My post this week is something that I have wanted to share with you for a while but haven’t had a huge amount to say as I’ve had zero time to do anything, but my horses are probably the biggest part of my life and so it seems only logical that I have to share some of that with my lovely readers!
For those of you that don’t know, I have 3 horses, well 2.5 really as 1 is my very old pony Panda who has been my best friend for almost 14 years now. So basically I am the luckiest girl in the world – doesn’t always feel it at 6am on a rainy, cold winter’s morning when I have to muck 3 stables out before work – but I am. When I was younger I competed my Bay horse (her name is Ali, but Princess is a much more suitable name!) very regularly at British Eventing events.
So why did I do it then and not now?
Time has a huge part to play here, when I was at school and uni I had all of the time – and money actually, owning a house soon saps that! – in the world to put into training and competing but as soon as I entered the real world of work, that time very quickly disappeared! But if I am totally honest, the fear factor had a huge part to play too. Most people, I am including close friends and members of my family who are extremely experienced horse people, would describe Ali as a ‘challenge’ at best and ‘a total nutcase’ at worst. I however would describe her as an acquired taste, the most beautiful girl in the world, unbelievably capable (if she wants to do something that is), brave, strong minded and fiery – it’s fair to say we get on like a house on fire – it’s also fair to say we also disagree something rotten too.
Riding Ali has made me the rider that I am, now that’s not me saying I’m a world beater, but one thing’s for sure I can hang on for dear life thanks to all of the practice I’ve had!! However, when you get a bit older and it does matter whether you can get to work the next day, you do look at things from a slightly different perspective. You can never relax when riding Ali, it’s a constant battle and you’re always on edge ready for that famous Ali spin which if you don’t concentrate for a fraction of a second, has you on the floor with just a cloud of dust for company! That said, she has also given me the most memorable (in the best possible way) rides of my life. I totally trust her and she trusts me – I know that I could walk up to any Cross-Country fence and she would clear it in a heartbeat, but I also know that I could hack down the road and get thrown under a milk tanker (no really, that is a true story!).
So I took a break from competing to focus on work and life in general, just riding at home to keep her ticking along. Which brings me to my baby..
..Or Dolly Daydream as I like to call her. The total opposite of Ali – calm, collected, genuine, kind and willing to do anything you ask – this was even true as the 2 year old I bought her as! DD was supposed to be a project over the summer whilst at Uni, a break-in and sell-on job. Like that was ever going to happen – I fell in love with her instantly and it’s safe to say she will never move from the farm! Following the summer (when she was supposed to be sold), with my 21st birthday looming (that makes me feel old now at 26!), my mum and dad actually bought her for me as my birthday present and it was official – she was never moving from home. BEST. PRESENT. EVER!
With Ali as my only real horse experience and DD as a very green baby, I was really keen not to transfer my riding habits that I needed to use to *try to* control Ali with, so it was a huge learning curve for the both of us. Over the next 12-18 months, it was very much a case of concentrating on the basics and then the same happened as with Ali – work kind of got in the way and with two horses to keep ticking over it was a struggle to just do that.
However, I’ve made a real conscious effort this year to not let my lack of time be an excuse. I manage to squeeze in so much that if I can do all that, I can certainly make time for my girls. It’s not fair to let a horse as good as DD go to waste in the field and I couldn’t bear anyone else riding her so that gave me the kick I needed. We’ve been slowly working up to our first outing – whilst she may be older in age, because of the effective break, she is basically a 4 year old. So we have a lot of work to do and yes that does mean both of us – I really want to get DD out eventing – she really does have the capability to do something special (again, I’m not talking world beating, 4* tracks here but she could excel in our respective classes because she is patient enough to cope with the dressage – Ali whilst over capable – she used to be an affiliated dressage horse before her life with me! got bored and just gave up – and she is genuine and brave enough to handle the XC). But I have to say, after not seeing a cross-country fence for quite a few years I am totally daunted by it. Memories of hair raising moments, huge leaps of faith and generally massive jumps come flooding back from my time eventing Ali and I am not ashamed to say that I have turned into a total wimp. The 18 year old me would be having a field day at that revelation, particularly as I was known for being fearless, borderline stupid at times!
So we are taking it slowly, we have been out from home cross-country schooling twice now and it has been amazing but also a massive learning curve for the both of us. Before she went the first time, the only jumping she had done was a few cross poles when she was first broken in, and a few fallen trees in our woodland more recently. We have only been jumping relatively small jumps (again, the old me wouldn’t have even wasted my time looking at them) but it’s all about confidence giving at this stage and judging by the way she jumps the tiny fences we do not have a problem with height! Yesterday we went out for a second time and she was amazing but definitely more of a challenge. We tried a few more technical questions – safe to say she wasn’t a fan of the ditch – a snapped pair of reins later we did eventually get there! – and a little bigger fences, we definitely ended the afternoon on an unbelievable high. I actually forgot how good it feels to get out there – for me it’s my happy place, just me and my horse and an open field. It’s the only thing that can calm me down when I’m angry, make me happy when I’m upset, it takes me away from the everyday worries and stress and whilst it may sound cliche, it sets me free.
So why am I telling you guys now? Well to be totally honest I really want some motivation, and if I tell you what I’m doing it makes it real, makes me accountable and (hopefully) will encourage me to continue. So I’m going to be posting my horse diaries periodically to keep you updated with our journey. Like I said, we are not going to be at Badminton next year, so don’t get your hopes up! But I hope that at least some of you may be able to relate to my experiences and for the rest of you – hopefully its interesting at the least!