Six Months In The Saddle

At the end of February it will have been six months since I started riding again with my new hip so I thought it was about time I looked back on what Pea and I have achieved in that time.  There are lots of links to past posts in case you have missed any!

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September (Month 1)

In all honesty, in September the key achievement was getting on and staying there for more than ten minutes!  I found it really hard to sit in the saddle in the first place although it gradually got better as each ride went on and each time I rode.  By the end of the month I managed to trot my way round an Intro dressage test for Dressage Riders Online.

October (Month 2)

I found riding quite mentally challenging in October because I felt guilty about how little I was doing.  I was still only riding for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.  However, at the end of October, I cantered for the first time since my operation.  It was very uncomfortable!

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November (Month 3)

At the beginning of November we took Pea to Lyneham for my first lesson in about six months.  My instructor rode Pea for a while and then I did and I went away feeling on top of the world.  I had a few weeks of feeling really good about my riding (although I was still finding cantering really challenging).  However, at the end of the month I had a bump in the road where I was in pain again.

December (Month 4)

After feeling so positive about my riding for most of November, December was a bit of a flop!  I had a really good lesson at the start but then I was away house sitting and had two bouts of feeling really grotty so I didn’t do much ‘proper’ riding.  I did do a Christmas yard hack into Bourton on the Water to sing a Christmas song in the river and take my boyfriend for a ride on Christmas day.

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January (Month 5)

January was a much better month for riding.  I took on the Bronze Top Barn Challenge which meant I rode (or did groundwork with Pea) for at least three hours each week.  I also entered and completed my first competition with my new hip (which was also our first competition away from home and in an indoor arena) and had another amazing lesson with my instructor.  Everything was a bit disconnected and wonky at the competition but Pea started working so nicely in my lesson and I finally felt like she was starting to accept the contact and become supple.  This continued when I was schooling at home too and I was strong and comfortable enough to be riding for longer.  I’ve certainly found that a longer warm up has been beneficial and the difference in my leg since my hip replacement has meant that I’m still comfortable enough to keep going afterwards!

February (Month 6)

February was meant to bring my second competition of the year and my step back up to prelim (which I was competing at before my hip replacement) but first we had snow and then the equine flu saga exploded so I haven’t been out competing and I haven’t been out for any lessons.  It has been really frustrating because I feel like things were just starting to fall together and now they are on hold HOWEVER Pea has been schooling really nicely at home.  She is a lot more off my leg and seems to be working more correctly.  The big achievement this month has been our hacking.  I haven’t always been confident about hacking but this month I have been going out for 60/70 minute hacks ON MY OWN (with Pea!)  A massive achievement for me.

Next Steps

I’m hoping to get back out again in March providing my yard owner is happy for that to happen.  I want to be confidently riding prelims with passable canter movements by the time the summer comes so lots of practice, some lessons and trying out some more competition venues is on the ‘to do’ list.

Along For The Ride – Swimming Not Drowning

Who else had a sinking heart this morning when they looked outside? Last week’s snow was inconvenient yes but at least it was beautiful and I had a nice day off!  Horrible as the rain was, I still had that Friday feeling.  The motivation to get out of bed every Friday is that it isn’t too long until 3.30 when I can drive to the yard and be with Pea.

Arriving at the yard was even more exciting than usual.  Yesterday, I picked up my saddle from the saddlers where it had been to get new LONG girth straps put on.  I have been wanting a dressage saddle for a long time but realistically can’t justify the cost.  I have been thinking for a while that putting dressage girth straps on my saddle might be a good compromise.  Anything to help me be more effective with my legs sounded good to me.

It was less exciting when I realised Pea was literally as far away as she possibly could be in the field and when I had finally reached her she was also absolutely disgusting!

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There was a lot of flowing and standing water in the fields and we appear to have a new lake that wasn’t there yesterday!

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Has anyone else fallen into an extreme comfort zone with their tack?  I feel like I’ve been using the 5th hole on both sides with my double ended elastic girth and saddle for my whole life (it is actually only about a year and a half).  Anyway, I had to put that to one side when tacking up and try to get the right balance of girth tightness.  I got on and honestly felt an instant difference.  My saddle felt narrower purely from the lack of bulk that a normal girth brings – mental!

