Buoyed by the tremendous success of our first foray into the world of show-jumping (the cross pole clear round at a local show), we decided to enter Scarlet into the Eventers Challenge at the Royal Leisure Centre the following Bank Holiday Monday. She had coped so magnificently at Wivelsden that I was genuinely looking forward to our next outing - it's only taken two years for that to happen!
However, disaster struck, as disaster is wont to do when things are going well. Scarlet, despite being a much calmer, less ridiculous horse than she used to be, still has her moments of being pretty special, and she had one of those moments in her stable during the week. She took a dislike to the farrier when he first shod her (through no fault of his own, I hasten to add! She mistrusts the majority of men she comes across, presumably a result of her unsuccessful racing days) and has never let go of this. Consequently, he can't catch her, even in her stable, so one of us always has to be present when he comes to shoe the horses. Last week, he was due to come and shoe them, but for various reasons no one could be home at the right time, so Scarlet was left in her stable with a headcollar on, for perhaps an hour, in case the farrier came in that time. She was having a good scratch against the doorframe when the headcollar got caught and stuck on one of the bolts, and Scarlet, bless her, freaked OUT. Thankfully Mum happened to arrive at the yard just in time to hear the poor scatterbrain throwing herself against the door in a misguided attempt to get free. When Scarlet heard Mum approach, she froze, and allowed Mum to free her. She had bashed her eye against the door, removing layers of skin all around the socket, and the hollow above her eye was so puffy, she looked like she'd stuck her head in a hornet's nest. My poor angel was still traumatised by the time I got in from work, having received a terrifying and not particularly reassuring message from my mother saying, "Scarlet tried to hang herself today." She wasn't letting anyone close to her, and was very jumpy and on edge. From what we could see, the cuts weren't deep, and the puffiness was just soft tissue damage, so we decided to hold off on calling the vet out until the morning if we felt it was more serious. I managed to get a fly mask on her to at least keep it clean and keep the bugs off it, and put her in her field to let her chill out a bit. The next day she allowed us to touch her head, so we could get a closer look at the damage, and we were satisfied that it was superficial damage. It's funny, even though I have my B test and know all the basics about equine injuries and how to deal with them, when it happens to my own horse, who I love more than my own family, all knowledge and common sense goes whooshing out of my head and all I can think is, "ohmygodohmygodohmygod". Not very helpful. By the time the weekend rolled around though, the eye socket had ballooned, and her eye was half closed. More panic ensued on my part, until Mum sent me to the shops to buy Arnica cream (I was briefly addicted to Arnica pills when I was in my teens as the owner of not one but two genuinely evil horses who tried to kill me on a regular basis), which I applied to the puffed up area and lamented our bad luck to anyone who'd listen.
Thankfully this did the trick, and on Sunday morning her eye was nearly back to normal. We decided to risk a trip to the Royal. Scarlet wore her new Bucas Power Cooler, her reward for being so good at Wivelsden. My instructor, Janet, came along to offer support and to shout at me if she thought I was being feeble. The course was only 60cm, but there were some real challenges there - three banks, one of which was reminiscent of the Hickstead Derby Bank with a skinny on the top. There was a small water tray, which made my heart sink into my boots, and a ditch, which thankfully had an alternative option! Just to cap it off, the organisers had corralled two sheep and left them to graze in the middle of the arena!
What made this show particularly brilliant for a green horse was that riders were allowed to enter the clear round class beforehand, which comprised fences 1-7 of the actual Eventers Challenge course. This meant we could have our little upsets (water tray, natch, and a perfectly ordinary oxer which my little angel took a dislike to.) We did the clear round twice (the second time we did it with no refusals but she left a leg at the third and had had it down. Scarlet also warmed up brilliantly, jumping a cross pole, upright and spread brilliantly, with no fannying about over poles on the ground or feigning hysteria when the upright became a spread.
Even though she was behaving beautifully, I was still hugely nervous as we headed into the arena. Scarlet felt fantastic, bouncing into canter and pricking her ears as we turned for the first fence. She flew every fence beautifully, and tackled the banks and skinnies like she'd been doing it all her life. We came unstuck at fence nine, where i didn't have enough leg on and we had a refusal, but she leaped over it on re-presenting, and flew the double and skinny after that, even though bales of hay were adorning them! I was so chuffed with her you'd be forgiven for thinking we'd just won Olympic gold! There were actually no clears in the class, so we proudly claimed our blue rosette for 2nd place! Scarlet drew the line at having it on her bridle, so Janet poked it through the D ring on my saddle instead. Then we did our first (of what I hope will be many) lap of honour! She got a bit keen following the victor but was very good, and we pulled up after an extra circuit!
Once again my crazy ex racehorse has shown how fantastic she can be, and I'm so excited for her future career. We've got our first ODE at the end of the month, so we have two weeks to sort this right canter lead issue...
By Laura From Dragonfly Saddlery & Pets