Learning How To Set The Table Can Wait

Sep 16, 2013 - 4:52 AM
"Then there was cross-country… and damn, I have a good cross-country horse!" said Sinead Halpin. Photo by StockImageServices.com.

I’m actually taking a break from finding addresses for wedding invites to write this blog.

Often I wonder where I was when the class on proper social graces was being taught. Surely I was on a horse or watching a horse or pretending to be a horse (we’ve all practiced flying changes on our own two legs!). Thank God my mom grew up at a boarding school where they taught you things like, I don’t know, how to set a proper table and told you to not even consider joking about inviting people to your wedding via e-vite.

When I realized I wouldn’t be traveling to England this fall, I thought, “Great, I’ll spend time actually planning this wedding thing!” But unfortunately I keep getting distracted with… well, pretty much everything.

After managing to keep myself off of a horse for four weeks after my accident, I climbed back in the tack on my trusty school pony, Manoir de Carneville, and felt comfortable for the first time in a month! Unfortunately that feeling was followed by several Advils and the need to contort my body into odd poses trying to alleviate some pain… But all was worth it to be back in the tack!

About a week after being back in the saddle I was confident I could be back to jumping in time to tackle the advanced at Richland Park (Mich.) on Tate. I timed it so I’d have two jump schools before the competition, and knowing Tate so well, I thought that would be fine. Richland is such a fantastic event that I didn’t want to risk missing it just because I felt a little sore.

When we arrived at Richland I knew it was the right decision.The course was fantastic, and Tate was thrilled to be out. I, on the other hand, was walking with a slight slouch that made me look like I had a constant cramp, but luckily I managed to maneuver my belt in a way that it worked as a faux sling; I could rest my aching left arm and shoulder.

I remember David O’Connor saying often, “Are you hurt or are you injured?” and at Richland I was a little hurt but far from injured. I only took Tate so I could give him my full attention, for it wouldn’t be fair to him if I was tired from riding other horses.

Dressage was very rusty. I actually got pretty nervous that I was underprepared, and it showed up in the lack of contact in the rein. Tate hid perfectly behind the contact the whole test. Fortunately he is a lovely horse and knows all the moves and managed to do a mistake-free test and led the advanced field after Day 1.

Then there was cross-country… and damn, I have a good cross-country horse! Tate jumped a great clear with just a little bit of time to maintain the lead. On Sunday we had a rail in hand, which we needed! I’ve been playing with some new things in the third phase, and this led to mostly a good course… barring one massive miscommunication. (Some would call it a big ole miss!) We had one down but managed to still keep the blue.

I didn’t like the feeling at Richland. I was fighting too hard to keep the win. I remember David saying about his top horses Tex (Giltedge) and Taylor (Taylor Made) that they could win on 60 percent—not meaning dressage score, but operating on 60 percent. Meaning they were so good that winning came without much of an effort. Take that to the Olympic Games or World Equestrian Games, where you’re firing on all cylinders, and you have yourself a gold medal.

Since Richland, I’ve already been down to David’s for three days of training, traveled to Devon to show jump and am headed back to David’s for two more days of training before Plantation Field. I want to make sure I leave no cards on the table.

This spring I had to take it slow and make sure Tate was 100 percent healthy, and this summer I needed to take some time to make sure I was. Now I want to make sure that, while we’re both getting the thumbs-up from the doctors, we train as hard as we can so we don’t waste one competition. I’d hate to look back and think, “I didn’t take advantage of an opportunity that was given to me.” When you have your health, do all you can to live with intention, and when you have the horse, do everything you can to do the best you can by him.

Learning how to set the table can wait.


Sinead Halpin Equestrian


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