Well, after months of taking it easy and letting April recover from injury I knew it was time to take her competing.
I’d been round at my friend’s house and she was asking why I hadn’t taken her anywhere. The truth was I was being far too precious over her.
She suggested taking April to a ‘clear round’ show jumping competition. Something nice and simple to get us back in the swing of things and she knew the perfect place ... Sykehouse Arena.
I’d taken my mare there some years before, and had been with one of my other horses. It’s not far from the Isle and has a nice surface to jump on. That’s just what I wanted with April, a menage (specially prepared arena for horses) rather than grass.
Unlike having a bay (brown) coloured horse, preparing my horse for a competition seems to take much more work. I have to ensure she has at least two baths beforehand as my horse is brown and white. Trust me, white patches take some cleaning. I keep promising myself the next horse I own will be black!
What to wear is a minefield when first competing. There are different dress etiquettes for different types of competitions for both horse and rider. Literally most competitors will have outfits for dressage, showing and show jumping, from gloves to jackets and hats – and that’s just the riders.
Horses also have their own wardrobe and (if you’re lucky enough) this will comprise different saddles and bridles for each discipline. There are an assortment of horse boots out there and a whole range of saddle pads. It can cost a fortune.
However, once you’ve bought your gear it will last a lifetime if you look after it. I bought mine years before I met my husband, so thankfully he’s not had to go through the pain of watching his wallet drain.
And what happened after hours of preparing and stressful moments trying to walk the course and remember it? Well, my five year old had told me to ‘come home a champion’ so no pressure to get a clear round.
Thankfully, I had a great team around me and took my fabulous trainer, Michelle Harris, and my friend Vicky (who made me laugh running the course for me with her young, fit legs), who ran around paying for entries and recording me on camera.
Once I got there and relaxed, I think I even had a smile on my face. The team at Sykehouse were really friendly and there was even a photographer (Country Pursuit Images), who captured a super shot of us jumping. The course was well set out and there’s a great little cafe bar for coffee afterwards. I believe you can even have a beer there too.
I have to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped me, from Amanda who pushed me there, through to Michelle and Vicky at the event.
Also, to Country Pursuit Images for their kind permission in using their photo and to my husband for putting up with my pre-show nerves (stroppiness!)
It’s been great to be back ‘In The Saddle’ competing. And, yes, after a bit of shying at the jumps, April did come home a champion.