And so the showing challenge continued. Instead of taking our first show at Ballymoney as a slap in the face, I was now fired up and determined to prove to everyone what an amazing horse I had. I always think if judges could see a snapshot of what goes on at home they might relax their outlook, but having been a ride judge myself I know you can only base decisions on what you see on the day and if a horse is anxious or boiling over, good solid schooling should trump everything. So we kept up our flatwork training and would often be caught leg yielding down the road.
From April onwards, as the show season commences, every weekend could be a trip out, but with two young children and a full time job, this isn’t always easy. It can actually be more difficult to get out at the weekend rather than during the week when life is mayhem anyway and mummy disappearing for an hour is forgotten more quickly. But nevertheless we still managed a few outings with every show presenting a new challenge and learning experience, with some judges giving me a pat on the back and others a kick in the teeth!
One such show that will stick in my memory is Armagh 2016. A Dublin qualifier, there was 11 in the class made up of previous winners and newcomers combined. Having been last in the retraining class my hopes weren’t high, but we carried on with the afore-mentioned naïve positivity and went into the Open class. After the initial ride round the judge signalled at me to come in, as I was the first one to get the nod I checked behind me to make sure she was pointing at me! But she was, and as Imperial Commander was pulled in second I couldn’t quite believe the situation I had found myself in.
As a solo horsewoman Tag is not used to being ridden by other people, and I suspect that many people re-training racehorses do find this to be a bit of a problem. Most riders I know are either ‘race-trained’ which denotes a forward seat and not memories I want to bring back to Tag, ‘event/showjumping trained’ in other words they are due to compete at the weekend and can’t risk a stupid fall off my batty ex-racer, or else they are lucky enough to be ‘life-trained’ so they smile politely when I mention Tag, they question my need for knee high socks and jodhpurs on the school run and they don’t know how I can be bothered!
So consequently when Armagh’s ride judge got on Tag his shock was palpable and the holes in our schooling started to show. In short he went like a complete donkey. We unceremoniously went from 1st to 11th and my daughter proceeded to rant and rave the whole way home – she is the best you have ever heard at giving people a ‘redding up’!