Rebecca Darke & Nadisker AKA Disco Diva
BE Solihull 80(T)
It’s a long one – Get a brew and a bickie or two…….
So the full report from my adventure into the world of British Eventing Official. My The Wobbleberries challenge was more mental than physical and so I made sure that I trained as much as I could. This was more for me than Disco – The whole thing was for me and not Disco – He can easily do what is being asked of him I am just catching up a little. In a final dip for the line I have been going cap in hand to anyone that will listen to get them to sponsor me. The support shown gave me a brilliant boost as in just 24 hours the total raised more than doubled!! I was so grateful that everyone was behind me and there are genuinely too many people to thank for their personal messages of support! To top it all off Ellen Goodwin Eventing donated her fee for the days training which was super kind and made me really knuckle down and give it my best shot.
So having admired how much energy he now has I made sure he was worked every day and the boy wonder didn’t disappoint at all. This meant that he also has enough energy to have an opinion about what I am asking of him! This acting out still sets me on edge but I am able to better deal with it mostly, although depending on what he does during his “moments” I can be quite up-skittled. This is still a work in progress but knowing that I have done all I can to make sure I am physically prepared makes sure that I can then concentrate on just mental preparation.
Ellen Goodwin Eventing has been a rock in just 10 short days since our arrival at the new yard, immediately getting me to think more positively about XC jumping and how to tackle some of the issues we (the royal we which is essentially just me) were facing. This translated into how we were dealing with general misbehaviour also and so we have been practicing all week regardless. By Friday I was mentally and physically exhausted. I was not sleeping well because my mind was so active all the time and walking the XC course on the Friday was both a blessing and a curse. I met up with some fellow Wobbleberries and the staff at Solihull Riding Club were just so friendly and welcoming.
I had cleaned, packed and checked the lorry ready, so walking the course was the last thing to do and because it was so local I was able to reduce the time disco had to be in the lorry on Saturday. The course was set and looked lovely and inviting – not just rustic fences that we have been used to but fully dressed fences and well-manicured ground and good going! I was excited to be riding on such a well-cared for course! There were however some big questions for me…… There was an entire field between jump 2 and 3, an owl hole at 5 (next to the water…..) and then to get to 6 you had to go back towards the start and warm up area and then turn back on yourself completely to get to the water…….Jump 7 and because the water is some sort of nemesis for me I couldn’t concentrate past that.
As I was walking the rest of the course the jumps seemed to get bigger and harder, skinnier and more technical. The galloping areas seemed to be never ending and the quarry was bottomless….. So having clearly walked a course that was fit for Olympians in my head I didn’t sleep again. Some friends pointed out that I wouldn’t have slept anyway and so I tried to put it out of my mind because operating tired is normal for me! Before I knew it I was having breakfast and making my way to the yard to plait the beast and complete the finishing touches. I decided that I would just put my headphones in and crack on with the jobs not only to stop myself getting distracted by the others at the yard (I’m a chatter box……) but also to prevent getting into conversation where I could be negative in my perceptions. I needed to just focus on the tasks in hand in a positive way. This worked a treat and I will be incorporating it into my prep more often.
So into the lorry we go - I am very pleased with my plaiting as it was spot on and just as I would like – showing off his beautiful head and neck to best effect. The tail plait was thin and straight and again just as I would like it. He traveled like a dream and we got there on time and easily. During the drive I felt quite emotional with nerves and as I was thinking about it I realised it was because I was considering this to be a competition where I would have to try my hardest to win or at least do well. I had a light bulb moment just then and rationalised that the only person I was competing against was myself – no need to try and be better than anyone else because they weren’t riding for the same reasons. The only person riding for my reasons was me and so I couldn’t compete with anyone on the same terms. The competition was just a vehicle for me to use to push my own boundaries. Once I had reminded myself that I wasn’t riding to compete I calmed down – instantly!
I set myself the goal of going double clear – I wanted to get the water done without issue, I wanted to push along the long stretch after 11 and 12 and I wanted to come out of the quarry as strong as I possibly could. They were my goals! Having said that though I also wanted to re-walk the course with Ellen so that I could bosh some of the gremlins from the day before - I could reduce the worries I had in my head. I know that most of these gremlins only live in my head. When I am training I am always challenging myself and am doing bigger and tougher jumps. I almost needed to see the jumps in a positive light rather than negative, with tactics for riding rather than doubts on capability. Again this is something I will be taking forward into future competitions. Potentially I will walk courses on my own so that I don’t doubt what I am looking at and video areas that I am worried about so I can discuss them with the trainer rather than let myself be doubtful.
So with the dressage done (only a little blip where I had not read the test correctly….) and the show jumping well underway I was happy that it was all going to plan. I had my tactics and I was ready. The jumping and dressage were very lack lustre…. He is tired I think and so not really moving off my leg well. He was better than he has been but even in the jumping he was a little out of sorts compared to normal. So we just got to the end as best as we could. Then over to the XC…….. The warm up was quite hectic but he was just chilled and happy standing and doing not a lot even when the rain came. Then the wind got up him and he was a little “wild”. Nothing dreadful but it put me on edge and so, rather than let this fester so close to my countdown, I went straight to Ellen and asked her to help me move past it and carry on. With a slight bridle adjustment and some positive words we reattacked the warm up and were back on track. Off we went to the start box with the mantra of Positive, Positive, Positive.
