After years of begging my parents to buy me a pony of my own, I couldn’t believe it when they finally said yes! With the help of my instructor, Sandy, we spent ages looking for the perfect pony and as soon as I sat on Artie, I knew he was the one for me. He was gorgeous and gave me so much confidence when I rode him. Sandy kindly agreed to collect him for me and when he arrived at the livery yard I made sure everything was ready for him. I was so excited, I couldn’t believe I’d found my dream pony!
I gave Artie a few days to get used to his new home before I rode him. He was super-relaxed in the field and I spent loads of time grooming and building a bond with him. After a few weeks of lessons we were flying around courses of showjumps and I was starting to feel that we were ready for our first show together.
“What do you think, Sandy?” I asked after another fantastic lesson. “Should I enter a competition?” I kept my fingers crossed, hoping she’d say yes. “I don’t see why not,” she replied, and I couldn’t help letting out a small whoop of excitement!
When I got home that evening I found a schedule online and entered Artie and I into an 80cm showjumping class at a local show the following weekend.
It’s show time
As we didn’t have a trailer, Sandy offered to take Artie to the show in her horsebox. We arrived in plenty of time for our class and she helped me walk the course and get Artie warmed up. He felt amazing – the buzzing atmosphere of the showground didn’t seem to affect him at all.
“How are you feeling, Elena?” Sandy asked as we waited for the rider before us to finish their round. “Nervous, but okay, I think,” I replied with a tight smile. “You’ll be fine, just remember to breathe and take things steady. Artie will look after you.” She gave him a pat. “Good luck!” I nudged Artie forwards and trotted into the ring.
“You can do this,” I told myself as we cantered around the arena waiting for the buzzer to sound. Artie soared over the first fence with ease and I felt my nerves melt away.
The rest of the course passed in a blur and it felt like no time at all until we were approaching the final fence on the course, a spread with bright red fillers. Artie leapt over it, going way higher than he needed to and I felt myself slip out of the saddle and start falling. I threw my left arm out to try to cushion myself, but pain exploded through my arm as I landed. Suddenly, I was surrounded by Mum, Sandy and two paramedics.
“Elena! Are you okay?” Mum gasped as a paramedic told everyone to step back and give me some space. “My arm, it really hurts,” I choked out, trying not to cry. “My name’s Tom, I’m just going to check you over,” the paramedic introduced himself. “Tell me if this hurts.” He applied a light pressure to the fingers on my injured arm. “Yes! It really hurts,” I cried as he touched my sore arm. “Okay, I think you might have a break, let’s get you to the hospital for an X-ray.”
The bad news
Mum came with me in the ambulance and Sandy took Artie home. We had to wait ages for the X-ray, and Tom had been right – I’d broken my left wrist. I had to spend six weeks in a cast, and the worst part was I couldn’t ride Artie! I was so disappointed, I hadn’t had him very long and now I couldn’t even ride.
Those six weeks felt like forever and watching my friends ride and go to shows felt like torture. Eventually the day came when the cast could be removed – I was free! I couldn’t wait to get to the yard and back on Artie.
Back on board
I had to wait a week before the doctor said I could ride again and I stayed in walk the first few times I rode. Then, two weeks after my cast came off, I booked Sandy in for a lesson and made sure I got to the yard early so I had plenty of time to get Artie ready. When I first mounted I felt a bit nervous and I couldn’t shake the feeling I was going to fall again. But after 20 mins of schooling I was starting to feel more confident. However, when Sandy suggested we finish our lesson with a small cross-pole, all my fears came flooding back.
“No thank you, not today,” I shook my head firmly. “You’re riding really well and I think it’ll help your confidence,” Sandy smiled at me encouragingly. Reluctantly I agreed and watched as Sandy built a small fence.
“Okay, when you’re ready, trot over the fence,” she instructed. I took a deep breath to try and calm my jittery nerves, gave Artie a squeeze and steered him toward the fence in a steady trot. Despite my worries, he popped over the fence like it was nothing.
“I’m going to try again,” I told Sandy, urging Artie forward into canter. We cleared the fence easily again and I was beginning to feel a bit silly about being so nervous.
“Once more,” Sandy called as she put the fence up to a straight bar. I didn’t let myself think about it too much and rode Artie over it. “How do you feel?” Sandy laughed as I threw my arms around Artie’s neck. “That was so much fun,” I replied. “I can’t believe I was nervous!”
It took a little while for my nerves to completely disappear when jumping, but I’m really glad that Sandy encouraged me to jump again so quickly. She’s been a great support to me and Artie.
I still feel a bit worried at competitions, but I know Artie didn’t mean for me to fall off and he always does his best to look after me. We even managed to get placed fifth at our second ever competition together!