Having reviewed almost everything from tack, to rugs, bandages and all manner of breeches, boots and riding shirts, it was a little different to be sent underwear to review for my blog.
As any rider knows, be they a happy hacker or a seasoned pro, comfort in the saddle, is all important. Speaking quite frankly, as I always do, a pet hate of mine is riding in uncomfortable knickers. Let’s face it ladies, those who can ride in their best lacy knickers are few and far between. I have learnt the hard way after thinking my finest La Perla would be an on-point option for a day’s eventing in midsummer! Knicker regret of the highest order… So, from that point on I have been on the search for the most flattering, non VPL, comfortable riding knickers, that don’t cost a fortune, will last and perform. For a while my knickerage of choice has been classic Calvin’s. Hard to beat for sports style and function, but you pay for that logo! Looking for alternatives, I was keen to try the shaped equestrian underwear from British brand Calm Leisure. Specialising in innovative clothing products that is ‘innovative in design, comfortable and purposeful.’
What Calm Leisure say…
‘The shaped Equestrian Underwear is designed to fit like a boxer in the back but with shaped arching at the front to reduce “bulking ” of material around the front of the legs. The sides are shaped in to maximise a fantastic fit and stay in place.’
The knickers are made from a luxurious Bamboo Fibre material for super softness next to the skin. This has natural antibacterial and wicking properties to keep you dry and comfortable. They have a bound leg trim rather than elastic to reduce the risk of any chaffing.
They are also designed and made in Great Britain which is always a plus point for me.
Priced at £19.95 a pair and available in black or white, sizes XS to L.
What I thought…
At first look the Calm Leisure Equestrian Underwear looked quite large, however when I tried them on I realised that the style was definitely more of a boy short look and although they were a larger cut than the normal underwear I’d wear when riding, they were incredibly flattering. I was supplied with a Size L and I am about a size 14-16 normally. I wore them for yard work and hacking out for over 3 hrs, under breeches on quite a chilly day. Immediately I noticed how well they fitted under breeches, with no vpl! The style literally just glides over your hips and bottom, being slightly higher rise they give a nice flat finish under breeches fastenings. Without being overly warm I found they felt really snug and breathable, which was pleasant on a cold day. When riding, I found the style very comfortable with no bunching or chafing, the bound leg trim really works well in this respect and I think this style of equestrian underwear would be great for long days in the saddle, or hunting. Overall, I was really impressed with the design and the soft Bamboo fibre fabric, which kept me both warm, but not too hot. They also washed and dried well, which is always a major factor for a busy person. In sum, I think Calm Leisure have done a great job with their Equestrian Underwear, they certainly ticked many boxes for me and I’d be interested in trying out some of their base layers, made from similar fabric. Available in white and black, they offer a simple, functional option, especially for those who spend many hours a day riding. I’d love to see the same design in a nude colour, so that they were completely transparent under my thinner white Italian Dressage breeches. Maybe a development for the future?!
A 5/5 for style, design, comfort, practicality and quality.
These breeches came as a welcome Christmas present from my OH as I don’t actually own any winter breeches and have been wearing thermals for months – it’s cold on our farm! I’ve been wearing my new Pikeur breeches for the last few days in some very cold, damp and windy conditions; both riding and on the yard.
The Pikeur Lucinda Corkshell II breeches feature some really interesting tech in the form of Corkshell™ fabric (made from natural cork!), combined with high performance textiles. The resulting fabric is wind and water resistant material helps keep you dry and the corkshell fabric is soft and warm against the skin, but also breathable. The manufacturers claim that the bi-elastic LUCINDA GRIP Corkshell™ breeches allow the rider to benefit from an up to 50% higher heat insulation combined with the best possible breathability for the first time ever.
The low waist fit breeches also offer a full Schoeller GRIPit seat which is really noticeable when riding, but isn’t intrusive when moving in the saddle, it also adds detail which is smart and fashion centric. On the left thigh, the breeches are embroidered with the Pikeur logo. They have a soft ankle cuff and I found the fit is superb and very flattering, despite being slightly thicker than normal breeches. They feel great quality and look really smart, I opted for the black (dark shadow) style as I figure I could get away with wearing these for XC for spring eventing.