One minute to go – its ok we shall just mince round in a circle, 30 seconds – now for a little trot, 10 – Smaller circle, 5, 4, 3 – in the box, turn, 1 – GO. Legs on…….. Fast trot – not what I wanted…… “Canter then” with a flick of the whip and he finally got the memo. Slow and steady to the first and he wiggled and asked if I definitely wanted to do this to which I responded positively……… KICK, “GET OVER THAT FENCE!!!” and we sailed over! He had his eyes on stalks a little and was very elevated in his canter/trot thing…… Fence two, Slap, Kick and we were over. He got it now – I wanted to jump all the fences or rather that was what I was convincing myself of. He dropped to trot and I put my leg on weakly. I was bricking it and didn’t have enough confidence to get after him much more than that just yet as we were on one of the first longer open sections. I know this was designed to get people to stretch out a little but I was in a fast trot on the slight declining field and just didn’t have the balls yet to go too forward. So we just got to the next fence in a positive trot and he picked up canter out of it and I maintained that. It was a really crap show jumpy canter but it was a canter. Turn for four and sail over that, steady for 5 with a kick in the sides as we pass the water – turn (he starts looking and backing off), I start chanting Positive, Positive, Jump the fence…… Leg on and a bit of a launch but we did.
I remember having one of my hands buried in his neck and the other playing with the bit to try and keep his attention while we were heading back to the warm up before the turn back on ourselves to the water. I was really worried he would nap or try bolting off to get to the other horses We were cantering, I was sat bolt upright and riding like I was practicing pirouettes and lengthening strides – as far as I was concerned I was doing dressage and would go with the plan of pushing for medium to maintain the positivity. Jump 6 on an angle because clearly I am not concentrating on anything other than keeping a canter and going forward. 4 strides out from the water we drop to a trot I’m probably shouting at him (for me as he has no idea what I’m shouting!) and I dig in the heels, push for a medium because I hoped we would canter…….. Big trot, flinch but didn’t break strides and we were in “good boy but on you go as there is a jump there!”……. I heard the whistle indicating another horse was coming to 3…. So now we had the water behind us suddenly a weight lifted and I pushed on – Finally I had confidence and pushed on. Not much but more than before but I felt I could be braver.
The woods, the log, the brush skinny all done from canter and nicely, Whistle again….. Still can’t hang around but now I’m on that open stretch. With a little nudge we went a little faster again, jumped 12 and pushed on again. I remember checking behind to see how close the other horse was but pushed on again when I couldn’t see. The double and on to the quarry…… He broke to trot so I just kept positive and asked for canter but nothing so I just kept the trot. The volunteers warned me another was coming up close and so I did the next jump where he spooked slightly because he could hear the other horse in the quarry. I pulled up, trying not to panic that he might be a div and was greeted with a great big thankyou from the other competitor. This made me feel great because all the other times I have been overtaken have been a little scary…… I was super proud of Disco for letting the other horse go past and literally not put a foot out of place. Started again and the steward also said thank you for the patience I had shown and I explained I would be rather safe than sorry from experiences I had in the past. She was lovely and said I was doing great and to go for it! So I did – kicked on while proclaiming that I was going to finish!!! Big log, straighten for the double (with a little squiggle in the two stride double……) and then to the final jump and I couldn’t contain myself anymore – High pitched and emotional all I could squeak was “Good Boy” (very high pitched) and probably too loud but I didn’t care because he had done fabulously – I had done fabulously and grown in confidence as we took every stride.
THE FINISH LINE
With the exception of a lot of time penalties we were DOUBLE CLEAR!!!!! I could have cried….. but I was too happy. Then I was annoyed that I hadn’t gripped myself sooner as I could have been better and faster and more competitive – then I slapped myself for nearly letting my own mind degrade my achievement. The mental mountain I had just climbed should not be underestimated and may not be completely visible. It’s like an ice-burg – what people can see is a horse that has scope and just isn’t applying its full potential, a rider that seems capable and is holding herself back and for some reason making excuses for why they aren’t doing bigger or better….. Inside there are a thousand voices and possible endings and ways that I might fail or embarrass myself. A million possible accidents or missed strides or bad experiences that will undo everyone’s hard work. A thousand people I will have let down by not doing well or being everything I can be….. Hundreds of pounds in wasted entries or training because I might not be able to put it all into practice at the right time. All these little niggles and doubts chip away at you and build the below the surface part of the ice-burg threatening to become heavy and bring the bit above the surface below into the murky cold waters. Treading water trying to stay above is exhausting and it takes a lot to not only tread water but try and swim at the same time but today we did it – it’s a doggy paddle for now but we are moving forward.
The surface never tells the whole story and it is easy to hide behind the excuses so as to not risk any of the inside issues to come true. It is also why I am more than happy to put the Ugly and the Bad out there because once you have shown these things the light of day they aren’t half as scary as you think. So now that I have put some of the demons from inside out into the open hopefully the next time – because there will be a next time! – I can be slightly more confident earlier on in the course. I know I can practice the elements that need to be practiced – like water training immediately prior to the event – and I have new theories on how to course walk and prepare for the event with appropriate distractions and tactical thinking at areas I am concerned with. So on to the next one…… Maybe more…… Because I think I enjoy it!!
Thank you all for not only reading all this drivel but for supporting me in this as I really couldn’t have done it without you all and the best bit is that right now we are only £65 from the target of £500. The sponsorship has been amazing and I really do appreciate all your help. Together we are kicking all sorts of butts but this sponsorship will help #kickingcancersbutt for many people #inspiredbyhannah. Thank you to Action Replay Photography for the excellent pictures! and Ellen for the filming and all her hard work behind the scenes on the day!