Last year I found that competing was becoming quite a lonely activity and I ended up turning up, riding my class, and then going home, so I decided that this year I would join a riding club – to meet more people and get more direction in my competing.
So I looked around at the local riding clubs and the type of events they ran, where they were based, and the disciplines they focused on. In the end I joined one of the bigger clubs which do a bit of everything and have a number of events throughout the year. I was particularly interested in riding in teams.
I wil always remember going to local shows when I was younger; everyone clubbed together and either hired a lorry or in the later days shared lifts with each other. The older girls on the yard would allocate lift shares so people doing similar classes went together, drew up hosepipe timetables for the day before, and planned the overnight stabling. We hacked to one local show and were quite a sight when twelve of us trotted up the road.
I also remember the convoys of cars and trailers as we all left the yard in the morning – God help the neighbour travelling the other way up the lane! And in the days before decent mobile phone signal we all had walkie talkies to check no one was getting lost or had broken down.
Anyway, I`ll stop reminiscing. Today was my first outing with the Riding Club, and it was dressage. I only entered as part of the team, as I didn`t have time to plan/enter/practise a second test. Anyway, everything was gathered, Otis was gleaming and travelled really well without the partition in the trailer, I was nervous, and the journey went smoothly.
We arrived and made our way to the secretary`s tent to get my hat checked and Otis`s passport checked. I had already had palpitations that my hat wasn`t okay with all the legislation changes, but it was tagged by British Eventing last year and had the BSEN 1384:1997 and kitemarked. I started to panic though when the first hat checker passed my hat over to another man. Who passed it to a lady.
They thoroughly examined my hat and then failed it!
I was aghast, it`s fairly old but has met all other previous checks and is stored in the dark and only used for competitions.
Anyway, the reason it failed is because there is a type. It says BSEN 138 1997. There`s no four in it, which means that this imaginary BSEN standard cannot be passed. It was incredibly frustrating, but the stewards were newly qualified hat checkers so were crossing all the T`s and dotting the I`s.
This obviously left us in a difficult position as I now could not ride my test and would be letting the team down, and of course Otis, who had travelled all the way from Reading. So the team manager and I started hunting down other club members to see if I could borrow a hat. I could have kicked myself because it had crossed my mind to bring my other hat yesterday.
Eventually we found a club member who had a hat I could squeeze my head into – you may remember the trouble I had in September trying to buy my everyday hat. And I know I need to get new hats to compete in next year because the BSEN 1384:1997 has become obsolete, but it would appear that I need to go shopping sooner!
The borrowed hat was too tight for me to wear for the full duration so I warmed up in my own hat before the stewards kindly turned their backs for me to swap hats and ride our test.
It was Novice 28 and Otis felt focused, consistent and balanced throughout the test. He maintained his balance in the medium trot, which is a great improvement as he can get over-eager and rush onto the forehand. I felt it was one of our better tests, and the team manager was pleased. We didn`t stay until the end as there were 22 teams and the prize-giving wasn`t until 6pm.
I`ve just found out that we were individually 13th out of 22, with a score of 65.82% which I`m slightly disappointed with as the test felt great, but when I get my score sheet I will be able to see the judge`s comments and whether she was quite a harsh marker or not. The standard was high though.
What I really enjoyed was the camaraderie of all the competitors, wishing each other luck, lending out equipment (my hat, for example), reading tests, and holding horses. The standard was high so I`m looking forwards to trying our hand at some more team events and probably trying individual classes too. I think it should be a good way of meeting new horsey people.
What I did learn though, is to always check the typing of your safety standards in your equipment!