Ever had that feeling; your not improving, you feel frustrated, the money is running out, you’re fretting about what other people are saying, constantly comparing yourself to others on social media… That was me, AGAIN!
I felt amazing at the start of this year I was jumping better than ever, I was more confident than I’ve been in years, both of my horses were going so well and I was ready to start competing. I did 6 events in the first 3 months of the season with 4 placings and some really promising results. I had a few hurdles to overcome with Pea and her travelling woes and Pat and his spooky stopping but I was definitely getting somewhere.
I had the Wimpy Weekender to organise, 2 new jobs to add to my already busy schedule of work, keeping up with my social accounts, posting out Wimpy products, sponsorship contracts and being a good wife when I finally broke.
It was the end of May when I realised that the money I needed to compete was in massively short supply, I needed help with my jumping too and I couldn’t afford training either, let alone both in order to progress. I began torturing myself, seeing other people out competing all the time, having lessons and progressing when I seemed to be standing still.
How the heck do they keep it up? Social media is a bitter place when you feel like this and I was balls deep into it! I just couldn’t work it out… I pay for EVERYTHING myself, our bills for life are split bang down the middle which work out at nearly £750pm including food, rent, household bills, etc. Animals, previous youth related debt, a car, phone, and other nick nacks are on top of that. I NEVER buy new clothes or treat myself very often either, something had to give.
I decided to hang my competition boots up for a while. At least until I’d saved some money to fund the latter half of the season.
By Ruth Ellen Photography
STOP for a second and ask yourself; Why do you do it?
Why do you compete? Why do you ride? Why do you work 4 jobs, never buy a new pair of jeans or feel guilty about buying wine in the food shop… why? Is it because you love every second of it so much that you couldn’t see it any other way? Or is it the pressure to feel accepted, to prove your worth or to gain more likes and follows?
I had a very long hard chat with myself. And the answer was definitely in the latter… I was performing for others. I was feeling desolate because I’d have nothing for people to feel proud of. I felt sad at the thought of being a let down for me not being out at shows. I wasn’t doing any of it for me. I was doing it for everyone but me. I realise that now.
My horses don’t care if they’re not doubling in muscle every month or jumping better and higher, they don’t care who watches, follows or likes the post of them jumping ANOTHER jump. Pat isn’t bothered what other horses are doing and Pea doesn’t give a fat rats ass if Lady Fluffles is going to Badminton and she isn’t… SHE DOESN’T GIVE A SH*T – so why should I?!
The last 2 weeks I can count on one hand the times I have ridden, I have loved riding when I have done it, but taking my foot off the gas has given me time to think. I’m not getting my show gear out again until I REALLY want to and I mean want to, for ME.
By Ruth Ellen Photography
The Future’s bright
In the interim, I’m selling the Wimpy Wagon and getting a trailer so I have a focus of my trailer test to plough through, it’s a test that doesn’t involved performing like a clapping seal, it’s for the benefit of me and my horses.
I have taken Pats shoes off. Yes, you heard it here first. He’s having a HOLIDAY. A proper break for the first time in years. He was sore in the shoulder after Keysoe and he’s so precious, I’m not risking jumping him on the hard summer ground this year. He owes me nothing and while some people might think I’m a total idiot, I’m learning not to give a cr*p what other people think!
Pea is going to continue doing shows once I have got the transport and saddle situations resolved which buys me a break in the interim. A well needed break. I’m taking care of me and deciding what’s best for us all as a family.
If there is one thing I have learnt in the last two weeks, it is that people will still love you for you, if they are ‘your’ people. Don’t worry about letting them down… stop running yourself into the ground for others and make sure you give yourself something back. Don’t just give to others, you’ll end up full of resentment in the end.
I love what I do, I love working hard for things, but you can’t help feeling bitter when others don’t seem to work for it as hard – so STOP LOOKING. Put your phone down. Hide those accounts that make you feel crap, follow new ones that make you feel happy and stop comparing. This advice was my own to myself over the last few weeks and I feel like a totally different person for it.
It doesn’t have to be rush, rush, rush all the time. You can have a guilt free break and come back better than ever, if YOU want to! Jumping hoops is for circus acts so make yourself a hot chocolate and just STOP for a second. I promise, you won’t regret it.
