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It all ended in tears!

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Jay BuckminsterIt has only been a month, but when that month is a month where you are free to play all day every day then a lot gets done! Who could have guessed it would all end in tears?

Two days after my last blog we did another event, Eland Lodge BE90. It was hot and hard, and Jay was a superstar. The venue had made huge efforts though, every single fence had soft sand/woodchip take offs and landings.

Jay racked up another double clear, and was so much more confident and forward than our first outing of the season last time. The only slight blight was my leg which went a bit numb after a few minutes into the XC, so Jay was jumping to the left, but all in all I was very pleased. Especially with Jay who kept on trying even when he was getting mixed messages, with my weight and legs telling him to turn left, but my reins telling him to stay on course. He just did his best to interpret and was kind and generous with his efforts. In particular we did a step down with a fair ditch under the step, and Jay just popped off with maybe a bit more zest and energy that he would otherwise have done.

That set us up well for Buckminster Park event just the week after. This was for a bigger class, the BE100, only Jay's second ever 100. The dressage was fine, the show jumping was fantastic. Jay jumped me clear round despite my mistakes, he really knows how to lift his legs.

The cross country was fair, just 2 fences caught my eye. One was a triple combination of skinny fences, which were also offset at the top of a steep hill. The fences were on a long 2 strides, and you could not see the third fence as you jumped into the combination, as it was off centre.

The big compensation for me was the at least it was offset to the left, so I mentally decided to "think straight" as I was fairly sure that by that time on the course my wonky leg will have been encouraging him to go left anyway.

The other fence that caught my eye was a bounce of fair steps down followed by a skinny. The first year I had Jay he was not good at steps down, he over exaggerated, and I actually withdrew from an early event as there was a bounce of steps down, and I did not think Jay was properly prepared. At that time I thought he may mis-read the question and try to launch off both steps, as he had not "learned" an economical "pop" off a single fence.

This was a difficult fence for Jay, but I felt he now had the knowledge and experience to make sense of the question the fence was asking of us. I decided that as I trust Jay to always try his best I would come to a trot to the top of the embankment, allow him to slow and size up the question, and then I would just look at the skinny at the bottom and just pose the question to him, as "we need to get over THERE Jay, that is the next fence" and then wait and "allow" him to work it out.

The first few fences went well enough, both of us cheerful, but at fence 3 my leg did its going numb thing, and we started to jump left. In fact on the way to no 4 I used my legs and we veered off and I hit my head on a tree branch, not hurting me but not pleasing David who could no longer see us but could hear the commentator! In fact no 4 was quite wide enough, but when you also jump it at an angle of 45 degrees it is an awful lot wider. I held my breath, Jay pushed harder with his talented rump and we were over.

Next up was the fence with three fences in a row, and we flew the first two, and had a quick turn to the third, chipped in another stride as by riding straight I had confused him (not the best plan after all!), and were away down the hill.

I used my legs to balance Jay down the steep part of the hill, sadly that had us hard over to the left hand side of a big roll top, happily when he then jumped left it meant that as we were right on the edge it was not so wide.

The steps were great, as planned we slowed to a trot, I let out my reins so he could lower his head to look, I then fixed on the skinny fence at the bottom, and left it with him, just gently wrapping on his sides, but with no urgency. Jay thought it was a puzzling problem, dropped neatly onto the small shelf and then somehow fitted a stride into the short (4m) distance before popping neatly down.

This left me with looooong reins, so I kind of steered him at the skinny, he was well up for it and popped it like a champ.

The rest of the course was fine,  in fact I had a photo from the pro at the second last fence, at the corner..........

Jay Buckminster corner

Both this photo and the one in the title are with many thanks to Matt Nuttall Photography.

Jay finished with another double clear to his credit.

I have thought about the eventing, and I really need to sort my leg out before we move on. Jay is ready, I am experienced at a higher level, but while we are still having misunderstandings surrounding my leg sometimes working and sometimes not then I think we will stop for a while.

Next up, Dressage. We had out BD regional finals so as preparation we did a couple of local competitions. We did OK, but Jay was not as smooth as usual, so we also booked him for a session of Cranio and a lesson with Julie Houghton before the regionals. I also had a Pilates session with Georgie Barnes.

The Pilates was first, Georgie soon had a handle on my problems and exercises to help. When I got on board for my lesson I could feel where I had stretched. Jay was treated by Julie, and soon he was flying round in his "best dressage" with even some flicky toe in Med Trot.

The day of the regionals came with us all set and prepared. The regionals- a funny old day!

Firstly our lights broke in the stables so I tried to plait with a hand lamp, and produced golf balls. Then we had a scrape with the lorry on a tight country lane, then it threw it down, absolutely lashed it down for a 2 1/2 hour journey.

When we arrived I could see just how bad the plaits were so I undid them (I always allow a lot of time thankfully) and re-did them in the lorry. I used an upturned barrel, and as I was finishing up, the lid I was standing on collapsed and sent me and the large barrel flying under Jay's feet, with a huge clatter against the partition. I held my breath waiting for pain of some kind, and Jay just stood like a rock, my legs and arms and the barrel all against his legs. Good boy. 

