Feeling brave I hacked Izzy out a couple of times – riding aside. I stable in Chingford, and ride in Epping Forest. I found hacking side saddle not much different from astride; Izzy still leapt about, pretending goblins and ghosts lurked behind bushes and fallen logs. My one concern was should I take a tumble it is impossible to mount side saddle without a leg-up or a mounting block. The stirrup is designed to come away as soon as weight is put into it, a safety feature. Not that it mattered. Mum insisted that I did not hack out alone “just in case”. And I didn’t part company anyway!
The next adventure was a showing show at Longwood E.C., Basildon. I entered the Riding Club Horse and the Ridden Coloureds. I’m not going to say much because it was an embarrassing disaster. Izzy never was one for behaving herself at shows. If there was a prize for Naughtiest Horse or Most Talented Bucker I would have dozens of red rosettes. Suffice to say we were beautifully turned out, her plaits were not gold balls for once, and I looked and felt elegant. However, I can now categorically state that it is perfectly possible to sit a series of leaping bucks while aside. Although I would rather not have proven this in the middle of a showing class.
A few weeks later we tried a different tactic. Dressage at Harold’s Park Farm. Now Izzy is not a dressage horse – I used to show jump her and she’s the type of horse who hated going slow when fast was better. I practised the test at home and under the watchful eye of Jo, my side-saddle trainer. “Sit up, you keep looking down and that’s rounding your shoulders. Good. Now, left leg back a little, Kathy. Trot – lovely!”
Izzy had impulsion, rhythm, balance. Good transitions, was bending into the corners. A nice walk on a loose rein, near perfect straight line from A to X. Great. Couldn’t you just scream when they are perfect at home and utter demon’s as soon as the judge’s bell goes “ting”? Suffice to say it is not a good when your horse bucks during a dressage test. Still, we obviously entertained the judge for I had an amusing comment on my sheet. “Elegantly ridden. The half pass across the arena was beautifully executed. A pity it was not included in this test.”
My only saving grace; we were not last. Someone else was eliminated. We were second to last. Oh well, that’s horses for you. I was determined not to give up, though; maybe I could try jumping side saddle?
December. Izzy went lame again. She had been unsound earlier in the year, which is why I had given up show jumping, but that had been a hock injury, this was in her off-hind foot. I called the vet and it seemed Izzy possibly had an abscess deep beneath the frog. I applied a poultice, rested her, led her out to graze. Christian, my farrier took off the shoe but couldn’t find anything obvious, so I arranged a trip to Oak Equine in Ongar. Mum was laid up in bed with a leg injury and could hardly move. My Nan was gravely ill in hospital (she passed away on Christmas morning) Things were bad and became worse. I thought the X-rays would reveal something wrong with the pedal bone. What none of us had expected was the awful truth. The tendon had somehow been scraping against the navicular bone and had literally been wearing it away, rubbing across it like a cheese grater. The damage was so bad there was nothing left to repair. I had no choice. Izzy, eight years old, was put down on December 10th 2009. One of the saddest days of my life.