78% and a slap in the face

The two weeks which have passed since my last blog, have been some of the saddest I have endured for (thankfully) a few years. The first Sunday I heard of the devastating loss of one of my favourite people ever. Jim, along with his wonderful family and homebred ‘Freddie’ helped me through the loss of my own mother. There unwavering, cheerful support at this terrible time and the many fun days out eventing together with Freddie, really was the light for me during a dark time. Jim was an outstanding man and I’m so glad I was able to have him be a special part of my life. The Sunday that has just gone,brought about the utter heart break of having to say goodbye to our wonderful dog, Wispa aka Balloo. Matthew and I have never lived together without him, his son Douglas has never lived without him, neither has our son Angus. Our home is empty and our family incomplete without our wonderful bear and I don’t know what we will do without him.

Our best friend, peacemaker, nanny and the glue that held our family together. RIP our perfect bear

On a sunnier note, these two sad Sundays where separated by a successful one. Dominica attended her second ever show and was quite simply spectacular. I purposefully didn’t ask to go first this time, as I wanted her to experience a bit more of an atmosphere in comparison to the first show. I also wanted her to experience a proper warm up,(as I was the first to go last time) so that I could see how she would react to the distraction. The first 2 minutes where a little hairy and I regretted not putting my neck strap on! But once she’d got over her excitement, she settled and worked really well, which was a really nice surprise. As she doesn’t work at home with other horses and my lessons are generally surrounded by other individual lessons, this is one of the hardest things for me to simulate at any other time and so it was nice to know that regardless of her lack of experience, she really couldn’t care about what the other horses are doing.

Former racehorse Freddie Mael Duin, owned by Jim and his wonderful family

I arrived in plenty of time and merrily unloaded Dominica so I could take her for a look round on foot before it got too busy and she could get her bearings. As we walked up to the indoor arena, I began to sweat a bit as I was the only person who was plaited up and the only one who wasn’t going to be riding a 12.2……….never mind I thought, we are here now and this is just about gaining confidence and experience for Dominica. As we headed inside I soon realised my mistake, as 20 12.2 ponies whizzed around the warmup, pinging over jumps taller than themselves. Dominica’s eyes almost fell out of her head and I was convinced I’d got the wrong day! We made a hasty exit and walked around the outside the building and found that the dressage was actually in the outdoor arenas at the back. Phew!

Relief at finding the dressage arena!

The first test was carried out in some typically Scottish weather. It was raining and blowing so much that trotting down the centre line I couldn’t actually see where the judges box was and half way down, I realised I was going off course!Dominica took it all in her stride and carried out an obedient, calm and very rideable test. She was a little behind my leg and as a result there where a few times when she dropped a bit low in the poll, but all in all I was absolutely thrilled with how she had coped with the new venue, busy (slightly crazy) warm up, unfamiliar arena and the Scottish weather. As with at the first show, she did drop a bit off the aid and as a result I had a feeling that we where stuck a bit in first gear, but I made the decision to nothassle her through the test as I think its a nervous reaction rather than anything else. The second test went better, the sun was almost shining and I had worked in the warm up on trying to get her a bit more infront of my leg by doing more transitions and on and back within each pace. I also did leg yield in both walk and trot, as this really helps to engage her hind leg and encourages her to push a bit more powerfully through……….

The reaction from my fellow competitors was 100% the most shocking behaviour I have ever come across at a show, never mind it being absolutely aimed in my direction. Across the warm up two or three women started shouting to each other about how disgraceful it was that I was allowed in the class, how Dominica was clearly not a Prelim horse, there was no point in them being there, it was a waste of everyone’s time and money and they all may as well go home……..to say I was shocked is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve enough to think that no one in the equestrian community ever bitches about a fellow competitor, or that people never direct it at me. What really shocked me and at the time really hurt, was that they where yelling it across the warm up, knowing full well I could hear and that I was literally next to go in.

It was an unaffiliated show and I was competing at prelim. But it was my young horses second ever show, her first in a busy warm up and a new venue to her. I had no idea how she would behave or react. I turned up as they all did too, in a pick up and trailer, I don’t even own Dominica, I have just got very very lucky. AND I worked on Saturday night from 5pm to 4.15am on Sunday morning and got up to go to the show at 6am, just to clarify that’s 1hr45mins sleep and immediately after the show I went back to work from 5pm to 2am. If ever I needed a reminder how not to behave this was it. When you go to a show and you see someone else, you cannot just start judging and hating. I know full well Dominica is a special, fancy horse and that i’m beyond lucky, but I still deserve to be able to give her an education in the best way possible, which is all I was trying to do by taking her to that show. I just wanted my young horse to have a positive experience and for her to come away more educated and confident.

It did rattle me, but I was the next horse in and so I went and did my job. It was a better test than the first. She felt more relaxed and confident in the ring, the weather was calmer and as she was slightly more on my aid I felt I was able to ride her slightly more. It still wasn’t her best and I know as she gains more experience and confidence in the ring and I can keep her more truly infront of my leg there is going to be so much more to come. I was thrilled with the test and with my wonderful horse, but at the final salute there was only one thing on my mind and that was what had happened minutes earlier in the warm up.

As I got off I asked my ever supportive friend Maili to hold Dominica, so that I could go and tell the secretary I wanted to withdraw from the competition and if I could just have my sheets I would just go home. She refused and told me to get a grip (well she wasn’t quite that polite!) She too had heard the comments from spectators as well and told me not to ridiculous, I deserved to be there just as much as everyone else and they where just being jealous. The common response from everyone who knows me afterwards too, my trainer, Dominica’s owner, my sister and husband. They truly know the sacrifices I make and the painfully long hours I work to make this all happen and at the end of the day its the love and support of people like them and my wonderful friends Jim and Balloo that keep me pushing on.

With a score of just over 78% Dominica was rightly rewarded for being the bright star that she is. The next step will be to get her registered with BD and start working towards gaining her qualification at Novice level for the winter regionals. Quite frankly I can’t wait, long may our exciting journey together continue.

Let’s leave the judging to the judges and if you can’t say something supportive, keep it to yourself.

Aimee x

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