Having reneged on every resolution ever made at this time of year, Co-Founder of The Gaitpost, Sarah Heseltine, has run out of excuses to not see through her commitment to get out of her comfort zone and enter her first competition in 2015 with her relatively new horse, Mischief. Here Sarah shares her ups and luckily no downs (yet)!
It has been at the back of mind for quite a few months now, that I feel ready to leave the security of the sand school and enter a competition. Bonkers at my age! But 2015 is the year to get out of my comfort zone before its too late and I regret not doing it. With PMD (Pony Mad Daughter) egging me on and a very patient husband who, like many, doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about, I checked Aston-Le-Wall’s website to see what was coming up. If I can’t lorry 5 minutes down the road and jump on my doorstep, there was no hope for this rookie mum.
Having had years of lessons with our very patient trainer, Robert Snaddon, PMD and I decided to both enter the Pre-Intro Eventer Challenge. Having had confirmation my booking had been received, it was all the more real. Whilst I wasn’t worried about the actual jumps, it was the more mundane things that niggled: how would Mischief react in the warm-up when she doesn’t like other horses getting too close, would I remember the course (20 jumps!) and heaven forbid, would I embarrass PMD?
Arriving to course walk the day before and I actually felt quite calm apart from trying to work out how I would jump a log down in to the XC arena. It was very icy and I had visions of somersaulting over it and breaking my shoulder blade again, an injury I got from wobbling off my old 16.3h warmblood 18 months ago and it still gives me quite a lot of grief, but Anne Taylor and Tom Jones were on hand to reassure us and give us some kind advice. With the XC course memorised, we set out to learn the SJ course but that wasn’t finished so we went home and started packing. Every spare imaginable was loaded on to poor Olive (our lorry) as being the good Brownie that I once was, Be Prepared is a motto that has stuck with me all my life. Spare clothes in case I went for a swim unintentionally, copious amounts of chocolate and polos and cameras were all loaded up.
I managed to get some sleep – lord only knows what it must be like for the elite riders before a big competition – and woke up raring to go. Our lovely groom, Tilly, had given both Amy and Mischief a wonderful beauty session and they looked shiny and super smart. We told the boys we didn’t want an audience so they wished us well, reminded us to call ‘so we know you’re OK’ (oh gawd!) and we set off on the 5 minute journey to Aston. It had been another cold night and the ground was frozen but the team at ALW were busy harrowing and getting the surfaces ready but I still didn’t like the look of that log. Luckily we didn’t have long to wait and it wasn’t very busy. We tacked Mischief up as I was on before my daughter and had a gentle warm up. I think she knew this wasn’t a normal schooling session as she felt quite buzzy but in a good way and I knew she would look after me. I was second to go and having learnt the SJ course and refreshed myself on the XC section, this was it. Just before the competition got underway, there was an announcement that the ground was still too solid for the log jump – HURRAY ! An alternative was announced and I just hoped I could remember the amended course.
Having nearly missed hearing the whistle for us to start, this was it ! It was hilarious hearing our names over the tannoy and the International Velvet in me kicked in and we were off! I could almost hear the film soundtrack in my head but snapped my attention back to the 1st jump, which was actually the spookiest with brush fillers and plants on the wings. She had a little look but we soon found some rhythm and although it all felt quite slow and the jumps were a bit small for her, we made it round the course and headed in to the XC section having gone clear so far. PMD was filming me and I sweetly heard her tell someone as I cantered past “That’s my mum!” No pressure then !!
The XC section flowed much better – we got up some speed, got all our canter leads right and I was actually enjoying this ! Mischief is very honest and when she has a look at something, she sort of wobbles and I know she needs a bit of reassurance to go over something. We were on a roll. Coming out of the water, with one to go and then the joker bonus fence, I made the spontaneous (not like me!) decision that if we were clear to the end, I would tackle the joker fence, which was 10cm bigger and a bit spooky but what the heck.
And, we did – and we went clear – and I was in the lead! OK – so I was only the second rider to go!
I met Tilly and PMD back at the lorry and was buzzing! Why on earth hadn’t I done this before! Polos were handed out, chocolate consumed, phone calls made and it was time to get Amy ready. PMD is a keen Pony Clubber and has done lots of these sort of things before but I could tell she was a bit nervous as it was her 1st competition on Amy. Having warmed up and checked the course, she waited for her turn. An annoying stop at the first part of the double due to a bit of a half-hearted approach, was their only hiccup and they sailed round and finished with big smiles.
The tannoy kept updating the running order and I was still leading! I am not sure how many riders were left to go but there were a few – and they were faster and a lot younger! It was an optimum time thing and I had trotted through the water and gone back to trot to change legs in the show jumping, but it was very exciting. Once Amy had been sorted out, hot chocolate drunk and we had warmed up a bit, we wandered over to the office to see if the results were out.
The lady showed me the sheet and I saw the number 2! Wow ! Then it emerged that that was my number and not position ! As I checked my name again I saw that I had come 6th and PMD had come 11th. We were over the moon but rosettes were given to the 1st 10 and so my daughter went home empty handed – a bit tough to get beaten by your rookie mum ! But she was so pleased for me and was keen for a re-match! Needless to say, we have entered the next one and I know her determination will be hard to beat!
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Huge thanks to Henry Kinchin from 1st Class Images for the photos