It’s been a busy few weeks for Buddy and I representing Cambridge and District Riding club at a whole host of events – and winning ourselves a national placing!
I got into riding club in 2015 after being coaxed by my yard owner who was the club chairman. It wasn’t something I’d ever really looked into before but when I saw all the opportunities to represent the club, compete on teams and go to national competitions, I was sold!
National winter dressage novice championship at Equo venue Keysoe was first up and Buddy was hot on his toes. His test was fine and hit the mid-60% but was certainly not going to rock anyone’s world.
Next up came the national winter dressage intermediate championship in Buckinghamshire. What can I say? It was like riding a plank of wood; I was at my wits end in the warm up with a tense horse that just did not seem interested in playing at the party. A bit of outside assistance in the warm up came from my (non-horsey) other half who suggested: “Can’t you just canter him round for a bit?” Worth a try, I thought, and actually it eased some of the tension. Again though, our test was very average, pulling in a mid-60s score again.
Third time lucky? Well it sure was! This year was my first year as team manager for the senior combined training for the riding club and Cambridge had swooped the boards at the area qualifiers, resulting in Buddy and I securing a team place at the Horslyx Festival of the Horse Championship.
It was one of the hottest days of the year and Buddy was in hot-head mode for the dressage warm up. Ever since being rammed in to by a loose horse at a show a couple of months’ ago he has starting leaping away from horses every time they trot or canter toward him. This is a pretty big problem in a championship warm up ring.
We’ve learned to do 20 minutes of walk work and make it count. When in the walk in the ring, he seems a bit more likely to leave his legs on the ground so this is the best way to get him engaged while also keeping him relaxed. We had less than five minutes of trot work and then went straight into the holding ring for the last 5 minutes before our test. Having 5 minutes to get your horse on perfect form isn’t ideal but it’s what we’re working with at the moment.
Then it was test time. The judge called him a pleasing horse with three correct paces and looking back at the video, he looks like a little dream. We’ll just call the moment in the first canter when he leapt off the ground when the horse in the neighbouring arena cantered along the same long side (and thus toward him) a “hiccup”. We obviously impressed as we took forward a 31.5 dressage to the showjumping.
Bolshie Buddy had been an out of control ox at showjumping horse trials earlier in the week, to the point where I gave up trying to control speed and instead just pointed him in the direction of the next fence (note, not endorsed practise, but I had a hard training session the day before!).
This time was going to be different. We’d practised transitions after every fence in the warm up and I really felt like I had control. The course was a challenging, bright and bold course and not many people were going clear. The pressure was on but I tried to smile the whole way round, talking to Buddy and reassuring him. It worked – and we went clear!
Walking up the results tent to find out I had come third individually, two other team members had been placed and our team had come 10th was just amazing. Then it suddenly dawned on me – whilst I was wearing shorts and a vest top – that I had to ready my horse and prepare myself for my first ever mounted presentation! It was all hands on deck for the next 20 minutes as we scrambled to roll his plaits back up, pull on sweaty soggy jodphurs and throw tack on.
It was all worth it. Standing on board my Buddy in the presentation ring next to all those lovely posh horses and beaming riders was the best feeling ever. I could not stop smiling from ear to ear. When we got to canter around in a lap of honour, sash and ribbons blowing in the wind, it was just exhilarating. It doesn’t matter what level you compete at, that feeling of achievement is so special.
Yes, I came away with lots of silky ribbons, but really it got me thinking; everyone out competing at all the championships are already winners. Just being given the opportunity to compete against riders from across the UK is an honour and to know that you’re up there with the best of the best from the areas is a humbling feeling.
I’m a competitive person – even if I am in denial about it – and everyone likes to win, but this trio of outings have delivered such a mixed bag of emotions that it is important to remember where you are and what you’ve achieved to get there.
Want to find out what else Leanne Ehren and Buddy have been up to? Check out her other brand ambassador blogs.