After attempting this event last month only to be thwarted by Soap’s self harming (see this post if you have a strong stomach!) I was really excited to be finally on our way to compete in the ex-racehorse only BE90 section at Ascott-Under-Wychwood. I’ve never been to A-U-W before so had no idea what to expect but was really pleased to see a good undulating xc course, fairly flat dressage arenas, and a nice big show jumping ring. We arrived at the dressage warm up fairly early and I mooched about working Soap long and low and getting him swinging through and practising a few elements of the test. We went in and as per usual he dropped behind the leg a little and became a bit tense but after a few movements he settled and came up with a sweet, accurate test. Thankfully he didn’t pay attention to a flock of ducks who were in the woods by the arenas and had started honking and hooting very loudly about midway through our test! It felt like about a 35 mark test and turned out to be exactly that!
Back to the trailer to un-tack, load up, and walk the xc course. The xc start was quite a trek from the lorry park, but the course was really nice, and they had worked wonders on the ground which after the recent rain was almost perfect on the course. There were a few lumpy bumpy parts of the going and the odd tree root I had made a mental note of to avoid. The water seemed to be catching quite a few out as it had a blind approach up a hill over dippy going which encouraged you out to the left of the fence, and the water was only visible at the last minute. This had a black flag alternative which I didn’t even spot! (bimbo moment No 1)
Off to the sj warm up after a few minutes spent walking Soap about in the long grass and whistling to try and encourage him to pee as he was making signs he needed to go, but then changed his mind. The show jump warm up was not great the Cotswold stones had surfaced and in one corner it was very stony. A couple of times we hit a stone and slipped a little so I tried to avoid them which made the warm up fairly tight. Popped the x pole and upright a few times making sure to ‘get him going’ and ‘press to the fence’ as we have been practising in our lessons and he jumped well. For some unknown reason initially I jumped the x pole the wrong way to begin with which I have never done before which was pretty embarrassing! (bimbo moment No 2) So you would assume lesson learnt right?…. more on that later. I came round to the parallel and had a slightly long shot but not way off but Soap decided to half stop and half chip in another stride which resulted in a horrid clattering of poles, exactly the confidence knocking incident I didn’t want to create just before our round! Popped it properly the 2nd time and put our number down.
Went into the arena and felt much better, picked up a bold, forward, but not flat canter and made our way to the first fence. Good shot to fences 1, 2, 3, nicely fitted 4 strides in the related distance to 4, rode a good corner to 5 and had a great shot, ran on a little to 6, rode a not so good corner to 7 (in hind sight I should have pulled out a little wider and stuck more leg on to motivate him up the hill, not allow the canter to wilt) just had the back rail off, another good even 4 strides from there to 8, and another duff corner from me to the last double at 9 which created the exact same situation as in the warm up. I saw a slightly long one, Soap chipped in, took out the back pole but luckily I managed to soften and kept my leg on enough that he cleared 9b so just 2 fences down. We are making a habit of 8 faults!
Walking back to get ready for xc I wasn’t feeling 100% happy with how he was going, he felt a little lazy and not his usual forwards self, and chipping in like that was unsettling me a little as if anything he like to go long to his fences rather than deep. I got ready for xc but was a bit preoccupied with this niggling feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong.
Here comes my 3rd bimbo moment! I started cantering about in the xc warm up and he felt a little more perky but still not as lively and keen as he normally does when he twigs it’s xc time. I think the niggling doubt that was occupying my brain had exhausted my one remaining brain cell as I then proceeded to jump the xc warm up jumps the wrong way too!!!!!! He felt really sticky, and I couldn’t get a good stride to anything which was eating away at our confidence minute by minute. I came to the warm up fence again and couldn’t see a stride for the life of me so cue Soap stopping and me sailing through the air and landing on the jump, crash! It didn’t hurt as I had my trusty Kan on and my bum absorbed most of the impact but it didn’t do anything for our already very low confidence bank or the dark cloud of doubt that was following me about and starting to rain thoughts such as ‘oh god what if he’s done a tendon, and that’s why he doesn’t want to move?…’
A very nice man gave me a leg up and I popped the little log once more (again from a duff stride! blurgh) and went to put my number down feeling very apprehensive and wobbly. Cue bimbo moment No 4 as the ring steward informed me I was missing my medical arm band! Argh!!!!! more stress!
So off we went back up the hill, and en route (as mother had gone to stand at the water jump and had the car keys) I had to flag down a lady with her dogs and ask her to get my mother’s attention for me! (thank you very much that lady) arm band on and back to the warm up where there were now 7 people in front of me so we wandered about quietly and un-confidently and both of us feeling most unlike our usual selves, and then it happened…..
…Soap stopped in his tracks and did THE MOST GIGANTIC PEE!
He was grunting and groaning and made a huge puddle, and then walked off feeling right as rain! He must have been holding onto it since he came in from the field at 8.30am that morning, 8 hours ago! I had tried to encourage him to go just before the show jumping but to no avail, so by the time we got to the xc warm up he really was bursting! I felt very relieved and was 99% sure that that was the reason for his sudden chipping in and reluctance to go forwards, but that 1% of doubt made me decide to just take it easy xc and go for a confident clear round assuming that our 2 fences down sjing had also knocked us out of contention.
We set off and saw a fab stride to the first 4 fences, just getting in a little deep to an empty flower box at 5. Boldly over the castle fence at 6 and up through the woods to the water. He was hanging a little left to the Hovis fence into water, and as my brain wasn’t really on board that day I flapped and slapped like a pony clubber and he sailed over. Cleared the keyboard at 8, up the step and over the log at 9, nicely over the table at 10, and rode a fab line to the angled double of houses at 11 which felt great (cha ching! more funds back in the confidence bank!) back down into the woods and over the wall at 12, up the ramp and over 13, steadied up for the table at 14, then just a fish and house to jump and we were home clear!
After a very weird day with Soap not quite being himself which rattled me, and me leaving my brain at home I was pleased to finish on such a good positive note. We walked back to the trailer, washed off and went to nosey at the photos and results. We had picked up 9.6 time pens from cruising round in 3rd gear which was quite a shock as when we ride round normally he finds the intro time easy and is usually on the cusp of going a little too fast! Our dressage turned out to have been pretty strong placing us 5th after dressage even with 2 down sjing if we had gone clear inside the time xc we would have been placed 9th! I’m kicking myself for not just bucking my ideas up and riding cross country confidently as we always do as I unintentionally did us out of 9th place and dropped down to finish 12th.
I’m still pleased with how he went, and even more so when I realised that had we managed a double clear we would have won by 0.5 marks which is really encouraging to find out. I need to get my self into gear next time out, focus, be positive, ride and not allow myself to get rattled by the little things. Soap has never had stage fright before when it comes to weeing in public so fingers crossed we won’t have that issue again, and if he can manage 12th when he’s bursting just think how well we will do when he’s relieved himself! 🙂