June 1st 2014 – the day Red decided to down tools and not want to be a jumping superstar anymore.
Looking back there had been a few hiccups leading up to the day he threw all his toys out his pram and we got asked to leave Chilham Park, however at the time it came as a sudden and upsetting (not to mention embarrassing) shock that our perfect, kind hearted, brave as a lion Tigger wouldn’t even go in the ring let alone jump any of the jumps.
After the Wye Ride we were on cloud nine, I was so chuffed with how Red went and how forward going he was over all the fences that I decided to enter us on to an Eventers Challenge competition.
We had a month to prepare so I took Red to Denne Hill XC course to practice, we went all on our own which I don’t think was the problem as he left the trailer fine, we jumped quite a few of the jumps absolutely fine and he was showing great bravery jumping brick walls, concrete tunnels, brush fences and gates – it was when we came to an area where he had to go over a jump with a ditch, down a slope and up the other side that the brakes went on, he started to nap backwards at great speed and threatened to rear – I could not for the love of God get him to even go past this section let alone through it. He was shaking, foaming, google eyed and seemed genuinely fearful of something. I was not going to get off, nor was I going to quit and go back the way we came. We were now at least a few miles from my mum and dad who came with me and there was literally no-one around so I had to tackle this on my own or I could be creating a very bad habit that he would learn he could get away with.
It took me a good 30 mins and a lot of drifting away from where I wanted to go and an alternative route around this horror jump but we got past it and on we went.
Another stretch of great jumping brushes and logs and I thought we were back on track….
Then we jumped a big (it looked big to me anyway) wall into a wooded area that lead down to a series of steps to go down and up the other side – cue huge tantrums again, this time backing up into a wire fence and losing all ability to think properly and almost throwing himself and me down a massive ravine. This time there was no way around so we had to jump the wall again to get out and find another route around – this took another 30 mins and the tantrums were getting stronger – I had no idea what had set these off or how to stop them – he was dripping with sweat and the veins on his neck looked like they were about to pop.
I tried to calm him down and he was just about breathing normally again when we started to head for home, there was one more field to go through with some small schooling jumps that I thought would be a good way to end the day on a positive note but he wasn’t having any of that either, he had now decided to just plant himself mid canter and try and get me off, if I put my leg on he would rear, if I tried to steer him he would just pull me and drift in the opposite direction – then the last straw was the farmer opening the gate to the field we were in and letting about 300 sheep (Red’s absolute pet hate) run in and head straight for where we were standing. I did get off at this point as I had no idea how he was going to react to that but I figured it was not going to be calmly….
We survived the sheep, made one frantic call to my parents and led him back to where they were. I couldn’t leave like this so I got back on and persevered with him and actually got him over some pretty hefty logs, through the water and over some steps (after some strong negotiation).
We did leave on a good note, eventually! And I decided to just write that day off as a bad experience and crossed my fingers and toes tightly that there would be no steps or ditches at the Eventers Challenge Competition in a weeks time.