Today was Abbey second one day event. It didn’t go as planned.  In fact, I’d go as far to say it was probably our worst outing, ever.

The picture above doesn’t tell the full story…the collage below is more accurate!

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Abbey has been getting increasing antsy all week. By Friday she’d earned a new nickname: ‘Crabby Abbey’.

She’s been grumpy about being groomed (‘don’t touch me!’),  been more and more girthy, got sharper and sharper, and tetchy about being the last horse in the stable block.

On Monday we went cross country schooling and while she was a little more tense than normal, she went really nicely. I thought we were prepping well for the ODE.  Abbey had Tuesday off.  On Wednesday we did flatwork in the school.

There were two other people riding in the menage and Abbey was crabby every time they passed, she was spooky and argumentative.  But we worked through it and I got some nice work out of her (including our first counter canters!).

Thursday we interval trained with a friend and her horse.  Abbey was even more spooky in the field; jumping at pigeons, the cross country fences, the gateway, the muck heap and anything else that caught her eye.  She’s was cross about being one of the last being turned out again.  She was cross that I didn’t make her dinner fast enough either.

On Friday, we tried a jumping exercise in the school.  Abbey did all that was asked but her attitude stunk! She didn’t want to go into the corners and when I insisted on inside bend, she had a mini-tantrum.  She was rushing the fences and trying to take control.  I have to be honest, she was really testing my patience.

As I wasn’t happy with how she rode on Friday, I took her into the school again on Saturday to run through the exercise but I returned my tack set up to it’s original configuration (I have been trying a new bit recently).  She went better and we had a little less attitude.

Being the day before the event, Abbey had to have a bath….not normally ‘an event’. However, this Saturday Abbey was not happy.  Especially when the resident cat strolled passed…

Competition day and Abbey is winding herself up as I bring her in from the field. Yes it’s half an hour earlier that she’d normally come in, but really…

On the way to the dressage warm-up Abbey grew at least a hand.  Everything from the jump wings to the coffee vendor was, apparently, worthy of shying at. I’d just managed to get her to relax a little when a horse started rearing behind her – and we were back to square one. To cut a long story short Abbey just about held it together during the test to score 34.8.


45 minutes later and we’re cantering on the spot in the showjumping warm-up.  They had watered the surface and Abbey seemed to be objecting to the sound of the other horses hooves. I managed to stop her from exploding and b*ggering off with me with some half halts but she was clear in expressing her displeasure with some serious head-tossing and tail swishing.  I was riding an unexploded bomb and when someone shut a car door on the other side of the arena wall, it was too much – we were in flight mode.

I went back to riding loops, transitions and circles.  Once I felt I’d a little relaxation, we popped the practice fence. This was rather exciting for Abbey and as I careered around the warm-up with slightly less control than I would have liked, I was wondering why I bothering – this isn’t my idea of fun!

While we jumped clear, I wasn’t happy.  Abbey had taken control and was firing into fences, refusing to listen to my aids and slow down.  It didn’t bode well for the cross country, which is our weakest phase.

I was right.  The warm up was a nightmare.  From the field with the practice fences you could see glimpses of other competitors on the course.  Abbey was tense and very argumentative and for the second time in her life she bucked.  It was horrible and I very nearly withdrew from the competition.

I’m not a quitter though.

At the starting box I struggled to do a 10m circle. We had 3 refusals at the first fence, which she then cat-leaped from a standstill and took off on the other side. It felt like we hurtled to each fence, only to back off 3 – 5 strides before. I could feel her looking for a way out – she was trying to wriggle to the left and then the right and then the left again.   As a result I sat deep and fired her into them – doh!!!

We had two further refusals on the course, so we finished with 100 jumping penalties and 91.4 time faults.

Back at the lorry park Abbey looked miserable.  She wasn’t eating her hay and was getting twitchy.  So rather than wait for the scores, we boxed up and came home.

I’m not going to lie; I am really disappointed.  Abbey and I can do so much better than this. But it’s ok to be disappointed.  It doesn’t mean I am giving up, it means I’m going to learn from it and try again soon.

Interestingly the other liveries with mares have said it’s likely to be because of the change of seasons – they are cycling and a bit crabby at the moment too.  During the last 48hours, it’s got noticeably colder, wetter and windier too.

With all the prep I had definitely got wound up.  I was nervous and Abbey would have felt that.  It became a vicious circle, with me getting less confident and more nervous, the more Abbey fed off my nervousness.

So what am I going to do?  More practice!

But not quite yet. She’s done a lot recently, going out at least once a week, if not more so I’ll pop her on the lunge tomorrow for 10 minutes or so for a stretch and then she can have a couple of days off.

She’s been giving me very clear signals all week that it would be like this and I didn’t listen! Hopefully, if it is her hormones/changing weather and she’ll settle down in a week or two. If not, I may consider speaking to a vet to make sure that there is nothing else going on.

Assuming all goes well, we may try cross country schooling on some all-weather courses this autumn.  I could do arena eventing too.

I might ask a friend to interval train in the fields with me but going the opposite way round the field, or in the neighbouring field (to see whether I can overcome this misbehaviour caused by other horses nearby).

In short, I will break down the issues,see if I can find ways of replicating them in a controlled environment. and ways of handling Abbey’s reactions.  Hopefully she’ll get accustomed to the stimuli too.

I had planned to take her to a show in a fortnight and to the first Trailblazers dressage qualifiers the week after but I will have to see how she goes.

One thing I’ve learnt is that I need to listen to her – with hindsight, I should have withdrawn today.  By being stubborn and forging ahead I’ve reinforced firing into fences, argued with her, and now, she know that can see p*ss off with me.  It’s not been pleasant day for either of us.

Still, I’ve learnt an important lesson – sometimes it’s ok to withdraw from a competition. I’ve also learnt that I can cope with the worst of Abbey!