So, the question is do they perform? The answer is a resounding yes! I’m not a big fan of wearing layers of thermals, particularly when schooling and jumping. These breeches kept me warm in some pretty cold winds and sub-zero frosts, but I didn’t feel clammy or sweaty. They were great for yard work and riding and I didn’t return home with pink legs as usual! It’s a shame they aren’t manufactured in beige as I think these would be a massive hit with hunters and those going to winter shows.The breeches aren’t cheap – hence why they were on my Christmas list! (RRP is £169.95) – but shop around as there are deals to be had. However, they perform so well I think the Lucinda Grip Corkshell II Winter Breeches by Pikeur are worth the expense as they are built to last and make winter riding much more fun.
It looks like we will be dusting off our posh frocks for more than one occasion in the next two months. The end of the year sees 3 great events, across the country, which not only look set to be great nights out but also are also fundraising for some top equestrian linked charities.
On Saturday 22nd October 2016, E-Dressage Ltd will be hosting their Annual Autumn Ball and Awards Evening. With a seriously special night lined up, with plenty to keep all of their 350 lovely guests entertained into the early hours. Not only a great night out but also raising money for Redwings Horse Sanctuary throughout the event. Paralympic Gold and Silver Medal winning Grand Prix Dressage Rider Simon Laurens will be attending the Ball and Awards Evening (where Black and White Eventing have been shortlisted as finalists in the Blog and Social Media categories!)
Simon Lurens is an absolute inspiration to anybody; dressage enthusiast or otherwise. He will be on stage, chat-show-style, to talk to the guests, sharing a little of his jaw-dropping and emotional story and answering questions in typical blasé and humorous fashion.
Closing Date for Tickets: 30th September 2016 – so you need to get a wriggle on!
Event Date: Saturday 22nd October Time: 6.00pm-11.30pm, Black Tie
Location: Carden Park, Broxton Road, Nr Chester, Cheshire, CH3 9DQ
Starting November with a bang is The Willberry Ball, at Quendon Hall, Essex, on the on 11th November
Raising funds for a very popular charity, close to my heart, Willberry Wonder Pony. I will be attending with a group of friends and we are set to dance the night away! Tickets cover entry, a welcome drink, a 3 course meal and tea or coffee. Drinks will be available at the open bar. There will be a live auction and entertainment. Tickets for this amazingly popular event have already sold out, however there will be an auction so those not attending can participate and bid on lots beforehand – keep an eye out on the Ball’s Facebook page for details – there are some amazing lots to bid for!
On the 29th November The Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund are delighted to announce that top international eventer William Foxx-Pitt will be joining special guests Olympic Gold Medallist Nick Skelton and MBE and eventer Zara Tindall at the ‘Quintessentially and Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund Evening with the Stars’. The event to be held at an exclusive venue in London on 29th November will raise funds for this unique equestrian charity and will be hosted by top equestrian TV presenter & commentator Steven Wilde.
Guests will enjoy an evening of entertainment and fine dining at this exclusive and prestigious venue.
With Burghley well and truly done and dusted, the touring spectacle that is Eventing has moved onto Blenheim. Despite the awful weather on Saturday, Burghley was a great success, with the publication that I developed, with uptown E Store, ‘A little Book of Burghley Style’ receiving some great reviews from readers and the brands that were involved. If you have yet to read it, I’ve embedded a copy at the end of this blog.
A featured brand was Fairfax and Favor, who I’ve been working with since their early days. It has been wonderful to see Marcus and Felix develop their product and brand identity. From small stands at their local event Burnham Market, to showstoppers at major internationals and the likes of The Game Fair. Knowing how hard it is to work these events, keep stock levels up to scratch as well as running the business itself, their shows schedule is beyond impressive. The team will have earnt a well-earned break after Olympia in December!
I’m sure many of you are familiar with their famed tassled ‘Regina’ boots, always seen at trot ups and a country girl’s staple footwear. As I said in the Burghley magazine,
‘It’s definitely not a case of what riders will be wearing Fairfax boots at the horse inspections… but who won’t be!’
