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When the best laid plans go pear-shaped

When the excitement builds at big events such as Burghley Horse Trials, we see the tip of the iceberg. Years of hard work have gone into building horse and rider partnerships to that level and months of preparation have been targeted on specific goals.


When it goes right, it’s fairy tale stuff. When it goes wrong, it’s a kick in the teeth.


That’s why we’re so sorry for all the riders who had to withdraw from this year’s Burghley event. Forgive us our favouritism, but we’re particularly gutted for Feedmark-sponsored rider Will Furlong and his lovely mare, Collien P 2 – aka Tinks.



After a great start at Haras du Pin, Tinks knocked her stifle while going cross-country. The great news is that she’s on the mend and will hopefully be back on competition track in October, but Will says that her wound hasn’t healed enough for her to compete.


The timing means that what would probably have been a blip earlier in the season is a huge disappointment. Most of us know what it’s like when carefully laid plans go pear-shaped, even when we’re not in the same league as Will.


And while our hopes and dreams may be played out on far less prestigious stages than Burghley, it can still be hard to accept that they’ve melted away. A friend who qualified for a riding club championship admitted that she cried like a spoilt brat when her horse pulled off a shoe and bruised his foot the day before the competition. Hands up if you know how she felt!


Children are often better than adults at dealing with disappointment. Another friend’s daughter had been counting down the days to her first 10km ride after weeks of building her pony’s fitness. When the pony overreached and the ride was ruled out, his young owner was upset, not because of missing the ride but because the pony had hurt himself.


Her vet advised box rest, with short in-hand walks. She turned these into what she called “pony picnics”, taking sliced carrots and apples and feeding them to him halfway around their circuit. This, she hoped, would stop him being disappointed that they’d missed their ride.



As adults, we know that ambitions and disappointments are solely our preserve. Horses, of course, would far rather eat grass than jump around a cross-country course, no matter how much they seem to enjoy their work.


Accepting and overcoming setbacks, whether you’re a serious competitor or someone who rides purely for pleasure, is easier said than done. But when you can put your hand on your heart and say you did the right thing for your horse, it’s worth more than any trophy.


And when you make your comeback, be that at top level, a local show, or around a favourite hacking route, you’ll have even more pleasure and satisfaction.


Have you had a setback this season? If so, good luck with getting back on course – and if you’ve overcome it, we’d love to know your story!

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