Saturday, 10 November 2012

Memory Lane

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Upon going through the collection of my old horsey memorabilia, I stumbled upon this ripper of a photo.

Going, going....almost gone!

There's quite a story behind this particular moment snapped some time ago. It was at the Charlton Show and it was my first time riding in the under 16 jumping class (I had actually won the under 14 class on the rather recalcitrant Charles the previous year, but that is perhaps a story for another time!).

I had owned Grey Mercy (aka "Jack") for about 4 months at this stage. I was lucky enough to get Jack on my 14th birthday and felt very grown up and important, going from a 14 hand pony to an almost 16hh thoroughbred. It had also seen me rapidly elevated from Grade Four Pony Club competitions to Grade three, which in my youthful ignorance, made me think I had really "made it" as a rider! It would be fair to say that (in the beginning at least) Jack got us around events by virtue of his sheer good nature - not by any talent or skill on my part.

That Charlton Show day was the first knock to my invincibility and a steep learning curve for me as a rider. I was very excited to be entered in the bigger of the two junior jumping contests - and even more excited to have jumped clear and made it into the jump off! I think at that stage of my riding career, I'd only managed to make it into a jump off a handful of times before....and never at anything over about 60cm!

I remember cantering into the arena with a vague notion of going really fast...desperately wanting to win that broad blue sash. I had no knowledge or experience of jumping a horse on slippery grass, of how to plan to ride lines in a jump off...or even the concept of keeping a horse balanced when picking up the tempo!

The first few jumps I think were ok; however, the further we went along, the faster and flatter Jack started jumping and we had a few rails down. With the clock ticking, I then became preoccupied with the idea of going faster, not realising that any chance of placing had already been lost. I vaguely remember turning too sharp into the pictured fence. We approached it crooked and going too fast.....Jack slipped on take off - and the photographer from the local paper happened to be sitting there and snapped the above delightful shot (which Mum later presented to me at Christmas!).

To this day, I am not sure how Jack did not land on me, but we both hit the deck and I was luckily thrown clear. My lingering memory from this incident is that as I stood up, Jack got to his feet....cantered on, cleared the last fence and left the arena without me!

Despite this particular sticky moment, Jack was an absolutely fantastic teenager's mount and he is responsible for developing my love of eventing. It is fair to say I learned a lot from this point on! He took me from being a nervous jumping rider through to my first Pony Club State Horse Trials, as well as numerous, shows, gymkhanas, flat rides and even games! He was quiet, always tried his hardest and was one of the most generous horses I have had the pleasure of owning. To horses like this, we owe everything. xx

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