Fairfax and Favor have now established themselves within the eventing and country markets, with some exciting news about brand ambassadors on the way, so keep an eye out for that. Their social media channels are on point with huge followings and almost cult status amongst their customers, who are now not just the country set, but city dwellers wanting classic shoes, that are stylish, classy and comfortable. With the business rocking, and my marketing head on, I set about thinking what makes customers ‘come back for more’ and what makes new customers want to purchase their own little bit of Fairfax and Favor.
So what was my conclusion? Well, in my opinion it’s all about the detail. At Burghley I purchased a new pair of driving shoes, the new style Henley’s. You can read about them here
They are a slightly different shoe from the classic Drivers launched last year (I’ve lived in mine and they are part of my everyday wardrobe on the farm and in meetings… and obviously for driving!). The Henley’s are more refined ‘smarter’ style, with plaited leather detailing, the classic drivers grip sole which makes you feel like you are walking on air, stippled rubber across the outside of the heel which means the shoes aren’t worn away or damaged when you drive. I’d say a smarter, more ladylike version of the driver. There are also little details like the metal ends on the ties and a really smart Farifax and Favor shield stud on the heal. Subtle branding that suits the shoe. Speaking to Felix Favor Parker at Burghley he positively gushed about this new detail, telling me of the trials of finding a manufacturer to get the logo ‘just right’. It’s this attention to detail and careful consideration that really makes a difference and keeps customers coming back. With a few new designs launched every year – from bags, to purses and new boot designs, the brand keeps a fresh identity, but still is very much Fairfax and Favor.
One of the biggest treats (for a packaging geek like me) is receiving a delivery. This is where the brand gets things ‘just right’. Open the shoe box – it slides open like a draw and you want to keep it just for that… and you see two beautiful navy dust bags with gold embossed logos. I’m maybe a little OCD but I’m a sucker for dust bags. Why not look after your treasures well? Next is a lovely navy branded envelope containing a beautifully printed catalogue – because you will be thinking of your next purchase already right? A lovely hand written note hoping my shoes will fit perfectly – a lovely touch! Then two A5 ivory, gold embossed cards, one inviting you to the list of events that FF will be attending, and to stop by for a drink or two – well who wouldn’t? And another inviting FF fans to tag the brand their Instagram images, with a customer every month winning a £250 in store credit voucher for the ‘best Fairfax & Favor photo’. Simple marketing, stylishly executed and totally fitting with the brand.
It’s this quality detail, working with a great manufacturer to keep stock levels up to scratch and the quality high that makes the Fairfax ad Favor work. Using all the best bits of tech, in a classic way to keep the brand faithful happy. Add to this excellent customer experiences on-stand or online, plus the ability to have your order arriving the next day. It is true to say that Fairfax and Favor are here to stay and with marketing and an attention to detail they deserve all the recognition they have received.
Flat lay photos have been popularised over the last few years or so on Instagram, and way before then in glossy mags – they are a classic, simple and chic way to show off your favourite objects and current addictions in a way that captures interest. I’ve seen them used loads in Food & Fashion editorials, blogs and on social media platforms… but now they are working their way into the equestrian industry.
So, you if you want to try taking some flatlays images here are some B&W tips to creating cracking shots and some ideas of apps and software to help you edit and refine them.
Keep your background clean and neutral
You don’t want the surface behind the objects to take away from the products you are taking pictures of. If you are contemplating taking a series, then consider keeping the background consistent. Backgrounds could be a white or plain wood table top, granite counter, a white sheet or even a simple concrete floor (like my images in this blog – I did sweep up first!)
Find a suitable light source – ideally sunlight
Natural light is the best light source to show off the objects you are taking photos of. For sure you can add a filter later on in an app (but this won’t get rid of unwanted shadows). A good light source will really support the quality of your images, so work in the daytime if possible.Equally I don’t use a flash on my camera as I’m not keen on the quality this gives. At a push I use an angle poise lamp with a super white bulb, but rarely go down the artificial light route.
