I don’t even know where to start, because I want to start with the punchline.
Hmmm, let’s see. Weather: squally. It waited to bucket down until we pulled into the car park at the yard. It was cold, which just makes me want to go to the loo every five minutes. I had hoped to use Connell’s saddle instead of Rebel’s — Reb’s girth is rubbish — but I had to liberate said saddle from the floor of Con’s loose box; he had somehow wiggled out of it, and dumped it, and it was liberally dotted with poo.
Rebel let me bridle him without dislocating my shoulders! I can do this with authority now, but every single time it is like, Hey! Rebel let me bridle him without dislocating my shoulders!
I’m humming to myself as I think, doot dah doot dah doooo… yeah, okay, feck it, we jumped over 1m10 last night.
I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to jump last night. I’d seen how buzzy Reb was on Saturday, and despite his complacency during bridling, he was trotting cockily towards the indoor. I was absolutely able for it, but still wasn’t sure that I wanted to be cantering at any fences. I was managing him, but try as I might, I couldn’t keep him from cutting the corners — like, slicing them with a machete — on the right rein.
So naturally, we are jumping off the right rein. I think to myself, Okay, but, maybe I’ll just keep him in trot. I can feel him surging over the fence, I can feel him gathering to drop his head and peel off to the right… we trot the initial fences and it’s okay.
Then we start cantering, and I figure, Okay, whatever, I’ll just do what I’m always being told, and barely take jumping position. I am always told this, because I always throw myself too far forward over the fence, and he’s pulling me so far forward anyway, if I just stick out my bum a bit, that’s good enough for both of us, with the added bonus that I don’t lose my balance.
Jumping, jumping, jumping, and then it’s my last go, and Nikki puts up the fence, and it’s … it’s kinda big, and I get him into canter, and he drops it, and stops, and grrrr, he won’t even move, so I take the reins in my left hand, and smack him behind the girth, turn him in a circle, leg and smack, and he goes, and we take the fence.
It was pretty high. We go again, and I can hear the clatter of the cups on the wing, and I look, and I go, Okay… shite… and Nikki’s telling me not to look at the fence, and I’m not, I’m really not, but then we are right there, and in that breath of second when I can feel him start to jump, I go Eek! and he stops, for less than a breath of that same second, and gets us over anyway. It was crap, a crap jump, and I shout, ‘Can we go again?’ and I don’t know —
Does the pole go up higher? I doubt it. See, here’s where I can’t actually remember much, which is crazy because I didn’t hit my head or anything. We went again, and I didn’t pull him up, I let him roll on, and there’s the fence, and I’m practically looking at the ceiling, and I keep the contact, and I’m trying to count, but I don’t need to, because I know I will feel it — and over we go, and I think we go again? I think so, we are drifting right, practically at the wing, and I’m not happy about that, I still count the strides event though I don’t need to, and for a half of a breath of a second I go Ee… but not enough to feck it up, and holy crap, that was high.
I am breathless when I join the rest of the ride in the middle of the arena. I want to go again and again and again. I lean down and throw my arms around Rebel’s neck. I realise that I haven’t wanted to attack a fence like that in a while, in over a year. In well over a year. Asking if I could go again… I had lost that determination and confidence a bit ago, and it is back.
Breathless, I ask Nikki how high?! and she shows me on the wing, but up there, on Reb’s back, it’s impossible to tell. Fences don’t look that big until they get big, not from the saddle, not in my experience, which is only small, but still. Height matters, I think, in the way exam results matter– numbers defining your worth. I thought I’d gotten over that: I would rather go a clear, well paced and smooth round of 60s [okay, 70s] than bust my arse poorly over a bunch of, what, 90s?
Hmmm. Yeah, maybe not. [Was that fence a 90? Did I almost jump a metre?]
At the end of the lesson, I walked Rebel over near the wings and tried to reckon out where the poles had been. I felt about 8 years old [teacher! teacher!] but I asked Nikki again, how high?!, and she showed me and I went, ‘WHAT?’ The hole was up, like, at my armpit. I tried to work it out on the bus on the way home — how I was going to do that, I don’t know — I didn’t exactly have my tape measure to hand. Regardless, I converted my height [5’9″] to inches [69, duh] and then googled the conversion to centimetres [175, yikes, really?] and then… well, there was no way to google ‘Distance of Sue’s armpit to ground’ so I had to wait until I got home.
I stepped on the end of the tape, and pulled it up, and pulled it up, and on the first try lowered it a bit, because, What? it couldn’t have been that high! Even after making adjustments for grandiosity, poor spatial perception, and just sheer disbelief, the tape still read 115cm, which is 45 inches, which is 3’9″. Which is 1m10ish. Which is like a legitimate height. Which is the highest I have ever jumped.
And okay, yes, I really do believe that there is greater value in being able to competently and gracefully manage and jump a proper course of fences at a lower height than there is to take the same course at 1m10 and do it sloppily, do it just so you’re getting around, do it in a way that bugs your mount, do it poorly.
But 1m10! I woke up today, got out of bed eagerly, just so I could keep thinking about it.
So cross that I hadn’t brought a camera…