This month, Heather and Socks have a goal in mind, will they achieve it?
Our goal is to complete the unaffiliated eventer trial at Keysoe. I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t come to this goal on my own.
Chatting to Rachel earlier in the year, I was doing my usual “ooh, we could do this, and we could try that, but I don’t know how it’ll go…” and eventually I gave up and asked her if I was being a wimp.
As I suspected, I was.
With me wanting to get my brain in gear and Rachel wanting to get Squirt ready for the season after his injury, we both decided we’d aim for the same thing, and start training together to do it.
But first, we had our riding club’s AGM where I was lucky enough to not only be elected onto committee, but Socks and I also won the RoR reserve championship for our club!
I really didn’t expect it so it was a lovely surprise, and it’s inspired me to try some RoR dressage competitions this year.
But this month isn’t about dressage, it’s about jumping over things! (Never mind area dressage was the day before the eventer trial…)
Testing the water
Socks being, well, Socks, and Squirt coming back from injury, we thought we’d have a session over the portable cross country jumps with Phoebe Buckley to assess how our horses were feeling.
I should mention here that I’ve met Phoebe once before in my life, when she became the inaugural member of the prestigious list of Four Star Eventers Heather Has Fallen Off In Front Of.
Luckily, being six years ago when we were looking for Socks, she didn’t remember me - but she did remember the horse so I didn’t feel quite so silly for falling off!
Ending up on the floor couldn’t have been further from my mind that day, though, as Socks was absolutely flying.
We started small and built up, and again I was really enjoying how much easier jumping is nowadays - we’re both starting to really enjoy ourselves!
One thing I’m really enjoying about training with Phoebe is that she doesn’t let me sit in my comfort zone - soon the 70 fences became 90, and then the odd 100, which would have been absolutely unheard of a year ago.
We only faced one problem when I looked at a table and thought “oh, that’s actually quite big,” - big mistake. But we - all three of us, including Phoebe - had a good look at it, and when Socks stopped snorting and tried to bite the top of it instead, I knew we’d be fine.
We even ended up jumping some really technical lines - yet more stuff that I wouldn’t even have dreamed of being able to do before. A little self-belief apparently can go a long way!
The one thing I was curious about was whether or not Socks’ newfound enthusiasm would stretch to our long standing nemeses - steps and ditches.
Socks’ normal plan of attack when faced with these is to go into full-blown panic mode and completely lose the plot.
The panicking was still there, but for the first time she didn’t need a lead to go over either of them and it took me a lot less time to convince her there weren’t any dragons hiding in the ditch. Progress!
There was still some work to do before I was confident we’d make it round clear, but we were streets ahead of where I thought we’d be, so I entered the eventer trial. I had a plan.
I don’t know why, in all the six years of riding Socks, I’ve known she didn’t like ditches and never thought of jumping them on hacks. Actually, I know exactly why I didn’t think of it - I was too scared of ending up in the bottom of one.
But nowadays, that’s far less of a fear. Or at least, a fear I can ignore enough to ride effectively!
I was out hacking with Mia, Jennie, and Mum (who’s becoming rather good friends with Callie, thanks to Jennie being so kind and letting Mum ride her!) and we’re very lucky to have a couple of logs along our routes that are safe to jump.
Socks and Billy had a pop over one of them, and Jennie suggested that we try and find a ditch to jump.
Well, I’ve never noticed so many ditches in my life! Sadly, a lot of them were what we dubbed “safe if you were hunting”, and not really appropriate for what we had in mind.
Finally, we found one. And after a few minutes “discussion”, Socks was hopping it like a good’un. Now, whenever we go past it, we have a little hop, and it’s getting better every time!
(If you want to see a video of us doing it, with commentary from Mum, you can see it on my Instagram: heathermussett)
So we’d had some ditch practice, but hadn’t been able to find any steps. I was feeling confident about our upcoming competition. I just needed to learn my tests for the day before…
To be continued!
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