I’m rolling back to Tuesday…. my first fall in over four years. That’s right, I stacked it! I was jumping in the field (alone… like an idiot), he dropped the anchors right before a fence and unusually, I sailed over his head and onto the jump!
I banged my mink box very hard on the pole and having had my smear earlier that day, I felt totally violated! Alas, ignoring my sore minky, I got back on and jumped some more jumps.
The relief of getting a fall out of the way was actually amazing! I’d been dreading it for so long, the fear was definitely worse than the reality and now I’m actually a lot less scared. RESULT!
My minky went a fabulous shade of black and turquoise and my poor hand that failed to let go of the reins, was also very sore. I tried to ride Wednesday and ran through my tests but (also with a trip to Badminton) didn’t ride for the rest of the week… not ideal!
I came back from 3 days at Badminton pretty exhausted so just packed up the van Saturday night and gave Pat a short lunge over some jumps in the field.
Not being on until 1pm meant that our 100mile journey to Keysoe wasn’t going to be too antisocial on the time front. We left at 8.30am and arrived in enough time to plait and walk the cross country!
Today I decided to change a few things.
– I rode in the dressage saddle
– I used a plain number bib
– I used a navy jacket
– I didn’t smile AT ALL in view of the judge
Now you might think I’m nuts, but the usual picture of us entering the dressage arena is one of an escaped inmate from a rather colourful mental asylum! I usually grin far too much, sometimes I laugh during my test too ?I also wear a bright blue jacket and pink bib. All things pointing to: she ain’t taking this seriously!
Today I rode my usual accurate test with Pat feeling his usual, slightly backward, self… but there was nothing usual about the mark!
The average score in my section was around 35, Pat and I scored 26.5!!!!! The leaders by a very good margin.
I’m not saying dressage judges want to see miserable, conformist riders but they do want to see discipline and I think my huge grin and bright attire was taking away from actually how incredible my horse is… food for thought!
Anyway, the showjumping at Keysoe was in a huge, brightly dressed arena which I don’t think Pat will have seen before on this scale! It was beautiful!
He warmed up so well and in the ring I totally f*cked it! I went in, showed him a couple and then flew at the first fence. I tried to hunt him round as though I was on grass but it all went wrong. He went very green, dropped off my leg and then when I kicked some more, went totally flat and ended up have three rails down.
I came out absolutely livid.
I was so angry at myself for forgetting my training, for not taking him out jumping much before this and for riding like bambi on ice… it was a scrabbly horrible mess and I deserved everything I got!
Why didn’t I get the canter, why didn’t I just focus on the rhythm and let the jumps just come to me…? Gah! Thrown away the biggest lead I’ve ever had on crap riding and poor preparation!
Anyway, I got changed and went down to the XC. I was being a spoilt little witch until Carrot said “2017 Wimpy wouldn’t act like this” and he was so right, I would have been thrilled two years ago to have left up enough show jumps to be allowed XC!!!! Finally, when I went into the start box after an excellent warm up, there was a smile back on my face!
We cantered out the box and over the first fence in an excellent rhythm, desperate to emulate the flow of my round with Pea last week! I thought I felt promising until he bounced to an almost stop in front of the house at 2… I kicked like stink though and he went!
The log pile at three jumped nicely as I got my knitting in order! He spooked like a goodun’ at the double of offset houses at 4 but responded to my howling and kicking and sailed down the back straight to a big blue box at 5.
Another sticky one there, he just hesitates, I don’t even think he’s planning a stop anymore… he just questions my conviction ? and less than 110% from me is when it ends in a refusal. Lucky for us I was giving 150% ?
Round a corner to a log pile at 6 and he very nearly had a stop AGAIN…. FFS Come on Susan, taking up cross stitch is not an option… pull your finger out and change something or go home to your needle and thread!
I gave it some into the table at 7 and he responded with a flier, turning to the curved brushed and sailing that too!!! YEEEEEESSSSSSS!!!
Galloping towards the coffin and log at 8, he got it bang on!! Yes boy!!! Into the woods and over a V dressed fence was nothing for us now Mother has woken up!
I saw the long one at the hedge at 10 and flew it on a really forward stride! Cornering again to the water… it opened out and he jumped really greenly over a box at 11 but really hesitated again at the tiny log after it ? nobber!
