There is no denying I was a very lucky little girl. My parents took me to riding lessons when I was about five. I remember going riding with my big brother and sister and a little pony called Nan. We even had a pony to stay at our farm when I was about six. When we moved to Devon my mum found a new riding school. I used to ride a grey pony called Tom – he was one of those ponies who was best off on the end of a rope but I loved it. I vividly remember the excitement of jodhpurs, my very own riding hat and desperately wanting a pair of riding boots!
As I said in my previous post, all that horsey loveliness came to an end when I was diagnosed with Perthes. I never lost the love for ponies. Recently I went through all the kept paper and schoolwork from my childhood and I clearly used to draw ponies a lot! I read horsey books, I played with toy horses, I played with a rocking horse and hobby horses and, rather embarrassingly, had a long term game with my sister involving invisible imaginary horses! Between seven and twenty one I probably rode three times – much begged for birthday treats generally!
The desire had never left me but life went on. When I finished university I got a real, proper, full time job and was suddenly earning actual money. This also coincided with a number of a dates with a boy. The story goes that on one date we were driving through the country and talking about his friends who had horses, I expressed my love for horses and desire to ride and his reply was
‘If you love horses and riding so much why don’t you just do it’.
That guy was insignificant but the words were not. I booked a riding lesson!
The first place that I went to I wasn’t fully sold on, I went there twice and knew that riding was still for me but not necessarily there. I then went to a new place where I started having weekly lessons. Monday evenings were the highlight of my week, made even more special by the fact that my lesson was the last of the night so I was able to untack my horse and feed it. I will never forget my first canter and the immense sense of achievement I felt at each small improvement.
After a few months I wanted more, I found a third riding stables (Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre) which offered hacking as well as lessons. After two hacks there I discovered the concept of ‘leasing’ – essentially a paid commitment resulting you being able to ride a certain horse whenever you want to and to treat it as your own – I jumped straight in.
To cut a long story short, I had an unfortunate fall out on a hack off the first horse I leased. My confidence was crippled. I had the opportunity to swap horses and I did but that still didn’t work – I just couldn’t leave the yard on horseback. Eventually the yard owner asked the ultimate question
‘Do you actually want to do it? If you actually want to do it I can help’.
And she did. I was given the option to ride the old queen of the yard Whiskey. It worked!
The next stage was slowly but surely swapping from Whiskey to Pea. By Easter 2014 I was leasing a pony I was comfortable with but who still ultimately gave me enough challenges! We did the riding centre summer show, we entered the dressage competitions held at the yard, we went on fun rides and it was all wonderful.