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Pea was quite entertaining for the first ten minutes or so of the ride, she spent the whole of one long side with her head up in the air, turned to the side, staring out the donkeys who have recently moved to the paddock next to the school rather than at the end of it.  It was as though she had never seen them before!

I went through my normal routine to try to get her working over her back and becoming more supple and to my surprise, it worked fairly well.  Each time she softens I am shocked that I’m actually getting her to do it! I feel like I’ve just about got my head above water with this ‘riding properly thing’ (excuse the water reference!)

She was really good on the left rein but on the right rein she seems to want to bend to the outside which isn’t great.  She is definitely harder in the right rein.  Now would be a great time to see my instructor and get her to help us with the next steps but due to the equine flu situation, I’m going nowhere for the moment.

I didn’t last long tonight, my left leg muscles felt weird (probably due to the slightly different position as a result of the new saddle set up) and I called it a day after about 25 minutes.  I hopped off and led her round for another 10 minutes to cool off – she always needs an extra bit of walking to get her breathing back down and since we don’t have a walker, I do it myself!

How was your Friday?

 

January Dressage

Last week I took the plunge and entered a dressage competion. Evenlode RC, who are the ones who host dressage competitions in our fields in the summer, were hosting at Lower Haddon Livery today. I decided to just enter the intro, although we used to do prelim, as since my hip replacement we haven’t really established maintaining a comfortable canter yet!

I didn’t broadcast that I entered because I was worried something was going to go wrong (remember what happened when I tried to do a pre op competition?)

Anyway, today was the day!

The Prep

Last night I gathered together all my show things (most of which have been unused for a year and a half) and gave my boots and tack a thorough clean with Horseman’s (my favourite leather cleaner).

For fear of Pea being a fresh beast, I left her out last night which meant getting to the yard at 7 and shampooing her legs, neck and mane in semi darkness (the wash area has no light!) I’m not going to lie, she was still damp when we warmed up but was looking beautiful by the time I got off!

The Journey

We were adamant that it would take about 45 minutes to get there, it didn’t. It took just over 30 and it was such an easy route.  A plus point since I’m always nervous about travelling Pea.

The Warm Up

After faffing about getting myself ready and tacking up/trying to put off the inevitable, I went to warm up in the outdoor school. As you can see below, Pea was really rather interested in what was going on around the outside of the school. I struggled to get her as forward as I do at home and forget working in a consistent contact! I also had a bun malfunction – hairband, hairnet and scrunchie all came sliding down and I had to get off and redo it!

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The Test

The test was in the indoor school. Pea has only been in an indoor school twice and each of those times she wasn’t keen to go in and found the first few minutes rather unnerving. Today was no different except this time I didn’t have the time to sort it out like I did with lessons, I had to pretty much go straight into the test.

Firstly, there were significant pony club kicks required to get through the doorway.  Then, as the woman shut the sliding door, Pea did the most majestic rein back away from it.  We then set off around the outside of the arena, she wasn’t sure about the mirrors or the way the surface was quite compact and basically wanted to stop at each point of the test to have a look at what was going on. Apart from nearly stopping whilst doing a poo down the first centre line and nearly stopping at the door later on (causing me to forget when to transition and consequently being late to walk), I managed to keep her going through the movements though it wasn’t particularly dignified or connected.

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Reflection

Really I could have done with entering a second test because I think if we went in again, Pea would have been more comfortable in the arena. I was just so pleased to have done it – it was the first dressage competition we have done away from home and the first since my hip replacement.

The Scoresheet

I got 64.78% and a rosette for coming 3rd out of 4! My comments were as expected, she needs to be softer to the contact, more supple to the bend on both reins and generally more connected. The general comment did say that we were a ‘lovely partnership’ and that we ‘show real promise for the future’ which was amazing. I’m so aware we have got a long way to go even to do a passable prelim test (which I’m hoping to start entering next month) but at least we are showing promise!

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Final Thoughts 

It was a great, low key, friendly event today (thank you Evenlode RC) and I feel so proud of Pea for being generally so well behaved in a completely new environment.  Hopefully there will be another competition in February for us to have a go at.

