Clear and placed - not bad for a 30 year old chestnut mare!
How To Compete Like a Professional:
As soon as the times were posted, I had that instantaneous pang of fear and my usual toilet aftermath began. On Boxing Day I spent the evening revising the course that was posted on the LandS Eventing Facebook page, sometimes I struggle to navigate myself around the house let alone a course of jumps. I've also had a previous experience at a LandS event where I was so focused and scared of jumping one of their wooden boats, that I forgot all about the course and jumped it three times in all directions and got eliminated. My language was on point and the majority of the video had to be bleepered out. With my stomach gurgling, I then decided starvation was the only way I was going to get through the night without sitting on the toilet.
27th December - Obviously I got up at the crack of dawn and went straight to the stables, I like to spend my morning finding excuses not to go to events that I have already arranged and paid for. This time it was because Bodie hadn't eaten her breakfast. But both Nick and Jess soon came to the rescue for that one and it was no longer an excuse. So I was running out of reasons and I was pretty sure DMA Horse Transport was already on its way.
DMA arrived to collect us nice and early, Bodie jumped on board without a care in the world, when we arrived at Onley I was almost completely incapable of tacking up my own horse. I popped in to the arena to check out the course, I like to focus on the jumps that terrify me the most and then visualise falling at them, falling over them, stopping, rolling on top of them etc. I find it really helps kick start the adrenaline and panic. So I decided to take a little hip flask of neat Absolut Vodka - Citron. This was warming and I felt mildly better after drinking that.
Next stop is the warm up arena. This is like Hell's waiting room. If you weren't nervous before, watching other riders jump over oxers like they are insignificant is hard viewing, I even had to ask the steward whether it was left to left or right to right. "Number 33 you can go in!" So there I am, counting on my fingers like a child, how many numbers there were in between 33 and 39. Right, come on Kate, walk, trot, canter, dodge that horse, why is that horse bucking, that's a nice red bow in that horses tail, left to left, left to left, I'm in the way of the jump. "Number 34 you can go in!" Before I even blinked, "Number 39 you are next." WTAF! I haven't even jumped a cross pole.
Like the star for baby Jesus' birth, in walks Jodie (she was dressed as a star, I'm not saying that she was actually present at the birth of Jesus). I think she could see how nervous I was, she seemed to be as cool as a cucumber, strolling in on Jazz. She gave me words of encouragement, I asked the steward to make a mini cross pole, (it was probably 30cm max) I jumped it twice with Jodie shouting kind things at me and then 'NUMBER 39 YOU ARE IN'. Brilliant, two 30cm cross poles.
Showtime. I am so lucky that Bodie is not only enthusiastic but she is also very honest, we have managed to build this partnership where I am in charge out hacking and she in charge out jumping. I rode with reins like I was 'hanging my washing out' as referenced by someone and I gave her very little support in terms of leg. Bodie wasn't too keen on the brush style fence and had a little look but jumped it anyway because she's that type of a horse. Zero jumping faults, clear round (although that number 12 brush had a fair old bashing) and just 10 time faults, which was me, by fence 10 (out of 16) I was already gasping for oxygen 'just go on without me Bodie, I can't hold on anymore' - it was starting to feel like the scene from Homeward Bound, when Shadow got stuck down the hole. The last two fences were probably the only two I actually rode as we have bashed into that 'No entry' sign in previous events, so I thought I ought to put some leg on.
We came 6th overall.
My top tips when competing:
Starve yourself so you don't have diarrhoea
Find excuses not to go competing
Focus on the most frightening jumps when walking the course
Warm up - do one cross pole at 30cm and go in
Don't use any leg and keep your reins strung out
Don't bother fitness training, jump on and see how far you get
On a serious note, I am super proud of Bodie, she is 30 years old and competing against horses that are half (if not more) of her age. It doesn't matter how much of a spanner I am being when riding her, she has an air of 'I've got this' about her, which makes her such a joy to ride. There were only 3 clear rounds in our section today and we were one of them. Thank you to LandS for the brilliant event that is accessible for those with even the most nervous of dispositions and also 1st Class Images for capturing the look of fear on my face.
Huge thank you to DMA Horse Transport for being super supportive, reliable and looking after Bodie as always. Jess for all the advice, lessons and confidence boosting behind the scenes. And for all the lovely messages I have had from people both pre-event and post-event. To many, this is not impressive, the track is small and it's 'just a local competition'. To me, it's the reward for all the blood, sweat, tears, worry (and vets bills) of caring for an older horse and for pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Bodie may be old, she is arthritic, she is expensive to maintain and she needs careful management. But she is worth every penny and I want her to have the best time.