I haven’t blogged in absolutely ages… no real reason for not writing, I still have loads I want to say!
Riding wise also had quite an epiphany. Personally, as Id mentioned before in my blogs, I’d gone through a bit of a hard time. Lots of problems had built up and really had an impact on the way that I was riding, particularly when jumping and definitely when going XC. It was like I had put on my ‘emotional handbrake’ and I was finding that my enjoyment of riding Wanda had really dropped. I just felt quite lost, stressed and very down. It was quite a frustrating period as I really invest a lot of time (not to mention money) in my eventing. At one stage I even contemplated giving up.
I’m quite a tenacious person, but felt I’d lost a lot of fight. But I kept chipping away to try and sort things out, both personally and with my riding. Sometimes things happen at the right time and I attended a XC clinic with Bill Levett at Keysoe and then another at Carlton. I immediately liked Bills approach. He was very calming which helped no end and had a simple philosophy to XC riding that was positive and accurate without being overly invasive to the horses natural way of going and its ability to use its body freely over fences. Well that was my interpretation of what I experienced but I am probably over considering things. Essentially it was all about safe, yet speedy and fluid xc riding and ensuring that the horse listened and respected the advice you were giving them about the challenges ahead. He was a very positive trainer which makes a real difference when you are nervous.
Bill allowed us to jump several fences in succession, which was really useful over Carlton’s undulations but was also keen for us to repeat fences to get things just right. I soon got my mojo back and realised I had been making my life far harder than it needed to be. I’m very fortunate as Wanda is a reliable horse and quite good at jumping the usual challenges you get on contemporary XC courses. The main thing I need to do is just kick on and not mess about, basically just ride like I used to when I was 17. At the end of the session I was jumping some of the largest fences I’d ever jumped on Wanda and she just ate them! I can really recommend Bill’s sessions. He’s a great chap and gives you the right amount of advice, while allowing you time and repetition to work things out and get it as correct as you can – so proper XC schooling. This builds on your confidence, it has made XC fun for me again.
I was keen to put what I had learnt into practice and set off early to Buckminster Park. I’d had a traumatic few days before as my dear Granddad passed away suddenly. He has always been a real inspiration to me and was an extremely knowledgeable horseman with an amazing work ethic. I decided to carry on and compete as he would have been sad if I hadn’t gone, and sitting at home wouldn’t have changed things.
I won’t go into a full match report but suffice to say we had a respectable Dressage of 31, a fence down in the SJ (but a confident round and very positive jumping). The XC was a lovely parkland course. A few challenges like a long striding triple of logs at fence 5 and a corner on a turn at the penultimate fence. I was nervous but my plan for the day was to go out and enjoy myself. A bit like a party hard or go home attitude! I just got on with things and had a lovely time, jumping a confident clear round. I did have a slight hiccup at fence 4 where I almost jumped the Novice timber wagon (as seen on my headcam – a nice almost hitting tree moment).
Apart from this I was thrilled with my round as I really attacked the course. I said go for it and Wanda said hell yea!
So team B and W is on quite a high still. I’ve taken a less is more approach to training. So working hard but not making quite so much of a fuss about it… does that make sense? I guess it’s about taking things in my stride, despite having a hectic family life and work. Essentially about enjoying my horse and realising what a lovely partnership we have.
This weekend we will be at Carlton to compete and feeling really excited about riding XC. The old Nikki is back and raring to go!
Photos courtesy of Cala Russell – thanks Cala!