At This Rate, I Will Need to Buy a Car*

*Because horse people hang their rosettes from their rear-view mirrors.


We found out on Saturday that there was going to be more showjumping starting on Sunday. Not a league, we didn’t think, it was only for a month, but ah, sure, why not go along and have another go?

I thought, I’ll jump the 70s with Connell, and the 80s with Delilah. I said this at least three times between finding out there was jumping and the drive to the bus — or maybe only once, out loud. I did say it at least once, and A-M said I’d keep wondering what to do until I got up there.

Sunday morning, and I feel pretty okay. I can see myself going clear. I imagine going clear twice, on two different horses, and I laugh out loud.

When we get to the yard, I discover that you don’t just pay your €12 and jump the livelong day — it’s €12 per round, which is grand, except I don’t have the other €12 for the 80s, and now — now what? Do I do the 70s on Connell, who I have never gotten over more than four fences without incident? Do I just do the 80s on Delilah? I kind of thought I’d like to give Con a go, because since I got my first rosette, the pressure is off, and now I can go ahead and take a risk, I can risk not going clear, because I have gone clear, and — I don’t know, it seems like any thing that happens now is perfectly fine, it’s experience, and I am happy to push myself.

But jumping Delilah over the 80s is a risk, too, considering that I don’t even ride her consistently anymore —

I look up, and one of the grooms is heading out of the barn. There he is, followed by reins in his hand, followed by Connell.

I stand there, like that scene in Lawrence of Arabia, like, I’m watching this thing from the distance coming closer and closer, and I’m transfixed, I can’t move, and I’m still thinking, Will I do the 80s with Delilah or will I do the 70s with Connell

The groom hands me the reins. I guess I am doing the 70s with Connell. I laugh. I give A-M the money to pay for my round, it’s all crushed up in my pocket, like a child’s lunch money. I go in, mount. I think that I — that we — can do this.

Four or five pony girls come in, and we all start to warm up. I start bossing them around, or depending on your point-of-view, teaching them proper pre-showjumping behaviour, telling them to call out ‘Jumping!’ when they are heading for the practice fence. They all do this, and then I say, ‘Let’s change rein,’ and we do. Connell is loose and into it, and I loosen up and get into it, cantering him over the crosspoles. He hesitates just before he goes over one approach on the right rein, and I am like, No way, dude, we can do this — and we do, and then I go again, right away, and we’ve both got more energy.

We all go down to have a look at the course. I see it and I laugh, don’t even ask me what the order is, I can’t remember, but I do know that I have never jumped a course in which there are four fences at the corners, F/K/H/M, angled in to X. Well, that’ll be interesting, I think, which is a positive adjustment of my first thought, which was: Crap.

The pony girls and I walk the course on horseback, and we all convene in the middle to talk each other through it. They are all numbered, most of them twice, because there are only six fences but there will be eight jumps for the first round, and then six more for if you go clear. Number 4 is a double, one stride, and that’s going to be the one that you do, and think you’ve done 4 and 5, and where’s 6, and then you’ve gotten lost and it’s all gone pear-shaped.

Paul comes into the arena, and says we’re going to begin, and we all head for the gate, and he asks, ‘Who’s going to go first?’ There’s a heartbeat  — I wait for one for the kids to say Me! and I realise, Crap, I’m the grown up, I have to go first. I can’t make one these little girls go first! Dammit. I say I’ll go, and I trot Connell into a canter.

I realise that I’m on the wrong rein to take the first fence at X. Yeah, okay, no big deal, I change rein and begin.

And the thing happens again, I don’t remember much, although I do remember thinking Crap, where is 4 — oh, there, okay, and I shouted ‘Am I clear?’ as I went over 7, and then did 8, and I think I didn’t even stop, I went right into the second round, and then I remember thinking This is the last fence — and then I was double clear again!

Connell was good as gold, and I think it’s because when I am doing this showjumping thing, I am only doing my job — directing the horse, and controlling rhythm and pace — and letting him do his job, which is the actual jumping. I am not trying to read his mind. I am not worrying about what he’s doing. He was gorgeous, and I mostly got all the lead changes correct. It was like… it was just fun and perfect and the experience of it is like bottling endorphins. I am buzzing all over again as I write.

These rosettes aren’t the really fancy ones, like you get at Boswell or wherever, and they don’t have a thing, a loop by which one hangs it from the rear-view mirror, but if I did have a car, I would of course jury-rig it up — or else I do not deserve to be called by the surname of Conley.

I can only do next Sunday, as my last two Sundays in May are booked, but I think — I think I will do the 80s on Connell? Because I think we can do it. Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s the plan for now…

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