Our Paralympic Adventure Part 2 – Equestrian

Four events in three days with 2 four and a half year olds. Insane? Definitely.

I’m not a fan of horses. Dh most definitely isn’t a fan of horses. He also thinks that dressage is a completely pointless ‘sport’: “Its horses dancing in a square” he moaned when I told him that Para-Equestrian was exclusively dressage (quite how he thought disabled riders would go round a show jumping course I don’t know.) I wanted to watch the dressage to see how our local park had been transformed to host the Olympics and Paralympics and to understand the sport a bit better.

It turns out that the horses actually ‘dance’ in a rectangle, not a square and it’s a bit like figure skating in that there’s a ‘free’ programme and a compulsory or technical programme. In dressage both competitions stand alone, although there is a team competition as well. We watched the more ‘technical’ programme on Saturday morning so everyone was judged on the same set of ‘moves’ and no-one danced to the music from The Great Escape. There was music throughout, but it was all very mellow and the competitors didn’t choose their own music.

The one thing I didn’t realise about dressage is how quiet the spectators have to be for large sections of the competition. R and G don’t ‘do’ quiet. They have two settings: extremely LOUD,  fast asleep and have nothing in-between. Much of the morning went like this:

G: ‘MUMMY? WHY IS EVERYONE SHUSHING?’

Me: (whispering) because we have to be quiet while they do their performance.

G: (whispering) ok! (120 decibels) THAT HORSE IS SWISHING ITS TAIL!!

Me: (puts head in hands in despair)

During one of the breaks in competition we stepped out to get some food and I asked Dh to buy the largest bag of chocolate he could find. For the rest of the competition I bribed the girls with chocolate: ‘If you’re quiet you can have four chocolate buttons at the end of the performance’ and this tactic worked well.

Some of the horses get quite freaked out by the arena and the crowd so for certain performances we were asked to wave rather than clap. Other horses were accompanied by a ‘friendly’ horse and a handler, who stood to one side of the arena while the performance took place. The thought of a horse needing a friend nearby to settle them made me feel quite teary. I’m getting soft in my old age…

Dh was bored rigid by the whole thing so I got him to take lots of photos. R and G liked the horses so we evaluated each one based on its size, colour and shagginess. There was one horse that looked like a miniature shire-horse, with shaggy hooves and a huge tail. He was our favourite. He didn’t win. Natasha Baker for Paralympics GB did, so we actually got to witness a gold medal win and ceremony ‘in the flesh’ as it were…Dh and I belted out the National Anthem (tunelessly) and the girls waved their flags. Heroes by David Bowie played afterwards and I got all emotional again. We’re very good at ‘posh’ sports.

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