Creating memories and chasing dreams…Part I

It’s been a while since I did an ‘about me’ blog. Working in equestrian marketing it is so easy to get caught up in social media and what’s ‘new’, so sparing time to write for myself is a luxury. But today I’ve made the time, basically because this morning has been a comedy of errors (long story and not worth boring you with) … and I thought sod it… write for yourself today Nick and clear your head, talk to your laptop.

While we renovate our lovely barn we have all been living in limbo. Five people all squished into 2 rooms isn’t ideal, such is the joy of temporary accommodation. My ‘it will be worth it’ mantra has now worn itself out and sounds like a scratched record. But we are on the final leg of the journey. I doubt we will be finished by Christmas, but it will be nice to not live out of a suitcase when the time comes. The process has made me value possessions and realise I have so much ‘stuff’, including almost forty boxes of books which will need organising, but wont be thrown away! But when it comes to it, temporary living has made me think about what I really need, and in turn what I want out of life. I’m not going down a heady philosophical route here… just the simple question of ‘does owning stuff give you pleasure or is it just a distraction to life itself and dealing with the grittier aspects of it? Hmmmm…. I don’t think I am at a point to give all my possessions away but it has made me think about what I’ve missed the most and what I have gained by not having it.

As an antidote to not having ‘stuff’ in my life and having very little personal space I’ve appreciated spending time with my horses a lot more. Not that I always didn’t, but I think before they were part of my ‘stuff’ collection and I wasn’t tapping into the fun they give.  This year I’ve not been competing every weekend, but have progressed so much with my understanding and riding itself. I’ve thought long and hard about the whole eventing thing and just found it such a big day out. Logistically organising 3 children, work, my horse, training, paying for entries and then driving myself there, competing alone, getting home, unpacking, making sure homework is done, uniforms are washed, people are fed. I just couldn’t get my head around it. Let alone add the worry of a building project, feeling like I was neglecting my children or note earning to pay for it all… the list goes on.

In sum, I just didn’t have the headspace or the capacity to process 3 phases, and try to manage everything else in my life, let alone have the cash to pay for it. To put things bluntly I felt ‘FUCK it where is the fun?’ It’s not to say when things have settled down I won’t return, but for now it’s not the passion it was. I miss XC riding terribly but I don’t miss 4am starts (or earlier), to come home to a messy house 16 hrs later and a to do list that stretches to the moon and back… Some people would say that they will forgo all of that to follow their passion, but with too many plates to spin I personally cant.

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So what do you do when the lightbulb turns on and you realise that you have been stressing out and putting yourself under pressure to do something that just wasn’t time, logistics or money for? You go and start having FUN… and this is what I have been doing!

I have been quietly working away with my good friend Fiona Reddick and also Matt Cox who visits a yard, local to me to train. We have yet to build an arena here so schooling has to either be off site or on hacks, but I think this makes for more focused work and doesn’t sour Wanda. Hacking is very much a big part of exercise for all our horses here so although an arena would be amazing, its a massive expense to legitimise while the build is on.

I was lucky enough to apply and be selected for the British Dressage Suffolk County team and rode in the Inter Regionals at Keysoe in July which was a great experience and really opened my eyes up to a more competitive side of dressage. Out team trainer was the amazing Mette Assounline who I worked with before the competition, again a real eye opener for me, which led to some massive changes in what I could feel and how I approached test riding. We weren’t top of the pile at Keysoe, but Wanda held her own and our team was the highest placed Suffolk team. I also started to tap into the challenges that I wanted to sign up for the emotions I wanted to experience, things that I hadn’t thought about or had the confidence to do as I was so caught up in what I thought I ‘should’ be doing.

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At the end of September, I was lucky enough to ride as a guinea pig dressage test rider at Osberton International Horse Trails. For those of you wondering what small furry animals and dressage have in common, a guinea pig rider, literally rides a judges warm up test. You go in, ride the test under competition conditions, and are marked. The idea is that the judges can then confer, make sure they are marking to the same level and iron out any issues before the main competitors come in.

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A great experience to don tails and ride in a full on setting. As ever Wanda was a superstar and it was great to ride through a test with a few more complex movements, canter serpentines and lateral work. Marks wise we sat in the middle of the class, had we been competing, so I was pleased with that. What I wasn’t pleased with was Wanda breaking free at 4am as I was getting ready to load her, galloping off across a ploughed field and heading across a main, unlit road… with cars. A life flashing in front of us moment when I lost sight of her, then realised a car was heading towards us both! Not ideal but I really had to pull myself together, wipe away the snot and tears, get on with things, throw her on the lorry and drive. For once I had a co-pilot with me… the wonderful Friendsberry kindly loaned from the charity ‘Willberry Wonder Pony’… so with a hug and a squeeze we set off on our 3 hr road trip to do a 4-minute test (nuts eh?). Creating memories and chasing dreams… to be continued!