Cantering through the water, I really pushed up the step at 13 and rode a bold confident line to the skinny after it, he felt great over that! And lucky really, because we round the corner to fly over the last fence absolutely delighted with another round under our belts!
Inside the optimum time too which makes me very happy ? alright, it isn’t perfect and it looks a bit of a mess but we had no refusals, and I felt confident to push him on… massive positives!
This meant ending the day on a 38, and as I mentioned before lots were starting their day around this score so we managed to get in the TOP TEN (8th) AGAIN!!!
Third event in a row with a placing, I can’t tell you that it’s easy and sometimes I..
So here it is… Number 5 of the year, Number 2 for Pea!
Just to recap a little, Pea is my newer of the two horses and although having had her on loan 6 years ago, I have had her back since the end of September 2018. Before that she was a Feral Beryl for a while so we had a little bit of work to do to get her “eventing ready”.
I’m VERY precious about her and haven’t rushed her training at all, she’s 15 and owes me absolutely nothing. BUT… the girl lives to jump and run!!! She adores jumping so much I can barely hold her and has totally restored my faith in horses and my ability to ride.
So… After a fairly easy week and a little pop over some jumps on Friday, we were all set to head off to the unaffiliated BE80 at Epworth Equestrian today. As you may have seen, Pea doesn’t like being in our van on her own so her mate Daisy towed the line again today and came along as a (hopefully not too squealy) chum. – side note, last time out Daisy screamed like a banshee and I had to tie up out of ear shot at a mates lorry!!
Today I took no chances, I laced three mints with a little nip of dope and in thirty minutes Daisy was somewhere on cloud 9 not calling for her friend! RESULT!
Tacked up, we headed off on the 10 minute walk to the dressage. Last time we were here Pea was sideways all the way napping to the pony… this time, no sideways! I was so happy! In the warm up she was tense and doing her very best jazz handed camel ? impersonations but settled better than before! Very happy with this progress!!
The test really didn’t suit her, lots of serpentining and short canters which she wasn’t massively happy about, so I’d say it was fair to award her a 34.8… however, I got 2 marks added for coloured stirrups that I totally forgot to change over! So we finished on 36.8 for dressage! The free walk scoring 5s massively let us down so that’s something I’m going home to work on!
Back at the van I untacked and went to walk the SJ and XC courses, came back happy with what I saw, if a little puffy! ? So we tacked up again for jumping and off we went… in our Dressage saddle!
Yes, that’s right. My beautiful Voltaire Design Jump saddle no longer fits her and boy did she let me know! So we are sorting something for her and in the meantime I’m eventing all three phases in a blasted Dressage saddle ?Never fear though, it’s not Badminton and I’m damn sure no one had the forward cut mono flap luxuries in the 1970s jumping round there, I figured I’d man up and quit complaining ?!
She warmed up SO well, she felt amazing and I was really confident to go in and give it our best shot. But there was a half hour delay and after standing about squealing for the pony, I didn’t get the same awesome feeling remounting.
She’d gone a bit flat but we had a really good go at it. She is SO much fun to jump, I can’t even tell you how much it makes me smile! And having watched several horses taking poles out, I really wasn’t that disappointed to have two down. We both had fun and that’s all I care about.
So, sitting on a 44 going XC, any pressure of a placing was off and I was really looking forward to it. We did a quick clothing change, not saddle change ? and headed to the XC warmup.
She was VERY keen in there! Bounding into jumps like a gazelle. She is incredible for anyone dealing with confidence, “you just hold on tight Mum, I’ve got it nailed” and that was why I fell in love with her all those years ago.
Into the start box (NOT OF DOOM, but of utter excitement and anticipation of FUN) we were counted down…
I didn’t really need to kick, she soared out of the start box and bounded to the first fence, a wooden arc and took it all in her stride, not once hesitating! I’d seen a lot of horses looking at 2&3 but not Pea, she skipped over the chair at 2 and the log stack at 3 without breaking rhythm!
Side note: I will just add at this point, this little horse has NO eventing experience AT ALL. I took her XC schooling once in 2013, and we did one BE80 back then. She just trusts her pilot and never questions me on anything!
Sailing round the corner, it was the same story at number four, the pheasant house… ping! The castle at 5 was obviously housing a Pea eating lion because she jumped it SO big, it gave me glimmers of how far we could go in the next few years together.