As ever, all the thanks go to my boyfriend for his help – it wasn’t ideal for him to have to sacrifice his Sunday lie in to support me BUT we were right next to Brize Norton so at least he saw some aeroplanes!

One 2019 goal ticked off!

Top Barn Challenge 2019

You know me, I’m a sucker for a challenge so from today, for the next 12 weeks, I will be taking part in the Top Barn Challenge.

Top Barn is a centre in the Cotswolds and each year they set this challenge on Facebook for horse people to commit to dedicating a certain number of hours a week to working with their horses.  The idea is to form a supportive community to help each other to stay motivated.

There are four levels which each have a specification of how many hours a week and how many challenges you need to do to complete it. Bronze is 3 hours a week with no compulsory mini challenges, Silver is 5 hours with 2 mini challenges etc.

I will be aiming for the Bronze challenge (3 hours a week of riding or groundwork) but will also try to do some of the mini challenges from the dressage, hacking and groundwork lists (though they are not part of the Bronze challenge).

I’m going to use this post to keep track of how I’m doing towards the challenge.

Week 1

7.1.19 – 40 minutes total to kick off the challenge, made up of riding, stretching and trying to teach Pea to smile and bow!

11.1.19 – I’ve achieved a mini challenge! After not riding for 3 days, I hacked out alone for 30 minutes. I hate hacking out alone so this was a real success for me.

12.1.19 – 35 minutes schooling session before work this morning. The best way to start the day!

13.1.19 – 50 minutes of riding at a dressage competition today. Back at the yard I did 10 minutes of massage and 15 minutes of stretching with Pea. The desire to reach my 3 hours certainly helped me to spend more quality time out of the saddle today.

Week 1 Summary – 3 hours

Week 2

17.1.19 – 40 minutes schooling and 10 minutes of carrot stretches in baltic weather conditions!

18.1.19 – 30 minutes schooling including some uncomfortable canter.

19.1.19 – 60 minutes in the saddle for a lesson with my instructor.  Had a really productive session today, I had no idea how much it was possible to sweat on such a cold day!

20.1.19 – 65 minutes worth of relaxing hacking today, perfect for a Sunday.

Week 2 Summary – 3 hours 25 minutes

Week 3

25.1.19 – 30 minute schooling session working on becoming more connected, followed by 10 minutes in hand.

26.1.19 – 60 minutes of hacking, 30 minutes schooling, 10 minutes in hand followed by 10 minutes of stretching!  This was a major success for me considering before my hip replacement riding for that long was majorly painful and since my hip replacement I have been slowly building up from ten minutes to an hour max!

27.1.19 – 30 minutes of solo hacking

Week 3 Summary – 3 hours

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Week 4

28.1.19 – 45 minute schooling session with two of the kids from the yard.  Pea is so much more forward schooling in company and produced a lovely flashy trot AND we did some canter.  Then I walked her off in hand for 10 minutes.

31.1.19 – 40 minutes of schooling (was actually in the saddle for more like an hour but spent a bit too long chatting to my yard owner!)

1.2.19 – 30 minutes plodding round and round the school trying to churn up the snow to make the arena more rideable for Saturday lessons!

3.2.19 – 35 minutes of plodding around the school AGAIN!  The snow had mostly melted in the arena but some of the school was still quite icey so I only did a few flashed of trot but did quite a lot of work on connection in walk and used some poles to get Pea moving!  I finished the session by walking her in hand for 10 minutes and then doing her stretching routine for another 10.

Week 4 Summary – 3 hours

Week 5

4.2.19 – 30 minutes plodding hack on my own into the village and back. I actually found it more therapeutic than worrying which was wonderful!

8.2.19 – 25 minutes of soggy schooling followed by a 10 minute walk cooling off.

9.2.19 – 40 minutes hacking into the village with my boyfriend walking with us. We had a proper paddle in the river to clean off her legs.

10.2.19 – 90 minutes hacking with the kids from the yard on what is known as the ‘cheese ride’ (because it goes past a dairy farm). We had to deal with cows, sheep, tractors and quads along the way but it was good to go somewhere I haven’t been for a while. We also did 5 minutes of stretching.

