Reading last year’s new year goals is almost comical. I intended on having a busy year competing in different venues and was looking into doing dressage to music. I wanted to improve my flexibility and seat too. Oh and throw a nice big DIY party for our wedding! Needless to say, I achieved none of these.. I have spent more of the year NOT riding than riding, my exercise routine has been massively affected by both COVID and being pregnant and our wedding party was cancelled (though we did get married!)
Who knows what this year will bring! At the moment we are in a tier 4 ‘lockdown’ and it looks like from a national point of view, the first few months of this year at least will be largely restricted by COVID. On a personal point of view, I’m due to have my baby in a week or two and Pea is currently a roughed-off, fluffy bog pony. I have no idea how early motherhood is going to be and how I’m going to be able to juggle that with pony ownership so I just have one goal for 2021 and anything more than that will be a bonus!
This year I aim to achieve some kind of balance between being a mum and ‘normal life’. I want to be able to ride again in some capacity and get Pea back to looking as loved as she is!
I was hiding a little secret when I last blogged and although that secret has been shared to some for a while now, it is recently fully in the public domain – we are due to have a little addition to the family in January!
Returning to riding
Pea was poorly back in May – I’m still not sure what it was but the vet thought she had had choke in the field and that is why she was struggling to chew and coughing. We had moved her onto the long grass to make her eating easier and when she seemed better and lockdown was starting to lift, I decided that it was time to ride again. Weight management has always been an issue for Pea and I knew riding would help to balance out the grass. I chose a day to do it and got myself psyched up.. Then found out I was pregnant on that morning!
Riding when pregnant is a very personal choice. I had always said I wouldn’t want to ride when pregnant but I got back on that day and carried on for a good month until I lost my bottle. It is no coincidence that the day I lost my bottle was the day after I had told a couple of close people. I haven’t got on since and I won’t.
Peoples say you’ll be tired and sick but nothing actually prepares you for what it will feel like. I was exhausted and, while not physically sick, nauseous throughout the day with little warning or cause. There were pains, twinges, funny feelings and the most overwhelming anxiety I have ever experienced. Only having a handful of people to share your feelings with is also tricky but I didn’t feel ready to share with more until the 12 week scan.
By the end of June, weddings were permitted (under significant COVID restrictions) and we managed to get our notice of marriage appointment just in time to keep our 15th August wedding date. Our plan was to get married at the registry office with our mums watching (2 guests allowed!) and then return ‘home’ for some photos with our parents and our special pony. After four weeks of summer holiday having dress fittings, rustling up some hair and makeup plans (not my forte) and still being completely exhausted despite the apparent blossoming you are meant to experience in the second trimester, that is exactly what we did. It was a pretty unique wedding experience, we got ready in the same house (just the two of us), drove to the registry office in our beloved Freelander, had the little ceremony, went back ‘home’ for photos and then were in our comfy clothes and driving to Devon by the afternoon. It was very special and the important thing was that we got married (with the baby bump and Pea as part of our day).
Where I am now
A few days after the wedding we had our 20 week scan and found out that our baby is cooking well and he is a little boy! I can’t say that the anxiety has gone (at all!) but I feel more and more mentally able to prepare for having a baby now than I did before. It has also helped to feel him move. Gathering a few baby bits is amazing too. Being back at work has been pretty full on though so this stage definitely has its own challenges.
What about Pea?
Pea is absolutely fine, she is doing some gentle hacking at the yard and I still see her daily. I do feel deeply guilty that I’m not giving her more of my time though. In the evenings I just need dinner and bed and at the weekends the yard is so busy which doesn’t really work when I’m trying to keep my distance from people. I don’t quite know how things are going to be for the next few months but Pea is a very important part of our family so I’ll have to work things out as they go along!
In all honesty, nowhere! As lockdown eases gradually, it seems logical to record my experience since this all kicked off in March.
Like most people I have found this whole ‘staying at home’ a mixture of incredibly difficult and somewhat revolutionary! I have used my allowed daily exercise each evening to go to the yard, be with Pea and do some mucking out! The rest of the time I have stayed at home with the exception of a few trips into work when I have needed to. Only in the last week have I been back in work full time rather than working from home. All of my family live far away so I haven’t seen any of them in real life during this time.
I have really missed normal work!
I miss seeing my family – particularly the little ones who are growing up so quickly
I’ve had to be careful with my hip – sitting at a desk all day and then doing a day’s worth of exercise in one go has been slightly challenging for it!
Having to cancel the wedding we had planned and not knowing whether we will be able to still sign the piece of paper on the date or not.
The (almost goes without saying) total anxiety and fear of the virus and what it can do! I’m lucky that I don’t have to do the food shopping in my house but I am more and more terrified of having to fuel my car.
More video chats and phone calls with family than ever before.
The push to be imaginative with exercise for me and Pea including far more walking than usual (though I’ve started riding again in the last few weeks).
More sleep (on the nights the anxiety lets me sleep!)
