Weirdly, competition panic didn’t really have time to set in during the lead up to Hickstead. I had only just received my qualification email on the day that the entries closed. So on the way back from a business meeting I quickly entered online. God I love the ease of entering events online. This was on the 23rd June, so less than a month ago.
I felt calm and prepared. I even managed to fit in a last minute flat work lesson with Laura the night before. It was our first flat work lesson in months and she was impressed with our improvement. This was a real confidence boost to me, as anyone who knows Laura will tell you how honest she is. She is not afraid to shout at you when she is teaching you and will tell you if you are riding like a wally.
I really do need to get some more flat work lessons in. If we can improve so much in a few months with out lessons than imagine how much we can progress with on the ground instruction from a knowledgeable instructor.
Any way I thought I was finally getting over my precompetiton nerves. Oh no! The morning of the competition I was awake at 5am sharp, before my alarm had even gone off. I was panicking that I would not have time to bath and plait Wigs and was afraid I had forgotten to put something crucial on the lorry. Now the sensible side of my brain then re-assured the crazy mental side that I would have plenty of time to prep Wigs as I had done it so many times that I had it down to a fine art and cut my time to approximately 30 minutes (40 minutes at worst if the pooh damage had reached a critical level). This meant I had enough time to do this and have a bit of breakfast (and sit on the toilet if the nerves also reached a critical level).
We were loaded up and on the road with the compulsory Lorry Dog Mole by 7.15am. Fab! I had plenty of time to look over my test whilst Dad drove us there. I could study every movement to ensure no test amnesia would occur. By 8.00am I was distracted from my studying by the awareness that we had come to a standstill. I of course went into panic mode, Dad was chilled out and told me to relax. Mole meanwhile was on a sugar high as Dad had given him some Milky Stars (his favourite garage snack) at 7.30am in the morning. He did not stop barking and could not sit still. When we eventually did get moving again, Mole was being so distracting that we missed the turning off the motorway for Hickstead. Needless to say Panic mode was at an all time high and I was worried where the next turning was? Would we all be going to Brighton for a day at the beach instead? It was 8.50am now and I was the first competitor in at 10.00am.
Luckily we were able to spin around at the Pycombe junction and get back on course. We arrived at Hickstead at 9.10am. I was now wishing I had taken the earlier scheduled toilet break as there was no time for this now. We had to spring into action and get us both prepped to head over to the warm up. At least I didn’t have time to look at the score boards and so couldn’t worry about who would be judging us.
We made our way to the warm up. Being a small Connemara Pony and not a huge exuberant warmblood we did have an advantage in that we do not require as much warm up time. We needed to conserve energy for the ring. So even though we were first in, we were not the first in the warm up. I was grateful for this I need other horses to perk Wigs up. I then realised that my schooling whip had broken. Oh bother. You are not allowed to carry a whip during the test but you can use it to warm up with. Pa offered to go back to the lorry and get me another one, but I said that I would see how I got on with out it.
We were then pulled over for our tack inspection. This is a bit like having your bag searched at the airport. The steward put on a pair of scary blue latex gloves and examined Wig’s mouth to check his bit was legal. Then she inspected my spurs, boots, girth and saddle. Luckily we had nothing to declare.
Once we were released we continued with our warmup. The Steward kept counting us down ’15 minutes to go’. Flipping heck nothing like adding to the pressure. Then there was a 10 minutes warning, I just kept going over the test in my head. At the 5 minute count down I felt the pressure had reached sky high and was just wanted to go into the ring. Then was the final call. It was finally our time to enter the ring and start the class. As we entered the beautifully decorated arena. I felt Wigs grow and his ears prick. He was ready to find his inner Valegro and give it his all. The commentator announced us ; ‘Our first competitor now entering the International Arena and starting the Summer Regional Finals is Lizzie Powell riding Hazy’s Boy’. In my head this was Mike Tucker announcing us and I was Charlotte Dujardin.
Wigs performed perfectly, listening to me and focusing solely on the test. Despite the numerous distractions of trade stands, spectators and music playing. Our efforts were rewarded by a score of 69% from the judge at E and two scores of 66% from the judges at C and M. We did not have one bad mark and received some lovely positive and encouraging comments. I was over the moon. We finished in a good position in a field with professional riders and horses bred for the job.
I never thought me and my ex Pony Club Pony who is a full bred Connemara would be competing at a huge show like this. And get a good score. This is our second season of British Dressage and since January this year we have racked up 7 affiliated wins. We have now amassed 72 Prelim points and 30 Novice points. And to top it off I jumped a flipping great big jump out hacking today! I am finding my brave pants, who knows what next year will bring for us.
This goes to show good and talented horses come in all different forms. They don’t have to be bred for a certain job to be good at it. Training and hard work (also a lot of treats and carrots) pays off.
I would not be where I am without my Pa either. I do mean this physically as I still haven’t done my lorry test so he is my chauffeur. But on a serious note too he is a great at keeping my calm and acted as my trainer in the warmup (standing next to a rather well known professional Dressage rider and trainer, lol).
Also a big thank you to my sponsors Tidy Tack Rooms Ltd who made sure I was impeccably turned out for the day. tidytackrooms.co.uk.
We wore these lush Fleece lined brushing boots in the warm up. They have a patent finish so are very smart and easy to clean. A complete bargain at £24.50 pair and available in a range of colours.