That is a great question. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that “what am I even doing?” is in my top ten most used phrases and gets dropped at least once per day.
I guess the easiest answer to this is that I am chronicling what will hopefully be the year leading up to the 2017 Melbourne International 3 Day Event to compete in the 5 year old Young Event Horse Challenge. Whether or not I actually get there remains to be seen, rider incompetence (likely) or other factors such as University exams (also a possibility) may interfere with this goal, but the way I see it is I can try and get there, potentially not making it or I can not aim for it and definitely not make it #insertinspirationalquotehere.
I don’t know if anyone will actually ever read this or it will end up being the jumbled word vomit of my overactive imagination, so I am going to go ahead and pretend someone out there may actually find this interesting enough to peruse.
Therefore, you now get to sit through the obligatory “meet the team” first post. After all, what is the point of chronicling this journey if you don’t know either myself or my valiant steed?
Meet Snitzel – a 4 year old Thoroughbred gelding I purchased from professional eventers Rob and Cassie Palm at the end of 2015. With them, he completed an EVA80 and some showjumping rounds before coming to me where, at this point in time, we haven’t done anything barring a clinic in January. I am hoping to change this in the next few months and start taking him to the jumping and dressage days held at our agistment centre, plus some local ag shows where I may even – gasp – try my hand at showing him. The mid term goal will be to do the newcomers/introductory class at the second Wagga Horse Trials this year.
It probably sounds like I am taking it really slowly with a horse that has already competed but:
a) I am not a professional rider like his previous owners, so piloting a young horse around in tricky situations is not something that comes as easily to me as them.
b) I haven’t had him long, and I enjoy getting to know my horses before taking them out, so I have a better idea of their reactions and limits.
c) He is 4 and whilst I would like to compete in the 5YO class next year, my overall priority is his long term physical and mental soundness, so if he doesn’t feel ready I am not going to force him there.
Then there’s me. My name’s Ella and I am a Victorian girl that moved to New South Wales for University and decided I liked it so much I stayed (at Uni and NSW -I just can’t seem to grow up). I started riding at a young age like most girls do, desperately begging my Mum for lessons. Luckily for me my family is ever so slightly horsey, my great aunt and uncle having once owned a thoroughbred stud, giving my Mum one of the failed racers when she was a teenager (though Mum loved riding, the passion never quite consumed her like it did me and she eventually moved on to other things -travelling, dating, a normal social life maybe? Whatever it is non-horse people do in their non-horsey lives).
Her acquiescence opened the door for the all consuming passion that is horses, and if you don’t know what I am referring to, I am guessing you don’t ride, or you’re one of the lucky ones that managed to get out alive.
When I was 13 years old my Great Aunt and Uncle decided to pay it forward by giving me one of their very last thoroughbreds from the stud when they retired. Was Mum happy about it? She’ll say yes but I have my suspicions.
Unfortunately my partnership with the young TB didn’t go as swimmingly as my Mum’s did and we soon had a recipe for disaster. I’m sure you’ve all heard the story – inexperienced rider/horse combination + mass confusion = bulk accidents. We kept at it for a while but by 14 I was ready to throw in the towel and never look at another horse again. Fortunately for me, my instructor at the time stepped in with an infinitely more suitable mount that changed everything for me. It was meant to be a short term loan of a few months until she was put in foal, but fate smiled on me and ten years later I still own and adore that horse more than anything else in the world.
Me and the old girl a few weeks ago
Tai was a 14 year old 1 star eventer who’s joy in life was derived from being the sassiest horse you’ve ever seen. You could not ask for a better schoolmaster. She wouldn’t hurt a fly and she treated me like the most precious cargo, and if I ever got too full of myself she would teach me a lesson quick smart. Not in a “buck you off” kind of way though – no, no, she was far too clever for that. It was more of a “pick up the wrong canter lead only in the dressage test” way if she thought my aids were getting sloppy.
She took me from a quivering mess of a rider to doing Prelim eventing, 1.10m Showjumping and Novice dressage. Our dressage was…. not good, Tai definitely had her reservations about its purpose, but this horse did cross country like nothing else and I quickly became obsessed with eventing and the memories I have with her are irreplaceable. I captained my school equestrian team and competed at both inter school and EA level before moving to NSW for university. Naturally she came with me as I happen to be blessed with attending a university that has an amazing equestrian centre on campus. I was aiming her for my first Pre-Nov start during first year when we were both 18 (Tai and I are the same age – cute right?) but life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans and an accident in the paddock left me with a perfectly happy but unrideable horse.
The next few years I spent partnering various young horses, all Thoroughbreds (I blame my family because I absolutely love them) which were either sold on, or in the case of my last horse, prematurely retired.
Left-Right: Fox, Charlie & Disaster (Des)
After I received the news that Des would need to be retired I honestly contemplated if riding was for me anymore. It is expensive, time consuming and thankless.
I made it about a month before I realised there was no way in hell I could be horseless. I redefined the word miserable in my horseless state.
So the hunt for the new horse began and I said to myself I would take my time, try a few horses and find the perfect one – a horse that was solidly competing and I could go out and enjoy straight away. Maybe no world beater but minimal fuss, preferably a gelding and hopefully bay or grey.
Instead I bought the first horse I test rode. He was young, he was green and he was a chestnut. Whoops.
Despite myself I am so glad I ended up with Snitty, and not only for the bounty of nicknames at my disposal for owning an orange horse called Snitzel, but because the precocious peanut never fails to make me laugh and despite himself and his idiot rider, I think he could be quite talented (though I guess that is what they all say).
I suppose we will find out as we continue along this journey, and I am looking forward to every single step.
Let the countdown begin.
Ella & Snitzel Von Crumb