Week 5 Summary – 3 hours 20 minutes

Week 6

11.2.19 – 40 minutes of plodding around the village and playing in the river.  A solo ride!

15.2.19 – 25 minutes of the best schooling Pea has ever done!  Then 10 minutes of me trudging round in the dark walking her off!

16.2.19 – 40 minutes of plodding around the village.. on my own.. again!

17.2.19 – 70 minutes of bravely venturing around both villages and splashing in the river followed by 5 minutes of stretching.

Week 6 Summary – 3 hours 10 minutes

Week 7

18.2.19 – 40 minutes of schooling followed by 10 minutes of walking off.

20.2.19 – 60 minutes hacking on my own.

21.2.19 – 70 minutes of hacking on my own in the beautiful sunshine!

22.2.19 – 70 minutes of hacking on my own in the beautiful sunshine AGAIN!  I can’t believe how much I have been riding out on my own recently without any lack of confidence or nerves.

Week 7 Summary – 4 hours 10 minutes

Week 8

25.2.19 – 60 minutes of hacking with another girl from the yard and the horse she rides.

1.3.19 – 45 minutes of fairly dodgy schooling followed by a 10 minute cool down hacking down the track and back.

2.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking including a canter!  Throughout this challenge my hacking confidence has improved so much and cantering out (on my own) for the first time since my hip replacement was another big step.

3.3.19 – 65 minutes of hacking around the local villages in some serious wind and rain!

Week 8 Summary – 4 hours

Week 9

4.3.19 – 40 minutes of pretty poor schooling split into two 20 minute sessions with a sit and chat in the middle!

8.3.19 – 45 minutes of schooling followed by 10 minutes of in hand cooling off. Some proper cantering today!

9.3.19 – 30 minutes of plodding into the village – a sneaky hack before work.

10.3.19 – 60 minutes of the most terrifying hack ever! I had got up at 5am to hack before a big day of moving house.  The wind was absolutely ridiculous and I honestly thought I was going to either be blown off Pea or fall off when she spooked.  I thought I was going to die!  In previous times I would have turned around and gone home but this time I pushed on which just shows how much my confident has grown.

Week 9 Summary – 3 hours 5 minutes

Week 10

11.3.19 – 10 minutes of stretching for Pea today – I got so involved in a Pony Club rally at the yard that I bailed on riding and spent my time grooming Pea and getting rid of some of her winter fluff instead.

15.3.19 -40 minutes of a truly awful schooling session where nothing seemed to be going right followed by 10 minutes cooling down.

16.3.19 – 60 minutes in the saddle for my lesson.  Pea was working so much better into the contact in trot so we worked on her canter (which didn’t go so well) and her square halts.

17.3.19 – 40 minutes of hacking followed by 15 minutes in the school to practise our square halts and 10 minutes of cooling down.

Week 10 Summary – 3 hours 5 minutes

Week 11

18.3.19 – 40 minutes of schooling.

22.3.19 – 30 minutes of schooling.  I also had a go at picking out Pea’s feet from one side – no problem!

23.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking in the beautiful spring sunshine!

24.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking through the villages.

Week 11 Summary – 3 hours 10 minutes

Week 12

28.3.19 – 60 minutes of eventful hacking!  The village that we always hack through was being turned into the set of a film so there were lots of people, unusual objects and noisy tools to hack past then we came across a four horse carriage!

30.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking – we went back through the village to see how the film set was progressing and there has been lots of turf added to cover the double yellow lines on the road.

31.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking around the normal route, past all the road closed signs and through the film set for the last time before they keep us well away next week!

Week 12 Summary – 3 hours

2019 Goals!

I’m not generally one for New Year’s Resolutions but I do like to set myself goals (generally with very little time frame restrictions) so here’s some  I intend on working towards in the next year!

Get Strong

The first goal for the year is a bit of a continuation of what I have already been doing and doesn’t really have an end point (so not a SMART target!) but it is to get stronger!  I’m not in the camp of people who want to lose weight or look more ‘insta ready’ but having gone right down to the strength of a marshmallow in July after my hip replacement, I have a whole new appreciation for muscle and core strength.  I know it will help my riding as well as my general continued hip rehab!  The plan is to continue with home physio, do more yoga, more walking and more swimming!

