When I was a working student – over a decade ago now, which is horrifying but also makes me feel like the Gandalf of eventing – we knew a bit about the gospel truths of life. That is: a mid-morning trip to IHOP can cheer up even the snowiest of days; a saddle made decades prior but well-loved throughout its career will teach you to ride better than any newfangled bit of kit; and finally, there’s not much you can’t learn by watching. And, of course, like any group of working students cooped up in a small and inarguably unappealing house, with no WiFi but an insatiable desire to learn, we had our favourites.
Even now, I remember so vividly watching the 1978 World Championships. What a different world that was to watch – old-fashioned timber courses, the sparsest of safety measures, and a truly gung-ho attitude to riding across the country. There’s a lot to enjoy, and certainly a few things to learn – but equally, there’s so much that I was taught not to do from these videos. After watching Might Tango, Bruce Davidson’s game young horse, suffer the effects of the punishing heat, I vowed to learn everything I could about fitness and conditioning – and felt inordinately lucky to live in a world with considerably advanced cooling measures for our equine athletes. Misting fans! What a time to be alive, folks.
I’m spending my Friday night deep in nostalgia – and I’m excited to see what’s left to be learned from these great old videos. Now that I’m older and wiser the one thing I know for sure, after all, is how much there is that I don’t know.