Theme it up…
Think about creating a series of flat lays with a linking theme, for example, the types of objects or their colours. This not only will help you construct visually interesting images, but when they are uploaded to social media they also show a consistent theme. Consider the colours of the objects, contrasting colours and snippets of really piercing colour can lift a composition. Likewise pairing a shirt, belt and a necklace and show an outfit inspiration and can be laid out interestingly.
This is the hardest aspect to crack and needs consideration and practice to get it right. Flat objects, by nature are easy to capture as they sit or lay flat. Clothing needs arranging and folding to work well, so in this sense is trickier to capture. Objects can also angle off the image, you don’t have to include the whole object in shot. You can also try layering objects as I have with this boot composition. Experiment with contrasting textures and props to develop your theme. Flat lays are all about creating a lifestyle image so think about what that could or should be.
Space it out
Give your objects space to ‘breathe’, less is more! Too many elements can be visually confusing – especially to someone viewing via their phone. Think of arranging in 3’s and 5’s when choosing your objects as these groupings can often work best together.On an iPhone iOS7 there is a handy ‘square’ function which helps you to template up and arrange a flat lay ready for Instagram uploading – so use tech to your advantage!
So you’ve thought about your background, light, theme and layout… now what are the best apps to edit images in to share?
Instagram – Instagram (iOS / Android) – Pretty much the number 1 favourite for many and growing massively in popularity over the past few years due to the ability to tag. The filters and overlays are pretty good to. A great app, just remember slick images and hashtags are king!
VSCO (iOS / Android) My personal favourite as I like the simple layout and the trademark filters (which VSCO prefers to call “Pre-sets”). It’s like Insta for cool kids. (the images in this blog were edited via VSCO).
Flatlay (Coming Soon) You use any image you have already taken on Instagram, Pinterest or within your library and plug it alongside a collection of products you have curated. Share it with the Flatlay community and the world via your page and social channels. The app that’s set to make flatlays even more commercial.
Snapseed (iOS / Android) A retouching and photo editing tool that helps enhance your photo to give you the cleanest image. Some useful stock filters and effects that will help you make the most of your images.
Lightroom (iOS / Android) An industry standard piece of software created by Adobe. There are a selection of photo shoot pre-sets and you can adjust hues, colour tones and add effects to your images.
Bazaart (iOS) An app to help you make really clean backdrops and crop product shots against a flat white background. You can then collage products together and share via social. There is an upgrade that connects directly with the desktop version of Photoshop for the Mac. New import and export options let users easily switch between Bazaart on mobile and Photoshop on the desktop at will via your Creative Cloud account. A handy one for apple users.
Enjoy your image creation! Let me know how you get on x
While many owners get around to clipping in late October, many, particularly ones with hairier natives, are clipping more regularly. Wanda really struggles in the heat and she gets a good trim every 4 weeks and a full clip every 6-8 weeks, depending how quickly her hair is growing. By keeping her coat shorter I feel she performs better, is easier to keep super clean and looks tidier. However, it is possibly my most irksome yard job as Wanda isn’t great at standing still and being patient (if I was rich it would be the one job I would pay someone to do!). We have our methods to keep her quiet – more on that later – and contrary to normal practice she usually gets clipped after work, but when she has cooled down and isn’t sweaty. So after all these years of trimming, snipping and clipping what are the top clipping tips I can offer?
Many a good clip has been spoilt by over clipping, just to try and get symmetrical leg, tail and saddle patch lines. We have all been there… just a little more off this… oops. I like to mark-up Wanda as it makes clipping a no-brainer. I use a damp chalk block on her black bits and charcoal on her white bits to draw up any clipping lines. She has ‘everything off’ apart from her saddle area and tail point, which makes things easier, but I still mark up as it reminds me where to stop! I also use a piece of bailing twine to measure as it makes the job quicker and more accurate. Some people also draw around their saddles to give a perfect saddle shape to clip to, clipping slightly in from your line. A saddle is easier to use as a template than a saddle cloth which doesn’t lay in an accurate shape to draw around. I tend to leave a curved off rectangle shape across her back as it’s easy to clip, but it really depends on your style and how cold backed your horse can get in the winter. My top tip would be not to try and use saddle soap to mark-up – been there and it makes a real mess of your clippers!
