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.
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