Flo Carter: March - It's been a roller coaster
Wow, what a roller coaster ride of a month March has been! There have definitely been some amazing highs, but I think everyone’s aware of the lows that the month of March has also served. Here’s how our month played out.... Well it didn’t start with a bang, that’s for sure. As our first event of the season at Aston-Le-Walls was cancelled, it was such a shame, but really not surprising considering the awful weather that the second half of February dished out - between Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis the ground never really had a chance to dry up for the Eventing season. We were definitely disappointed, but with classic British weather in mind, we always like to give ourselves a couple of runs in March at a lower level, so that if they get cancelled it doesn’t effect our whole season plan too much. Instead we used the first half of March training and focusing on what needed improving for the season ahead. We got in plenty of flatwork lessons using the money from the Horsequest bursary, and I could really begin to see Star improving when working on the flat at home. The boys also had their first cross country session of the year at Lyneham on the all weather loop. Both went really nicely and Atty definitely proved that he was up for the challenge, and ready to take on the bigger levels in the upcoming season.
Star worked really hard and faced lots of new, complex combinations that we hadn’t tackled as a partnership before, he was definitely up for it, but later that evening he was spotted looking a little bit tired from the days adventures....
Towie also had her first cross country school of the season a few weeks later, and made it clear that she wanted to be out Eventing soon too, she was supposed to do her first event in the last weekend of March. Then came the highlight of the month, it was finally time to go Eventing!
At Swalcliffe too, which is one of our favourite venues, it always makes for a great day out. The days leading up to it were spent anxiously checking our phones for updates as the rain didn’t stop.... but somehow the ground at Swalcliffe held up, and although we witnessed a few lorries getting towed in and out, and were pretty well covered in mud after the dressage - it was a fantastic day! In many ways, it was the perfect first event of the season, lots of things went right and our winter training paid off. But there was also lots of room to improve, which is exactly what the first event of the season is all about.
Star was up first in the BE90, for our first event together. I had pointed out when walking the course that the dressage warm up being in sight of the cross country may prove rather interesting for Star.... I was right. We had 5 minutes of a nice warm up, then a horse cantered past us on the cross country course. All 20 other horses in the warm up proceeded to carry on as normal, strutting their stuff and showing off, Star however insisted on stopping, eyes on stalks and staring at the cross country. After that, the warm up was a little bit more exciting (Star was already in cross country mode). We did eventually manage to relax him again, he remained a little distracted in the test itself, and although we produced some really nice trot work and received some 7’s, he ended up inventing his own pace instead of ‘canter’ which was a ‘half trot/half canter with head in the air’.... the judge wasn’t too impressed and we walked away with a less than flattering mark of 45. (At least there’s room for improvement...?)
Star did go on to redeem himself throughout the rest of the day, jumping an easy clear in the showjumping, despite the ground being deeper than what he was used to, and then he flew the cross country clear too. He gave me the most amazing feeling out on course, finding all the most technical lines easy! To end on a double clear at our first event, you can’t really ask for much more than that! And we will continue our dressage practise, because his jumping was seriously impressive, and got me very excited for what’s in store for us! Then it was on to Atty in the BE100....
He was a little less fresh, but also keen to be out. We felt he warmed up really nicely and produced a nice test, so were a little disappointed to score 37. But the main thing is that I walked away from the test pleased with how it felt, and Atty also went on to produce a classy double clear.
He flew the showjumping, making it clear to everyone watching that he would rather the fences were up at Novice height, and then he gave me the best feeling out cross country too, eating up the course.
A feeling that I had missed so much over winter!! He didn’t go cross country until right at the end if the day, and the ground was rather boggy by this point, so we ended up gathering a few time penalties which dropped us out of the top 10.
And I love this picture of Atty in his HorseQuest saddle pad...
If you’re interested in following my whole trip to Swalcliffe (or just want to re-live some Eventing) then here’s the link to my Event Vlog:
I walked away from Swalcliffe feeling very pleased. The Eventing season had started, I’d picked up 2 double clears and both horses seemed to be suggesting they were ready to go up a level.
Surely now we were about to embark on months of sunshine and eventing that would make my whole gap year.... Or not... a few days later British Eventing published a statement putting the season on hold until further notice. In the days that followed, slowly, one by one my favourite events began to put up statements cancelling their 2020 fixture; Badminton, Bramham, Chatsworth. We’d all heard of the coronavirus, and seen the battle that China had faced. But it all felt so far away, and removed from our lives. And the suddenly, without much warning, it arrived! And just like that we’re in a state of lockdown, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.
As somebody who took a Gap Year to focus on Eventing, this has certainly come as a bit of a blow. But the severity of the virus that’s sweeping the globe makes it clear why we’ve taken such serious steps.
Whilst in lockdown I feel so lucky and privileged to have 3 horses to keep me focused and motivated. I made the decision to keep riding for my own sanity, and to keep the horses ticking over, but I have reduced their workloads significantly and we’ve cut jumping out of our schedules, as it has a higher risk attached to it stereo-typically.
We’re enjoying flatwork, hacking and some polework. Keeping myself as busy as possible with the horses is definitely helping me get through this period of lockdown. And I’m combining that with some retail therapy too, I actually used my HorseQuest Advantage membership to get 15% off when buying a lovely new jumper from Mochara Equestrian last week. I actually vlogged a day of lockdown, so if you’re interested in what I’m getting up to now, this is a pretty good example of what my days look like:
My April was set to be quite exciting, obviously now it’s looking a little different... but we will continue to train and live in hope that we can be out and about competing soon. For now the most important thing that we can all do to help is Stay at Home, and hopefully help to stop the spread of the virus. Thanks for taking the time to read my March Blog, stay safe, and hopefully this will all be behind us soon! Flo x