A day of mixed fortunes and there’s good and bad to be taken home.
We were given, as you’re probably aware, some lovely times; a little on the late side of the day but frankly, anything that doesn’t involve having to get up at 04.30 on a Sunday is a Big Win!
We left the yard at precisely our planned time of 14.00 – how good is that?
Arrived safely at Berrington Hall – aÂ National Trust manor house in the wilds of Herefordshire – at 15.10, did the admin, studded up, tacked up, changed, mounted, rode over to the dressage arenas and began working in at 16.00.
Vinnie boy felt completely relaxed; not ‘switched off’, just chilled.
He was soft, supple, attentive and obedient.
I mentally rubbed my hands because today he was in a good mood.
Our working in went brilliantly right up until about 20 minutes before our test – when he tensed, became argumentative and generally entered the ‘Kevin the Teenager’ stage that he does oh so well.
But with aÂ little gentle nagging and much brain food from me he relaxed again; we were called in and calmly trotted around the arena twice and then we were in.
Apart from one blip – where I forgot a movement (so that’s two extra penalties, just because the pilot can’t remember the route!) – the test went very nicely.
The first canter was a little tense but that’s because one never knows whether he’s going to go down on the bit and bit a dressage star or decide he’s going to be an Evil Git and flip up to racehorse speed.
Fortunately, after a little shake-off of the bridle to discourage the hold he started to take, Vin decide it wasn’t worth the effort and we completed a calm, consistent test.
I was chuffed to bits; it felt like the best Eventing dressage test we’ve produced all season.
We scored 39.5 penalties which was aÂ massive improvement on his first Eventing dressage test at the start of the season when we notched up 50 penalties.
The leader after the dressage scored 29.5 penalties so it gives us a real goal to aim at.
Back at the lorry – after a cuppa – I switched tack from dressage to show jumping, mounted and made our way over to the show jumping arena.
This is where things started going wrong.
Vin was inconsistent from the outset.
He bolted at some fences, hurdling them at a pace that barely gave me time or space to get him around the corner before we got to the end of the working-in arena, or he planted his feet and stopped where he should have taken off.
And that was the pattern.
He either bolted at them or he stopped.
I recognised that without rythm weÂ didn’t stand aÂ hope in hell’s chance ofÂ completing the show jumping and asÂ I’m not in the business of collecting ‘E’ (for ‘Eliminated’) on Vin’s eventing record, I had a word with the steward and we withdrew.
Something’s not right.
I’ve arranged for him to see the back specialist.
If Vin hasÂ a muscle problem it could allow him to give up some quality flatwork but make jumping so uncomfortable for him that he’s afraid (and therefore bolts at the fences or doesn’t jump them).
In the words of my show jumping coach, “It’s the rider’s job to get the horse to a fence right; it’s the horse’s job to jump”.
And to round that thought off in my own words: “And if the horse doesn’t jump there is a problem”.
Whether it’s body, brain or Brennig I don’t know, but the first thing we have to do is start looking at all of the possibilities.
So yes, I’m a bit disappointed (if not for Soph – who came with me for the day – and her mum and dad, who came to watch, but for the promise of what could have been), but the dressage test continued the trend of improvement and there will be other Events on other days when everything does go our way.
Yesterday wasn’t our day, that’s all.