In The Saddle: Why I have a spring in my step

Anita and April in competition mode.
Anita and April in competition mode.

It’s that amazing time of year again, where we can finally and ‘officially’ shake off our winter blues as we head into one of my favourite seasons as a horse rider - spring.

Like many outdoorsy people, I’ve been literally counting down the days to when the weather turns warmer, the grass begins to grow in our paddock and my horse can go out naked (without a rug on).

For me, this is payback from a gruelling winter dealing with mud, high winds and freezing weather.

This year I’m feeling incredibly excited about the season ahead. With my horse back onto a normal fitness regime, after her injuries - this will be the year of the canter for us! We’ve spent months and months building up her legs riding out only in straight lines it’s now time to build up our schooling and work on bending correctly in circles and regaining April’s balance.

Before her injury, April and I had been working up to compete take part at another cross country competition held in the Isle and ran by the Epworth and District Riding Club (EDRC).

We’d spent the winter at my trainer’s yard, with a brilliant ménage and great support network of other riders and had numerous fabulous jumping lessons to ensure we were confident and fit.

Michelle, my trainer (and comfort blanket) had gradually, and usually without me seeing, pushed the jumps up to 70-75cm in our lessons in preparation for the course but then disaster struck and April came down with her first lameness injury, a suspected bruising of the sole.

Disappointment was an understatement. We’d already completed a dressage test (beating our personal best from the year before) and won our clear round rosette at the brilliant Epworth Equestrian centre, things were going well for us and our confidence as a team was building nicely.

We were competition fit and Michelle had just convinced me to try another cross country course at pre novice level, following the fun April and I had riding a pairs competition with my friend Amanda and her brilliant lead horse, Ginny, at Bagmoor the year before.

In what seemed like no time at all, April was injured again - only this time more seriously. So, after such a long period of recovering and a huge break from shows, I’m really looking forward to building April’s fitness and balance slowly and looking at competing in some showing classes later this year.

I’m a little worried about her legs, but I think I always will be now - short of covering her in bubble wrap we are just going to have take it steady. I’m not sure when we will do our first jump at home together as I’m paranoid about hurting her, despite the vet and my trainer saying she’s fine!

I don’t profess to be the most brilliant of horse riders, in fact, it is fair to say April has much more potential than I have. I did used to worry that I was holding her back from what she could achieve, but then I have to remind myself she is just a horse - and she probably only cares about eating grass and an odd carrot, not whether she’s moving up the competition ladder!