Being forced to stay at home at the weekends has given me the chance to get on top of the housework and spend more time with Alex.
Realising just how lucky I am to have the family, friends, job, pets and health that I do.
I’m a firm believer that there are two things you shouldn’t scrimp on – your bed and your shoes. You spend most of your life in one or the other!
Every equestrian needs a good pair of wellies. I got my Le Chameau Vierzonord Neoprene Lined Boots just before I started my full time horsey job. They kept me warm and supported through the “beast from the East” and the 40,000 step days and they are still going strong (albeit with some mastic sealing a small split). They are pricey but the neoprene makes all the difference.
Mercifully there is a time when wellies can be put away but feet still need to protected from hooves. My summer yard boots of choice, which also double as walking boots, are the Mountain Horse Spring River Lace Boots.
I dream of Celeris boots or Deniros but for now I’m satisfied to have some boots that fit my foot and my calf after years of having one-size-fits-all boots. Mine are Tredstep although I still use my standard size Mark Todds for everyday use.
It is always good to have something that will take you round the course walk of Badminton but also take you from a hack to the pub. My Woof Wear Fonte Verde Marvaos do exactly this: they are safe to ride in but stylish enough to wear in “normal” company!
Are you really a horsey girl if you don’t like the look of tasselled Spanish riding boots for non-horsey times? I’m lucky enough to have Fairfax & Favor Reginas – I have to say they aren’t as comfortable as the other boots listed here but they are beautiful. I even wear them to work and “pink tassel Friday” is a real thing!
I think this post has made it blindingly obvious that I’m a big boot fan but for all other eventualities there are deck shoes. I wear my Chathams to work and pretty much everywhere else.
To watch my “Spring Boot Clean” – head over to my YouTube.
Last time I checked in to my blog I was riding high (literally) with my new dressage saddle and trips up the gallops. Life was pretty easy breezy. Since then, the whole world has completely changed with the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic. As I use this blog to document life it makes sense to write about this and how things changed during March.
March started with another trip up the gallops, a sunny weekend and the usual “living for the weekend” attitude – life was relatively normal (with the exception of a lack of pasta in the shops!)
By the second week, I was panicking about coronavirus. The yard runs on tourism (as does the area in which I live) and I’ve also got a lot of friends and family who are classed as vulnerable or who are self employed. I was getting really worried about how the situation would affect everyone. By the weekend, I was really worried about the possibility of carrying or passing on the virus and I started avoiding places where other people would be – that basically meant going to the yard when everyone else had gone or was going home but still riding.
By the third week, the yard was set up with hand sanitising points and disinfectant sprays to use on anything that had been touched and we were told that restrictions would be put into place soon. The news that schools were closing to the majority of pupils came halfway through that week. I had been putting all my focus into giving the kids I work with all the support they needed and although I tried to make the week as fun as I could in the circumstances, it was really sad. My lesson at the weekend had been cancelled and although I rode on the Friday night after work, the next day I made the decision to stop riding. Although I haven’t fallen off for a long time, it didn’t feel right to still be doing something that is officially high-risk especially in the knowledge that if I fell onto my hip I would probably be worse off than the average person.
The first week of working from home (bar some time in work) was surreal. It was also when we were officially told to stay at home apart from for essential shopping, exercise and work. I set up my office in the garden and the weather was beautiful. I have to say, working on a laptop all day everyday is not my thing. I really miss the variety and the humans! At this point, the yard was closed to the public but in the evenings I used my essential exercise quota to walk there and walk Pea into the next village in hand – literally everyday I got asked “aren’t you meant to sit on it?”
By the last week of March, only the leasers and liveries were allowed to go to the yard (that is a grand total of about five of us). My weekly routine (working until later afternoon and then going to the yard) and doing some yard jobs (a bit of mucking out, sweeping, raking etc.) continued. At the end of March Pea and I were both getting a little bored of walking to the village so I started attempting to do some liberty training with her. Neither of us really knew what we were doing but it was good to do something! There were also plenty of days where I just left Pea to chill in her field.
I have no idea what the next few months will hold – there will certainly be no competition blogs – but I’ll be sure to keep recording it.
For years I’ve gone to the gallops on foot with pony racing kids and team chasers. In fact, for years I did everything I could to avoid going to the gallops on Pea! I’m just not a speed demon. Things changed a few weeks ago when Pea’s chiro said we needed to do some fast work. At this time of year our normal canter routes are quagmire so going to the gallops was the only way to make this happen.
I have been twice now, once with one pony racing kid and today with four of them! I have thoroughly enjoyed both trips and even let my stirrups be hoiked up about a million holes today (definitely not up for a racing saddle).
It is easy peasy, all you do is ride in a straight line, no steering required, very few transitions too. There is definitely a recipe for a successful gallops experience though:
Trust – I trust Pea and I know how she works. I admit that both times I’ve been nervous incase she brought out her firey side but have had absolutely nothing to worry about. I can walk or trot her even with other ponies bombing off in front of her – she’s an absolute star!