Keep your horse warm…
I use a fleece exercise sheet to cover Wanda up and keep her warm, but not hot. It’s easy to move out of the way and wash afterwards. It helps to keep her coat flat and also helps with her fidgeting. I also wear clothes that are easy to wash afterwards and layers as clipping is hot work. I tie my hair up and wear a cap since ‘that’ incident where I ended up with haircut too! I also make sure I have robust boots on since ‘that’ incident where Wanda stamped on my foot and broke two toes… yes, it’s an occupational hazard, but worth staying safe!
For Fidgety Horses
I start with Wanda’s shoulders and move on to the head early on, using lots of oil so the clippers stay cool, and changing the blades if they become hot. Wanda hates having her chin clipped. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, including twitches, but on a bad day nothing will help to make her stand quietly – not what you need when you are trying to clip around her eyes! What I have found, taught to me by my friend Fiona, is that de-sensitisation really helps. So I accustom Wanda to the noise and vibration of the clippers. If she stands quietly I remove them from her cheek, so it’s a ‘touch – release’ method. This way I can gradually clip her head, with no stress and foot stamping. It may take slightly longer but I have found I can do a better job. I’ve also found giving her a haynet to eat while I do the ‘kicking end’ helps, as does putting on her Equissage which tends to relax her and has similar vibrations to the clipping, so desensitises. With my young 3 year old filly, I’m already bringing her up to the yard during clipping time and she will be introduced to small clippers soon. Fortunately, she is 1/2 Thoroughbred so doesn’t suffer quite as much with furball issues!
The Fiddley Bits!
I don’t always have a helper with me so have to be inventive. Wanda sometimes has a front foot placed onto a sturdy bucket so I can clip her elbows and fetlock areas. She looks rather like a performing elephant but it works! I also have a sturdy mountain block to do her ‘higher parts’ – after ‘that’ experience when she sent me flying from a wobbly upturned bucket!
Another tricky area is going up the mane line – no accidental hogging allowed! I sometimes section off Wand’s mane with plaiting bands to keep it out of the way. If you then one hand to hold down the mane on the opposite side, and hold the blades at a slight downward angle to get the perfect line.
Look after your kit
My last pair of clippers lasted an incredible 23 years! It shows that regular servicing and care can really help make them last. I send my clippers away in ‘low season’ so I get them back quickly. I also have fine, medium and coarse blades. The fine ones are great for faces, but too fine for legs, the coarse are great for thick winter fluff and legs, it all really depends on your horse’s coat. I the blades sharpened every 4 clips and store them wrapped, with lots of oil. I also really thoroughly clean down my clippers after use, with an old rag and a decorator’s brush. I wipe over the flex before they are packed away to check for damage, and always ensure the trip switch they are plugged into is working.
Most of these tips are common sense, and clipping as a skill is one that improves with practice. Everyone has their own tips and techniques so it’s worth watching and helping someone with a lot of experience as you can learn a lot.
If you are looking for new clippers it may be worth checking out the new Clipperman range…
I was interested to hear the new Clipperman range of clippers and trimmers has hit the shelves and is ready for the coming season. The extensive range is available through retail outlets and via their own website here The collection comprises of nine different types of clippers, trimmers and shearers, as well as related accessories, and eleven different types of blade to suit all needs.
“Clipperman has been created with expert Eddie Palin, to provide a top quality product range that delivers excellent value,” said Jessica Balmer of Clipperman. “The range consists of mains and battery powered clippers and trimmers that are ideal for single horse owners as well as yards in need of powerful clippers to clip many horses throughout the season. We also have a supporting range of accessories, such as battery packs, oils and blade wash, and a range of different blades to allow everyone to get the perfect finish.”
The entry level Clipperman Jewel Trimmers have a retail price of just £38 and come with one rechargeable battery, a set of blades, two plastic combs, a charger, clipper oil, brush and instruction manual. The premium clippers in the range, Clipperman Dragon, are totally wireless and come with two rechargeable Li-ion batteries that provide up to four hours of running time between the two batteries. These robust clippers have a cutting speed of 2500RPM and are 12V. Clipperman Dragon clippers are comparable to 150W mains clippers, but are totally cable free, giving the power and the freedom to fly through hair. They have a RRP of £285.
