The Disappointment of a Bad Weekend’s Competition.

Me Competing Last Summer

Getting to Know The Horse

To start with in this post I will introduce the horses so I can refer to them by name instead of youngsters, or Grade “A’s and so forth. They all have their own personality moods just like you and me and if they are in a bad mood then you must try to get the mood out of them if possible. Anyway the two youngsters both Grade “C” are Doug 16.1 hands high,who is a 6 years old bay Gelding and feisty, yet soft and kind if you treat him right. Then there is Daphne a mare who is also 6 years old and 16.1 hands high, dark grey, very eager to please and she will jump absolutely anything you put in front of her, she is fearless. Next comes our Grade”B” another mare roan in colour her name is Kate 7 years old, standing at 16.2 hands high, she, can be feisty sometimes so you must treat her carefully, firm but sympathetically then she will perform like no other. Our Grade “A’s are both Geldings Kevin is chestnut 16.2 hands high and 11 years old, he bucks every time you take him out , he rides like a four year old and will jump the side of a house if it was in front of him. Then comes Harvey dark bay 12 years old standing at 17.0 hands high, he is playful and he can nip you in the stable if you are not careful, not a nasty nip just a playful one, that is why he has a ball with him in his stable. The ball is his toy just like a child if you like, but, all five of them are lovable and we care deeply for them.

When Things do not Go According to Plan

This weekend just gone (Fri-1st/Sat-2nd/Sun-3rd-March) we were away again competing taking all 5 horses in the hope of winning a few rosettes, and some money. The wagon was loaded and fully laden once again, with diesel, food for the horses and the people, all the tack clothing everything we required for the weekend. We started off Thursday afternoon so as to get the horses stabled and bedded in good time, to be fit and alert for competition the following morning. Everything went as planned, that is until the competitions started, it was then the fun and games started. At this show our competitions were starting around lunchtime every day, and running into the evening. The main difference with indoor showjumping to outdoor showjumping is the jumping arena’s are smaller, with the obstacles coming at you much quicker. This incorporates tighter turns and you have to use the whole arena pushing your horse right into the corners, this enables you to have more time before the next obstacle approaches.

Spectators are much closer to the jumping this will have an adverse effect on some horses while others actually thrive on it. Last show the horses were fantastic and we couldn’t ask for more, this last weekend things were not half as good. Our youngsters did not get out of the starting blocks to be honest, especially the first two days they were sticky and very slow getting off the ground. When the jumps are 1.25mtr+ they have to be light on their feet and be prepared, soft on the rein in your hand, it does not matter if they are strong and pulling, even so, they should be light on their front end. But, Doug and Daphne were heavy on the hand in every competition on Friday knocking poles down the front rail on the oxers. In their first class Daphne got 8 faults, while Doug had 12 faults, they just were not listening and I could not get them back on their hocks, (transferring their power onto their hind legs) to get off the ground. The second class had virtually the same outcome both having two fences down, and matters were the same on Saturday, Doug and Daphne were just heavy on their front end. Doug was more concerned with the horses in the collecting ring(warm up arena) than on the jumping in the ring, why well, to be honest we don’t know, that is how they are sometimes. Daphne was coming into season, even though it does not affect her most of the time, but this weekend she had other things on her mind, like finding a boyfriend. And with such a huge increase in stallions competing in the last fifteen years it is no wonder she felt flirty if you like.

Kate our Grade B mare performed well on Friday jumping a double clear round in the 1.25 metre open coming in 8th , but it was hard work getting her jumping clear, which should be easy for her and me if she was on form. In the speed class, (one round of jumping against the clock) she had five fences down which equates to 20 faults, a very poor round. She was rushing all the way round not respecting the fences at all just being careless and that is not Kate at all she is brave but super careful. Our Grade A’s Kevin and Harvey were also not firing on all cylinders, in the 1.30 metre Open they had one fence down four faults, and in the 1.40 Open they had eight faults knocking both of their fences in the combination (a set of obstacles with a related distance in-between). Very uncharacteristic of them both as they are both very composed, they should be as they have experience and miles under their belts, but that is horses.

