We catch up with what Leanne Ehren and Buddy got up to before Christmas at their last competition:

Success tastes different. Don’t ask me how or in which way, I just know winning a red rosette means something more to me now than just winning. It’s more of a statement; one that says, “I came, I conquered and I did it, despite everything.”

Returning to nearby equestrian venue Keysoe to take part in an arena-based one day event was a huge challenge. All I kept thinking to myself was, “last time I was here, my horse was flying round 1m courses”. This time, I was entered into the 80cm – and I was so afraid.

I’m not scared to admit that fear had consumed my jumping activities since our accidents in 2014 and I never thought it would take over 18 months to get back out there. But it has, so how about I just shut up and move on…

I’m not sure if I’m the only one who feels this, but I always worry what people think. All I kept thinking was if other riders who had seen me out on the circuit a couple of years ago were questioning why I had taken two steps backward. Then I remembered a little bit of “who cares?” Everyone is in the same boat when out competing, and if people are not out to enjoy their horse, learn and progress – in whatever way, shape, or form – then they are out there at 7am on a chilly Sunday morning for all the wrong reasons!

I’d entered online using Equo Events and almost squealed with excitement (or fear!) as I hit the submit button to process my entry – this was it! It was the hot topic of conversation at the lovely livery yard I am stabled at for the whole week leading up to it.

I am so lucky to have an amazing support network around me of friends at the stables and as we packed up the “team bus” (aka the yard owner’s nice big horsebox) and pulled out the driveway the nerves really kicked in.

One dog, four horses and five girls – it’s so much fun going out as a team. With two of the girls doing their first ODE at 70cm we were there nice and early to walk the course together and scout out the cross country. Of course, I point-blank refused to walk right up any of the fences in the cross-country arena – I swear 80cm is much bigger than it used to be!

The next few hours were “Operation Team Meadow Lane” as we all helped each other get ready, warm up, cheer on and debrief after each element. That is what makes it so much fun; seeing those you care about achieve in their own individual ways.

Our yard owner, lorry driver and unofficial team coach made sure I was in one piece and heading in the right direction. Warming up for dressage is something I’m still working on with Buddy. After the accident and rehabilitation on his sacroiliac I’ve found he needs much more walk and lateral work to ensure he’s really stepping through and active behind, and since taking on some more of the elementary tests, I wanted to use this opportunity of riding a simple test to really focus on the quality of our trot and canter. The boy pulled it out of the bag, nailing the highest score of the class with 29.25 – of course, I didn’t know this going into our showjumping and cross country round (I don’t like the pressure).

As we headed to Keysoe’s indoor arena for the showjumping I could feel my chest tighten. I struggle to breathe and feel like my core (what’s left of it!) just goes to jelly. But I didn’t need to worry, team coach was standing in the middle giving me all the guidance I needed, and I had all my girls around me cheering me on.

We worked our way methodically through the showjumping to come out with a lovely clear round. I had control, I counted my strides and kept my cool. The feeling was amazing! And it just kept going as I moved on to the cross-country and Buddy just took it all in his stride.

As the girls clapped and cheered me, I felt that exhilaration, that buzz, that happiness. At that moment I didn’t care what we took home from the competition organisers, in my heart, we’d both just won a red rosette.

I guess it was just a bonus when I wandered over to the scoreboard and picked up the silky pillar box red ribbon for real.

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If you want to find out what else Leanne Ehren and Buddy have been up to be sure to check out their other blogs.