“We’ve been working on this collection for a long time, and we’re confident that every detail has been considered and addressed. As horse owners, we understand what clippers have to do, and the annoyance that a substandard pair can cause to horse and owner.”
We are thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted as a finalist in TWO categories of the 2016 E-Dressage Equine Awards, which will be held at the luxury Cheshire estate of Carden Park on Saturday 22nd October.
Our blog and social media work was selected from a flood of nominees to become one of the finalists in the Individual Social Media and Individual Blog categories.
‘I’m absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted in not only one, but two categories in the Awards. It’s been great to have some recognition for my writing and social media work. What started off as a personal project telling stories about getting back into riding post pregnancy has evolved into a way of interacting with other equestrian fans globally and sharing my passion for equestrian sport and fashion. From this small project, I’ve been able to develop a business, Black & White Creative, which provides visual content creation, styling, design, consultancy, marketing and media services for the equestrian industry. But, above all it has been lovely to share my tales and encourage other people to have a go or think about returning to riding’.
“There is nothing else like these awards in the industry,” said Roseanna Sunley, Director and Founder of E-Dressage Ltd, which hosts the Equine Awards. “As we all know, success in any sector of the equine world does not come easy! We wanted to celebrate the hard work and dedication that all of these companies and individuals put in to build their achievements, and could think of no better way to do so than in creating these awards.
“The entrants certainly gave the Judging Panel a difficult job. They have risen to the challenge, though, and their final selections represent the very best in every sector of the Equine world. For Black and White Eventing to have been named as a finalist in two categories for 2016 is an achievement of which they should be very proud.”
With a social media leak earlier this week, Woof Wear fans had a taste of things to come with their inspired new medical hoof boot, which will be available from UK Stockists from September. Social media was alight with the news, with Woof wear deciding to push the product to launch earlier than expected. I am pretty certain this will be an award worthy product to look out for, filling the gap for intelligent and contemporary design, for an age old problem. No more gaffer tape!
To see this amazing piece of kit in action follow the link here
The leak sadly overshadowed the release of another new product, the new Woof Wear Dressage Wrap, a quick and easy alternative to bandaging and offers support to the fetlock and tendons.
Smart and flexible, the Dressage Wrap allows full flexibility of movement and the 7mm breathable neoprene keeps joints and tendons cool. The plush outer material allows for a wide range of strap adjustment around the leg.
Suitable for everyday use including schooling, warm up, training and clinics. Priced at £33.00 per pair they are an affordable and well designed option for the amateur or professional rider. In my own experience Woof Wear boots are also extremely robust, so they most definitely fulfil their tagline ‘Protection by Design’.
Sized at S, M ,L and XL in White, Turquoise, Brown or Black. For more information click here
Priced at £65 for a set of 4 brushes, the HAAS collection is a top end choice for riders wanting the ultimate in brush tech for their horses. Made in Germany, the HAAS website explains that many of their brushes now use specially selected synthetic materials as the basis for all brushes and combs. You may think this lessens the quality and makes them feel a little ‘plastic’ but by using synthetics their brushes can offer better hygiene (as all products are washable), increased reliability and longevity, comfortable handling (they all have a hand strap like a body brush), water resistance, retention of bristles and a stronger build quality. Looks wise, I couldn’t tell the difference between these brushes and some of my natural ones and they were certainly easy to use.
So it makes total sense that the way forward is synthetic. Add to this the very engineered manufacturing process where the hand loop together with the bristles are directly incorporated with the body of the brush. HAAS brushes don’t use nails, spikes or screws when making their brushes so this lessens any risk of injury. There is also no glue, so nothing can fall apart. So they certainly build a great description of informed design and manufacture…
BUT… how do they work in reality? Watch our video review HERE and see the brushes in ‘real life’ here (excuse my German pronunciation!)
So you like the sound of HAAS and would like to buy some yourself? There are 3 UK stockists which are listed here.
