Brook Howells

Pop Goes the Weasel!

We have been well occupied the last few weeks doing hacking. Hacking, hacking and more hacking. The field has been far too wet to ride on so I’ve been restricted to roadwork and only odd trips to local arenas for schooling or competition. Corey is therefore getting a fantastic boost to his fitness and I am trying my hardest to be positive, as I am not what you would call a happy hacker. The soggy knickers and freezing toes don’t help the mindset but the field is now dry enough to withstand flatwork, so at least we should be over the worst of it.

Just before new year we had a play over Kelsall Hill’s arena eventing course and it was lovely to feel how Corey had not forgotten anything and was jumping the novice questions with ease. Frustratingly though it took us several attempts plus a guiding pole to get us over the bigger corner. I could feel that I rode it very differently to all the other questions, but we realised that is little surprise given how rarely I practice jumping anything on an angle so we know what we need to work on.

We normally miss our riding club’s annual indoor eventing as it is just a bit too soon after Corey’s holidays, but as he’s been kept in work this winter we took the opportunity to have a go. The absence of a corner meant I was confident I’d get round, except I hadn’t foreseen jockey issues! We were going beautifully in the 1m class when I, perhaps enjoying it a little too much, jumped the wrong fence and got us eliminated. Whoops! Then in the bigger class we lost our cool and it all got far too wild and wooly. I nearly got eliminated again for missing out the fence I’d jumped in error the first time…I think I need a new sat nav! Despite the first round being good, and despite the video looking better than it felt, I left that day feeling dejected and annoyed that I couldn’t keep him calm and balanced round a bigger course and wondering if I was fighting a losing battle. Maybe it was the persistent rain, the shorter days or the realisation that all of the Christmas chocolate had gone (who am I kidding, there’s loads left!) but I was distinctly lacking motivation and enthusiasm. Corey might not have had a holiday but it seemed my mojo had.

However, thanks to a well known nursery rhyme that Floss and I sing at her swimming lessons, my mojo reappeared in a jumping lesson. Corey tends to do everything a bit too fast, but that doesn’t mean I have to as well and my teacher realised that he was getting tense at me getting frustrated, so one of us had to break that cycle. I tried singing to myself in an attempt to keep myself calm and all of a sudden, to the tune of “pop goes the weasel”, the whole world seemed to slow down. It was like magic – so long that is as I stopped singing a few strides out to avoid the panic that I was going to take off at the ‘wrong’ point in the song!

I tried the same technique out at our club show jumping on Sunday. Realising as I warmed up that I was nervous of not getting it perfect, I set myself the target of just getting one thing right – this was about being on the road to better, not being 100% yet. I went in, sang my song and jumped not just fence 1 but all the fences out of a lovely balanced rhythm. We breathed on fence 4 and had it down, but I was so pleased with how he went that I entered the next (1.10m) class. This is where it normally all goes to pot and I start over-riding the canter to ensure I’ve got enough power to clear the fences instead of trusting in the power that I know Corey has. I felt confident I could keep calm. Once again I sang my song and once again Corey jumped clear in balance and a soft rhythm. Hurrah!

I don’t know where my mojo went for it’s holiday, but it must have been good because it’s come back fresh and full of vitality. I’m all fired up to crack on with practice corners and hum nursery rhymes ready for my first event which amazingly is only 5 weeks away!