Compete

I can almost hear you reading this and saying ‘come on Poppy, you keep banging on about wanting to compete but you still haven’t done it’.. Well this year is our year. It has been around 17 months since our last real dressage competition (see the picture below) and that is appalling! I now have the transport and the support, just need to rustle up the money and the skills!

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Move On

On a more personal note, we hope to move house in the early part of this year. Having already moved ten times since I left my parents’ house in 2010, I am hopeful that we can find somewhere to properly settle in a good location for Pea and both of our work locations AND with space for our guinea pigs and potential future additions to our team.

So there we go! Short, sweet and hopefully achievable!  What are your goals for the year?

5 Things I’m Proud Of (2018)

I’ve decided to join Rhea Freeman’s ‘5 Things I’m Proud Of’ challenge and will be adding one more thing each day until the 31st December!

1 – The Confidence To Make A Change

This started in 2017 when I made the big decision to leave my permanent contract teaching job and follow my dream to a live in job at boarding school stables, but this year (2018) I have made some more major changes.

Firstly, I decided to leave that job in order to return to the Cotswolds for my operation (with no future job lined up!)  Three months into my recovery and feeling much better, I then made the decision to take a HLTA job (rather than try for a full time teaching one) alongside my self employed tutoring.

Both of these big changes have paid off for me so far but I am hoping I don’t have such big decisions to make in 2019!

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2 – Getting Out And About

It has certainly been a year of confidence growth!  With a trailer and the commitment of my travelling head lad (boyfriend..) 2018 was meant to be a year for getting out and about with Pea.  The hip replacement put a fairly big brake on this but we still managed to go out for lessons to two different places (in three different arenas).  Riding in different arenas has been great for my confidence, we have now experienced an arena with no fence and been in an indoor arena for the first time ever!

Each time we go out the stress gets less as we establish our routines and roles. I am still nervous about travelling Pea (even though she travels fine) but the more we do it, the more settled I feel. I’m proud of us all for breaking out of our comfort zone.

The intention was to get out to competitions this year too but that wasn’t meant to be.. hopefully we will have more success in 2019!

3 – My Recovery Journey

If you have ever visited my blog before you will know that in June I had a hip replacement.  Quite aside from being proud that I actually did it in the first place (though I made that decision at the end of 2017), I’m proud of how I’ve made it out the other side. 

I’m proud of myself for following the rules of my rehab, for doing my physio exercises, for getting back on my pony and ‘living my life’. 

I’m proud that I am now able to walk tall and (fairly) straight. 

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4 – Pea

As you can see in Pea’s Year it has been a big year for Pea. After settling in to life in Malvern she went through the upheaval of moving back to Bourton with no stress or complaints.

After running away from my crutches before my operation, once my hip was done she couldn’t have been more gentle and tolerant of me or the fact that she was being ridden by various tourists!

She responded to each stage of progress with interest and was almost unsure the day I led her out of the stable to get on! She has been pretty much impeccably behaved since, testing me only when I have been ready!

I’m proud of the willingness she has shown when my instructor has ridden her and I’m proud that we are finishing 2018 in a better position than we were at the beginning!

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5 – My Blog

If you had asked me at the beginning of 2018 what I would be proud of by the end, the changes, the trailer travel, the operation and Pea would have all been very much on my list, I could never have predicted the fifth thing I’m proud of.

I started my blog with very little expectation or intention but I feel like I have achieved something with it!

  • I am proud to have received messages and comments from people who have appreciated me sharing my story (some of whom live in a completely different country!)
  • I’m proud to have been shortlisted and given an award in the Equestrian Blogger of the Year competition.
  • I’m also proud to be writing again for a purpose other than work!

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Happy Half Birthday Hip!

The 19th December was my new hip’s official six month birthday!

It has had a busy time

  • 2 nights in hospital
  • 2 weeks with a dressing on
  • 2 weeks of no showers
  • 3 weeks off work
  • 6 weeks of anti embolism socks
  • 6 weeks off driving
  • 2 months of crutch support
  • 10 weeks off riding
  • 3.5 months OF riding
  • 7 physio sessions

If you feel like revisiting the journey so far.. My Hip Story

But where am I now?