Then the family in the lorry behind us emerged with a whole family of HUGE golfing umbrellas, which astonished Jay, and had him trotting on the spot in his lorry. 

The saving grace all day was the Jaystar. As I tacked up the ginger one he put his work head on, and looked after his mother. He paid attention to me, and not the umbrellas. I got him off the box, and even though a shiny clear plastic umbrella went in front of him just before someone passed behind with a black and red golfing umbrella (I mean, who would walk directly behind a strangers horse with a huge umbrella, really?) he held himself together.

I mounted and threaded between other umbrellas...... The funny thing is I can have an umbrella near Jay, and can even ride whilst carrying one, even put it up and down on him, even have had a lesson with the trainer under an umbrella (in the sunshine!) and had family and friends walking around the arena both inside and outside with umbrellas, but...... he has remained a bit suspicious of strangers with umbrellas.

As you may know Jay came as sharp, and I am thankful that we have done a lot of training, but also Jay knows I have a bad back I think, and despite the distractions he looked after me.

In the collecting ring there was a tent, with loud speakers, with frisky horses about. Some were cantering off, some hopping on the spot, all very exciting. We just minded our own business, and got on with warming up. He was a little startled when a lady was bronced off, and the horse galloped past - stirrups and reins a-flying while the poor lady was unconscious on the floor, and when the people ran over to her, but Jay just stood still, head up, and then we walked.

With all the excitement we missed the fact that I was next, and with the loose horse we had gone to a walk for quite a while. Never mind, in the lashing rain we went in, had only one trip around the arena and went straight in.

It was not the best test in the world, with the rain Jay was very crooked in canter left as he tried to get his bum to the rain, he tripped once when going from Med Canter to working, and we had a misunderstanding when I did not trust him to take correct lead on a straight line, so I used too much rein and he thought it was a circle so we left the track and had to leg yield back in. 

But, you know,we came out with no regrets, we both did our best, I felt safe (and in my opinion there is NOTHING more important than that), and we are home safe and sound (after a lengthy diversion due to the complete closure of the M62, but that is another story!). 

The official photos show more rain than Jay, it was really bouncing down. 

Finally....... in our month of action...... the cause of all those tears, the Le Trec!

 Le Trec. Surprisingly emotional.

I finished in floods of tears and cried lots in the evening.

It was plus 30 degrees, we started at 12 noon and took 4 1/2 hours to cover the 20KM. My American friends will be surprised to know that we did not canter, not even once, and we did the vast majority in a steady walk. I even got off twice and walked 2KM each time as it was so hot and the ground was hard and uneven.

It was not about competition, it was about Jay-man becoming more than "fairly normal" or "quite good" in his journey to overcome the difficulties of his past.

We did minor and major roads, villages, rutted tracks, open ground, enclosed woods, steep hills, three river crossings. Jay coped with the equipment and maps, and could be relied upon to take care of me when I was otherwise engaged with drinking, thinking, eating, applying sun cream, looking around for landmarks, and map reading. We met tractors, a combined harvester, a child splatting fish with a spatula (!), bikes, dogs, sheep, pigs, cows, we had people cantering up from behind, overtaking at trot and disappearing into the distance. I scrambled on and off when Jay needed a break, for a water stop, or for the vet gate.

Why the tears? Jay has NEVER done such a treck, no pun intended, and he did more than do "well", he remained willing and CHEERFUL (and that one surprised me) despite the heat and the hills, and the sweat that at times was even dripping off him on the steeper inclines.

Jay-man was man for the job. I was confident and comfortable, we were a team. The task was such that I was not SURE right to near the end, that we were up to the job. I tested us, it was a big test, and we "won" not just the test, but also a better understanding.

The tears? I was just so proud of him. Jay could set a standard in moving on from a difficult past,  and from grabbing what is a better life for him. Jay decided to trust in me. He also looks after me. It all felt quite emotional, like we had achieved the pinnacle of a very long process.

A couple of photos thatI have bought, but here are the lnks to the web page... 

http://www.stevewallequestrianphotography.co.uk/TREC/BHS-Horncastle-26th-27th-July-/POR/i-mttcLWW

http://www.stevewallequestrianphotography.co.uk/TREC/BHS-Horncastle-26th-27th-July-/POR/i-V8Wx48m

 Jay and I stayed at a lovely farm overnight, we were the only ones there. He had a stable and I parked the box up in the field right outside. He watched me eat my evening meal through the horsebox door, then I got a chair, cracked a beer open, and put my Ipod in. I have him a gentle singing performance, and it was perhaps as well that we had the place to ourselves.

In the night it rained stair rods, and Jay became unsettled as the hire stable had a tin roof, and at home his is of a more quiet tile construction. He whinnied with worry at the noise, but all I had to do was open the door to the box and give him a word or two and he settled right back down.

I think adventures, hard work and challenges are what makes us, our horses and the bond between us.

The competition continued on the Sunday, other "tests", actually the sorts of things that Jay excels at.

 Jay? Oh no, he and I came home first thing in the morning as he really does not have anything to prove. I had nothing left to "ask of him". It was going to be another "hot one", and I would rather the brave man was out in his field eating grass.

It is where he is now, funnily enough.

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