Jacqui Van Buuren, 44, took part in her very first eventing competition at the Northland Horse Trials on her horse, Three Cheers. Read on to find out about her experience!


Jacqui completes a clear round in the show jumping phase.

Have you ever been talked into doing something and then spent weeks in the build up to that ‘something’ worrying so much that you lose sleep and break out into a sweat whenever it enters your mind?

Well that was me when my experienced eventing neighbour, Kate Woods, talked me into competing in my first ever two day event.

How could I have agreed to taking part in The Northland Horse Trials when I had never ridden a dressage test,
completed a round of show jumps or taken on a cross country course?

There’s also the fact my horse had been out of action for five weeks and the horse trials were only two weeks away. I just nodded and agreed to give it a go even though my inner voice was saying “Are you insane?!”

I promptly went home to try to get to the bottom of my nemesis which came in the form of L4 2009, in other words, the dreaded dressage test.

My main concern was that I would forget my dressage test. I am a woman who needs to write down where I’ve parked my car when I go to town so I’m not still wandering around as the shops shut looking for my ride home! I rang friends, I googled and I read anything I could find on how to remember a dressage test.

I settled for the tried and true method of drawing my test over and over and running through it on the ground as if I were riding my horse.
My five year-old thought the second method was hilarious and giggled as I repeated ‘trot, trot, trot, change the rein, canter, canter, canter” around and around the lounge. My father also helped me measure and mark a makeshift arena in the horse paddock so I could practice on my horse.

Despite this preparation, I was still nervous about how the test would go. I had dressage-mares about not
being able to find homes for the eight kittens as the fat black mother cat chased me out of her giant basket!


Practice makes perfect!

The show jumping and cross country phases were less intimidating as I had plenty of practice and studied Andrew Nicholson’s ‘velcro bum’ riding style, but putting it all  together was a worrying prospect.

Despite these concerns, I continued on my path to the Horse Trials and was determined to have a go. By the time the weekend of the event was here I was so sleep deprived I was all but hallucinating! On a positive note I had been too nervous to eat much for about two weeks and the weight loss was fantastic!

I washed and plaited my little mare, painted the black bits black, the white bits white, and then before I knew it I was warming up for my first ever dressage test.

Because I didn’t have a clue what was going on I thought I’d done brilliantly! I had remembered my test and my girl had done all I’d asked her to, even though my score was below average, I was delighted.

After the dressage we were sitting twenty-eighth. The show jumping was next, and as it was the first time I’d ever done a proper round of show jumps and I’m pretty sure I was the only one who walked the course three times!

My darling little horse kept us on track and we went double clear. This was starting to be fun!

Cross country day dawned and after a brief stint on the PA (a job you always get given when people find out you work in radio!) it was my turn in the start box.


On the cross-country course

I don’t remember the countdown at all but the first few strides of my confident mare out of that box with her ears pricked in anticipation are burnt into my mind. The adrenaline pumped as we sped in the direction of our first fence, steadied, and flew over! What a feeling it was as we negotiated the course, never hesitating, to go clear. It was a great finish to an amazing weekend.

We finished eleventh out of 40 combinations. I am now totally hooked on eventing and it is the discipline I will pursue not only because it’s challenging and rewarding, but also because everyone involved with the Northland Horse Trials were incredibly helpful and kind.

My motto since returning to riding as an adult has been ‘You can’t always beat the fear, sometimes you just need to do it frightened.’

Just over a year ago I had nabbed one of the spare broodmares off the family stud farm and decided to hack around not realising that the horse riding gene had been lying dormant just waiting to be resurrected. At age 44 and twelve months into my riding revival I have found my passion for eventing.

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