Goodness me, I really came into autumn with a bump. Hot on the heels of glorious Burghley, I packed all my stuff into the car on a mild Friday night (Barbour included, thank God), before getting up at 5am on Saturday and driving to Blenheim. After enjoying last year so much, I immediately signed up again to be a crossing point steward this year, fully anticipating another day of enjoying the cross country up close.... which I genuinely would have done, apart from the fact it was hammering down with rain. And it did so all bloody day! The ground was so greasy from the deluge on Saturday morning that just parking my car was a mission, without slipping and sliding all over the place.
When I got to the crossing point, my mood didn’t improve, as it continued to chuck down. Not a light smattering here and there either, a proper downpour, which instantly soaked anything it came into contact with. Most of the time I just stood with my back to wind and rain and huddled into my jacket, blowing my whistle a little too forcefully whenever a horse and rider combination came flying past. I did entertain myself by watching the riders’ faces, most of which were locked into a slit-eyed grimace against the rain, usually accompanied by them shouting "STEADY" at their horses who were only on fence 3 of the course, and so still pretty fresh. No one really seemed to be relishing the day, and I didn’t see an awful lot of the rest of the course. I really didn’t want to in all fairness. Instead I wanted to pull on a warm sweater and sit in my car to dry off, and when I finally did so at the end of the day, it steamed up so badly, I had to wait about 10 minutes before I could drive away.
However, things picked up on the Sunday, when the sun came out and I actually watched some eventing. We also packed up a picnic and enjoyed one of those rare last days of summer sunshine, soaking up the atmosphere along with some generous helpings of gin!
Back to my own riding, and I’m getting to grips with the darker evenings, which have meant frantically turning on Mavis the lorry’s headlights on a trip back from renting my local indoor, having travelled a good 400m wondering why I couldn't see and realising it was now officially dark! It also means I now sport a very snazzy head torch, for the times I turn Blue back out having ridden after work. It’s a great look, marred slightly by all the moths that are drawn to it and which attack my face. In an attempt to stop Blue from pulling his shoes off, he is now wearing a very snazzy bright blue pair of overreach boots. The pair of us look like right plonkers!
We are making steady progress though, and the we’re both improving, me with my position and Blue with his flexibility. No longer motorbiking around corners, he’s gradually learning to carry himself properly, although he still has his moments where his neck gets a bit stiff. I’m having to learn how to stop doing the work for him, and not hold him in place too much with my outside rein, a habit which is infinitely hard to unlearn after his slow rehab' where I have felt inclined to help him out a bit. Blue also seems to be feeling a bit more relaxed now he’s doing more to keep him occupied, and is beginning to look a little less weedy and a bit more muscular, like he used to, as well.
We did have an interesting moment during our most recent lesson, which was in the evening after a long day at work. My lessons now seem to be taking place in the dark more and more, as they start at 7pm, when it starts to turn to twilight, and I come back onto the yard afterwards in the dark. Yay!
Anyway, I had turned the floodlight on before we began, as it can take a while to lighten up. As we moved into the last 15 minutes of the lesson, however, it cut out and Blue and I were plunged into darkness mid-trot. I’m not going to lie, it’s quite a disconcerting feeling. My instructor however, just told us to keep practicing the movement (in walk) as we both thought it would turn on soon. What followed was quite an entertaining 15 minutes when the yard manager came out to check various fuses and other electrical equipment, whilst we kept going with the lesson in varying degrees of darkness and flickering lights. At one point it looked like we were having a rave! Luckily Blue was incredibly well behaved and didn’t bat an eyelid. At one point I whispered incredulously to him, "you’ll do this, but you can’t hack out round one tiny little field without jumping into the hedge? In broad daylight??"
This has definitely brought home the fact that those lovely warm sunny days and light evenings are almost gone. I may wear my head torch when I school Blue next time. And an anorak!