Crunchie and I have always been a team, ever since we met. He arrived at home on my 12th birthday with a big ribbon around his neck – the best birthday present ever from my parents – and I knew straight away he was the pony of my dreams.
To begin with, my mum gave me lessons on Crunchie while I got used to riding him. He had a big stride and an even bigger jump! We started off jumping around little courses in the field at home, but it was clear that we both loved jumping as much as each other, and were destined for more. One weekend, mum suggested taking Crunchie to a show. I was scared and excited all at the same time, but I couldn’t wait!
When we arrived, I rode into the warm-up arena and did my usual routine from home. Crunchie felt awesome! The steward called us in, and to my delight, we flew round the course in record time to take first place! I remember thinking I could never feel any happier. But that was just the beginning.
Cross country kings!
Crunchie and I competed most weekends after that, and always ended up in the top five placings in jumping classes, but our real talent was cross country. We flew round course after course, and we were soon selected for the local Riding Club eventing team.
Crunchie and I helped our Riding Club acheive some great results, including second place at the Championships! My instructor suggested we affiliate with British Eventing in the new year, so we could really challenge ourselves!
A life-changing incident
After a busy season eventing, we had a little break over Christmas, and picked up training again on a fresh, sunny morning in January. Mum put up a few fences in the field for us to pop over. We flew the cross pole and the upright, then I pointed Crunchie towards an oxer. I counted the strides out in my head, one, two, three… Next thing I knew the sky was spinning above my head, and I couldn’t seem to remember why I was lying on the floor. Mum appeared above me.
“Don’t move, I’m just going to get Crunchie.” Mum said.
I panicked. It all came flooding back… I approached the oxer. Did Crunchie make the fence? Was he okay? My head spun. It turned out Crunchie had slipped on take-off and gone head first into the oxer, throwing me over his shoulder. He was a little shaken, but unharmed. I was relieved, but so worried that it was my fault, and wondered if he would ever jump again. It never crossed my mind that it would be me who wouldn’t.
A few weeks after the accident, mum suggested I try jumping Crunchie again. We had been taking it easy just enjoying some hacking, but if I was going to affiliate I needed to start getting Crunchie jumping fit.
Mum went out to the field with me for encouragement. I warmed up, then pointed Crunchie towards a small cross pole. He pricked his ears and sprung into his usual enthusiastic canter, but instead of the feeling of joy I used to get, all I felt was fear. My heart pounded and all I could visualise was us falling into the fence.
I yanked Crunchie away from the jump and burst into tears, falling onto Crunchie’s neck and sobbing into his mane. How could everything have been going so right, and now it was totally ruined?
It’s been three months since I fell off Crunchie, and I haven’t jumped him since. I tried again a few times, but felt the same fear and panic. Each time I grew more and more upset and angry with myself, and I began to feel helpless. Since the fall my nerves were really shaken and I no longer enjoyed the thought of jumping. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, love,” my mum comforted me. “No one is telling you that you have to jump. There’s plenty of other things you and Crunchie can enjoy.”
I took my mum’s advice and picked myself up. I began working on Crunchie’s flatwork, and I soon realised he had quite a talent for dressage! We have started entering for some tests with the Riding Club, and to my surprise, we’re doing quite well!
I still feel bad that I’m not jumping Crunchie like he loved, but luckily my younger sister is now big enough to ride him, and has just started having jumping lessons. I look back fondly on my cross country days with Crunchie, and I owe so much to my brilliant all-rounder. I’ve learned that jumping isn’t everything, and I know that even though I’ll never jump again, there’s plenty I can do!