Life In General

I’m fully settled into my new job, though desperately pleased it is the Christmas holidays.  I have been ill twice in the last couple of weeks and I think it is my body telling me that it needs a rest – the three weeks off I had after my operation don’t exactly count as a rest and you have to wind back about a year before that to get to the last time I had any proper time off.

Riding

Because I have been under the weather and I’ve been away house sitting, I have given Pea a bit of time off however riding has got so much better.  Feeling both thighs ache after a ‘proper’ ride is amazing – although my left leg still doesn’t work like my right (and both are negatively affected by the way my pelvis is tilted and twisted in the saddle) they are at least both doing something!

I have managed to canter a little bit more this month.  Although I think my trot work is now as good, if not better than it was before my operation, my canter work is behind.  I find it uncomfortable, I’m struggling to sit and keep Pea going.  In fairness, she’s not exactly done much cantering in the last 6 months so she needs strengthening too.  We will get there!  We could do with cantering out so that I can get my bum out of the saddle and she can just go.  I’m making it an aim for the Christmas holidays.  As you can see.. we are seriously lacking skills.

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Hip Matters

I actually stopped paying much attention to my scar for a while but recently I’ve been back on the yoga and conscious of how my muscles are shaping up.  As a consequence of this, my eyes have been opened to the fact that I essentially have a big chunk missing from my left bum cheek!  I knew that scars pull the skin in tight but I guess due to the squishy nature of the area, my extended scar dent is something else!  You can actually see it when I’m wearing trousers!  It’s fine, I’m not going to get all funny about it but I have been wondering if it will change or always be that way.  It is very hard to show in pictures but I’ve tried – brace your eyes, here’s some bare flesh!

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There isn’t much to report in terms of my range of movement and strength as things are moving very slowly forwards/outwards/upwards!  I am still frustrated that when I cross my legs, my left knee sticks in the air.. it does make yoga interesting.  I think I just need to keep going.  I keep reading about people having more flexibility straight after their operations than they did before, it has been quite the opposite for me.  In fact, I had a para dressage assessment last year and was given a classification due to my restricted movement – does that mean I would still qualify if I was reassessed?

Now that I am being more ambitious with what I am doing, I do have times when my hip twinges, probably because I have moved it in a way it shouldn’t be moved.  I can’t quite classify what ways those are but I’m sure over time I will be able to see more of a pattern.

Aside from the flesh dents, rigidity and flashes of alarm I’m still very pleased with my hip – I am more comfortable walking, sitting and sleeping than I ever was.  I am so much less stiff than I was before.

Here’s to the next 6 months!

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.

Falling In And Out Of Love

Time for a confessional to address a slightly taboo subject – falling in and out of love with riding.

Before I start, just to clarify, not a day has gone by where I haven’t loved Pea.  Even in the early days when sometimes I couldn’t catch her for love nor treats.  Even when her tankiness caused me to have plastered fingers for weeks.  Even when she reared whilst being held by my ‘horses are dangerous’ boyfriend! I’ve never fallen out of love with Pea or horses.

There has also never been a point where I haven’t wanted to WANT to ride.. Just the achieving the wanting has been hard.. Have you got that?

ANYWAY, I have had my fair share of roller-coasters when it comes to how I have felt about riding (even having only started five years ago) and in the interests of honesty I thought I’d share my experiences and tips.

The Lows

Unhappy Hacker –

If you’ve read Riding – How It All Started you will know that I had a major confidence wobble right at the beginning.  There was a time when I didn’t want to leave the yard.  I even walked miles and miles leading a horse when I was too scared to ride it after half a hack!  And cantering our? Forget it!

There have been plenty of days when I have opted not to ride because I had no-one to hack out with.  If I do go out alone, I never go far.  I’m too worried about what might happen if something went wrong.

Confidence/Nerves –

The confidence issues continued.  Prime example being the time I managed to enter a hunter trial but turned into a complete nervous wreck/stranger and ended up falling off due to losing all control over my own limbs/ability to do anything!

