October has been relatively relaxed – only one major championship! This post covers:
- the British Equestrian Vaulting Championships
- doing some stuff that isn’t vaulting
- and that’s about it!
British Equestrian Vaulting Championships
On Friday 6th we flew out to Glasgow then drove to Kilmarnock, where we were staying for the British Equestrian Vaulting Championships. I travelled and stayed with the Jackson family (two small vaulters plus their lovely mum) whilst Sandie made the long trip up in the horsebox with Nett driving. The venue was the Morris Equestrian Centre, and we decided to have a look around on the Friday so that, come Saturday morning, we’d vaguely know what we were doing.
The venue was really exciting – a huge indoor arena, with various other arenas and stables areas scattered about. There was a good tack shop as well as a bar/restaurant with views onto the arenas. The main arena felt light and airy which I like. On the Saturday, we arrived early as one of the Jackson vaulters was on first thing in compulsories. I’m quite sure that it doesn’t matter how early you arrive at a vaulting competition: everything always seems to be a rush! Hair has to be done neatly (and then sprayed with silver glitter), faces need appropriate make up, catsuits have to be wriggled into, muscles need to be warmed up and stretched, and the horse has to be warmed up.
Sandie had had a good journey and seemed in a good mood as the six little ones went through their compulsories. All but one of us (the other Jackson sister!) were competing at Pre-Novice level, meaning that our compulsories, performed in canter, were: basic seat (arms by sides), bench (kneeling and holding on in a box shape) and leg changes (lifting each leg over in turn to join the other so that you sit to the inside, then to the outside). I’d been quite poorly in the two weeks running up to the event (including being very sick the previous morning). I was feeling a bit wobbly and I wasn’t surprised when Alexis, one of our coaches, pointed out that my left leg was moving about a lot in canter.
For the actual routine, I think my leg was reasonably good and still. My leg changes weren’t great and I nearly fell off the side – I was relieved to cling on and also to realise, from watching the video, that it wasn’t too obvious! I had a new catsuit on which I’d intended to wear at one training session to take some of the ‘shine’ off it (which makes them very slippy) but then I’d been too poorly to go to the training session. It was a good lesson to learn: even if you can’t go training, do something to make it less hair-raising in competition!
On the first day we also did our freestyle routine. This wasn’t very easy because they only had a small CD player in the arena we used, and – especially with my poor hearing – I couldn’t really hear the music. Fortunately I could make out snatches to know I was still acting to the correct bits and, more importantly, sticking to time. I quite enjoyed the routine – it was better than I felt at the English! – but I was looking forward to doing it again the next day in the bigger arena, with the music a bit more audible…
My score at the end of the first day was fairly good. I was pleased with my compulsories score although, in fairness, it had definitely benefited from the excellent horse score that Sandie got, under Nett’s command. The freestyle marks were also quite good so, in general, I was feeling positive.
Day 2 was an even earlier start and I felt pretty exhausted when I got up! We went through the same ‘hair-make up-costume-warm up’ ritual as on the Saturday, although this time it was easier because we only had to do our freestyles. Somewhat unusually for me, I’d actually gone to a bit of effort with the make up for this, and had found gold eye shadow and a lip gloss that was the same kind of red for my catsuit (generally I haven’t the patience nor the steady hand required for anything more than foundation!). As a result I look reasonably alive in some of the pictures, which is quite a refreshing change. It did of course mean that I spent about twenty minutes daubing gold liquid all over my face then wiping it off before making a mess all over again…
Before my routine on the Sunday I felt really, really unwell. For some time I was convinced I was going to be sick, but I’d had the forethought to pack my sleeves and socks with medication should I be away from my bag for too long. I ran through my routine once and felt horrendous, so just had a relaxing sit on Sandie for a while!
Fortunately the medication kicked in just before we went in, so I was able to enjoy the routine. It’s such a fun routine and such perky music that I basically grin all the way through and people always say afterwards how it looked like I was genuinely enjoying myself. Of course I was!
It was a relief to enjoy the routine and to feel well enough to perform it properly instead of worrying about being sick. For the rest of the day, I was able to kick back and relax properly and although I did still feel a bit grim it was nice to have the pressure of performing to an audience taken away. Again, I enjoyed watching the super-duper experienced vaulters doing their thing.
I also had fun looking through the photos taken by event photographers, Equiscot. They had some lovely shots and I bought several, arguing that I had been very restrained in not buying half the tack shop so it was entirely reasonable to buy more than one photo. Their photos have been shown here because they send digital copies for online use as well as printed copies.
It was disappointing that there weren’t any other para vaulters because being best out of one isn’t very satisfying. I know it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that I made the trip and earned what I did, and I know that I wasn’t the only person to win in a field of one, but I do still wish that it had been a bigger thing this year – there were five of us last year, and even more than that at the English Championships last year. The closest I can get to comparing is looking at the Scottish Championships, which took place a couple of weeks before. Of the two competing in the ‘canter-walk’ class, the better mark was 4.856, compared to my final overall score of 6.729 – so that’s something!
Not doing vaulting!
After the British we had two weeks off, in which time I mostly tried to catch up with the rest of my life. This wasn’t entirely successful but I’m hopeful of managing it at Christmas! Meanwhile I was still riding and doing gymnastics. I’m working on some new skills which I’m finding tough but I just keep reminding myself that I need to be patient and spend my time putting the work in instead of fretting about not being able to do it yet.
Injuries-wise I’m not having the greatest time and from the coaching and video evidence is very obvious that my body is really struggling with balance, symmetry and strength, particularly in my shoulders and ankles. There’s not a huge amount I can do about it except stay aware and try to keep myself moving as much as possible – so that’s the plan for the time being!
This month’s Joker – it’s hard to beat a horsey selfie.