Getting to 40

It’s a year from my first post, which means that I’m about to hit 40 and the end of my #80by40 challenge to myself to get out Eventing before my 40th birthday, starting out at British Eventing’s training level. My new-found horse Max had been out on the Eventing field before, but for me it was a long-held dream! We did it – we went to three horse trials in all, two BE and an unaffiliated training Event, and despite somewhat mixed results, we made a fairly positive start, and that for me was the main point – not getting it done and dusted and moving on, but proving to myself that this dream was achievable; the goal of doing it by now was based on the idea of a normal Eventing season, and we’d have kicked off in July having done lots of training.

Training at Poplar Park, July 2020

And then – well, you know. There were the added complications of minor injury and gastric issues for Max, so a good part of the first five months of this year were spent bringing him back into work, especially in a more considered way after my lockdown and his recuperation. I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me to draw up a programme of in-hand walking and a slow return to ridden work – Max has been as fit as ever through the rest of this year, and I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction from seeing that programme come together, so that we could embark on training once it was permitted before finally reaching the first dressage test at Little Downham in September.

Max doing his favourite thing – eating!

The last six years have contained some extreme challenges for me on a personal level, and throughout them all I’ve known that I wanted to make something positive from it all and to pursue my riding aspirations. More than just getting out of the house, there was a new community of friends and people who took my dreams seriously, and offered opportunities to help me advance, from friends offering their horses for hacking and hacking friends, some extremely patient riding instructors(!) and new friends made at Events and via social media channels and gave a hand up and welcomed me into this new world.

My favourite view from the yard, towards the Thames

There are so many people it wouldn’t be fair to name some (and I’d be bound to forget someone) but a huge amount of credit must go to all of the people at Runningwell Equestrian Centre where I got back on board about four years ago, and who have given me so much to think about, practical experience (I’m not too proud to attack a much heap!) and who now provide an excellent home for Max. I can honestly say that it’s a very happy place for me, and even when things have been difficult elsewhere – and boy, it’s a long list! – I’ve found so much to keep me going and I’m immensely grateful. I think that they’ve done pretty well out of it on the cake front, too…

Dressage in the rain – after our test, October 2020

I’d meant to get a review of our last (soggy) run at Little Downham out before this post, but life has been a bit busier than expected with work and trying to fit in things around that. It’s been an odd first Eventing season, but I’m really looking forward to the next one. Thanks for joining us on the #80by40 journey; perhaps in a different year it would have been more exciting, but I’ve enjoyed every minute. It’s a shame that it’s been nigh-on impossible to share the experiences with people in real time, but there’ll be other times for that, and the main thing has been the thrill and challenge of getting to know Max better, so here’s to what lies ahead and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

James (aged 39 yrs and 364 days) x

Another superb view from the yard, and Max.

Published by The Eventing Organist

I'm a professional musician, working as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Chelmsford Cathedral, and an amateur rider aiming to compete at One Day Events in 2020 with my Irish Sport Horse Max.

One thought on “Getting to 40

  1. Happy Birthday! This is amazing and oh so inspiring.
    I struggle creating goals for myself, I can’t see 5 years out…I can barely see a year out. Five years ago I boarded my conformationally compromised thoroughbred and never heard of a hunter pace. Today I have both of my horses on our own property and completed a full fall hunter pace series with both horses. I’ve never shown and honestly don’t find much interest in it. I love to attend clinics and become the best I can be…stabilizing my lower leg position and learning dressage are among my biggest interests at the moment. Eventing may be a distant goal but who knows…maybe I’ll compete in an event in 5 years?


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