Aine Minihane is a 25-year-old adult amateur who has been riding since she was 8 and began eventing at 13. She competed her retired pony paint Murphy at Novice and now leases a Dutch Warmblood named Tank, training at Hawkwood Hill Farm with David Adamo in Petaluma, California. Her goal is to complete a CCI* one day. Go Aine and Tank!
I sat in the warmup, one rider out, before it was Tank and I’s turn to head out onto the Beginner Novice cross country course at September Twin Rivers Horse Trials. With the biggest pit in my stomach, I looked over at my coach, David Adamo, and knew we had not only a plan A, but a plan B and in a couple minutes it would be time to execute one of them.
Tank and I started our career together in the spring of 2015, placing second in our very first event together at Inavale. After another successful Beginner Novice and a couple solid Novice events under our belt, we headed to the April Twin Rivers Event, which would leave us with two stops at the Novice down bank and two stops at the ditch.
After the April Twin Rivers event everything started to go downhill. Our confidence was nowhere to be found, and it seemed almost impossible to ever get it back. After being eliminated going Novice at Shepherd, my coach, David, decided we needed to go back to basics and have a successful event to get our mojo back.
As we left the start box, having had a fabulous dressage test and a very bold stadium round, this was it, what we had been preparing for the last three months, the down bank …
Plan A: Break to a trot after jump 8, the brush coming out of the water. Trot over jump 9, the cabin at the top of the hill, be sitting in the back seat, leg on, eyes up and trot down the bank. As we landed over jump 9, I knew plan A was not going to work.
Plan B: After landing on the other side of jump 9, Tank immediately stopped and decided to run out to the right (which he has done in the past) but being seven canter strides from the down bank I knew I had time for plan B. Plan B was to serpentine on the bit down the hill to the bank. This allowed us to break up the space between the cabin at the top of the hill, proceed to walk to the edge of the bank and drop down like an old pro.
As we dropped down the bank, my eyes filled with tears and the pit in my stomach moved to my throat as it took everything in me to not break down and sob in relief. At that moment I felt the biggest weight had been lifted off my shoulders. WE. DID. IT. All the time, money, sweat and tears had been worth it. As I continued to pat Tank as we cantered to our next fence, I was finally able to accept that we were tied for third place in our Senior Beginner Novice division and that it was time to finish strong.
As we crossed through the finish flags, I was overwhelmed with emotions. Eventing is one of the most challenging parts of my life, yet Tank getting down the bank on our first try reminded me eventing is also the most rewarding. Greeted by my team, all with huge smiles on their faces, I knew we had done it — we had our mojo back!