A Really Lovely Mover: Your First Four Star Horse | An Eventful Life

A Really Lovely Mover: Your First Four Star Horse


You ring up about this horse for sale, because there was ‘just something’ in the picture (also, the words “really lovely mover” implanted themselves in your subconscious as soon as you saw the ad) despite the fact that you need another horse like a close range hole in the head.

Love at first sight it’s not... I mean, who could love this big gangly fool, who fell over on the lunge and looks like a camel on the right rein? Anyway, you have a ride, which goes pretty well and you can convince yourself that “He IS a really lovely mover!”, so due to the karmic feeling of having money in your bank account this morning (I mean, that can’t be coincidence, right?) and the fact that you’ve got nothing better to ride, the Really Lovely Mover comes home with you.

One week further on, you are using positive affirmation statements to avoid a deep sense of buyers regret.

“He’s just got to get used to a new saddle, that’s all!” and “This cold-backed feeling will go away when he settles in better” are followed by extended periods of watching him trot around his paddock so that you can still convince yourself “He’s a really lovely mover!”.

Your boyfriend/girlfriend/Dad/other hapless fool who enables your bad habits is desperately hoping that the Really Lovely Mover starts putting his best foot forward, so that your week-long bad mood can start to improve.

It’s nearly a month now, and you’re starting to forget that the Really Lovely Mover still ever-so-slightly jams his tail down when you first get on. You’ve had a couple of jumping sessions, and they’ve gone well – at the end of the second one you even dared to let go of the sh!t strap so out for some cross-country schooling. The damn thing bucks you off at the start of the lesson (despite lunging it for what felt like hours)… and once more at the end. Maybe it’s not cold-backed…

4am dawns on the morning of the Really Lovely Mover’s first ODE and he’s booted and bandaged and naively loaded up in the float, ready to go. You’ve timed this down to the minute – you’ve worked him so hard this week that his front shoes are wafer-thin (he hasn’t earned back ones yet!), he hasn’t seen a pellet since Wednesday and you considered leaving him without water last night.

Once you arrive, and discover that a) you’re late and b) you’ve left the lunge lead at home, so you pull on your big-girl panties and trot into the arena after a seven-minute, no-lunge warm up. And bugger me, he’s in third place after the test! There is enough positive comments on the sheet to warm your narcissistic heart and someone even clapped as you left the arena (they may have been watching a rider in another class, but frankly, who cares?!?!). You buy three photos of his showjumping round, because his green over-jumping makes him appear SUPER talented and after cross country, you are delighted with the fact that five fences from home, he cottoned on the whole run-jump-run-jump-run thing. He comes up to second place and you drive home with the rosette proudly displayed on the rear vision mirror.

He’s just hit Pre-Novice – and it’s at this point that he throws a giant splint and someone clever remarks “Well, there goes his showing career” despite the fact that he still has a head like a shoebox. More disappointing is that he’s out for six weeks right when you invested $250 on a fancy-pants shoeing job that was meant to help him be an Even Better Mover at the event he was going to win in two weeks’ time.

Now he’s One Star and my word, hasn’t he gone up the grades well? In fact, he’s never had a cross country jumping fault! ‘Til next weekend however, when you receive the very special honour of seeing XC-R written next to your name. Your instructor sees twice as much of you as the Really Lovely Mover works on his brush fence phobia.



At Two Star, it starts getting deadly serious.

Your Enabler has resigned themselves to Friday night gear cleaning sessions knowing that they can’t afford to drink anyhow because you now respond to any piece of marketing that suggests a way to give the Really Lovely Mover a competitive advantage. Jumping training occurs at least once a week at some time between 3am and 12 midnight, and your Enabler’s presence is a not-negotiable requirement. By this time, your Enabler is so obedient that it’s now instinct, is legendary at fitting studs under time pressure (i.e. YOU breathing down their neck) and has skin so thick it would be the envy of any crocodile. You come home with a rosette often enough to keep everyone interested, but funnily enough, never once has the cheque that comes with the rosette paid for the trip!

Then, there comes a day where you and your instructor have a conversation that results in you going home, firing up the entry schedule and entering your first Three Star. It actually takes you three goes to summon up the courage to part with THAT MUCH MONEY (and when your Enabler asks how much it cost, you will halve it then add 10% for believability) but in the end, it is done. And your first Three Star is GREAT – win, lose or fall off at fence 9.

And then, the learning curve becomes damn near vertical, because being an elite rider wasn’t meant to be bloody easy, was it? As you ramp up toward achieving the impossible (a Four Star berth!!!) your lameness diagnostic skills surpass that of your vet, and you discover Every. Single. Technical. Fault you own

Mainly because that fault results in either a newsworthy fall, a scathingly poor dressage result or nine rails down in the showjumping. You start taking on songs like Chumbawamba’s I Get Knocked Down as a personal anthem, and you imagine how much it’s going to hurt to have the Olympic rings tattooed on your ankle.

You won’t really be aware of time passing, but somehow you’ve got your qualifications (still with ZERO comprehension of what MER stands for or how the qualification system actually works) and you have parted with an exquisitely painful sum of money (by now, your Enabler has reached critical mass in terms of resignation levels so you are confident to tell them what things really cost… Less 10%...) and baby, you are standing on cross-country with your arms crossed, looking at your first FOUR STAR cross country fence!! You are literally brushing shoulders with people that you grew up watching on video and you may have already been asked for an autograph, which you give, but all the while deeply suspecting that the little girl actually mistook you for Megan Jones.



The course is enormous, despite everyone reporting that it’s not a genuine Four Star and you have a big choice to make because, against the odds, you are in a super competitive position after dressage. So you fail to sleep on the night before the most important day of your life, because there is no correct answer to that question: Do I give myself best chance of getting around my first Four Star, or do I ride for the impossible time???

It doesn’t matter which option you choose, because either way you’ve proven yourself by just showing up. For the second time in your career, it fails to matter what the end result is (though winning must be, like, way cool man!) because you are now part of an incredibly elite group of athletes (yes, you’re an athlete and you’ve even got the t-shirt to prove it!) each with their own amazing story to tell.

And, it’s all those years of blood, sweat and tears shed by both you and your Enabler that have carried you here, together with the lifetime bond shared with a horse who is now just a little bit more than a Really Lovely Mover.

He is now a Four Star horse. And YOU are a Four Star rider.

And that little girl? She knew who you were. And she wanted your autograph anyway.


Article by Marcia Williamson