It’s the journey that defines you…..
It was full-on today and thank goodness the clocks changed back to summer time, as I needed every last drop of daylight. Half the day consisted of outside jobs (I can’t take credit for doing all of them myself). They included a first cut of the lawn, first strim of the year, car cleaned inside (first time since I had it, several years ago), wysteria potted and trailed up the garden wall and windfall wood collected via the quad bike and trailer. Naturally, this was followed by an interlude on the bench in the garden for coffee and cake…
Then came Talisman’s last session of the week and highlight of the day for me. It was canter work in the vast undulating field at the top of the ridge in preparation for his inaugural outing of the season (an international 120K) in three weeks time. First though, we had to get there and that involved a two mile trot up the ‘mother of all hills’ and a rise of some 500’. It was sunny but extremely windy and very cold on the top. The intervals weren’t that long, three x 5 mins with a two minute break in between (a minute in walk and a minute in trot) and each session began with a pipe-opener up the steepest part of the field.
The going was almost perfect, having dried out thanks to the big winds of the last few days; only a few soft patches which we managed to avoid, along with a large number of baby lambs! It was exhilarating – totally! I pondered on why this was as it wasn’t an unusual session and here’s what I came up with….
First: the wind was dramatic and gusting and when we changed direction, it just hit you like a wall or conversely disappeared altogether, so on a razor sharp horse like Talisman who can just bronc or accelerate for fun if the wind gusts or a sheep runs, my reactions have to be sharper than his, no mean feat, which makes you 100% awake and aware of everything.
Second: as the ground is so undulating, we both have to be 100% balanced to cope with the gradients and turns, so I am very focused on my position, my core strength and also remaining relaxed. In fact, combining the first and second points, a state of ‘alert relaxation’ is required. (I used to use this expression in rowing years ago because it’s a very technical sport and massively physical but you’ll cock it up, especially in a team, if are not relaxed.) Then add the possibility of a buck or squirt!
Third: Talisman found it so easy, he felt very fit, understood what was required, maintained self-carriage, was responsive to the lightest of aids and an indescribable pleasure to ride, and we were as one.
It’s a hell of a long road preparing for a big ride and I believe it’s the journey that defines you. I hope we achieve competition success and it’s the competition goal, obviously, that sets up the framework for the training. But out riding today, I just thought, “it can’t get better than this!”