Another week, another attempt to better myself via the medium of sport and a pretend medal table. I must say, the fact that I'm the only person who's competed in every single sport yet still not managed to take the top spot on the table, is becoming a little humiliating. This week I've been boxing again, which is blowing my tiny mind and I must once again draw your attention to Girls in Gloves, who can make your boxing dreams a reality, if you happen to have an interest in such things.
I've also crossed football off the list and have secured a date for the artistic gymnastics competition, in which Nic, Uncle Becky, Vera, Harriet and I will battle it out with ribbons and interpretative dance. Nic tells me that "I feel I should disclose that I did actually do a bit of gymnastics as a child". Unsurprisingly, this does not worry me - anyone who's seen me in my living room after a night at the Dolphin can testify, I'm a very enthusiastic interpretative dancer. So we need some tunes for our routines and we would appreciate feedback via the medium of Twitter: @inspireajen
But on to this week's mane (BOOM!) event: Dressage. At least that's what I'm calling it, though in reality it was trotting round a paddock in different directions. As a child, I attended weekly horse riding lessons with the Harwich Horse Rangers between the age of about 6 and 13, when as previously mentioned, I became more interested in boys than I was in shovelling horse excrement, which in fairness, I never was very interested in.
Dressage got given a bit of a hard time during the Olympics, despite it obviously being something we were good at as a nation. There was quite a lot of "it's just horses prancing, it looks ridiculous", but frankly I'm all for a sport that incorporates a show tune. Besides this, I literally cannot believe that anyone could claim it's easy. For a start, you have to train the horse, then you have to factor in that the horse has its own mind and is ultimately going to do whatever it wants to do, and if that means go batshit mental when it sees a carrier bag, then so be it. Thirdly, why are loads of sports "Olympic" sports? What about the modern pentathlon (don't get me wrong, I'm excited about this one)? If you re-watch Charlotte Dujardin's gold medal winning performance in the 2012 Olympics, the horse literally doesn't move one hoof out of time with the music, and the fact that the rider is controlling this movement is insane.
Off I trotted (BOOM BOOM!) to Trent Park Equestrian Centre in North London to take on old rival, Jade. Fortunately, Jade had never ridden a horse before and I'd got her on the ropes this time. I'm introduced to Ebble, a massive grey mare, or at least she seems massive. She's apparently a beginner-friendly beast and at no point do I feel like she's going to lose it and throw me to a painful death on the paddock floor. My problem is actually the opposite in that she doesn't seem to have any intention of moving. The thing about not being 6 years old, is that horses seem a lot scarier and I really don't want to kick her, as suggested, for fear that she will bolt. I finally manage to get her trotting, but she slows down to a walk at every single corner. My instructor tells me that it's my fault for not looking like I mean business.
I attempt to mean business and work up the courage to start giving the horse a hard time. My instructor tells me that it's obvious that I used to ride, which I feel pretty smug about, but a few laps of rising trot is hard work, and I'm seriously out of puff. After a while, and a bit of repositioning, I'm doing a bit better, but Jade is irritatingly good at it, "you have great balance" the instructor tells her - well, she does surf.
The instructor suggests that I move on to some more advanced stuff; "I'm moving on to some more advanced stuff, yeah, no stirrups - pretty advanced" I call over to Jade. The instructor takes away my stirrups, and says "we'll have a little trot then" and I pretty much cack myself. Off we go and though I'm feeling more than a little precarious I manage to not fall off.
At the end of the session, we have a little chat about it and the lovely Miriam (who really was very lovely indeed) explains why it's a good work out. Apparently it's all about core muscle strength, though I'm inclined to think it's as much about the stress I've experienced over the last hour. That said, I've really enjoyed it and it's all come back to me fairly easily. It's not proper dressage, but there are a few disciplines of the Equestrian sports in the Olympics, so I know I'll be coming back to this. Again, possibly with a show tune...
Miriam warns us of the pain we're likely to experience the following day, and I can confirm that it takes about 3 days before I'm over it. We're told that Jade was very good for a novice, but I'm definitely an intermediate and I literally couldn't be happier as I mentally award myself the gold medal and realise that this is going to put me at the top of the table.
Check out the table and pictures at: www.jeninspired.wordpress.com
Follow Jen Offord on Twitter: www.twitter.com/inspireajen