a bit of a dilemma (AKA sandy knickers)

Readers, I planned to write this blog in some sort of chronological order. But then as they say, best laid plans of mice and men… I will return to my original plan, but am just compelled to write about recent events.

Recent events that may, i’m afraid shatter the illusion that riding is all about hard work and determination.  That definitely plays a large part, but also, especially as a hobby rider,  having a ‘tool’ that works with you and you can work with, is as important as all the hours spent training, riding and competing.

Now the next bit ( no pun intended) may seem a bit horsey, but please stay with me, as with anything in life, the quick fix, the free lunch, and any other relevant platitude, does not always, in the long term yield the desired results.

Here, as they say, is the technical bit… for about seven days i’d been riding Jay in a KK ultra universal bit, commonly known as a ‘gag’ but doesn’t universal bit sound so much nicer? He’d been going like a dream in it on the flat, and by that, for the non horsey readers, I mean that I can get him looking really smart and really soft, with no more than a little bit of leg action and the odd twiddle of the reins.  This seemed like a revelation compared to my previous bit, which felt like I had to go ten rounds with the equivalent of a 650kg Mike Tyson, and that’s, surely enough to make anyone’s eyes water.

So far so good. I decided to try the new (and expensive) bit out in my jumping lesson.  The jumping was going well, and I was still thinking that I couldn’t believe that it had taken me over three years to discover this ‘wonder’ gadget. .

But pride, always comes before a fall, and in my case two falls… having jumped nicely round a course of I suppose a metre plus jumps, the anti was upped. And it was upped to my ‘waterloo’ which is trying to jump a straight line through two jumps at angles that my brain just can’t seem to compute a straight line through.

It reminded me of a similar ‘waterloo’ i’d encountered climbing, although since riding I realise that rock climbing is ‘easier’ in the sense that you only have one mind and body to control. But the ‘block’ was similar in that no matter how much my knowledge of physics told me that a rock boot with sticky rubber sole could hold my bodyweight at a certain angle on a sheer piece of rock, ( a move called smearing) my brain found it hard to accept..

I encountered a similar ‘block’ on my little Honda NSR (at that time a half power GP motorbike), when I realised that the weight of me, my bike, and in reality my whole existence, relied on a bit of rubber about the size of the palm of my hand, that was in contact with the road.

But in reality, smearing in rock climbing and banking on a bike are similar as they both rely on the physics, namely the angle of dangle and stickiness/softness of rubber.

But none of this prior knowledge helps me in my showjumping quest and the point of this post, which is,  I suppose that there are no shortcuts in life. I know this, and am irritated by the fact that for one or two glorious moments I thought I might be wrong.

Why did I think I was wrong? well, with the loveliest collected canter comes great responsibility. That beautiful canter generated by a stronger bit, means that tightening in panic, when faced with a difficult line is simply not an option. Otherwise you’re very likely to end up where I did tonight, which is on the floor,(twice) with sand in my knickers, eyes, teeth and bra.

So I’m back to the good old snaffle. which is disappointing, as I had a taste of feeling like a proper rider, which I admit was amazing, if short lived.

And you know what the real joke is? it’s this, that I can get Jay to go fantastically on the flat in the aforementioned universal  bit, but this is not dressage legal.

As I said in a previous post, I am not an advocate of authority and think there should be an ‘underclass’ of dressage that allows any type of bit, to allow the less than perfect rider some sense of achievement.

So, how does this post resonate with non riders, well, gadgets and quick fixes, whilst an attractive diversion, can never really hide the real issues.

Its a bit like the dutch boy with his finger in the dyke, you block one hole and another couple or more burst through, impromptu.


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