I purchased my set of HAAS brushes from Eqclusive who offered a prompt service and the brushes came in a really smart black card box – very luxurious! They are also the only supplier who sells sets of 4 brushes – a new inititative and a fantastic idea!
If you order from Eqclusive in July and use the code JULY all UK orders will receive free shipping and orders above £100 will receive a tub of Equinox.
You can watch the HAAS promo video here and read more from their website here They literally do brushes for every need, an amazing collection in many sizes, colours and bristle types.
HAAS is also on Facebook… @haasbuersten and if you have any questions about my experience of the brushes send me a message.
A long, long time ago, in a past life, I used to teach art, and make a lot of my own work too. I was quite successful, with pieces in the permanent collection at the V&A and in various private and public collections across the world. I loved it… but it’s a hard career to keep going. You need time… studio and research time to keep the ideas developing. With teaching to earn a living and then having kids and a family to look after I fell out of love with making ‘stuff’. I wasn’t prepared to make generic work that was just a re-hash of what I’d always made. I have a rather belligerent streak that won’t accept anything but the best. So I literally sold off my works, gave away a most of my materials and stopped being an artist (can you stop being an artist?). Either way I didn’t feel I had the time to make art anymore. Horses filled the creative and time void and I got to where I am today, a writing horse owner with 3 kids.
My kids love art, we make stuff, but I rarely do much beyond domestic alterations and the odd drawing. But tonight a few months ago decided to start making something. It’s for my new home, totally domestic and a bit of a marathon task. I’m making a rag rug. Its huge, its tweedy! I don’t even know if I have the patience to finish it. But as I sat there my mind was made up. I’m in for the long haul.
I know that making things is really good for my mind and I get a clarity of thought when I’m working away. I was thinking about making a rag rug and working with horses. To start, its hands on, requires an amount of dexterity, knowledge or the ability to work with someone that can impart the knowledge required. But what else is similar? Well there is the time factor, the amount of time invested and how ever hard you try, you can’t make something like a rag rug in a hurried way. It is a slow and thoughtful activity. Its seems in the equine world there are a lot of riders who seem to be in quite a hurry to achieve an end goal. Maybe it’s this mad rush to feel ‘ready’ for the start of the season, to feel like you are ‘progressing’, getting value from all the time and money invested? Sometimes it seems that everyone is off doing this clinic and that clinic, with multiple trainers, at various venues. Spending a lot of time and money and being very ‘busy’ with their riding.
A good thing maybe? Well it pays trainer’s wages and I would never dispute putting the hours in. But it feels to me like fast tracking? A little like the pass your test in 5-days driving school? Is there another way? Everyone has their own approaches but the more I ride, the more I think that maybe training, learning, improving and goal setting needs to be long term, and subtle not short term. Like the bloody huge rag rug which I hope one day to complete, we all sometimes need to step back, enjoy the ride and slow down.
I have had and still work with some brilliant trainers. I love the wisdom they impart and the time they selflessly give to help me refine and improve my performance. But I also believe it’s important to take the time to work out things on your own. That wonky arm, the un-level seat, the swinging quarters, the inconsistent contact, the fear of jumping. You can pick your poison… we all have one. I honestly think many of these things can be ‘corrected’ by a great trainer, but they also need homework to get them 100% right. I suppose I’d call it taking responsibility for your own learning and ‘feel’. My most recent discovery has been that I can learn more hacking than in the school – discovered because we don’t have a school at our new farm – so via default I guess. I think being out in the open makes me more aware of my own and my horse’s straightness, and I have a couple of hours to suss out what I want to be feeling, not the frustration of going round and round in circles, literally.
Everyone has their own ways of working, I’m usually running at warp speed x 10000. But I can’t keep it up. I wonder sometimes if our horses feel the same. They need time too to not only build the strength to perform but also the mental agility to cope with the demands of travel and competing or training. Maybe it’s time for us all to slow down, just a shade, and enjoy what we have. Think long term and not short, appreciate how fortunate we are and enjoy the ride while we can. Think and dream big but appreciate the little steps along the way, bank them in your memory and celebrate them. Just like children growing up, it can all be over in a flash. Enjoy what your horses and enjoy the freedom of riding them. For those that can are very blessed.