because I saw Ludwig Svennerstal in the warm up.
Somehow we managed to declare and get ourselves over to the dressage which, thankfully, was quite far out of the way.
Luckily, my wonderful team manager, Serena, had sorted my life out for me and organised for me to go out of order.
The tension melted away and, actually, so did Socks’. I forget how sensitive she is, sometimes.
We warmed up nicely, and soon it was time to go over for Novice 38, our long arena test.
The (slight) change of scenery was enough to set Socks on edge again, and I knew it would have to be one of those tests where I chat to her the whole way round, praying that the judge won’t hear.
The standard ‘ride like nothing is wrong but be ready for something to go wrong without letting Socks know you’re expecting her to do something’ wouldn’t be enough this time.
We wobbled down the centre-line like jelly, me trying to judge the best way to get her going forward without using a Pony-Club kick. As it was, the test grew in confidence as it went on.
So much that during our left canter, two harbingers of the apocalypse (read: bicycles) passed by and not even a flinch. I could've cried, I was so proud. The marquee about 400m away, though? Terrifying.
Novice 38 came out as a respectable and surprisingly consistent 66.29% for eleventh place – 0.14% off a placing!
Not too bad at all, I thought, considering she felt like a balloon that might burst at any moment.
Our preparation for our second test, Novice 34, was much more sedate.
My first thought, being back in a short arena, was how cramped it was. How I’d grown to love those extra twenty metres in such a short time.
We made a couple of mistakes, annoyingly, in what would have been a really lovely test.
We broke out of canter for a split second, which was probably my fault, and in the second medium trot, Socks managed to trip over her own feet, spook, and then cantered to get away from herself.
The perils of developing a bigger medium trot! However, the parts that weren’t mistakes were really nice!
It came out as 68.75% for tenth place, and my team placed fifth! Of course, as usual I was cross at myself for costing us a 70% and a higher placing, but as I’ve considered since, that’s our first Riding Club individual placing since I started university – we’re finally getting somewhere. Roll on areas!
We had a great time afterwards, catching up with my team mates, having a chat with Mary King, and watching Piggy French win her class.
It took me a few minutes to realise the man next to me when I was looking at my results was Ludwig Svennerstal. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t say hello…
The next challenge is to see what we can cram into June. It’s looking super busy already, but no plans are equine related. The plan is to do another elementary and perhaps try an affiliated Novice. We’ll see!