Saturday, 22 July 2017

RDA Nationals - Showing

It's not a secret that I really didn't feel very prepared for the showing class at the RDA National Championships. Along with Eleanor and Olivia from my RDA group, I'd been put forward to it on the basis that we'd be there anyway so we may as well give it a go. I didn't really think it was my thing but I never say no to having a ride so we went for it!

We had a practice session at RDA where the three of us and Chris went in the outdoor arena and Gillian did her best to explain what was likely to happen and what we would be required to do. Suffice to say we had a lot to learn about showing etiquette!
I was able to borrow a side saddle from the super-duper Philippa Kemp-Welch, who is my side saddle instructor. I tried to research what should be worn with said saddle but found this to be something of a rabbit hole...there are just so many variables and I was very confused about what would be correct for riding Rolo as an RDA rider.
Presumably not this attire though.
Fortunately it was around this point that I was contacted by Katy Downing, who was Stable Manager for the Championships and also happens to be a very experienced side saddle rider. Salvation! She gave me so much advice and reassurance and also lent me her fabulous tweed habit - and a waistcoat to match, a shirt, tie, helmet, gloves, jods and boots...it meant that I ended up going into the ring with a horse who wasn't mine, on a saddle I'd borrowed, with clothes that weren't mine - all I had that was my own was the show cane my brother gave me for my birthday and my underwear!

It was a tiny bit stressful getting down there because I hadn't really banked on them running early, and had gone to watch Chris do his showjumping. However, we still had some warming up time before the event started properly. The showing class was a qualifier for the SEIB Search for a Star final in September so it was pretty popular, meaning it had been split into three sections. I was in the second section with Olivia. There was one pretty naughty horse in the class that Olivia and I both had to circle away from - he was winding Rolo up and I was having enough trouble keeping a nice trot as it was!
You can tell by the face I'm pulling!
We spent a while walking and trotting on both reins. The trot went on for ages and I think it was probably the longest single period of time I've ever spent in trot on a side saddle. BOY was it uncomfortable! Every time we looped past the grooms I tried to remember to smile properly instead of the grimace that was creeping onto my face. I began to feel a bit sick and my back was spasming badly. I was seriously thinking that I might need to start walking - I wasn't sure if that was allowed and I really didn't want to throw in the towel but I didn't feel great at all. Fortunately, they called us to walk and then line up and I managed to be nearly at the very end of the line, so I had plenty of time to rest and recover.
The giddy grin of relief!
At this point the grooms were allowed to come in and tidy us up. Katy and Gillian arrived armed with baby wipes to spot-clean Rolo and instruct me to smile more and hold my bloomin' right shoulder further back (in my defence it's hard with right-hand bar reins!). Katy also accused me of trump-face (i.e. it looked like I was trying not to fart), which I misunderstood as Trump-face. My outrage left her somewhat nonplussed until I realised the next day that she hadn't intended to be quite so mean!
With Gillian (navy top) and Katy (red top)
Rolo was a really good boy in the line and stood reasonably patiently, even though there were lots of horses to go before him and he had to wait longer than he would normally tolerate. When it was our turn, we walked around to meet the judges and had a lovely chat. I confessed that it was only my fourth time riding side saddle and, far from being horrified as I'd feared, they were very kind and said I was doing a good job! Their first question was how old Rolo was, which I answered easily, then later they asked me how old I was and I couldn't remember!
Chatting to the judges
After our little chat we showed some more walk and trot on both reins with a trot serpentine. At home in Cambridge we'd practised some canter but that was when I was riding astride. I hadn't cantered side saddle since my first lesson and didn't feel ready to give it a go in such a high-pressure environment. Fortunately canter wasn't compulsory!

After our little show we had another quick chat with the judges, before returning to the line up and waiting for the decisions. I was very pleased when we were called forward to go towards the final judging. There were three others chosen from my group - a beautiful roan pony, an amazingly cute little Welsh pony with a tiny but brilliant rider, and another coloured horse.
Chatting to the judges at the line-up after the first round. They were so friendly!
We then had a bit of time to go and have a rest whilst Eleanor's section did their bit. Kathryn looked after Rolo and Helen fetched lots of drinks for me whilst I sat on a mounting block as I was very, very hot and thirsty in all that tweed! It was good to get out of the saddle too - I do like riding side saddle but it's not the comfiest thing in the world. After about half an hour I hopped back on and over the next five minutes I learnt that sitting astride, stirrup-less, on a side saddle on a fidgety, grumpy horse isn't very secure! Soon enough, though, I had enough helpers to get me all sorted out again and we were back into the collecting ring.
Posing for a photo before heading back in.
From where we were we could just about see into the show ring but from our perspective it was difficult to see if Eleanor and Boysie had been called forwards or not. It looked like they were forwards and, hooray, they were! It felt nice to go back into the ring with a friend there too. We walked and trotted again but fortunately not for as long this time. We didn't have to do our individual show again but all stood in line waiting nervously for the judges to make their decision. I was absolutely amazed when Rolo and I were called in second! After the shock of that I was utterly delighted when Eleanor and Boysie came in 6th for the final 'placing' [in most equestrian events, rosettes or 'placings' are awarded down to 6th place]. Two Cambs College combinations in the top 6!
Boysie asking Rolo if he did good.
I was a bit scared that we might get bumped down the placings at this point because Rolo was getting a bit grumpy, having just about hit his limit of how long he felt was appropriate for standing still. Fortunately he had a sash around his neck and I had a rosette looped through my number before they could change their minds!
Another one with Eleanor :)

We were also given a round plaque thing which I'm sure would make more sense to me if I'd done this kind of thing before...
With Lottie Dronfield from RDA National.
After lots of photos had been taken it was time for a lap of honour in which I did have a canter, which was fine - so maybe I will canter next time!
A hug from Helen for me, a pat from my mum for Rolo, and generally just a rather happy scene!

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