Category Archives: Cross Country
While I have focused on dressage and showing for the last number of years I actually used to event. I evented for a few years on the riding club circuit in the intermediate grade. I used to event whatever I was allowed to sit on. My biggest challenge was a chestnut mare ex racer who went like a bullet cross country with her head between her legs. In the show jumping she also went like a bullet but would either jump clear or turf me off. I used to be terrified as the speed had my eyes streaming but after a few events, some of which we won I finally had control of her. At our last event together we would have won the national championships, having led from dressage only I was so delighted at having the mare going well I missed a fence cross country and had us eliminated. It was a hard lesson to learn and I was angry at myself as it was completely and utterly my fault. Sadly we never had a chance to try again as the mare died from a kick a few weeks later. I still think of her often – she thought me the power of positive riding and more importantly how to stick your bum like glue to a saddle. My last ever riding club event was in 2008 or 2009 on a gentleman of a gelding who at 21 years old still thought he was a young lad. We had done a few events together and he was so experienced at his job that all I had to do was steer him. At that last event, also the riding club championships our team placed second which was a lovely finish to my eventing adventures. It is safe to say that I had learned from past mistakes and did not omit a fence.
My anxiety around competition was never really just about competition. It was a fear of the unknown, of lack of control, of new things. It started when I was a small child and if I was anxious about something I would feel sick and nervous. Things like exams, trying new things, bus trips. Over time it got worse and I was anxious before things I was actually looking forward to. The anxiety in turn caused illness as I have a sensitive stomach anyway so it got to the point that I was anxious of being anxious. I missed a lot of things because of it – sleep overs, the first day of pony camp, scouting trips. I was afraid to look forward to anything. My poor mother was tormented by it and had the patience of a saint at times especially when it came to high stress events such as the leaving cert (which I did on three Valium and about seven packs of polo mints a day). I managed miraculously to compete on horses as a teenager and adult. It was hard going – I used to meditate on the way over to try and calm myself down (yeah I was the odd ball), couldn’t eat and would be white as a sheet before a competition and exhausted afterwards.
- Always watch the 1 and 2* riders XC. No one gets it right every time but their ability to handle what comes up is what counts and gets them around. There was me having an asthma attack in case I got the wrong stride at a log when I saw someone get no stride at a massive combination, sit up, ride it with one stirrup and school a horse through clear – lesson learned!
Having no idea which horse is yours without wearing glasses or contact lenses, you just know what colour blur it should be.
Experiencing the unique pain of a horses head bashing your glasses into your face.
This time last year, a friend and I were keen for an adventure on horseback so we headed down to Mount Juliet Estate in Thomastown in Co. Kilkenny for a cross country ride out. I had been to Mount Juliet before for a side saddle hack organised by the side saddle association and I was keen to head back to try out the equestrian facilities astride.
Ever thought ‘no one ever wins those competitions on Facebook’? I used to think that too. I was wrong. People win – I won! Most recently I won a fantastic prize of a two day trip to Crossogue Equestrian near Thurles in Co. Tipperary in Ireland. My trip included two nights stay, meals and four lessons. Having ridden at Crossogue many years ago I was delighted to get an opportunity to head back and even more delighted when my friend Dani decided to book in to come with me.
It was Paddys Day, it was not p*ssing rain, I was off work. There was only one thing for it, road trip time. Given the proximity of Abbeyfield Farm to the yard it was the perfect place to go for some cross country schooling. I’d been at the yard before but only while hunting so had no idea what the course looks like when you are not going full tilt in a group. I contacted Abbeyfield Farm a few days beforehand and arranged to go over for a spin.
It was one in the afternoon on a weekend in January. After three hours standing I felt like I was on a boat. The wind rocked me from side to side and the rain battered my back. The water had begun to seep through the seams of my hard working coat and my wax hat. My ski gloves had given up the ghost and hung from my hands like wet sponges. I was mentally singing the praises of my waterproof trousers and grateful that I had a spare ski jacket in the boot of a jeep. I was not on a boat nor on a ski slope. I was in an arena at the yard. This is Winter. This is Ireland. Read the rest of this entry