And as if this wasn’t already joy enough, I discovered that Jennifer was involved in eventing. This is probably only news to me, but as this column will show, I’m only just now getting into horse events.
I did a comedy double take during our recording when Jennifer mentioned having frantically applied fake tan while in her car being driven frantically back from Chatsworth to get to the Baftas in time. As if you could think she was any more amazing – and you will, when the episode is published on June 6 – but she’s HORSEY! Pardon me for having been asleep for a million years, but I had no idea Jennifer was into horses, nor yet that she owns Piggy French’s ride, Cooley Monsoon. Absolutely fantastic.
Back in the city, I started off May in absolutely disgraceful luxury, with a trip to Las Vegas’s food festival Vegas Uncork’d. Having failed to find a riding school that didn’t require either a helicopter to reach it or being under the age of 10. Can you imagine! I ended up getting hooked on American Netflix’s pony films, and a wonderful sub-genre about city teens who are shipped off to their dad’s ranch and fall in love with a horse.
In between a punishing regime of three-course meals, I racked up Storm Rider (spoiled dressage champion moves to her uncle’s after her dad goes to jail, where she trains a mule), Gift Horse (resentful teen is secretly bought her favourite horse by insanely rich to-be-stepmother who is also a painter; wins a competition) and made healthy inroads into Rodeo + Juliet (Juliet moves to her grandpa’s ranch and falls in love with a horse named Rodeo; the son of a man her mother hates; and something called barrel racing.)
No riding, but absolutely divine.
On my return, I donned my white novelty Vegas jumper and got stuck back into my BHS Stage 1 course, which I am absolutely loving. Who knew there were so many patterns of changing rein! What is this joy caused by putting on a tail bandage only slightly badly? And who knew that you have to basically make an origami fortune teller out of a rug in order to apply it in accordance with BHS standards?
I’m also riding horses I’ve never had before. Due to being a 6’1 novice, I’m usually seen on sizeable cob-types, so it’s been pretty eye-opening to be seated on something significantly smaller (and not crushing them to death, hurrah!)
(Please settle an argument: someone said this chap was 15 hands. That’s impossible, right? I need a tape measure.)
In great news, I’m feeling increasingly confident in my flatwork, and also just in general. Last week, I was happily cantering without stirrups, even though earlier my horse had thrown a couple of cheeky bucks going into a normal canter. And then we took up lead file! These sound like such tiny things, but given that last year I burst into tears and asked my instructor to ride the same horse after he’d had a jolly around the school, it feels like real progress.
While my flatwork is being worked on, my jumping is sagging in an unwashed heap. Having not jumped since Riding Club’s last sessions in February (That course in my Instagram video must be 1m10 at least, right?), my cross pole senses are twitching. I’ve signed up for a heap of practise, including my first Ringcraft session, which I keep giggling at because it sounds like something from Dungeons and Dragons.
Jumping was about the only time I wasn’t scared while on a horse last year, and my longing to do it has got to the stage where I go into ecstatic daydreams every time I walk through Rush Common on the way to Brixton station. This tiny park is filled with trees and stumps, and I dream about hunting in Milton Park, and the day when I can, totes caszh, just pop a log like it’s no big deal, instead of fretting that, even if it is only 50cm, I’ll fall off and be crushed. I needed some inspiration.
At the kind invitation of Bollinger, I took my summer jumping enthusiasm to Ascot for May Race Night. Having lost my racegoer virginity at Cheltenham earlier this year, I figured that Ascot must be pretty similar, so was absolutely blown away by the soft green clouds of England that surrounded us in the golden spring light.
I missed at least half the races due to gawping at the Shard, just visible miles away across the horizon, hardly able to believe that it was even in the same country as this glorious paradise. Liberally cheered by Champagne in large measures, and even larger bottles, I stared out at the countryside feeling absolutely stunned that this was all around me. And that one day, if I worked very hard, I would be able to go over something the size of those brushes with good form.
Suitably strengthened by Ascot, I went to my first jumping lesson ready to glide effortlessly over a course. Of course, this did not happen. I need to keep my leg on a lot more, but what usually happens is that I get taken by surprise on a corner approach and fail to move at all, leading to my horse slowing down to the point of halt and then catjumping while his sack of potatoes rider wobbles around on top. Forward-going? Not me, not yet. But Rome (and my jumping ability) weren’t built in a day, and while I’m working on my flatwork so much, I really want to do a bit of jumping as a treat.
Of course, the other major summer riding treat is polo. I haven’t been since I was 5 (seriously, this blog is going to get me doing all sorts of new things) but unsurprisingly the Jilly Cooper book club I run is champing at the bit to have an outing, so fingers crossed this is the year! I missed the launch of the Hurlingham Polo Club’s new clothing range (interview with a polo-playing billionaire? Surely I could have rearranged SOMETHING), but I managed to get my hands on a couple of pieces and that hoodie is so comfy I might actually sleep in it. I messed it up almost immediately after a very sweaty (me) and slobbery (the horse) lesson last week, but the good news is it’s now too warm in London to ride in anything more than a t-shirt. Will this last? Hahahaha, will it hell.
One of my Riding Club friends and I have admitted to each other that it would be incredibly useful to see what we’re doing when we’re going over jumps, so this week, I’m going to recruit my husband to come and dutifully point at iPhone at our work. Whatever the results, I promise I’ll post some on Instagram. Huge apologies in advance to all the brilliant, gorgeous riders who follow me and post their own amazing videos, but you should have a good laugh. See you next time!