Charlotte Dujardin’s ‘The Girl On The Dancing Horse’

My boyfriend’s mum bought me this for my birthday.  Since she is non-horsey I was so touched that she got something SO perfect for me – Thanks Sam!

I saw a demo from Charlotte at Your Horse Live four years ago and found her disappointingly flat.  I judged her from that moment but since reading her book I have done a 180.

She’s not a trained public speaker, she’s not an actress or a presenter, she’s just an incredibly talented and hardworking rider who has found herself thrust into ‘celebrity’ status.  In her book she makes it clear how hard she has found this side of things.

The book follows her journey from riding show ponies, through her parents sacrificing owning their own house to keep their children’s horsey dreams going and to teaming up with Carl and Valegro.  She shares how her dedication to her career affected her relationships and as you read it, you live each success and challenge with her.  By the end of the book you feel like you know her personally.

If you need some inspiration to boost your riding ambition and to help you believe that it IS possible or are just intrigued to know more about Charlotte and her dancing horse(s) I highly recommend you give this a read.

Tips from HOYS

On Thursday I took a little trip to Birmingham for the second day of HOYS.  Yet again I struck gold by having my day off on ‘dressage day’.  There was a Q & A in the Live Zone with Olivia Towers and Alice Oppenheimer, a masterclass with Carl Hester and the Dressage Future Elite Championship which was won by Charlotte Dujardin.  If you didn’t make it – here are the main things I took away from the day – they weren’t necessarily new lessons but certainly timely reminders.

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Stick in the stretch zone

At the Q & A I asked for any tips when getting back to riding after a medical reason kept you away from it.  Olivia answered with the ‘safe, stretch and danger’ theory – that staying in the safe zone would be not riding at all, being in the stretch zone would be gradually getting back into it and being in the danger zone would be getting out there to a competition straight away.  It made perfect sense – I’ve definitely been in danger of going into the danger zone but it was a good reminder that stretch is best!

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Remember no one gets 100%

Olivia and Carl BOTH said this!  No one gets 100% at dressage – you can seek to be perfect but you never will be.  It is a levelling thing to remember that even the greats aren’t perfect.

Even the most precious horses are turned out together

I have always been very much in the ‘let horses be horses’ camp as at my yard, the horses live out 24/7 in groups and I have seen how that benefits their behaviour.  Carl saying that Charlotte’s Vogue gets turned out in the field with Valegro just proves the value of turn out and companionship.

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Variety is the spice of life

The other thing Carl said is that the horses at his yard only school two days at a time and mix it up with hacking and pole work.  It is very easy to get stuck in a rut especially when you’re limited like I am at the moment but it reminded me of my vow to try to hack out, ride over poles, do an all walk session and a normal schooling session each week at the moment.

Aside from the horsemanship and mindset tips I also really enjoyed seeing the Musical Drive of the Heavy Horses, the Double Harness Scurry, the Mounted Games (although sadly a few ponies went lame during them), the Ridden Heavy Horse Championship, the GB Vaulters, Alizee Froment’s bridleless dressage and the Household Cavalry Musical Ride. It was a thoroughly good day out!

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Week Three – My Brain Has Come Home!

Yesterday marked three weeks since my operation.  This week has whizzed by but it has been a good one in terms of progress.  I am feeling much more like myself which has allowed me to get back to some more normal activities like doing yard things and reading (though that is usually strictly a holiday activity) and some slightly alternative ones like watching football!

Aim one was to get off the codeine.  I haven’t taken any codeine this week and I have coped without it just fine!  I am still experiencing pain from my wound and pain when I do my exercises (particularly in my knee which the physio said she expected) but it is nothing anywhere near like what I was experiencing before.  I am still very tired but no longer feeling like something else is in charge of my moods.  It is not too bad being tired now that I’m able to sleep on the sofa (which Mum has been photographing again!)

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My second aim for this week was to progress to using only one crutch when around the house.  It is amazing how much more I have been able to do for myself since I have been doing this, I can actually carry things from room to room which means that when I am home alone, if I want to get food or a drink I can AND I can comfortably stand and do things unsupported (including taking advantage of Mum’s top cooking!)  Groundbreaking!  On Tuesday, I took the one crutch strategy to the next level, although my aim was to only do it in safe places, I went down to one crutch while I was at the yard so that I could hose off Pea (whilst my mum held her), sweat scrape her and clean and carry my tack..  Not sure it counts as necessarily a safe place but it made me feel good.  This morning I actually picked out her feet and put her bridle on, if I’d be given pony care goals for recovery I would be winging through them this week!

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Aim number three was to become more independent which I was and am still sure is the route to feeling more like myself.  In the last week I have been left unattended outside of my house by my mum and boyfriend (my top carers) on four occasions; at the pub with my friends, at Hartpury Festival of Dressage for 15 minutes while my boyfriend went to the garage, at the yard for a while and at a music concert at the school where I used to teach.  Totally aware that these don’t sound like grand achievements BUT I’ve always been a person who does my own thing so being able to do some normal activities was exactly what I needed.

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This week’s schedule of activities has thrown up a lot of feelings for me.  Going to the Hartpury Festival of Dressage gave me a massive boost of ambition.  I have always been an average person, average at school, average at uni, a very average swimmer, an average waterpolo player and, lets be honest, an under average rider!  I don’t have the benefit of riding all my life, nor have I had weekly lessons for all of the four years I have ridden and, awesome and bombproof as she is, Pea isn’t exactly a push button schoolmistress.  I have struggled with my confidence for nearly the whole time I have ridden (as I said in Riding – How It All Started) and if you add that to the fact my left leg basically did nothing it should have done and threw the rest of me out..  I have always been pretty hopeless.  Back in the day I wanted to do everything, showjumping, cross country, the lot.  I can’t put my finger on the point at which I decided that actually I like hacking around and I want to do dressage.  I’m not fussed about jumping, I know what I want.  I’m not saying I’m suddenly going to become the next Charlotte Dujardin but the combination of feeling like my leg might work in the future and watching people at the top of their game made me excited.  I keep watching this video of my last lesson which I edited together on one of my down days and thinking of all the ways I can improve on it!

Going back to the school where I taught for four years was another biggie.  A year ago I was preparing to move house, move yards, move to a new and exciting job.  Some of the parents whose children I used to teach weren’t aware of the roller coaster that I have been on for the last nine months and it is a bit of a weird one to explain.  Also apparently when you are on crutches and are wearing knee length hospital socks you are not meant to answer the question

‘How are you?’

or

‘Are you ok?’

with

‘I’m fine!’

I have no regrets about the journey I have been on, I wish that I hadn’t had to leave the job that I so enjoyed but moving back to the place I know and the place Pea is sorted was definitely the right decision.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about the past this week.  I’ve also done a lot of thinking about the future but very very short term! The aims for this week are to get more secure on one crutch outside of the house as well as in it, to develop my stair climbing and to get back to work!!  I had physio yesterday and I’ve got some more strengthening exercises to do, some of my muscles are very tight and overworking whilst others aren’t doing enough so I need to try to change that.  Walking on one crutch and stepping up the stairs in different ways is going to help.  I was initially told to do the stairs good leg up first going up and bad leg down first going down but the physio has told me to switch it up and I’m pretty sure with the help of the banister I’m going to be stair walking pretty normally by four week mark.  Getting back to work will help that as the shop I work in has some very steep steps!  I’m a bit worried about going back as I’m still sleeping in the day most days at the moment but unless somebody is going to hand me a winning lottery ticket, I need to do it!

 

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