We completed our first three-day event! Well, sort of. Well, not really at all. But it was almost like competing in a three-day event – and we were both certainly tired enough to make it feel like so!

Let us just clear something up; I don’t do eventing. All my friends event, most of my riding club buddies do the eventing thing, but I just don’t. Why not? Because it’s scary! I can barely cope with the stress of popping around a few showjumps on a nice, safe surface and then going home for the day, let alone having to consider remembering a dressage test, learning a round of showjumps and then navigating my way around a long and arduous cross-country course – all in the same day!

So I’ve decided to break it down. We’ve got the dressage under control, we’re almost starting to feel like we’re competent at that! The start of this year saw us start to tackle the showjumping (see past blogs and copious videos on our YouTube to see how that’s drastically improved!) and we are moving through the rounds without screaming all the expletives under the sun now every time.

It’s now time to take on the hugely scary challenge of cross-country again and then maybe, maybe, we can think about putting them all together into one day and join all you brave, fearless and incredibly fit people who do the eventing thing!

Cross-country – and more specifically jumping solid fences on grass – is my nemesis. There’s so much to consider; what is the ground like, the weather conditions, are we going uphill or downhill, what canter do I need, should I be going faster, do I gallop at this bit? It’s an awful lot to think about, which is why we decided to take it step by step this time.

Buddy and I dragged BE accredited coach and event rider Barry Meningen to Equo venue Keysoe for a spot of arena cross-country (because taking on all the factors in one go way just a bit too much for us!).

Buddy at Keysoe 17-3-16

This was a brilliant opportunity for Buddy and I to hone our cross-country technique and learn lots about what to do when, without having to worry about some of other elements, like the ground conditions.

Within 15 minutes of warming up, Barry had hiked my stirrups up by at least two holes, which helped me to practise my “hover” above the saddle, both in between the fences and when approaching some fences. As my core is not strong, the hover technique is something I’ve been working on whilst out hacking and it’s coming on well.

We then worked on sitting up and keeping my shoulders back. It’s a novel concept for me to not fold myself forward like Michael Whitaker over every single fence. I learned how keeping my core strong and shoulders back – especially in the last two strides before a cross-country fence – which enabled me to just pop myself upwards out of the saddle over the fence. I was no longer collapsed over the other side of the obstacle and as a consequence had lots more control! It was a bit of an epiphany “whoop!” moment!

Barry coached us over all the portable cross-country fences in the arena – including all the 90 fences and even a 100 fence – before moving into the gravelled ditch/step/water complex. Buddy has always been pretty good at the “scarier” obstacles and this time was no exception.

Barry taught me to show him the ditch before we approached it to jump, allowing Buddy to sniff around and try to figure it out. We then walked him up to it with purpose and with lots of leg, and not allowing him to duck out the side, he popped over it. We repeated the same thing again before bringing him round in trot and then linking the ditch to the up and down step and a trot through the water (check out our video!) – he was a total dude!

I’m still learning when to sit up, when to ride forward, when to change gears, when to slip my reins, and I’m sure for the next couple of cross-country outings I’ll feel like I need someone in my ear every step of the way, but we’re definitely making progress.

The day before our cross-country schooling we had a productive dressage lesson with our trainer Anne Ratcliffe and two days after Keysoe’s cross-country we headed to Forest Edge Arena and came third in the 90cm Rands and Wilson showjumping. It was my own little extended version of a three-day event, and he was a little star!

In this unique watered-down version of a discipline, the only ones we’re competing against is ourselves and I’m quite happy with that right now.

If Leanne Ehren and Buddy have inspired you to get out and compete then don’t forget to search for upcoming events on Equo.