We caught up with 4* event rider Imogen Murray at Blenheim Horse Trials and asked her to answer some of your questions you sent in a few weeks ago. Here’s what Imogen had to say…
What is the toughest event and your favourite?
Probably Burghley. It’s our most local big event and we’ve been going to watch as a family for as long as I can remember so it always feels very surreal to be competing there. Going round the cross-country at Burghley, the crowd is always loud and Sir Charles’ fan club always cheers us on and that makes it extra special.
There is also no other feeling like soaring over the iconic Cottesmore Leap.
Charles has an exercise plan from 12 weeks before a 4*to ensure he’s at peak fitness at the right time. In the last week he usually has a slightly lighter week, the equivalent to a marathon runner tapering off their exercise programme before the race. He will have his last gallop on the Wednesday or Thursday and a light jump, with a few skinnies and lines that might appear on cross-country day.
On the other days he will have dressage session and some hacking, all coupled with some field time so that he feels nice and relaxed and rested for the big day.
Do you get nervous?
I always feel nervous in the cross-country warm up and around the start box, but I think if you don’t then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. I think nerves dealt with in the right way are actually beneficial on cross-country day. Just before I get on I often think ‘why am I doing this voluntarily’ but once I’m on I feel ready for it. All the nerves leave the second we leave the start box and once we are over the first few difficult fences I really enjoy it. Crossing the finish line I often think ‘why was I worried?!’
Dealing with nerves
I think for me the first thing with coping with nerves is understanding/accepting that they are a normal part of competing. Then I find that I put all things like nerves and pressure I might be under in a ‘box’ in my mind before I get on. I can then focus on the task at hand. My philosophy at the big events is very much one step at a time. That way everything seems much more manageable, especially for the cross-country. Obviously I will have a plan for each fence and will have looked at the course as a whole when I made that plan but once I leave the start box I will only think about the next fence I will be tackling and not worry about anything else until we get there.
Everyone had expectations for an event and it can be difficult if you don’t achieve these expectations. To make this easier first I ensure that my (and my connections) expectations are realistic for each event. Then we look at what result we would be happy with before the event had started. This is often not has high as when one of the first two phases has gone well, so it is good to refer back to if you feel disappointed at the end of the day.
If it all goes a bit wrong you have to remember to see the funny side (there is always one even if you don’t see it at first) and there is always another day.
Thanks Imogen, it’s great to know that even the professionals get nervous and we are definitely going to put some of these tips in to action the next time we go out competing, we hope you found them useful too. Imogen had a fantastic season finishing 11th at Badminton and 19th at Burghley with Sir Charles. Other season highlights include winning her first CCI2* at Haras Du Pin, representing Team GB at Aachen and being the highest placed Brit and winning the national 4 year old championships at Osberton so we look forwards to seeing what 2019 has in store for Imogen, Sir Charles and her up and coming horses too.