Leading from the rear

We were working in for the dressage phase of the Ascott-under-Wychwood Horse Trials when I heard Tom’s near-hind shoe flapping.

Fortunately the farrier on call wasn’t difficult to find, and within 20 minutes the problem shoe had been removed, the hoof tidied up, the shoe refitted and we were back on track.

Unfortunately the time that the emergency farriery had taken had used up most of the time we had for our working-in.

So we went in to our dressage test less than fully prepared.

And, as a result, our dressage marks were nowhere near as good as they had been at Allenshill last weekend.

We were, in fact, trailing in last place by a handsome margin, after the dressage phase.

A couple of hours later the show-jumping phase was a big improvement on recent exploits: Tom had three fences down and put in a very naughty run-out.

That gave us a very expensive 23 penalties (20 jumping and 3 time) to add to our very expensive dressage score.

The cross-country phase started very well.

Fence 1 was a sculptured log that was, frankly, much smaller than the 3′ our fences were supposed to be.

Fence 2, however, was a disproportionately large, very deep ‘table’ that was well up to height and depth regulations.

Tom recognised the challenge, he changed gear and we barrelled in to it at a substantially quicker pace than I’d planned.

And as a result, somewhere between landing after fence 2 and preparing for fence 3, Tom decided to ignore any and all slow down/stop signals.

We had no brakes.

This is a very interesting position to be in.

I managed to convince Tom to perform a large circle before fence 3, which was a stone wall with a large drop on the far side. I didn’t want to be flying over the wall and landing halfway in to the next county.

On the represent we flew over the wall, turned up the hill and jumped fences 4a, 4b, then galloped further uphill to fence 5, galloped further uphill to fence 6 and then galloped through the woods, and out the other side, up another hill and over fence 7, which was another very large, up to height, up to width ‘table’ fence (the same as fence 2) which we flew over.

We still had no brakes.

Fences 8a and 8b came far too quickly but Tom wasn’t showing too much any interest in slowing down, so I sat tight and let him get on with it.

Fence 9a was a bounce up a bank then three strides to fence 9b which was a large hanging log on top of the bank.

The trouble is, you’re supposed to massively reduce speed from cross-country jumping pace to slow-and-bouncy show-jumping pace to negotiate the ‘a’ part safely.

I had about 120 yards to try and achieve this reduction of pace and I was still asking for some kind of slowing down when we arrived at the foot of 9a.

Again, I sat tight and let Tom get on with it.

And 9b.

Fence 10 was a straightforwardly-large galloping fence.

Fence 11a (the first part of the water complex) was not to Tom’s liking. He ducked sideways and, if I’m honest, he got away with it because I wasn’t sufficiently prepared for him to muck about when he caught sight of the water.

Fence 11a was a straightforward table, but it was placed so that in the last three strides prior to jumping, he would catch sight of the water – and that’s what threw him off his stride.

I made a simple represent, we jumped it, cantered down in to and through the water (fence 11b) and jumped a very angled exit out of the water complex, over a large ‘chest’/table fence (fence 11c).

We galloped down through the other wooded track, over a large stone wall (fence 12), made the 90-degree right-handed turn up the bank and out over another stone wall (fence 13) and then turned left and headed down the hill towards ‘home’.

Fence 14, another full-up-to-height-and-width table,  caused us no issues but by now Tom had realised he was heading for home so he changed gear, again.

No brakes.


We were hideously scarily fast on to fence 15 and as it had a significantly large and deep drop on the far side I managed to wrestle him in to a circle well before the fence.

Two laps, that’s what it took to knock sufficient speed off for me to feel safe.

We flew over it, galloped on down the hill, turned right and we were so quick over the last fence that Tom made it feel much smaller than it really was.

Unfortunately, by now, I was having breathing difficulties because my compulsory body protector, which is normally very ‘snug’, was so tight that I couldn’t open my lungs properly.

So I fumbled the zip down and began gulping huge lungfuls of air.

Tom and I hacked back to the lorry park, I returned to a normal colour and he stopped puffing.

I’m a bit cross about the rubbish dressage score, but at the end of the day it was one of those things that was a direct result of having to get the shoe fixed, but a poor dressage score has a major bearing on the rest of the competition’s results.

I’m very cross about the run-out in the show-jumping; but I feel that the three fences he brushed down were just one (three) of those things. He jumped a similar show-jumping track clear twice on Wednesday, we just need to keep working on his balance, because that’s the key.

As far as the cross-country goes, I’m pleased at the jumping efforts on the course, but to spend a good 2/3rds of the track galloping onwards with, it has to be admitted, pretty accurate steering but no brakes at all, is less than good.

The organisers are going to leave the cross-country course up for schooling for a few days. I think we shall revisit it on Tuesday to see if I can introduce a slower pace!

We finished, unsurprisingly, in last place after that many penalties.

I could have wished for last Sunday’s brilliant dressage score and last Wednesday’s brilliant jumping, but if wishes were horses…

I am, nevertheless, ridiculously proud of my little boy.

We get to do it all over again next Sunday. We shall be trying for greater control and improved jumping.


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2 Responses to Leading from the rear

  1. Susie says:

    Last or not, it certainly sounds as if the two of you enjoyed yourselves, and that’s what it should all be about, shouldn’t it?

  2. Vicola says:

    Well done Tom! All you need to do now is gain control over the cross country course and you’ll be unbeatable.