So, the Mitsubishi Motors Cup is almost upon us and Nero and I have just successfully dusted off the cobwebs at our first event since September, on a sunny Sunday at Munstead. My excitement is reaching fever pitch—and the butterflies are breeding!
For me, there is a fine line between excitement and anxiety and my main aim for 1 May will be to avoid tipping the scale. I will be reminding myself that it is just a BE100, even if we do get to canter through that lake and retrace some of the hoofprints of our heroes.
One of the best antidotes for competition nerves, I find, is to allow more than enough time. And, if that means loading up to the sound of owls hooting and listening to late night jazz on the radio as we set off, so be it. A long drive offers an opportunity to catch up on the phone with my family down under, listen to podcasts and audio books, and sing along to my ‘Eventing’ playlist on iTunes while mentally rehearsing my dressage test. On arrival at the venue, usually clutching a triple shot flat white, I know I can relax and enjoy the preparations.
There will be occasions when not everything goes to plan, such as the time when, following its service the day before, my car lost a wheel en route to Equestriad in Australia. I managed to safely steer my trailer to a stop on the hard shoulder and, while I plied my poor pony with carrots, a knight in shining fluro hammered the hub back into shape and, borrowing wheel nuts from the other three, got the wheel back on and my horse and me back on the road.
With shaking fingers, I plaited up in record time and virtually slid sideways into the arena after a micro warm-up. An ‘error of course’ was inevitable and the hoot of a dressage judge’s car horn does nothing to calm the nerves! It was this horse’s first pre-novice, though, and all worthwhile when we galloped through the cross country finish.
With Nero’s cold back and a fair few (polo and eventing) miles on the clock, I have to give him a lengthy dressage warm-up with lots of stretching and suppling. I find the ‘long and low’ both softens his back and gets him into a nice, relaxed headspace, boding well for our test.
Tight timing between the dressage and show jumping, however, is good news for us, as we can arrive at the collecting ring ready to go. Rarely having anyone on the ground assisting us, I usually follow the warm-up of another rider whose pole person starts them with a cross rail.
I love to see friends out eventing and get chatting to my lorry park neighbours, but I am hopeless at delegating and have developed a solo formula that works, and ensures that I’m fully attentive to all of Nero’s needs. However, once he’s had post-cross country carrots, his legs have been iced and he’s hoeing into the haylage, nothing beats a debrief over a glass of champagne.
Wishing all my fellow competitors the best of luck at Badminton Estate and hope to catch you at one of the course walks!