Here it is, our first one day event report! We did it!!

Yesterday we competed at Lisgarvan House, one of my favourite eventing venues in Ireland – the XC is a lovely open galloping track which I thought would really suit Flash’s big open strides. We entered the 80cm class, and were the last class of the day, meaning we had a very sociable dressage time of 13.32!

Trying to explain to my boyfriend how the “sociable time” for my dressage meant a “lie in” when my alarm was set for 7.30am was unsuccessful – I thought it better not to dive too deep into that topic in case I ever needed him to be my groom for the day and happened to have a 9am dressage.

I arrived at the yard very chilled, having made my lists, packed the car and done all my prep the day before. All that was left to do was re-wash Flash (who kindly used her poo as a pillow), hitch up and go.

That is, until I had to hitch up. Somehow, my trailer lock had jammed and no screwdrivers, hammers or tears could un-jam it. I also tried the key. So the trailer was going nowhere.

I thanked my lucky stars that my yard owner was also competing at the same event and hadn’t left the yard yet, so Flash was able to hitch a lift with her, and as my car was already packed I said I’d fly on down ahead of her and collect her number and get her hats tagged in a bid to return the favour.

My yard owner was up first for dressage, and I was 40mins later, so I helped her get ready and then started to ready myself and Flash. In a bid to cover up the yellow stains on her legs (which at this point will likely only be removed via clipping), I chalked the legs – but I fear I might have gone a bit overboard as brushing them down before the dressage made it look like we were at a teenage disco in front of the dry ice machine.

Up we got and Flash promptly jogged the whole way from the trailer to the dressage arena like a trotter – it was at this point I began to suspect our dressage may not be as relaxed as it had been when I ran through the test at home. This was Flash’s first time competing on grass, and a big atmosphere to take in – the dressage warm up was right beside the showjumping ring, and the XC commentary was in full swing over the tannoy.

Our warm up was mostly in canter (not my choice), and left bend was the only bend on offer (use of right leg to achieve right bend resulted in transition to canter or faster canter depending on the pace you were currently in), so I spent some time getting her to settle in the trot, work on transitions, and then proceeded to trot down the centre line.

The test was tense, particularly in the trot, mainly because she wanted to be cantering. The serpentines we had worked so hard to perfect at home, were wobbly but not awful. Our canter transitions were accurate and I was quite happy with our canter work. We did everything where we were supposed to – but the downward transitions were tense. Having watched the test back it didn’t look as bad as it felt – I thought maybe we’d scrape a 37 or 38. Alas the judge disagreed and gave us a 42.8. Oh well, we weren’t going to place anyway so the score was irrelevant!

Quickly walked the XC, had minor meltdown/existential crisis about why I found 80cm fences so scary/why do I do this/should I just sell my horses and take up knitting – I was feeling particularly sick about a keyhole /owl hole fence that looked scary and I was massively overthinking it. A huge thank you to the lovely pro rider who took the time to give me advice on how to ride it to settle my nerves!

In the midst of my existential crisis I missed the fact that the 80cm SJ was well underway and we were running late! Flash was on it from the get-go – once again jogging all the way to the warm up, and typically gave me a lovely warmup on the flat which I felt was intentional to remind me never to make her do dressage again. She popped all the warmup fences super so off in I went.

eventing ireland lisgarvan house
Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

The course was on a hill, and very twisty turny – this was not helped by the fact that I learned my course wrong and decided to swap numbers 7 and 9 for each other in my version of the course, so I had to quickly relearn it in my 45seconds after I got the bell! Flash jumped a lovely clear round and even bailed me out when we got too deep the double – she felt amazing and I was thrilled with how forward and keen she was, I didn’t feel any hesitation from her at any fence.

I have now learned that Eventing stops me being afraid of showjumping because I’m too busy feeling sick about the XC, and it’s got 9 jumps instead of 13 – so there’s a lot going for it.

Time to jog back to the trailer (literally), and breathe. We took the time to do another walk of the course, get something to eat/drink and then on to the final phase of the day – XC!

We donned our kit and headed off to the warm up. Our class was the last class of the day to go, and it was a small class (10 competitors), so the warm up was nice and peaceful. A warm up on the flat, test the accelerators and brakes, and off we cantered into the warm up fence.