6 a and b were offset skinnies, I asked her to shorten up a bit… I asked again… she finally listened and came back to me a bit and jumped them both very well. ? the house a 7 jumped really well and so did the carrot box at 8.
Groan, I get it, it’s not like Pat where something dramatic happens at each fence…. Pea stormed round the whole course, she didn’t care about the double of scary pipes at 11, she didn’t see the the ditch under fence 14, she was incredible.
She even cantered through the water which I’ve always let her come back to trot for before! And she absolutely soared the big box fence to finish, cantering the whole way back to the warm up before I could stop her ?
Everybody wishes for this, a cross country horse like her; she’s bold, straight and seriously fun and I feel very, very lucky to have such a great bond with this little mare. Today, although other bits could have been better, this was why I came. I wanted to feel that power, the unity and speed of us..
So, maybe you’re thinking of taking the plunge into horse ownership, or perhaps you’re looking to see where you can cut your existing costs… or maybe, just maybe, you’re curious as to how much money I actually spend on my horses. Whichever it is, I’ll let you in on how much money it ACTUALLY costs to keep a horse!
Obviously, prices vary per horse breed, age, condition, area you live, disciplines you compete in etc. but here are some basics to get you going!
Example A – Myself 6 years ago.
I had one horse (Pat) on part livery. Part livery is great if you have a job or other commitments that mean you are unable to get to the yard everyday to turnout/muck out etc. and comes at a cost. This cost, on Salisbury plain was £470pcm – this included hay and bedding and basic day to day care of Pat . I wasn’t really competing him then, just the odd local dressage.
Example B – Myself 3 years ago.
I had one horse on DIY livery. This is where you do all the jobs and provide everything yourself. This cost in West Sussex was £180pcm. I was mostly doing Riding club with the odd affiliated BE event. I didn’t have my own transport for Pat then so we hired a little horsebox to get out.
Example C – Myself NOW!
I have two event horses (aged 13 and 15) on grass livery. We have stables for emergencies but they both live out 24/7. This cost in North Lincolnshire is £150pcm for the two of them. Both horses are balls deep into a BE event season and compete approx twice a month. I have my own transport in a 1994 3.5t horsebox (- this cost was £3500 to buy)
Don’t forget when looking at this, I am now keeping two horses for the same cost as one by adjusting the livery and location. So the basic cost for one horse on grass livery COULD be around £250 per month. I have detailed further down the costs to compete.
Let’s break it down!
Hay is around £35-45 for a big bale and lasts an avg. horse (eating ad lib) 3-5 weeks depending on quality of grazing.
Bedding – I always choose small flake shavings and these are £7-8 a bale and you shouldn’t need more than 1 top up a week if you’re a scrooge when mucking out.
Feeding – I feed a chaff, a balancer and linseed. This is a cheap and basic way to feed and with a TBxID in medium work, it costs me £15 – 20 per month depending on time of year and work load (in winter I feed more because they live outside). I DO NOT HAVE A FEED SPONSOR – these are my actual costs!
Supplements – I buy Pat a calmer and Pea gets Comfort Gut. I got them both when the companies had sales on to save money.
Shoeing is done every 6 weeks at £80 per set – there is no getting around this cost if you have horses with poor feet. Very few can be in full work including roadwork without shoes – it can be done but it is rare.
Wormers are around a tenner but I have recently started doing worm counts which is going to save me some cash hopefully.
Vaccinations – I try to get on the Equi-zone rounds which don’t charge a callout fee and that means annually I pay £37 for the jab.
Insurance – I’m lucky to be sponsored by the wonderful KBIS but the (pre-sponsored rider contract) costs for my horses are £35 approx for Pat (jumping up to 90) and Pea is on their Catastrophe Cover which is about £300 a year. I just make sure I have the excess ready if I need it.
Saddle fitter – Usually our local lady is about £45 to check and then extras to reflock etc. I think you should get this done at least once a year, twice if you are building them up or they are growing.
Physio – My horses see the physio approximately every 8 weeks in event season but for the average horse I think once a quarter is sufficient. These costs can vary from £45 – £85 per session but make sure you use a registered practitioner or someone that has been highly recommended by people you trust – use your noggin!