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A special mention also goes to the preparation and occasion of my Level 2 Diploma riding assessment – there were a LOT of tears.  The utter fear of assessment is something that really affects me.

Pain –

If you are reading this you are probably aware of my hip situation (if not, you’ve got a lot to catch up on.. My Hip Story).  There have been many many occasions when I have forgone riding because I couldn’t face the pain and the after effects on my hip of having ridden.

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The Highs

The Summer Of Jumping –

There was a time when I did weekly clear round (small) jumping, jumped a yard horse 1m 15 in a ‘Chase Me Charlie’ and was happy to go to a friend’s house and jump their horse!

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Happy Hacking –

Also, in what feels like a past life, I was hacking out three a day!  Kilbeggan Blade/Brian (an ex National horse) and Bobby (a 4 year old driving pony just starting ridden work who I also competed at Intro dressage) alongside Pea.

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Horse Confident –

As I’ve said, in the past I was jumping onto different horses left right and centre, even riding the yard’s most infamous team chaser AND I went to try horses and ponies for the yard owner.

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Finding My Goal –

The catalyst to writing this post was that right now, with a new hip and a dressage ambition – I am SO in love with riding. I have a very long way to go before I get to where I want to be but I’m happy I’m on the right track.

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What I’ve Learnt

– Identify the problem. Be honest with yourself. What is the reason you’re leaving your riding kit at home or using other avoidance tactics?

– Find what you enjoy and stick with it. If you don’t want to jump, don’t. If you never want to ride in an arena, don’t. If you don’t want to hack alone, don’t!

– If you want to make a change, don’t be an island – allow someone to help you. If you need to build your confidence, book a lesson. If you need a hacking buddy, find one! If you’re struggling with your horse, get someone else to ride it and see if they can help.

– Measure your success against yourself and be realistic with your expectations. Albert Einstein wrote ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’. If yesterday you wouldn’t walk over a coloured pole, don’t expect to be eventing any time soon.

– Celebrate your successes! Walking over that coloured pole may have been a massive achievement over your confidence issues! Celebrate that!

– Be aware of the Olivia Towers ‘stretch zone’ theory (read about it in Tips from HOYS). You’ve got to branch out of your comfort zone a bit but don’t tip yourself over the edge.

– If you don’t like something – change it. Are you avoiding going for lessons because you’re not keen on your instructor? Find a new one.

– Go with the flow. Accept that sometimes you will feel better than at other times. If you’re feeling good, roll with it.

There are some loves worth fighting for!

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Back To School

It has been another big week for me!  I started my new job (back in a school) on Monday and today Pea and I went for our first lesson since my hip replacement.

I’ve had a few really sluggish and frustrating schooling sessions recently and I decided I am better enough to gain something from a lesson.  I feel like I’ve got use of my leg back but I’ve completely forgotten how to ride! I spoke to my instructor and we agreed that she would ride Pea for half the time and I would ride the rest.

It didn’t start particularly well – we haven’t taken the trailer out since before my operation, we have a different car and just generally hadn’t quite prepared that side of things!  Once we’d located a key for the hitch lock, botch job attached the correct number plate to the trailer and pumped up the tires, I made my boyfriend drive along the yard track and back to convince me I was happy to put Pea in.  We have a bad track record of trailer outings being a bit stressful and this one was no exception.

HOWEVER, once we were there (only five minutes late) it was all worth it!  My instructor rode for a while which is so good for Pea because she doesn’t often (ever?) have anyone riding her who can actually ride!  She’s had fairly limited proper schooling in her ridden career and definitely showed that.  I then got on and had a lesson.  We are working on getting Pea more forward, accepting the contact and becoming more supple.

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I am SO aware that my instructor riding Pea set her up to go better for me than she does when I get on cold but it still wasn’t easy, I still had to find those buttons.  I feel like I rode better today than I did in my last lesson (before my operation) so I’m feeling very positive about where we are going riding-wise and I left with the biggest smile on my face!

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As you can see, being a fluffy, unrugged wild pony isn’t very conducive with being a dressage diva.. Pea was SWEATY.  If anyone has any bright suggestions as to how to deal with it I’d love to hear them – it is too cold for proper washing, is clipping my only option now?

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