And stopped at the warm up fence.

OK Natalie, time to wake up, get yourself together and start riding!

Canter around again and PING – easy peasy. We might have been asleep before but we were definitely awake now!

30 second warning – our time to shine. Now is not the time to get jelly legs, Natalie. Oh it’s happening anyway? Ok cool cool cool cool cool. Whisper to Flash “please let’s try to go clear. We can do this”.

“10 seconds”

Deep breaths. I’m choosing to run her through the start box rather than starting from the start box cold as it’s her first time out.

“5,4,3,2,1 – best of luck!”

Kick kick and a tap on the shoulder to wake her up and we’re off! I’ve gotten to know her quirks a bit better now so I can already sense her backing off and looking at all there is to take in even before the first fence. Time to sit in, leg on and a growl of encouragement to get her going. Boing! Over the first fence with a “good girl” and a quick pat.

Onto the second and third fences and it’s more of the same. Canter, look, back off, sit in, wobble, leg, growl, BOING! “Good girl” and pat.

eventing ireland lisgarvan house
Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

Now for fence four – the owl hole. Take a wide berth on the turn in and square up to let her see it straight, and give her time to assess it. Sit back, leg on, growl and PING! Whew that was a big one!

On we roll to fences five (a log which I thought would be straightforward but got me a last minute spook), six (a nice galloping brush fence) and seven (a roller with some fairy doors). And now time for the next question – the water.

As long as Flash has time to see something and assess it, she’s good. Surprises throw her. So I took a good straight line at the water, slowed her down, but kept a positive leg and used my voice all the way. She popped right in, and we only had a couple of strides to recover on the other side before we had to turn 90 degrees to the right and canter two strides down a hill to a cottage – probably the most technical ask in our class and she executed it beautifully for me!

On we cantered to fence 10 (a pencil) and 11 (another brush fence), before coming to our first and only combination on the course – a nice cottage on a bending four stride line to some barrels. No problem for Flash and on we cantered to fence 13 (a hay rack) and fence 14 (a palisade fence), which was placed just a couple of strides before our second water.

This one, Flash did not appreciate. Remember I said she doesn’t like surprises?! Well this one was a surprise. It was on a hill, and so she didn’t spot the water until she landed on the other side of the fence, and ground to a halt.

Kick kick, flap flap, “PLEASE FLASH”, and EVENTUALLY she decided she would tip toe her way through – lots of pats and “good girls” and we rolled on home over the last two fences, a deck of cards and a cottage. Through the finish line – we were home, safe, and we jumped all the things!

Back to the trailer and time for a wash/cool down, ice boots and a debrief with my yard owner who had a super clear on her young horse, while also having a little emotional tear or two (as I am wont to do) about what a fab day I’d had on my lovely horse.

She is incredibly talented but not always straightforward, and I have had to (and continue to) go on a very steep learning curve in order to become the rider she needs me to be. Some days I get it right and other days I don’t – and she always makes it clear which of those categories I fall into on any given day.

Yesterday made me feel like I’m getting closer to becoming the rider I need to be for this horse. I feel like I’m starting to understand her, anticipate what she needs, and ride accordingly. I can’t wait to see what we can do the more I improve as a rider.

We finished up the day somewhere in the bottom half of the leaderboard, but scores never mattered to me for a day like this. I’m still grinning from ear to ear that we did our first one day event, with a clear SJ, and a super XC (we just gotta be a bit quicker into the water Flash!). The bonus was my yard owner placed third in the same class with her 5yo!

I am very grateful for the support of TRI Equestrian who provided me with so much of what I needed to have a successful day out yesterday – from pre competition grooming supplies, to our competition kit on the day itself. Here I am wearing my Tesoro Baselayer in Burgundy with a matching saddlepad for Flash, and the Harcour Jalisca breeches in white which are the comfiest breeches I’ve ever owned!

And a MASSIVE thank you as ever to the wonderful Louise O’Brien Equestrian Photography for capturing such beautiful images of us – I’m so glad you were there for our first day out!

Now – when’s the next one?!

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