P.S. While I am here! I am thrilled to announce that our little blog has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Haynet Equestrian Blog Awards 2016. Voting is open now and a final winner will be selected on the basis of votes and a judges decision.

If you have 30 seconds to spare we would love it if you could click on the image below and vote for us…

Our blog started 3 years ago, and has been a great way to share our experiences and news to a wider audience. Personally, it has offered me a change of career and more than that inspired other mum’s to get back in the saddle. We are very proud to be recognised for what we do. #equinebloggingawards

 

The End of Season Event – 2015 a year to forget?

Now officially off- season and definitely a holiday feel in the air, it’s time to take stock of the year. I could say 2015 is a year I’d like to forget. It’s been a tough one, particularly the last few months which saw my little boy diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a very close family member being diagnosed with lung cancer – as it happens she has her first round of surgery tomorrow.

As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well I really hope it does! But I think it’s important to be mindful that despite all the stress I am still hanging on in there, and having some incredible highs as well as lows. Wanda is as well as ever and she and my filly Wilma give me so much joy… even when they are being utter divas with attitude.

The Eventing community as a whole has had a tough year. At one stage I did wonder what on earth would come next. It goes to show how strong riders can be and how solid the glue is that sticks the community together. Over the past 3 months I have been lucky to join the team working to produce The End of Season Event, a black tie ball hosted by the Eventing Riders Association. Held at the Royal Berkshire Polo Club, we developed a Blair theme, following the Europeans hosted in Scotland earlier in the year. The committee was a mix of really hard working people who also juggled their day jobs alongside planning the party. At face value to organise a ball for 200 seems a breeze, but add in a short timescale and some plans to raise money for charity then you have a massive task on your hands.

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I could chat for ever about the ins and outs but it’s a big job and at times caused a good bit of stress… but you just keep going don’t you? If something seems the right thing to do you don’t stop even if you think why an earth am I adding to my workload here!

One of my massive motivations was to raise some money for the Eventing Family, which earlier in the year had supported the Teenage Cancer Trust and CRUK amongst other charities. Through some work I had been doing I’d met Hannah Francis, a young event rider who was diagnosed with cancer in May this year. She had opened an Instagram account, with her soft toy sidekick ‘Willberry Wonder Pony’, her companion during tough times in hospital. Hannah was looking to enlist 5000 followers on Instagram and I said I’d help out in any way I could. I don’t think either of us could have reckoned on how things have rolled and now Willberry is a veritable superstar. It would be rude to claim any credit in Hannah’s achievements whatsoever. She is remarkable and makes my daily gripes seem quite… well pathetic really. Hannah is the politest, sweetest young woman I think I have ever met. Always friendly and so brave with the way she has handled her illness. There is a lot to be learnt by her humble attitude, empathy for others and massive courage.

I was thrilled when Hannah was well enough to come to the ball, although I know she had been poorly in the day so it was a big ask. Lizzie, one of our committee members, had arranged 2 luxe cars to pick Hannah up from her hotel so she arrived in style. This was our first meeting, despite months of chatting and ‘knowing’ each other. I also got to meet Willberry!

Little did Hannah know she was going to receive the prestigious ERA ‘against all odds’ award that night. I had to be so careful she didn’t get wind of it and it was a massive surprise for Han! With all the committee on the stage, Han came up to collect her award. By this point I was in floods of tears. I make no apologies that I am a very emotional person. Sometimes it’s a pain in the arse… it really is… but what’s not human in caring and showing that you care? It was lovely to see Hannah’s face and for her to have some acknowledgement for the fundraising she has done. Hannah really is an example to us all.

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Hannah and Willbery being presented their award by ERA president Bruce Haskell and board member Paul Tapner

 

So where is this blog heading, should it have more ‘meaning’… well I’m not entirely sure! It’s just a tale of a ball, a lovely girl and her little toy pony. But possibly more than that… It’s about all the things that so often get forgotten, about caring for people and making little things happen, or even making big things happen that create little changes. It’s about trusting human kindness, having compassion, being generous and charitable. But it’s also about not expecting reciprocation. Reciprocation is about ‘togetherness’ and being part of humanity but in reality I believe no one should ever owe you anything.

For sure, I can be horrid at times. I work too hard and it makes me a stress-head- moan- arse. But I’m learning… slowly… about what really matters. Life is way too precious to not take it head on.To Carpe Diem, Choose Life or Kick On or Just Do It. Whatever your inspiration, don’t waste what you have and what you can do with it. Be brave like Hannah and Willberry and spread some kindness. Live life xx