Dentist – Unless you have issues, once a year is fine and this is around £40-50 per horse.
So you want to go competing…
This, ladies and gents, is where I struggle to make ends meet. My blog and content rely heavily on me being an active competitor and actually outlining these costs for this piece made me a little nauseous about how on earth I afford to do it!
Here goes…. remember:
A is one dressage or jumping show a month plus lorry hire
B is two small shows or one occasional BE event per year plus lorry hire
C is my current reality! Two events a month for each horse (one being unaffiliated).
What I haven’t factored into this is training costs. Obviously it is optional but I have invested around £30 – £50 a month in training (mainly XC course or arena hire) for the last 6 months. This is a luxury for me and now I am competing more regularly, I just can’t afford it. Instead, I watch tons of videos, do the exercises from Horse and Rider magazine and go and watch other people’s lessons to take stuff away to try on my horses.
My monthly costs running two horses are heading for £1200 a month. I DO NOT HAVE £1200 SPARE CASH EACH MONTH!!!
Some tips to earn the money for competing:
Utilise your skills – I teach people in my spare time
Sell stuff on eBay that you don’t need
Do tons of favours for people and pull them in when you need them most
I often fence judge or help at shows in return for schooling passes or entry credit
Get a little bar job in the evenings
Cut back on EVERYTHING all winter so you have a little pot for the season!
If you want to have horses and compete it takes a lot of sacrifices and I would love to say that it all just fell into my lap from a wealthy family but it’s not the case. I am 100% financially self sufficient, my husband and I don’t share a bank account and split all the house bills straight down the middle. I pay for all of this myself and fund it entirely from my self employed work as a writer and social media manager and from the Wimpy book and clothing sales!
So, now you know that each time you buy a book or a BRAVE hoody that you are actually helping me get out to a show or keep Pat and Pea in shoes for another month! And for that I am exceptionally grateful!
DISCLAIMER: Not a single company that I work with to promote, such as Ariat, Racesafe, Lme, Voltaire, Dengie, Equine America, Paddock Wood Forge, Charles Owen, Point Two, Majyk, C4, Pampeano, etc. pay me ANY money to do that. I also don’t take their stuff and sell it on either!
I work for it, just like everyone else does, only I work directly for the company and get products as a thank you. Lots of people think I am fortunate to have these relationships and I am, but they are not financially funding my horses or my wine!
I have created my own fortune through a lot of hard work and you can to! Anything is possible if you want it enough.
With a confident run at Norton Disney last week, I was feeling MUCH better about this one and also glad that my last XC run was so fresh in my mind.
Having never been to Eland lodge and it being on the perimeter of furthest we would travel for an event, I wanted to leave ourselves plenty of time to get there and walk the course.
Loaded and on the road by 7am and I still wasn’t nervous… quite the opposite in fact!! Carrot and I sang Queen classics and 90s pop hits at the top of our lungs until we pulled in at 9.30am. By the time we checked in though, it meant that I only had 20 minutes to walk XC fences 5-19 and come back later for the rest… not ideal but I still wasn’t stressing!
Tacked up and down to the dressage, the warm up was HEAVING… about 40 horses deep, which ordinarily wouldn’t be too much trouble for the size of the space but with 80% of riders staring at their horses heads, it was far from ideal.
I get that people are in the zone when warming up but please look up, particularly in canter. I got ran into twice before deciding that it just wasn’t conducive to a relaxed test! Queue terrible warm up No.1!
In the test, the ground was very firm and Pat was guarding himself a little. I felt the canter go to break so I gave him a nudge… see photo below! Pat got his first ever “Disobedient” comment for a buck in canter, my center lines were poorly planned and I deserved the 31.5 I got today. Sub 30 next time boy I promise.
The show jumping looked beefy with lots of fillers, but on a surface not on the hard turf which suits him much better. The warm up however… was very little and only letting in 5 at a time, I didn’t jump much! Truth is, I’m not great at knowing my left and right. I was really worried about another crash so I stayed out the way!
In the ring he felt a bit sticky, my rhythm was not overly flowing because he was having a good look, but fences came and went and we soared over number 10 without a pole on the ground… BLOODY CLEAR!!!!
I was conscious not to let this get to me and fluff up on the XC today! Calm and happy, that was my motto!
