Ramblings of an Amateur Show Jumper
March has been a busy month for the Puttenham team, we’ve been to Spain and back, jumped some fantastic rounds, conquered some mental demons, and broken down in the truck (all of which have happened more than once….)!
After a long journey we arrived at the Spanish Sunshine Tour on Monday evening. Having chilled on Tuesday and made sure the horses were all settled in, Wednesday saw us knuckle down and start training. We worked on some jumping exercises with Felix focusing on distances in the big arenas by riding from one end and cantering in a straight line to a fence at the other end of the arena. The aim of the game was to keep his attention and to keep him relaxed. His ‘thing’ can be that he tenses up which is often reflected in his jump. For Tim we focused on keeping his brain working after a jump. We worked on popping over uprights, with a pole on the other side, to help keep him ‘up’. His ‘thing’ is he tends to land and bury himself after a fence, so this helped keep him thinking on landing and after, and keep his canter up.
Our first weekend of competition was awesome – they absolutely smashed it. Tim put our training to good use and jumped a wicked double clear on the first day He was just mega – didn’t miss a beat. After an equally successful second day, we pushed him up to the 1.30 medium tour. Here we had 4 faults, which (make no illusion) was completely rider error. I had a longer shot to the fence and, instead of sitting up and keeping my contact, I kind of just gave it away a bit so he just tipped it with a front toe.
Felix started in the 1.20 on the grass and went double clear every day. A huge confidence boost for me as going into the arenas I was feeling a bit tense; I didn’t massively like the grass, it sounded sloppy and wet, even though it wasn’t particularly this sound got in my head and put me on edge with visions of slipping. Nevertheless, we powered through and moved him up to the 1.30 small tour, where he jumped an amazing double clear. I felt like he was a little tense in the jump off but this is something for us to work on as this level is still all quite new to me.
Fleurie, my little queen bee, was brill and went clear in the 1.10 on the first day, and I couldn’t be happier to have her back in the ring. She only jumped two days over the weekend, giving her day off in between to recoup. On the third day we pushed her up to the 1.20 on the grass. She was maybe just a bit quick in her jump, and a little excitable but I am not complaining as I am just so happy to have her out and a bout.
So, first weekend for us and it was 7 out of 8 clears – and this point in time I was feeling pretty chuffed with the strong start and ready to tackle week 2.
In the week following we jumped plenty of clear round courses, training Fleurie over the bigger courses and practising taking off a bit closer to the fence so she uses her body to help her more. We needed to work on getting that ‘ring canter’ back, and on slowing down my body over the fence so it in turn slows her body down as she has been known to jump a bit quick.
The start of the week two’s competition was a weird one for me and my confidence in how I was feeling about the horses. We began well with Fleurie jumping a double clear, but I was not at all confident going into the ring Felix. I let this get to me and we had quiet shot to fence one which meant a completely rubbish shot to fence two. I ended up pulling him up because there wasn’t really anything there to get us over the jump. After this patchy start I did get my act together and we actually jumped a really awesome round which left me coming out with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was disappointed in myself for not giving Felix the confidence he deserved after week one, but on the other I was really happy with myself and Felix for finishing up the round so nicely. A mixed bag of emotions, that slightly frazzled my brain going into the 1.30 with Timmy. This time we started well, and he jumped beautifully until we came around to fence 6. I couldn’t for the life of me see a shot and he ended up stopping – the right thing for him to decide to do considering the approach we had given it.
This really got in my head and sent my inner chimp a little nuts (side note – your inner chimp is) ‘The chimp paradox’
I was feeling really nervous about how his round had gone and the fact that I missed a shot without really a good reason, leaving me feeling a bit bizarre. This than played onto the next day when I was still feeling insecure about everything. What followed was okay round with Felix – two fences down and an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. It felt like I’d lost my mojo; with so much going on here, so much to do and so many people flitting around I felt like I lost my focus on the course and not brought my A game. For Timmy’s round, I syked myself up and focused in too much on a couple of big strong oxers on the course, feeling tense and worried about it. I actually worked really hard on the psychological side of things, an area that I know I am not alone. I did manage to pull myself together and pushed through and using positive visualisation, which I was very proud of, and ended with a really lovely clear round. This was a great confidence boost and felt like something that I really needed going into the final day.
On the Sunday they were awesome. Felix did a wicked clear and 4 faults in the jump off but still finishing 5th in the small tour GP. Tim had 4 faults in the medium 1.30 but jumped a really strong, positive round so I was left again with my mixed bag of emotions.
For the final week I stepped Timmy up to the 1.35, and aside from two (quite big!) bloopers from me, he jumped fantastically. Jockey errors kept us out of the placings, but he left me with an unbelievable feeling, one which was great to finish his tour on, even if it was a touch disappointing for me to have made the mistakes. I did however decide to drop him back to the 1.30 for the last day; the 1.35 was built in the main ring and it felt like it would be best to run in the 1.30, so as not to let my inner chimp takeover for his last class. Although we had the last ‘joker’ fence down, I was really chuffed with him, he felt unreal and like he loved every minute of it.
Felix stepped up a level to the Medium Tour 1.30. Although it felt a lot bigger than the 1.30’s we had jumped before he was great every day and finished strong in the accumulator coming 9th. Little Fleurie was clear on both her days as well, on the last day she really felt like it all came together for her; she was a bit more relaxed and settled with everything flowing a lot better. I really went into the last day feeling like I needed to consolidate everything we had done over the tour, learn from any mistakes we had made before that and all three of them helped me do this so I’ve finished feeling so proud of all of them (and am I allowed to say a little bit proud of myself?!).
With my head in the clouds, we hit the road on the Monday to embark on the long journey home, but I was soon brought back down to earth a bang (quite literally) as two tyres on the lorry blew. For those of you who have been lucky enough not to have experienced, I can only explain it as feeling as though somebody has let a firework off under your truck! I’ll try not to bore you with the details (it’s still quite a touchy subject for me), so to cut a long story short, after a lot of phone calls to the garage, multiple doughnuts, but no changes of clothes, we got back on the road a short (!) 6 DAYS later. Not that I’m feeling sorry for myself…ok, maybe a little. At this point I need to give a huge shout out to Green Gates in Burgos, who took me, Timmy, Felix, Drizzle and Fleurie in our whole stay in Burgos, and tried the best to help me keep my sanity as I waited for rescue to arrive.
All-in-all and epic fail of a journey, but a fantastic few weeks spent at the Sunshine Tour with a very special team of horses.