The Mud Monster Does Dressage Part 1
10.30pm Saturday : Bed
11.00pm Saturday : Asleep
12.00am Sunday : Sheesh, it’s warm
12.30am Sunday : Oh, the washing machine has just started
1.00am : Must remember to hang out clothes later
1.05am : Seeing as I’m lying here awake, I’ll just run through my first test in my head.
1.15am : Are my boots in the jeep?
1.20am : Must remember the rain sheet.
1.25am – 4.00am : Quite similar to 1.00am – 1.20am
4.05am : Asleep.
5.00am : Ah Jaysus, there’s the alarm.
Today’s dressage competition was scheduled to start at 8.00am. I was to be the fourth person in the arena, at about 8.20am. I wanted 20 – 25 minutes of warm-up time, so this meant we had to leave the stables at 7.00am. Marine had told me that her pony, Rusheen, can be difficult to load sometimes, so this meant we had to be ready to load at 6.50am at the latest. Therefore, I wanted to be up at the stables preferably before 6.00am, to allow plenty of time to clean the mud monster (Flurry). Hence the 5.00am alarm.
I’d left him clean, rugged and plaited the evening before, of course.
I arrived at the stables at 5.45am, hitched up the trailer and brought the travelling gear into the big barn where Marine and I would be preparing our horses. Then I went down to the field. It was pitch dark, my head torch needed a new battery so I only had my phone to use as a torch. I heard movement in Aero and Flurry’s field shelter as I approached and assumed they were both there. No such luck! Aero peered out at me, blinking sleepily. There was no sign of Flurry.
First problem. Find and catch your horse…
I stood and called and called. Eventually, I heard a rustle down below me and I could see a light coloured shape moving through the gloom. Hooray! He was there! He was a bit nervous of the torch light, so I had to slip and slide through the deep mud to go down to him (there has been loads of rain here recently. It’s just like Ireland. I feel right at home, unfortunately). He seemed a bit surprised to be taken out of the field in the dark, but he waited patiently (tied up, of course) while I caught Rusheen for Marine. Then I led both of them back to the barn, wondering just how much mud he had managed to plaster onto his body overnight.
Actually, he wasn’t too bad. It was just on his left side – his neck was wet and muddy and there were almost-dry mud patches on his belly and his upper hind leg.
I rolled up his plaits and shook out his tail (plaited to keep it clean over night). Then I brushed the dry mud off as best I could. He still had a patch on his neck, but I hoped that would dry in the trailer on the way to Manosque and I could brush it off when I got there. After all, we were well on schedule. I would have plenty of time to faff around when I got there (famous last words).
By 6.45am, we were ready to roll. I loaded Flurry first, thinking that Rusheen should be more inclined to load if his buddy was already on board. No such luck. He went all the way in on the third or fourth attempt and then shot out backwards while I was trying to close the bar behind him. After that, Marine had several more attempts, with me trying to encourage him from behind, but I never know how forceful to be with someone else’s horse. Eventually I suggested unloading Flurry, so we could open the partition and make the space appear less narrow to Rusheen. We were running out of time at this stage, so it seemed like the a sensible option.
I untied Flurry, opened the bar behind him and asked him to back up. He duly obeyed, stepping carefully backwards. Then there was a loud crunch and he seemed to crumple before my eyes. My first thought was that he had slipped and fallen onto his knees, but he seemed to be struggling to get up. What was going on? I realised, to my horror, that his front right hoof had broken through the floor of the trailer and was trapped. I talked to him calmly, and he too stayed calm as he eventually heaved himself out of the hole and continued to step carefully down the ramp.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t shaking, and Flurry seemed to be fine – he was his usual indomitable little self. We went back into the barn and I whipped off the travelling boot. The hair on the back of his leg was a bit scuffed up but the skin wasn’t broken. We walked and trotted him up and down and he was sound. It seemed we had gotten off lightly.
(Side Note. When I bought my trailer, seven years ago, one of its selling points was that it had a fibreglass floor. I thought that this meant I would never need to worry about the floor rotting. It turns out that there is a thin (millimetres deep) layer of fibreglass laid over a WPB floor and that yes, it can indeed rot. Lesson learned. I just thank my lucky stars that we weren’t en route when it happened. Now I need a new floor for Christmas.)
Obviously, we couldn’t use my trailer. Could we still go? We phoned Alexandrine and told her what had happened. I asked her if we could take her trailer – she said yes. By the time we had unhitched mine, hooked hers up and brought it from the parking area to the area in front of the barn, she had come out to help us load Rusheen. Thanks to her, both horses were loaded in no time and we were off – only half an hour late, despite the disaster with the trailer.
Once we arrived at the Centre Equestre Le Pilon, there was no hanging around. Within ten minutes, I was on Flurry and riding into the warm-up arena. There were still five minutes to go before my time for the first test, Club 3 Grand Prix, but the call up steward said not to worry, I could go when I was ready.
Like last year, we warmed up around the course which had been set out for the jumping classes later on in the day. This makes life interesting – especially when you’re on a horse that would just love to pop over one of the fences! Flurry was 100% normal – not a hint of lameness, not overly excited. He was a little bit ‘looky’ on the first circuit of the arena, but after that he settled down. He was maybe a tiny bit tense, but this was a good thing – he was going forward nicely, a little easier than at home.
Eventually, Alexandrine called me and said I could go in. And off we went.
One of my circles was too big, a few of my trot/canter/trot transitions were a stride or two too late, and he jogged in walk, but, overall, it felt good. After the bad start to the morning, I really felt that my day had improved. Phew.
I still had well over an hour between my two tests. My plan now was to relax and revise (by which I mean learn) the second test, Club 2 Grand Prix. But then –