We have all had those days that start off amazingly and end with you walking your horse back across the cross country having been eliminated.
The first thing to remember about being eliminated is it happens to everyone and at every level. It’s just as heart breaking to be eliminated on the cross country when your leading a BE100 on a young horse, as it is to be eliminated at a top level International event.
One of my worst memories of an elimination was over in Aachen as part of the Team GBR FEI Nations Cup Team. My amazing boy DHI LUPISON (Luke) was lying in 3rd place after the dressage, I was over the moon when things like this happen you can’t help but let your mind wander and imagine the dream coming true and you being in with a chance of a top 3 placing. He then jumped an awesome clear show jumping and we moved in to 2nd place going into the cross country phase. Luke and I headed down towards to the cross country and I felt physically sick, it’s that feeling of adrenaline, nerves and the desire to do well. Being able to represent your country is incredible, it’s what we work so hard to achieve, but, with it comes a lot of pressure, you are no longer competing for yourself, your competing for your country and your team mates. No matter what day you have, you have to put a smile on and support the rest of the team. There is no hiding in your lorry, which sometimes is the only thing you want to do.
Our round started well, Luke is such a bold horse which is a great thing but also can be bad, he sadly had a run out at a double of angled hedge tractors at fence 16. The second you feel the horse run out your heart drops a little, but at this moment you have to pick yourself up.
We approached the tricky water combination at fence 20. Luke was still feeling very bold and strong and as a result we had an awkward jump over the corner at the B element and took the flag out. I thought I had jumped inside the flag but the ground jury ruled against it and said I hadn’t and was therefore eliminated. It was one of those thing’s that we could not change but I was still heart broken not just for myself but my team. I really felt like I had let them down.
After washing Luke off and making sure he was okay, I started to think ‘what if', it’s the worst thing to do but something we all do.
When we returned home I thought to myself how can I move forward with this and what have I learnt.
Firstly, keeping a level head when it all seems to be going to plan is vital but not always the easiest thing to do. It is so important to stay focused on your plan and not get ahead of yourself. Do not change the way you are going to ride the course just because your sat in a good position. If you have a run out on course make sure as you turn your circle to re-approach the fence you take a deep breathe to allow yourself to not become flustered. It is so important to forget about the run out and continue to focus on the fences in front of you and keep riding forward.
Try not to just focus on the bad parts of the round when you are back at the lorry or speaking with your trainer. Obviously discuss what went wrong but then also discuss the parts that felt great. There is no point beating yourself up, it is okay to be upset and disappointed, allow yourself that time and then pick yourself up and make a plan of what you are going to do at home to stop it from happening again.
A Little Training tip:
If I have a horse that has run out at a skinny, regardless of their age I take them right back down to basics and put a pole either side of a skinny fence in the school, to show them exactly where to go. Depending on your horse you may only need to jump it like that a handfull of times. It is important to do this a couple of times in the weeks after the event just to reiterate what you’re asking of them.
If you have had a run out at corner, do a similar thing. Build two corner type fences in the school and place a pole off the side of them. Don’t make the fences big and really concentrate on jumping them in a dead straight line. Always remember to reward your horse after they have done what you have asked. Once they feel confident and straight add in another fence either an oxer or a vertical so that you are jumping two elements. Being very strict as a rider to stick to the line you have chosen as well as keeping them straight and balanced.
Remember EVERYONE at every level have 'bad days', it does not mean you're useless and should give up. Don’t concentrate on what you think other people are saying, just concentrate on what you’re going to do to fix the problem.
Never be the person on social media who makes a negative comment about someone else, as riders we all need to support each other, especially on the day’s when it has gone wrong.