Chapter One! On Thursday I took Barnaby out for a hack, which was nice, but towards the end I got quite fed up because I am now obsessed with how my hands are, how my feet are (I still really struggle with keeping my legs still) whether my toes are back (they creep forwards) how I'm holding the reins etc. I think I just want to go out for a hack and enjoy the countryside, and Barnaby's magnificence, and not worry about how I look.
Because of this, I was all set to tell Nicky that I wasn't going to have any more lessons. The fact that I can't really afford it doesn't help.
Then on Friday she came for my lesson, and brought the lungee bungee with her that I'd ordered. I will try to take a photo this week to show you what it looks like on the horse, but basically it's a strap that clips loosly under the horse's chin, from one bit ring to the other. It has a ring in the middle that you thread the lungee bungee through, which then goes through the rings on the roller and back on itself, then you can alter the tightness with settings similar to a market harborough. There is nothing that goes over the head like in a chambon or a Pessoa, so there is no poll pressure involved. You can also attach it to the D rings on the saddle and ride in it.
And Barnaby went like a dream in it. He was, for once, an absolute pleasure to school. Having it on the highest clip is quite strenuous for the horse, so we kept the session short. There is nothing for the horse to fight against so they gradually relax into the correct position, it's amazing. It builds muscle behind the saddle relatively quickly, which Barnaby needs, and this in turn will help him to carry himself and so will lighten his forehand. All I know is, riding him in it was absolute bliss.
So with this, to be honest, I may not need many more lessons anyway, although I have ended up booking one in for this week, but I need to make a decision very soon.
It's not that I am going to give up on the schooling though, as Barnaby definitely needs it. Mr O says it isn't Barnaby's thing, as if to say I am wasting my time, so I gave this a great deal of thought. It's like saying to a child, "Oh, you really struggle with reading, so you don't have to do it any more!" Are you prepared to cope with the illiterate adult of the future? You just wouldn't do it, would you? It's the same with Barnaby. I am not asking him for anything exceptional, just to be able to go the way any well schooled horse should go. I know he's a big lad who would prefer to trolley around on his front end all day, but that doesn't mean he should.
My next thought was: Although it's hard work, if my efforts with my hand position, leg position and generally trying to keep myself still mean we make a better 'picture' as we go up the road, rather than someone who's flopping about all over the place, maybe that's a good thing anyway...
Chapter Two: Yesterday we did go to Eckington Show, and I really enjoyed it, but showing is still a farce, isn't it? I'd rather do dressage any day. Let me explain:
I did the in-hand cob class first. I have had to practise this a bit, as Barnaby is a lot bigger than Max was, plus I have to make sure I can see round his head to see if the judge is calling me in to the line up. Anyway, the steward halted us, then one by one we had to run our horse round the edge of the field and back to the line up. The girl before me did a few trot strides and then stopped. I asked the steward if we had to run all the way round, because it seemed a bit odd to me, so I set off with Barnaby and went like the clappers, boiling hot in my tweed jacket and my heart hammering, but you have to go fairly fast if you're going to show your horses paces off well.
Then we did our individual show, where you go out to the judge one at a time. The judge asked me how old Barnaby is (14) and said he looked very fit. Then you turn and walk away from the judge, turn round and trot past her in a straight line (you just keep going, it's up to the judge to move out of the way if she doesn't want to get trampled!) and back to the line-up.
When this other girl came out, the judge gave her a lecture about not trotting the horse properly, that she was letting the horse down, that she must give the horse a tap with her whip and put in some practise at home, turning to me and saying, "This young lady's horse is beautifully schooled!" I nearly said, "Please can I have that in writing?" and then she said to the other woman, "But I liked your show, so I'm placing you first." I was flabbergasted, and so was everyone outside the ring who could clearly hear and see what was going on. Honestly, what is the point of that?
Then I did the senior equitation class. There were seven in it and I came seventh because Barnaby cantered on the wrong lead. Oh no, not on the right rein, where he does struggle, but on the left rein. I was so stunned I didn't correct it, and the judge said that if it ever happens I should pull up straight away as then at least the judge knows I've realised and am trying to do something about it, which is fair comment. He also said that Barnaby was putting his tongue between the two bits of the double bridle, not a good look! I'll have to do something about that. So I do think the judge was fair in this instance.
HOWEVER, an hour later I went into the ridden trimmed cob class. To my surprise there were quite a few in it, but there was a dapple grey sports horse that was hogged. This is quite a common occurrence, and for the life of me I don't know why the judge doesn't send them out. It states quite clearly that it is a class for COBS!
The judge had just judged three from the previous class who were also in this one, so he said he didn't need to see them again, so he watched the three new entries ride, but when he came to me he said, "I've already seen you ride," and didn't ask me to come out again! What a flaming cheek! I'd have come out and bimbled round in trot like the others did and probably have got placed.
Strangely enough I really enjoyed the day, but why is judgeing so fickle? This is why we got into show jumping. At least then you know why you're first or fifth or twelfth! Surely there must be a set standard that the judge must use, like there is in dog shows?
But I went primarily to get some ring experience with Barnaby, who I thought might be awful, but turned out to be impeccably behaved all day, spending several hours tied to the lorry on his own in searing heat. I am very proud of him. And it was worth the fight at bath time, where he snapped the string he was tied to and ran off back to the field, where I eventually caught him and began the process all over again!
Thankyou, my boy, I am proud of you today.