I do this for love

14 07 2012

Yesterday carried on in much the same vein as Thursday. I rode Kit again, we did trotting practice. The second-year sempai who instructed me gave me minimal input, only telling me when to trot, when to slow, when to speed up and when to stop or turn, occasionally telling me I was leaning too far forwards or backwards and just saying, ‘Good,’ when I got myself in the correct position. At the end he said I was doing well, and that was it. One of the high-school students rode him directly after me, and we untacked, washed and groomed him together afterwards. He deferred to me because as (technically) a university first-year, in terms of rank I am above him. I wasn’t really comfortable with that, because while I’m confident that I know what I’m doing now, he’s been there longer than me and probably knows better than I do on a lot of things.

Today was a long but rewarding day. I didn’t ride myself, but we were hosting a dressage and show jumping competition at our riding school. This meant that our horses had all been shifted about in the stables to make room for the opposing university’s horses, who were all in situ in usually-unoccupied stalls when I arrived (late, because of a rare train delay). It started 15 minutes early with the usual chores, which were hurried because all the horses that weren’t competing had to be taken for walkies – at which point I kept out of trouble by hanging up washing and putting away clean towels.

The games themselves were full-on dressage, dressage in the smaller dressage arena for the less experienced (but still eminently capable) dressage practitioners and then show jumping. For me, this mainly meant standing around a lot, and then running in to help whenever the wooden poles needed adjusting or obstacles needed setting up.

It was a very long day, over the course of which the temperature crept up above 30 degrees and the humidity was crushing. We’d all been promised lunch, but in the end we didn’t get given it until gone four o’clock, by which time I was in such dire need of both sustenance and a sit down that it was taking all my powers of concentration not to pass out where I stood. I had crept off to eat a rice ball I’d bought at a convenience store before I arrived just to break a note for some change during a break in competitions when there was nothing to do, but a third year found me eating it and told me off, saying that eating during club activity time was forbidden. I apologised, explained I was so hungry I had started to feel sick and defiantly ate the last few mouthfuls in front of her anyway, but rice balls are only really very light snacks and it didn’t really help to keep me feeling full for the four hours that followed.

Nevertheless, it was nice to feel a part of what was going on, and I did feel proud when our team won most – but not all – of the awards. Our horses were obviously a bit stressed at the commotion, although many of them were also pleasantly inquisitive about what was going on, and while on a normal day they can often be recalcitrant and a bit belligerent, from the way they reacted whenever I approached one of them I felt as though on seeing me they were taking comfort from having a familiar person close by, which was lovely for me. Even Hokon let me beep him on the nose without grumpily trying to bite me!

Oh, and one of the opposing team’s horses appeared to be an Arab! It had the distinctive Arab head-shape. I was excited at seeing this, as I have often been carried away with the romanticism associated with the breed, but I saw why so many people have a problem with them and refer to them as ‘spooky nutters’. The horse in question was difficult about the simple act of being rode into the arena – apparently because it was far too interested in everything else – and then, after demonstrating it could do the rider’s bidding beautifully if it wanted to during the warm-up, flatly refused to jump with a haughty air about it when the time came and everyone’s eyes were on it and its rider. Having said that, I have completely fallen in love with the thoroughbred breed. Masochistic? Me?

In the end, when the other team had left and taken all of their horses with them and we’d finished clearing up the mess, our team captain gave us all an ice lolly, and called the event over. We started at 06:45; we finished at 17:30, having had a 45 minute break at around 16:00. I don’t even want to think about how many hours that was. And I don’t even get paid for this!…