Well hello once again, boys and girls, ladies and gents, waifs and strays. It is that time of year again; days are shorter, mud is muddier, horses are hairier and eventing is coming to a close. So I do hope you’re all sitting back, lighting a fire and looking forward to a little winter downtime – I know I am!
I am writing this as we head to Rosslare Harbour, the first part of our journey home after a long, muddy week at Ballindenisk. As Brits I think we are all genetically programmed to complain about the weather, often without cause, however the past 5 days have been worthy of every single grumble uttered. Whether the Man Upstairs forgot to turn the tap off or he just thought it would be funny to watch a couple of hundred eventers not-so-gracefully wade through 5 inches of liquid mud every day, I don’t know. What I do know is that eventers are an unbelievably stubborn breed, and once again they proved that giving up was not an option.
In the CCI** Sooty did a lovely test for 50.3, putting us in 9th going into cross country. He tackled the long course well, and brought home just 2.4 time. Sadly show jumping day was just one mud bath too far for Soots and he got a little stuck in the tacky ground rubbing an irritating 3 rails. Of course I am slightly disappointed “ who wouldn’t be? But, in the spirit of any horseman, you’ve got to take the positives (or scream, shout, rant and rave as some seem to do, but the primary is far less energy consuming). He tried his heart out for me all week, and in the grand scheme of things 3 rails are a drop in the ocean.
Since Ballindenisk is my last event of 2017, this is therefore the perfect opportunity to look back on the season. In all honesty the past couple of years have been pretty lack luster in the horse department. And so, in a bid to try to preserve just a little of my remaining sanity, I adopted the role of the Eternal Optimist. This meant that when it was all going wrong I was so busy picking myself up and dusting myself off from the many (many) setbacks we suffered that I didn’t really realize just how dire the whole situation was. Now though, having had what has to be the best season of my life, looking back on my refusal to quit can only mean one of two things; I am either A) certifiably insane or B) stubborn beyond reason. Likely it is some of one and a little of the other – I wouldn’t like to say which though.
I must clarify, however, that I am in no way trying to pull the Poor Me Card, in fact quite the opposite. I have had so many ‘learning curves’ I’ve probably gone 360° a few hundred times but it has meant that this year, more than ever, I have realized just how important those disappointments have been: each I’m-going-to-kill-him moment, each pair of grass stained breeches and each pick-me-up chocolate bar have made my 2017 season just that bit sweeter. In reality we all know that a ‘learning curve’ is really just a nice way of saying ‘catastrophic c*ck-up’, but since the batty horse population rarely allow themselves to have a pessimistic outlook on life (knowing that horses would probably lead them to an early grave if they did), the Monty Python concept is adopted and a ‘bright side’ always, always seems to be found. And that is what I love about the sport; madness and all.
2017, it has to be is said, has been somewhat of a ‘Bucket List’ season for me. Ellie and Sooty have absolutely out done themselves and both of them have achieved things that last year seemed pretty far-fetched. Taking a 6 year old homebred around her first International is a feeling I will forever treasure, equally completing my first CIC*** will be something I remember forever. These 2 horses really have made my year and with that they’ve made dreams come true that I honestly never thought would be realized. Yes, that was cheesy. And no, I don’t give two hoots.
It seems that horses have made me somewhat of a philosophical being. I do realize that trying to rationalize what is, in effect, complete insanity, is neither easy nor recommended but I suppose insanity breeds insanity – it’s a bit of a domino effect really. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do with horses, I’ve found the only way to retain just a shred of rationality is to look at the bigger picture – the problem with this is that some people’s ‘pictures’ are considerably larger than others. Rome was not built in a day and neither, it seems, was perspective.
My first lecture back at University is tomorrow, so after we get home somewhere around the 3am mark I’ll sneak in a few hours sleep and then head back to Bristol where, once again, the juggling act will commence. I cannot deny that I am unbelievably excited to head back to uni but it is a bittersweet feeling nonetheless. I can’t quite believe the luck that has come my way this year and I’m not sure I want it to end. It’s true that I’ve had to work my butt off to make it all happen but it did happen and that’s what counts!
This year also would not have been possible without my long-suffering team at home: So thanks to Mum for putting up with the stresses and strains that come with a daughter whose life is somewhat of a balancing act, thanks to Dad for your unwavering support and ever skillful videoing (even if the camera has got considerably more shaky since I’ve started going round the Advanced tracks), thanks to Hayley and Lottie at the yard for dealing with every exam induced melt down and happily plonking me on a horse anyway to make it all better and thanks to my incredible trainers Sorrel Warrwick and Annabel Scrimgeour for whipping me into shape and keeping me there. What a year!
That will be it from me for a bit folks – I’m now off to go and try and remember how to speak 2 languages I haven’t spoken for 4 months. Let’s hope my lecturers are a little more understanding than the baffled looking Italians were when I tried out my skills (or lack there of) when I was on holiday. Enjoy the winter months and the bad weather that will endlessly provide us all with something inordinately British to complain about!
Until next time,