Equipepper: Facing the Demons
Most of you will have faced some riding demons at one stage in your riding career. If you haven’t, I’m sure you will face one or two in the years to come. Almost a year on from a particularly nasty fall last summer, I am starting to realise that I probably have a few demons hanging around from the incident. And it is about time I faced them!
But before I get into this, I want to give you a quick introduction to me and my partner in crime, Scottie. As I think this will be important to the story I am going to tell you.
I have always considered myself a confident rider, possibly going as far as to say brave. From a very young age I was happy to get on any horse and have a crack at anything. However, by the time it came to buying my first horse as a 19 year old, I had lost some of the naivety which comes along with this. I don’t think I was worried about getting into a sticky situation or even falling off. I was just suddenly aware that I couldn’t afford to be injured anymore.
My love of thoroughbreds and years of riding quirky ex racehorses led me to my first ever horse, Scottie. Standing at 16.3h and bright chestnut, his for sale photos were stunning. Especially with his jockey owner flying him over massive fences. Bred for national hunt racing, he had raced as a 4 and 5 year old, before spending a year with a lovely girl starting out as a Point-to-Point trainer.
With perfect ground manners, a calm personality and the ability to get fat just looking at grass, he is far from what many people would consider a “typical thoroughbred.” He had no schooling other than racing and jumping fast and flat. But he was exactly what I was looking for, a chilled ex racehorse project to bring on with aims of eventually eventing.
In our time together I have discovered that he isn’t quite as straightforward as we first thought. He can and does throw all his toys out the pram when he doesn’t understand something. He is a big baby and now that I am asking him to think for himself, he really needs you to hold his hand through it. But he is also incredibly willing and sensitive to me. He’s the quirky but fairly safe horse I have always wanted.
Last summer we attended our first ever riding training camp. In our second session of the camp we headed out onto the cross country course for only our second time as a partnership. The focus of the session was to work on the basics, which started with a ditch. Scottie wasn’t too happy with this but after a lead from a few horses and the instructor he took the leap. 5 or 6 more times in each direction he was happier, but still fairly wary.
He practically breathed a sigh of relief when we headed to the next obstacle, two fairly big steps for a beginners session! After watching his buddy jump up first, Scottie leapt up the steps happily – surprising the instructor! After everyone was up, we all circled round to go again.
This time Scottie was keen to go first and with long reins and holding my trusty neckstrap, he put in two rather exuberant leaps up the steps, unseating me slightly. Two or three strides away from the steps I was still struggling to regain my balance and Scottie, being the worrier he is, realised I wasn’t completely with him and panicked!
He took off at full gallop doing handstands while I was belly down in the saddle with one stirrup. I knew my only hope of stopping him was to sit up and let him know I hadn’t been eaten by whatever monster was lurking by the steps. But as the seconds past I wasn’t recovering and with a rather large and solid jump appearing in the distance, I vaguely remember making the decision to take my remaining foot out of the stirrup and just let go.
My legs ended up beneath him, catching my knee on the way down and causing me to roll several times as I hit the ground. I’m not sure now who got to me first, the instructor or Scottie, who at some point had turned back and skidded to a stop nearby. But other than a lot of pain in my knee, I was okay, just shaken.
After a few minutes I got back on and carried on with the session. Although I was a bit too shaken and in too much pain to feel like jumping much, we did do a few more steps, which Scottie didn’t look at, despite me being tense and uncomfortable over them. We also had a good canter through the water.
Overnight my knee doubled in size. It was incredibly painful, but I didn’t want it to ruin our last day of camp. So in the morning I tacked up and headed off to our show jumping lesson. Luckily, we stayed small, sticking only to cross poles. But Scottie was very good and didn’t spook at the fillers like he usually would – perhaps he was still feeling guilty! But I was just relieved that the ordeal hadn’t shaken his confidence jumping as he is a bit of a wimp about it.
Where We Are Now
Fast forward 9 months and what with my knee injury and a very serious field injury Scottie received, we haven’t done a huge amount of anything since and I haven’t jumped at all. And while I feel fine and don’t think Scottie’s confidence has been knocked, I can’t help but feeling that the fall and then the long break must have affected me and left some demons knocking around – even if I haven’t discovered them yet.
We have done some pole work which Scottie hasn’t battered an eye at. But I am now wanting to get back into jumping and know that if I am tense about it, Scottie will hesitate, which just makes life uncomfortable for both of us. But we are both back injury free now, are back in fairly regular work and I can’t see any point in putting it off.
I know that I am better in a lesson where I just have to get on with it. I also know that once things are booked in the diary I will just crack on and get it done. So I have booked us in for a cross country clinic beginning of June to start cross country from scratch. This means that I now have to book some jumping lessons, and possibly a clear round show, to get us back into the swing of it before then.
I hope that this has given me enough time and opportunity to uncover any demons and work on facing them before I sign us up to too much. As I know that if I have any tension or doubts, Scottie will pick up on this and not want to attempt it. Which would be a shame as he really loves his jumping, despite being a big wuss.
Fingers crossed we don’t face anything too difficult in the next few months and hopefully we can achieve last years aim of making it out to our first ever hunter trials or one day event! Come and visit us at EquiPepper to see if I discover any demons waiting in the wings when it comes to intentionally leaving the ground!
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