Sunshine, and the F Corner: A Weekend of Two Halves

I have been many places in the sunshine, and there is really no better place on earth than Ireland when the sky is clear, blue, and cloud-free. And there is no better thing to be doing than racketing around the fields, up in the hills, on horseback.

If you’re not me. I have had an enormous fear of the fields from day one, and in the past, there has been nothing worse than a ride out. But then, we went out a month or so ago, and it was okay. We didn’t canter or anything, and Connell was pretty annoyed by that, he started throwing his head and snorting when it became apparent that we were heading back to the barn after a desultory amble over hill and dale {what’s a dale, anyway?}*

So that was pretty good. I remember chatting to Con afterwards, about remember how nervous I was that one time we went out last year? Ha!

This Saturday was even pretty good-er, because, I don’t know, I just got up there, and we trotted down the road, then trotted back up the road and the lane, and we went into a field, and we jumped a log, and then went into another field, and had a canter round the place, and then had another canter in another field, and then went up to the tippy top field and cantered there, too.

It was fun! Like, cinematically enjoyable: sunshine, eight horses pelting up the side of a hill, Dublin Bay stretched out before us, in all its glory.

Why wasn’t I afraid? I have no idea. Cumulative experience? General sense of well-being? It may be because I felt like I was completely balanced in my light seat. Also, after Connell bunched, and then went into the gallop {it really was a gallop-y canter}, the first six strides were like running for the roses, and then I think he went Hey, wait a second, this is tiring and then he started to slow down. To the degree that during the last few runs I was egging him on: Go, Connell, go!

I can’t tell you how great that was.

I can’t tell you how crap the jumping was on Sunday.

It was still sunny, but now it was on the verge of unpleasantly hot? {People who routinely complain about the weather are gonna complain.}

> Con looked sticky in the 70s {This was not down to the rider, she rode him really well.}
> His coat is black, so the heat had to be killing him.
> When I walked the course before the 80s all I kept thinking was, That fence is high, and that one seems high, and oh, crap, the F corner.

No good comes out of the F corner. I don’t know what it is about the F corner — except, of course, since I have decided that no good comes out of it, well, no good does. Particularly, last Tuesday the F corner just made a monkey outta me, and there it was, only strides away from fence 3, and then four strides to fence 4, and oh, man, the feckin’ F corner.

Off we went: not very confident that I was getting the correct right canter lead to begin, so messed about, and annoyed the horse, so we took the first fence and knocked a pole. Okay, onwards! 2 was beyond X and that was fine. I think we got the correct lead, and then hey! out of the F corner and over! And then four strides and over 4! And then what felt like good rhythm to a double at B, over the first, and then the one stride —

But not the one stride, up I got out of the saddle, and Con put in an extra half-stride, and off I went. Bleh.

I got back on, and tried to finish: I got 6, sort of, and then we stopped at 7, and — no. Game over.

I put all my concentration in the F corner, and that was it, basically. I struggled, mentally, all the rest of Sunday, and to be honest, much of yesterday, trying to put some perspective on it, and what I came away with is: what you focus on grows. Saturday: not a bother on me. Sunday: all sorts of stuff coming up in the brain, and from the brain to the rein. Making excuses, worrying about the fences, completely not in flow. Ah, well.

After, we went for an amble with one of the livery ladies, and that was good. Later, I remembered that when I got back on and was heading back to the F corner, someone on the sidelines called out, ‘Well done.’ Thanks, person who I didn’t know: yes, it was was well done to get back up there and try. Even though I fell off in front of all those people. Even though Con felt sticky, and it was really dusty and hot. Thanks for that, because if there’s one thing that is as vital to horseriding as a hat and jodhs and proper boots, it is perspective.

I could keep jumping the 70s, and in turn festoon my entire apartment with rosettes. I would like to go double clear over the 80s. So that’s what I’m going to work for. But I will do a round of 70s if my confidence gets knocked. It is all up to me. Really. The horse is the horse, the course is the course, and everything has an influence on everything else, but at the end of the day, it’s all what I make of it. This is thrilling, and also, a little bit annoying, and slightly intimidating. Responsible for my own responses and interpretations? Okay. Or rather: okay!!!! Gotta start somewhere, so let’s start here! Go, Sue, go!

*A dale is a valley, and no dales were actually traversed. But you really can’t say ‘over hill’ without the ‘dale’.

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