In The Saddle column: Being free of mummy as my girl grows up and gains confidence

This year’s autumn Bagmoor cross country competition has been the perfect end to the competition season for my ten year old daughter and I.

Alyssia Marsh, age 10, on her pony ‘Mara’ at Bagmoor Hunter trials.
Alyssia Marsh, age 10, on her pony ‘Mara’ at Bagmoor Hunter trials.

The hunter trial is held bi-annually in spring and autumn by the Scunthorpe and District Pony Club (SDPC) across the Normandy Hall estate in North Lincolnshire and draws a huge crowd of equestrians who love to jump fast paced across the countryside.

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We had attended a couple of cross country rallies with the SDPC at Bagmoor to have a go and see if Alyssia, age 10, and her pony liked it.

The rallies are an excellent way to have a taster session before entering future competitions and enable the children and their ponies to gain confidence into the fences.

This year Alyssia has gone from strength to strength since joining our local pony club and her relationship with her pony is gaining huge strides in confidence. I’ve been so proud to watch their partnership blossom.

She’s absolutely loving any form of jumping and when we asked if she wanted to compete at the autumn hunter trials she answered with an immediate and resounding yes!

We decided to do two classes in the competition-one in pairs and one in the individuals, but keep them nice and low.

Alyssia teamed up with her friend, Magenta age 11, and the day before we all met to walk the course.

Hunter trials are different to showjumping, in that you don’t walk the course on the day itself. You go usually the day before and walk it so you know where you are going. There are many different routes, depending on which height class you are competing in.

We decided to take photos of each fence, in the order of the course, so the children could look back later and remember the order of the jumps.

When they are on the course it is impossible to be constantly with them, due to the speed of the ponies, so we found this was a great help to them.

In a ‘pairs’ class one pony leads and the other follows. Alyssia needed to know the course off by heart as she was leading Magenta on Monty.

It was a busy and exciting night revisiting the photos and preparing our grey pony for bathing. We knew our grey would also need bathing in the morning too but everything else such as tack and the trailer were all prepared the night before.

The next morning I was essentially a bag of nerves, wondering if I had done the right thing allowing Alyssia to take part, especially the individual class. I don’t let Alyssia ride on her own at home, yet here I was sending her off around a huge country estate to jump her pony.

My fears were set aside when I saw other members of the pony club, and other children there with parents. I wasn’t such an irresponsible parent after all!

The time came to set off and the girls had warmed up their ponies and were warned to look after one another with Alyssia under strict instructions to wait for Mags to jump before bombing off.

Magenta’s mummy, Jane, and I flew round as much of the course as possible to watch, photograph and film them as well as to marvel at how great they were doing as a team. I must admit to a few tears in my eyes and a proud feeling bursting out of my heart. Poor Jane had to put up with me running round the course like a mixed bag of emotions!

They completed the course with a run out at one jump, but they stayed on and went clear round everything else. They went to fast for the optimum timing so they weren’t placed but they were absolutely beaming and so were we.

Alyssia went on to jump clear around the same 45cm course, but wasn’t placed. I can’t begin to tell you what her face was like...she didn’t stop smiling all day.

She later told me the best bit was ‘being free of mummy and riding on her own with the best pony in the world.’ Well, what could I say to that? My little ten year old is growing up. I’m not so sure I like it.

What I do like though is this new found confidence. It’s all down to pony club. It’s such a fantastic place with a great gang of parents who ultimately all want their children to enjoy themselves. Roll on the fancy dress Halloween Ride next!

Can I please be ten?