It is obviously also easier if you can trust the ponies and riders you are with.
Knowledge – Knowing how to bridge your reins and getting into a safe position is what it is all about.
Equipment – Neck strap! Body protector! All the things to make you feel safe.
If you don’t know what a “push present” is, it is a present a mum might get when she has her baby.. I definitely haven’t had a baby, nor am I going to yet but bear with me on this one.
When I decided dressage was the discipline I wanted to strive towards (two and a bit years ago I would say) the urge for a dressage saddle started. Maybe I wanted to be “all the gear and no idea” rather than “no gear and no idea”! Maybe I thought it would help my position. Either way I ended up with a trailer instead!
Although my hip replacement took away the pain I had had for so many years, my hip abduction and rotation (I think those are the right terms) was worse on the left side. The early days of riding were really tough because I could barely open my legs wide enough to sit in the saddle. I compromised on my saddle desires by getting long girth straps on my GP saddle which meant there was less bulk under my leg. It may have been psychological but I felt like it made a difference to how wide my legs needed to be!
Things have been improving over time but I know my hips are still wonky in the saddle because of it. I’ve been using the old abductor weight machines at the gym (you know the ones that face the wall because you’d look inappropriate using them if they didn’t!) and periodically sitting on the sofa with my feet together and my knees as far apart as possible trying to just encouraging the stretch!
Anyway.. the “push present”. I’ve been pushing myself, pushing my hip and I’ve decided my new hip deserves to be pushed even further by putting it in a dressage saddle with surface blocks!
I saw a Thorowgood T8 immaculate condition dressage saddle being sold on Facebook, I set my heart on it (my current saddle is a Thorowgood and I think they are really good for those of us with changeable fat ponies and very little money) and drove to Wales to get it.
Being second hand and being new to Pea it does need some flocking changes but I have tried it out and I think I love it!
I realise I might get some criticism here – I am well aware that a different saddle isn’t going to fix all my problems etcetera etcetera and that actually I might be signing myself up for some discomfort with my hip being forced to open up more but I think it is all for the greater good.
On Sunday 12th we (Pea, me and top groom Alex) ventured out for our first competition of 2020. I thought we’d better return to our nemesis venue to battle our demons from the last competition there. Getting our lowest score EVER back in October was obviously an all time low. Getting a lower score each time we went to that venue felt really rubbish. Thankfully this time the pattern didn’t continue!
It wasn’t a great test. I had mucked up the warm up by being too bothered about getting out of the way of other people and not really focusing on what we needed to do. Pea was knackered by the time we did our test too – that winter reduced exercise regime has not been good! Nevertheless we managed to get through the test without major spookiness at the big door to the indoor school (I made sure it was shut the whole way this time so there was no strip of light like previous times) although I just couldn’t get her off my leg and the canter work was pretty much non-existent!
A score of 57.95% is a baseline score for 2020 which I very much intend on massively improving – bring it on!
To watch my test (and some!) click the link below to see my vlogging attempt!
2019 is officially over – it has been an amazing year and my goals certainly helped me on my way.
1. Get Strong
Steps towards this goal have changed over the year; I was doing yoga and cycling in the summer but then I started ballet and going to the gym all of which have helped my strength.
We racked up 7 competitions in 3 different venues – I think that counts as a tick for this goal. If you’d told me at the beginning of the year I’d be doing the Riding Club Qualifiers at Hartpury I would NOT have believed you. But we did!
3. Move On
Definitely ticked this one off with a new house and a new job!
This goal dropped in after my Mid Year Goal Review. I’ve stuck with my Lush plastic-free shampoo, conditioner and shower gel and I’ve replaced my cleanser with a cleansing bar. I’ve been much more conscious about what I buy. It would be really helpful if more brands followed in the footsteps of Derby House and Honest Riders to be more environmentally friendly!
It has actually been really hard to set goals for this year. I’ve got some big dreams but I’ve also got a wedding to plan and a job to maintain!
1. Branch out!
This year I want to do the next stage of stepping out of my comfort zone with Pea. I would like to try out a few new competition venues now I’m more confident with towing. I’d love to do a freestyle but I’m not fully sure what I need to do to get ready for that and I feel like that might be a lot so we will see about that one.
Although I’ve got a lot stronger in the last year, my external hip rotation and abduction on my left side is not very good. Doing ballet has made the difference in my sides very obvious but is certainly doing me good in addressing this. Don’t get me wrong, my hip is a hundred times better than it was before I had the hip replacement but I’m still wonky in the saddle because of its flexibility. That is going to improve this year!
3. Party planning
I wasn’t going to make this a goal but I thought it was quite funny so here goes.. Successfully plan our wedding without losing my mind! If you didn’t already know, we are getting married in August and it is going to be a quite a DIY job. I’ve never even planned a party before so tips and suggestions are more than welcome.. wish us luck!