On the 29th of April this year I decided to put my big girl pants on and enter my first ever unaffiliated dressage competition. I boxed my traditional Irish Cob Flynn an hour and a half up the M1 where he stayed at the university livery yard for a week (and lived like a king!) This was the first time he had been in a trailer to my knowledge and he loaded like an absolute dream! Overall the week consisted of a lot of firsts, his first experience in an actual school, first time seeing himself in mirrors and the first time schooling with other horses in the arena. Despite there being limited turn out throughout the entire week Flynn did not put a foot wrong, I was so proud.
The day before the competition I roped in my friend and flatmate to shout the directions at me. In the school Flynn was forward and off the leg, he was supple and listening to my contact- I was feeling confident we would survive the test! Flynn excels in the school and is always eager to please, he has a very good brain and once hes mastered something he wants to learn something new. The only issue during that week was other people’s opinion of Flynn’s breed which leads me to think- why? Why are people so ‘anti cob’? In my opinion if your horse is excelling at a discipline why should you hold yourself back. Why is it more socially acceptable to have a big posh horse with poor temperament or weak paces? Comments and looks definitely knocked my confidence, my friends reassured me I shouldn’t let other people’s opinions get me down. I wasn’t entering the competition to win, I was entering for the experience and for the feeling of accomplishment.
The morning of the competition Flynn was prepped and ready to rumble. He was gleaming white, once I’d washed the poo stain off his hindquarters! In the warm up ring I was one of five other competitors. I heard another rider I was against throw another comment my way, I chose to ignore it and focus on remembering my test. The test took place in the indoor arena, Flynn was a bit sceptical about going in but once I’d walked him round once and shown him the judges he was settled. As the bell rang I continued my working trot down the centre line, the ring was silent. Flynn was responsive to my aids and his walk trot transitions were perfect, his bend was correct to the left side but needed a bit more work on the right- which I already knew. As I walked back down the centre line to my salute I transitioned to walk and halted in front of the judges, I felt his halt was square and gave him a big old pat on the shoulder.
Coming out of the arena I met with family and friends, I was so proud I could’ve burst. I handed my show jacket over to my rather forgetful friend, who was also competing. I gave Flynn to my mum while I went to fetch my coat from the yard, when I came back my mum had my results in hand, she handed me my paper and to my delight we had won a red ribbon with a score of 67.6%! In our first ever test! I was totally not expecting to be placed, forget coming first. This just goes to show that Cobs really can, if you’re wanting to compete your Cob you should 100% go for it. Don’t let snobbery in the equestrian community affect your chances of success. Lets promote a community where we compliment one another as sportsmen and build each others confidence, rather than knock each other down.