Gatcombe 2* 2019

FEI International CIC 2* Short

What can I say Pepper and I have now completed our first CIC 2* Short. It still seems like a bit of a dream but we actually did it and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single minute. Although I do have to admit to feeling very sick on Sunday morning!

The Journey

I’ve spent months putting the wheels in motion for this event. Lots of lessons and upping the fitness for Pepper. I think its easy to focus on the horse but recently I’ve begun to focus more on myself as well.

Firstly at the beginning of this season I decided I needed to do something about the lack of confidence in my own ability, so enlisted the help of a sports phycologist called Sally McGinn from Mind Odyssey. She has helped me over the last 6 months, giving me techniques to cope with competition nerves and just my general day to day life! We have frequent conversations and she has really helped me to realise I am the only person stopping me achieve what I want!

Secondly I’ve always known that I ride with my right shoulder higher than my left and my body is twisted which also makes my hands uneven. It also means Peppers saddles slips to the right and she had started drifting to the right when we jump which needed to stop! Strangely I feel like my right side was weaker than my left even though I am right handed. I’ve also had real problems with pain in my right shoulder and elbow. In hindsight I should have addressed these issues much sooner but lacked the confidence to be honest with myself about the problem and what needed to happen to fix it.

Thankfully Sally’s help had given me the confidence to make a call to Oaksey House, which is a place in Lambourn that specialises in helping injured Jockeys. I knew that they had great facilities and physios but was unsure if they would be willing to help me, after all I am not a jockey and I am not injured so I felt like they might not take me on. I was totally wrong, they could help and I was on the waiting list!!

2 weeks later I had an appointment with a physio and to cut a long story short, I’ve had 3 sessions mostly in the gym and I can’t believe the difference! All the pain is gone and I feel and look much stronger! I say only 3 sessions, I’ve also realised that if I want to improve and stay strong I’ve got to put the work in! So I am being strict with myself and keeping up the weight sessions at home! Still lots to work on but really feel like the hard work is starting to pay off!!

The Event

I’ve been to Gatcombe a few times, grooming for Michelle and its always been somewhere where I’ve thought “oh one day maybe!!” but never really thought I’d get there!

The dressage was the most advanced test I have done and included sitting trot, counter canter and wearing tails, which I have never done before. So lots of practice was needed, I even tested wearing the tails just incase Pepper did not like them (She was fine).

Although sitting trot was not perfect I was more worried about my counter canter. Right to left she was okay but left to right I was having trouble as she’s just not balanced enough and kept changing. I’d got to a point in where it was passable and although the usual panic of “we are not fit enough”, “we should be more established at this level” etc went through my head, I felt like we were on the right track.

Dressage was on Friday, Chris and I arrived and the sun was shining. I have been looking forward to wearing tails and it felt good to go over to the warm up in them! She warmed up brilliantly, very relaxed. I had decided before I got there that the main aim of this event was to enjoy it come what may! A lot of blood, sweat, tears and money have gone in to getting us this far and it is quite easy to forget to ENJOY it! So this was it… down the centre line we went, I had a big smile on my face and actually got goose bumps!

It wasn’t our best test, silly and small mistakes crept in, and I was just hoping for a qualifying score… So I was pleased with 42.5, I thought it was a fair score and I felt like I could improve it easily with more practise. I was even happier when I got my test sheet back and realised that I had read one of the movements wrong and made it 10 times harder for us! So some very easy marks to improve on!

After the dressage we took the opportunity to walk the course and it didn’t give me too many nightmares!! Lots to challenge us but as usual with Pepper, if I just did my job and rode I felt like it shouldn’t cause us too many problems!

We had Saturday to relax (or get more nervous!), I filled the time with some teaching on Saturday morning at WHL and before I knew it, it was Sunday! It was an early start but again the weather was good!

We arrived and I went straight over to walk the showjumping. It was probably the biggest course we have jumped so I was feeling pretty nervous but cracked on got Pepper ready. At the warm up I felt small all these big lovely horses and then Pepper and I! But it was lovely to have some support from family and friends and Peppers old owner who came over to say hello. She couldn’t believe it when she saw Peppers name in the program (Hi Sue).

I have been struggling with my showjumping this season, but had a jumping lesson with Lucinda in the week before and I was feeling much more positive about it.

I was a little disappointed with 3 down, however there is so much to be happy with and watching the video it doesn’t look too bad! We just need to slow down a bit and she needs to sit on her hind legs a bit more, I’m sure the clear rounds will come. I felt like I was quite tense in the first half as nerves got to me, understandably.

Cross country, we had a long wait so we walked the course again. Michelle walked it with us this time and gave me some helpful tips.

After we got back to the lorry and had some lunch (I couldn’t eat) before I knew it we were heading over to the warm up. There was a little bit of a wait at the start and I could feel the nerves creeping in again, but as I said at the beginning I was determined to enjoy myself! As we went into the start box I can’t tell you the smile I had on my face as the starter counted down and we were off!!!

WOW it was amazing! We had a great rhythm the whole way round and I kept thinking to myself “well even if I don’t get round I’ll be happy with this bit.” She cruised round and made it all feel easy and she had such confidence too. I thought she might go a bit green on me but no chance!! She was looking for every fence and I am so proud of her! We got 10 time faults so still need to push on a bit but for our first 2* I am over the moon….onwards and upwards!!

Massive thanks to everyone who came and supported us and helped us get this far!!