Me Over The Weekend

Showjumping is Not Plain Sailing

Saturday beckoned and we hoped for better things, but there was an embarrassment to come for me later that day. To start things off we had a speed class first thing in the morning 1.30 metre and we had entered Kate for this one, and she went well jumping clear in a respectable time and we finished 10th, which was better than nothing. Then came Kevin and Harvey in the 1.40 metre Open Harvey got four faults, but Kevin bucked me off half way round the course, on the approach to a dog leg line of obstacles he decided he wanted to play. I came clean off landing on my back and once you are off your horse you are eliminated instantly, as I was. Following this class we had a 1.35 metre Open which we had entered Kevin, Harvey and Kate and I thought to myself, surely things cannot get any worse, or could they? They didn’t all three jumped respectably incurring four faults each, which we could not grumble with, it was far better than the 1.40 metre Open. That evening there was a championship Grade C qualifier for Doug and Daphne, and these types of classes always draws big entries and a large number of spectators. And this came true Saturday evening the arena was full with spectators and 80 starters for the class, so this was going to be a long haul, and it was. Doug and Daphne both went clear in the first round, but as this was a championship qualifier it had a second round to jump and then a timed jump off against the clock. But, sadly I only managed to get one to the jump off, Doug got eight faults in the second round so there was only Daphne left to go in the jump off. The decision was taken to go for a slow clear round in the hope we would get something, which proved to be right as we ended up 6th place, not to bad out of 80 starters.

Sunday was an early start we were all up at 6am the girls were out feeding the horses at 6.30am with me and the wife sorting breakfast, by 8.30am we were all ready for the day’s competition. First up was a 1.25metre Open and Doug, Daphne and Kate was entered and ready to go, warm up went well and all was good Kate was going first of our three we had declared her 10th to go. She went well jumping clear, yet she wasn’t (Ballooning) the fences like usual but a clear round was good enough for now. Daphne next and again she just did not perform she was too concerned with the stallions in the collecting ring (warm up arena) and the fences were coming down everywhere, halfway round the course I made the decision to retire her and get her back into her stable. Doug jumped clear with no problems so we had two into the jump-off against the clock, all we had to do now was wait for the first round to finish. Once the first round ended the shortened jump-off course was announced so I could memorise it, then the drawn order of the competitors announced. Me and Doug were first to go in the jump-off, so what were we to do slow and clear, or go for a quick time and put pressure on the others. With decision made we went flat out to put pressure on the others, but as luck had it we had two fences down eight faults, the time was good, but it meant nothing and we were outside the placing’s. In eight horses time Kate was going there had been good solid round’s in-between, clear round’s with good times so really we had to go for it to stand any chance. Again it wasn’t to be and we had three fences down this meant no placing’s.

We took the decision not to jump Daphne and Doug again that day, as they are still young they have plenty of time, there was no need to pressurise them and forcing them. Kindness will reap much more reward in the end, at the end of the day they are like you and me some days they are on top form, other days they are not. We had one more class a 1.50 metre Open we had entered Kate, Kevin and Harvey all three were ready for the off. All three faulted in the first round Kate had twelve faults, but she did very well considering she is still only 7 years old. Harvey and Doug both had four faults, which, left us downhearted if we are honest, but everything was put in to perspective in the wagon on the way home as we always do on the bad days.

That is the Horse world for you, they are living breathing animals they have moods and this differentiates them from one another, this give them their very own individuality and that is why you get so attached to them. You never know it could be that I was riding below par, then this goes through to your Horse and they in-turn perform below par. Or simply they do not feel up to it like all of us, we do not fire on all cylinders every single day, we have good days and bad days, Horses are exactly the same. Yet once you get the Horse bug it will never leave you, as they are an extremely special animal, if like us you will simply “Love them to the Bones.” Thanks for Reading see you next time.

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