Where do I even begin? It’s been a few weeks now since we ventured to our first ever away show to Mullingar Equestrian and I still can’t get over what an experience it was. Darielle gave a great overview of what the facilities were like in her blogpost and the whirlwind of getting there and getting the horses settled etc. so I won’t go into too much detail on that side of things. To be honest, the only thing I want to talk about from the show is Coco and how damn proud I am of the two of us for what we achieved.
When the schedule of competitions first came out for the AIRC Riding Club Festival, I knew instantly what competitions I wanted to do – the AP Team Showjumping on the Saturday and the AP Individual Showjumping on the Sunday. Getting a team together for the teams competition turned out easier than expected as there were other members of my riding club, Abbeylands RC, who were looking to form a team so I was in there like a shot! With entries, stabling and accommodation booked it was time to start preparing myself and Coco for our first competition since our last diabolical outing to Coilog at the end of the riding club showjumping league. This was the competition where I rode like a donkey and Coco refused twice – we managed to finish the round but it was by far the worst we’d ever done in competition. So with that as my last competition, I knew I needed to knuckle down and get some good training in if I wanted to not make a fool of myself.
After Coilog, I was quite disappointed in myself and how I rode (but at the same time also feeling proud for managing to finish the round as I was genuinely seconds from giving up and calling it a day). Up to that point, we had had a few weeks of competing and I was looking forward to some quieter weekends taking it easy, with no lessons or particular focus in my riding. It was nice to take the break, I think we all need it from time to time. But with the Riding Club festival looming, it was time to get my ass in gear and start getting myself and Coco ready for a weekend of jumping and so enter my brilliant instructor…Ann Hatton.
I started with a private lesson in Ann’s own yard to brush off the cobwebs and get my jumping legs back. It was incredible how rusty I had gotten and how much my confidence had been knocked by our last outing. Ann doesn’t take it easy though and by the end she had us back jumping a fairly decent sized oxer which sent shivers down my spine as I rode Coco into it. We ended better than we had started but there was still a lot to work on.
After that, I made a point of doing a lesson with Ann once a week to keep us progressing and to get me back to riding Coco the way she needs to be ridden and not panic riding into fences. It was the best thing I could have done. Week by week, we got better and better and by the last lesson before the festival, it really felt like me and Coco had become partners. I felt confident and ready and so did Coco…
Day 1 – AP Team Showjumping
For those who don’t know – AP stands for Advance Primary which is the level I’m registered at for Riding Club competitions. Showjumping at AP level is all 80cms with little or no fillers (although they can throw some sneaky ones in at particular venues). All AP showjumping competitions are judged on Optimum Time which means there is a set time to complete your round in and the person who goes clear and finishes their round the closest to that time, wins. For the teams competition, each member of the team jumps a round of 1 – 9 one after the other and then you jump again, so you jump two rounds altogether.
My first competition of the Riding Club festival was the Team Showjumping. My team were due to be jumping at 1pm so thankfully I was able to take it easy that morning. I got Coco into the warm up and she was feeling good, forward and springy – just what I like to feel in the warm up. What I was shocked to find was actually how good she was REALLY feeling which I discovered as my team mates arrived into the warm up ring with me! The minute another horse trotted past her or came too close Coco would take off. And it wasn’t just running away with me..she full on leapt through the air. She did it about three times and the last time everyone in the arena was actually in shock that I managed to sit her solid attempt at a capriole – bitch must have thought I brought her to the feckin Spanish Riding School with the moves she was coming out with! All I could do was laugh as she was just feeling so good and happy to be there. Thankfully it didn’t come across to her jumping which was all spot on in the warm up.
Once it was time to jump, I had my usual belly of nerves but today was different. I realised I wasn’t petrified. I went into the ring feeling confident and ready to tackle jumps 1 – 9 with my partner in crime and man she did not disappoint. We approached number 1 and I felt a small flicker of doubt from Coco as she struggled to focus on the task at hand but with a squeeze of reassurance she put her game face on and soared over number 1 to start our round. We tackled every fence as if we were schooling around in one of our lessons, with a small exception in the combination when she got a little too eager and decided to take the four strides in three (unsuccessfully might I add, she ended up chipping in an extra stride at the last second). I didn’t mind too much though as we finished our first round with a clear and a massive smile on my face.
Onto our second round and I went into this one with the sole intention of having fun…and apparently so was Coco! We started our round and it felt like Coco suddenly realised that she had done this before and decided to take the course on without my assistance. She became quite strong and started trying to tank into fences. For the most part I was able to hold her off and get her to come back to me, with the exception of that bloody combination again. We only had one very unfortunate pole down that looking back on the video I realised there was genuinely nothing I could have done any better to stop it from happening, it was just one of those things that happens in showjumping. Regardless I was thrilled with her and how we rode together. By the end of the competition, our team had put in a fantastic effort to finish in 3rd place so we came home with a lovely frilly for all our hard work 🙂
Day 2 – AP Individual Showjumping
For the individual showjumping, the format was Optimum Time again. You jump 1- 8 and if you go clear you continue to jump 9 – 13 which is timed.
Day 2 and it’s time for the Individual Showjumping! I’ll be honest and say I was feeling just a little worse for wear after a few beverages the night before. I wasn’t jumping until 11.20am so I had a bit of time to get my head right (although I definitely would have appreciated more time!). I went into the warm up and decided to keep our warm up jumps to a minimum as she was jumping just as well she had been the day before.
We went in to jump our round, with the commentator remembering our success from the day before wishing us luck. I gave Coco a little pep talk..”Alright Pops, let’s do this.” and we kicked off with a huge-mongous jump over fence number 1. You can just barely hear me laughing and asking Coco to slow down in the video as she tanked off after the jump. Thankfully I was able to get her back to me and we jumped 1 – 8 clear. Before you go on to number 9, you have the opportunity to circle before going through the timers so when Coco landed on the wrong lead after number 8 I decided to bring her back and get her on the correct lead. We set off for our final few jumps of the weekend finishing with a flyer over number 13 giving us a clear round and just 1 time fault. I was absolutely beaming!!
While our time fault kept us out of the ribbons, I was over the moon with how well Coco and I jumped. Of 190 competitors in the class, there were only 19 clear rounds so to finish in the top 19 in our first national competition..I mean, what more could I want?
And then it was over 😦 I’ve said this to a few people since Mullingar – I have genuinely never had so much fun competing. It’s incredible what a difference it can make to feel prepared for your competitions. I rarely come out of a round happy with my own riding, there’s always something I think I could have done better, but in Mullingar I was of course thrilled with how Coco jumped but I was also delighted with how I rode. I feel like we’re really ready now to go out and start jumping some SJI courses…
…or at least I did until our most recent mishap which has put a very sudden stop to all plans. Post coming about that soon so keep an eye out!
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate every pair of eyes 🙂 If you’d like to see some videos from the weekend, check out the below!