Heather and Socks have been gearing up for their first eventer trial - here Heather explains how they got on...
The weekend of truth was on its way. We'd soon be competing in an area dressage qualifier AND an unaffiliated eventer trial.
I’d originally planned to go showjumping the weekend before. Then I changed my mind and was going to go cross country. In the end, I decided to spend the weekend hacking. Poor Socks has to have some downtime, right?
Saturday 17th Feburary: Area 7 Dressage Qualifier, Keysoe
I remember describing our last trip to Keysoe as a bit of a déjà vu experience. As it turns out, this one was no different.
Last year at winter areas, we did a good first test, and a not-as-good-but-not-that-bad second test.
I don’t want to give spoilers, but you might feel like you’ve heard it all before. Our first test was Novice 30. I was quite pleased with it... well until we got to the corner between M and C.
Obviously there was an invisible dragon lurking here, but we managed to cover it up and get a 69% for joint 6th place individually.
The second test was Novice 28, and Socks had had some time to chill in the lorry before we tacked her up again.
She warmed up beautifully - so well that even Mum didn’t have any improvements to suggest. I definitely got my hopes up but, somewhere between the warm up and the arena, some of it disappeared.
Socks had a slight strop in the right canter and seemed to be expecting a walk to canter transition in the final centre line in walk. It wasn't so bad though, or so I thought.
We were scored 61%. Ah, well. You can’t win them all!
Sunday 18th February: Keysoe Arena Eventer Trial
Day two of the weekend of competition and I imagined in my head that it was two-day event.
We’d entered the 70cm class, and the plan was to have a fun, confidence-giving day. I’d done my ditch work, and was confident we’d make it over one.
I hadn’t managed to find any steps when practising at home, but I had my fingers crossed there wouldn't be any on the day.
When Mum and I looked at the course map, my heart sank. The course building was not in my favour. It looked like both: a ditch and a step.
“Well, you’re here now, Heather, just get on with it,” I told myself.
When we actually went to walk the course, I was happy with all the solid fences. Nothing caused me heart palpitations, which was an excellent start.
Following the course into the second arena, we did indeed find a step down marked up for our class.
But, it was only small, and I was hoping that once Socks was in a rhythm of jumping things and having fun, she might just jump it anyway. Down the step, through the water (Socks’ favourite - seriously!) and toward the ditches.
“Heather,” Mum said. “That’s not a ditch!”
It wasn’t! There was a final fence instead!
Part of me was relieved, and part of me was a bit annoyed. After all the work I’d done on ditches and there wasn’t even going to be one!
I tacked up, somehow still confident, and determined to ride positively.
I can’t say I wasn’t nervous, because that would have been a complete lie. I got so out of breath in the showjumping warm up - partly because I’m not fit enough, partly because I may have been hyperventilating a bit - that Mum worriedly asked me if I needed my inhaler. How embarrassing.
But we jumped a nice clear round! I may have squealed just a little bit as we went over the last fence.
Then it was on to the cross country. By now, I was raring to go, and so was Socks. We got up there, and I’ve honestly never known Socks so keen.
She flew around the fences, locking on to everything, really taking me forward. It was awesome! All too soon, the main fences were over and we were on our way into the second arena.
At this point, Socks did a massive spook at some imaginary being. I lost my stirrup, ruining the coolness of the whole thing slightly.
I got it back together and we headed to the final part of the course.
I was right about the step. Socks dithered sideways a bit, but it felt like she just thought, “oh go on then, I might as well,” and just hopped down it and carried on.
Goodness knows what those watching thought at this point as the next thing people heard was:
“OH, YOU CLEVER GIRRRL!” Followed by some splashes, and then a very loud high pitched squeal.
Although it might have sounded like I’d fallen off, I didn’t. We did it. We’d gone clear!
And to top it all off, we had a fairly decent pace on as well, because we placed second!
All in all, a very positive weekend. Finally, it’s all coming together!
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