At the end of my last blog I’d just qualified for the British Vaulting Championships and was engaged in the next challenge – finding a horse to compete on. My group wasn’t taking any horses, and the two clubs from whom I’d borrowed horses earlier in the year weren’t taking any either. Fortunately I was eventually able to find a spot on Rio (Briardale Lothario) lunged by Stacey MacPherson from Reivers Vaulting Group up in Scotland. I wouldn’t meet him until the day, but that was fine – I had a horse! I could compete!
Getting used to a new horse quickly isn’t easy, but I didn’t have any other options. To be honest, pretty much everything I did at the British was a bit disappointing! In the compulsories, I struggled to adjust to his canter, and the left side of my body went on strike making it hard to do the moves properly. In my first freestyle round, I had a messy mount and although I kept it together mentally a lot better than I had at the English I still felt there were plenty of moments to improve on. On the second day I had another go at my freestyle and I did manage to make various improvements, before falling on my dismount – the first time I’d ever messed it up in competition, so a bit gutting really.
I feel that my general level of performance was not good and I wasn’t particularly proud of any of the routines I did. Even if I’d had no major mistakes, the basic quality wasn’t there and I could only blame some of it on my lack of confidence with a brand new horse. My training has been very disrupted over the last year and I am definitely feeling that my disability is worsening. I think that I have been trying to pack my freestyle with too much; trying to fill that single minute on the horse with lots of skills and ideas and ending up just executing them all fairly badly.
For next year, I’m going to have to have a rethink. I’ll be trying to get more medical input as well as being a bit more tactical (for want of a better word!) with what I decide to put in my freestyle. I also basically just need more time on the horse!
The British was a bit of a wake-up call for me this year – I realised how much things have changed for me in the past year and how bad it’s been making me feel. I also know that I don’t want to feel that way if I don’t have to, so I need to find a way to reorganise myself, both practically and mentally, to handle the increasing pressures that my health is placing on my training.
At the moment, I’m unsure of precisely what effect this new approach will have beyond the vague aim of maximising what I can do on the horse. It will take some experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t, and it also relies on other people, especially medical professionals and all those who help me with my training.
It also undoubtedly depends on the support that both I and the sport at large receive, from organisations and any member of the public. It feels like a long and lonely journey at the moment, because I don’t know anyone who has done this alone before, but even if there’s nobody to lead the way it helps to know that there are people to peer into the darkness with me!