A Leap of Faith

One day I shall write a book about showjumping, and though it’s not terribly original, I’ll call it A Leap of Faith. Because I’ve lost count of the number of obstacles I’ve negotiated, hands in the mane, legs kicking on, only because of the prayer in my heart yelling simply, “Please God, help us!”

1.1m from her least favourite side. Yes, we took the pole down, but it’s a cool action shot, isn’t it?

Arwen has been going so fabulously. After our Berlin Wall Leap on Wednesday I was starting to get giddy on jumping and decided to break my only-jump-once-a-week rule, just this once, and go jumping again this afternoon. (It didn’t help that I was drooling in anticipation of watching the Olympics). I managed to beg Rain around (oh yeah, more on her later) to getting some Firn-and-Arwen-jumping pictures and away we went.

Warming up

She didn’t warm up awfully well, she seemed to be in a world of her own and a little lazy again, but once we got over her droopy trotting she settled into a very, very nice canter and took me for a lovely ride. I had set up three jumps around 60cm high and about two strides apart. Ha! Wishful thinking. For one thing, I can’t set up distances properly. For another, Arwen hates triples. However, she didn’t have a single stop or even take a rail down; the first time she negotiated the jumps in a terrible trot-canter thingy, but she cottoned on pretty quick and cantered through, messily, but quietly and without knocking the jumps down.

Tiny jump #1

Rain was sent to take away the middle jump and set the resulting double up to around 90cm. Arwen took the pole down once or twice at the first jump from her bad side, but later passed with flying colours – she is getting very comfortable and confident. At an earlier stage she used to want to rush or turn out or be kicked all the way to the jump, but now she’s pretending to be an old hand and cruising along with confidence.

After hopping over the 90cm once or twice from a trot (to build her jump, the Mutterer says) we had a go at the 1.1m. From her favourite side she absolutely LAUNCHED herself over it and made it beautifully. From her least favourite side, it was a different story. She took the pole down three times – no stopping, though – before I realised that she was getting really tired, so we went around from her good side one more time, she cleared it, and I called it a day.

Chaaaaaaarge – 90cm from a canter (yes, super awkward rider, I know)

She can be pretty awesome when she feels like it.

Rain has also been pretty awesome lately; she had a nasty confidence knock on Thursday for no apparent reason (I get them too, you start to panic over some life-threatening tiny irrelevant detail), but got over it beautifully.

On Friday she got to ride one of the thoroughbreds at the stables. Understand that the last time Rain rode a horse bigger than 14.2hh was probably four years ago. I was commanded to bring out Camson, who is 15.2, young, a gelding, and muscular, but very kind. I saddled him without a qualm. Okay, so I was having a lot of qualms in all the wrong places, but I played cucumber for Rain’s sake.

I put Rain on, led her around, let her go, watched her bloom. She’s tall and very leggy and looks, not to put too fine a point on it, ridiculous on 13.2hh Siobhanny. The appearance of the thing doesn’t really matter as long as the horse is up to the weight, but I must say that she just looked so much better sitting on a horse her size.

It flowed. Camson was a brick. Rain was a star. I stood in the arena shouting at her to sit back and trying not to gawk. When I got over the gawking, I crossed my arms and told her to canter and tried very, very hard not to look too smug for the Mutterer’s sake as Rain and Camson drifted around the arena with Rain looking like she was sitting in a chair.

The Mutterer was Rain’s teacher about three years ago, but it really, really didn’t work. The Mutterer is a wonderful teacher, but they had a personality clash. I’m not gonna lie to you, Rain is very smart, very talented, and very determined, but she is also not an easy person, especially not to teach. She’s putty in the hands of her ballet mistress in part because she loves ballet and in part because that ballet mistress could teach an elephant showjumping if she set her mind to it, but she does have a tendency to blow up in your face. Just like her pony, really. Eventually, Rain quit lessons, and not long after that, quit riding.

Fortunately, I know Rain well and I can’t strangle her if I’m standing in the arena and she’s twenty metres away on a horse. It’s still hard to tell if when to step back and when to bully her into something a little bit, although when she starts screaming at you it’s a safe bet that you’re on the wrong road.

The biggest change, though, has simply been Rain. She’s grown up quite a lot since she was the howling little girl on a skittish little pony. All I did was set the snowball rolling and watch it grow. And grow. And grow!

What did I tell you? The bronc-ridin’ ballerina!

I managed to keep the smug grin off my face for most of the time and the Mutterer might even have been impressed. Well, he said so, didn’t he? (Although it’s hard to tell, with Horse Mutterers).

Further news is that one of my Joyful Jerseys has finally presented me with a darling heifer calf. I’ve had five or six calves this year and every single one was a bull – Bokmakierie had a stillborn and then followed Frankenstein, Beethoven, Bartholomew, Bartimaeus and Felix (talk about longwinded). It was beautiful Barbara, coming into her second lactation, that calved down this golden afternoon and had a soft-eyed heifer as dainty as a dewdrop. As-yet-unnamed Joyful Jersey is now cuddled in hay, awaiting her first ever supper.

We have also started working with the Holstein heifers owned by Lovett Holsteins for the Standerton Show. My heifer, Lovet 11047 “Pear” (better known as the Duchess because, honestly, Pear?), is a bit of a loon but at least she’s a beautiful one. Rain’s, 11152 “Venus” is very well behaved. The Duchess is so nicknamed because she walks like a duchess, absolutely calm and absolutely confident, although the effect is slightly marred by her garish red headcollar with the words “I Love My Horse” in hot pink across the noseband. (The infamous Hydeaway Sense of Humour again).

The Duchess is still being difficult and I still haven’t gotten the hang of riding Woody (who is beautiful with a horrible canter) and Achilles still isn’t over his operation and I still can’t ride the most amazing horse in the whole wide world. But here and now in the dusk beside her with the sunset as gold as the halo of an angel and the Word of God burning warm in my heart, with Arwen jumping almost her height and Rain grinning as she rides a giant thoroughbred… here and now, success is sweet, very sweet.

And soon I will ride Skye again. But now I must feed a tiny Jersey calf with limpid dark eyes and soft milky breath.

Thank You, Sir.


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