Having walked the rest of the course and got back on, I found myself in another not ideal warm up situation!!
The XC warm up was part sand track and very stoney. Pat and his low heels and sensitive disposition was not having a nice time. He was really pottery and actually trod on a bigger stone and went a bit hoppy so I decided to cut my losses once more!
In the box I didn’t feel like crying, I felt adrenaline crashing through my veins and my heart pounding in my chest but I was ready. I felt good.
5,4,3,2,1…. go go go!!!
Conscious not to chase or got too fast and to keep my hands soft, we took fence one in our bold galloping stride and it felt great!! Number two however, was a double height brush, he hasn’t seen anything like this before so I forgave him for having a good look at it before deciding to go.
Fence 3 was a smaller brush which he hopped over no problem! Backed off a bit at the sharks teeth at 4 but he was feeling great and I was feeling mega determined! Fence five was a skinny roll top over a ditch which he came back to me for and pinged over! Then it happened…
The easiest fence on the course, a double of rails, just like the ones we jump every b*stard week out hacking… he actually looked at the wood chip in front, then clocked the rail! Surprise Pat! Pay attention fella!
We scraped over the first part (see photos) and gathered our knitting for the second! But I held his hand, squeezed it hard and dragged him with me… I was so determined today I could cry with pride. You see, I’m not like this. I’m not that rider that wants to win or wants to do well. I’m the one that is grateful just to be there at all… but today I had a spring in my step and I was ON FIRE!!!!
Fence 7, the house and 8, the chair both jumped really great! I was now consciously making up time for our scrappy start and galloped up the hill to the water.
Splashing through, he locked onto the spooky up-turned boat and popped out like a pro! I was howling now!! GOOD BOY!!!! You frigging legend!!
Up the steps at 10 no problem and a beautiful gallop through the first wood to the sunken road! We haven’t done one of these before but he popped down and up like he had been here in another life!!
A downhill gallop to the palisade at 12 which he took in this stride. Around the wood for a hanging log at 13. I came in at the most acute angle, piss poor planning on my part, and he nailed it! Boing!!!
Out of the woods to the corner of doom… I checked him up a bit much and I deserved the anchors to drop, but he saved us once again… pinged from a deep spot and I thanked him with a huge squeal and a giant pat!! What a bloody awesome horse!!!
I’m seriously struggling to know where to begin and that’s not like me at all!
Let’s briefly go back to August 2018, the last time I went eventing without having a refusal! That’s right, you might have noticed that things have not being smooth sailing for us in the last year and that is down to one major reason… MY NERVES.
I’ve been checking, holding, nagging and feeling totally done in, and not out of choice. I’ve been more tense than I can ever remember and it’s given me some SUPER bad habits and has knocked my horse’s confidence.
This year I have vowed to change myself; change how I ride, how I feel and how I think… today was the day, the first brave step on the competition ladder.
Yesterday was my birthday, I am now 33 years old. And first off, thank you so much for all your kind birthday wishes! They mean an awful lot. It wasn’t my usual celebration style- in bed by 9 after a long bath! But, being in the dressage arena at 8am the following morning meant that I couldn’t eat loads of rich food, drink myself silly and eat birthday cake at 2am or I would be destined for the worst day EVER!!
The alarm went off at 5am, if my phone had been in the room I would almost certainly have withdrawn from Eland next weekend, I felt sick with nerves and actually really sad knowing how much confidence I have lost lately. But it wasn’t and I didn’t, I got up, got dressed and 20 minutes later I sat in my lorry, tears stinging my eyes as it failed to start…
After much cursing, jump starting and a cuddle from Daddy Carrot we were loaded up and on the road by 6.15am!
Do you remember how bloody nervous I used to be about getting on at a show and about the dressage warm up?! Well, thanks to the calmer help from the amazing peepholes at Equine America, I’m NOT SCARED ANYMORE!! Not at all in fact. I even put him straight into a stretch this morning and used my legs… miracles do happen, that’s a massive deal for me I can tell you!
Into the test, which was not my favourite (be96), he went really nicely for a safe 31. My serpentines could have been better and so could my free walk… costly, costly lack of prep Vic you giant turkey turd!
Anyway, no time to dwell… I only had 20 minutes break before I had to get back on for jumping.
5/6 fences into our warm up, we had a dreaded refusal. My friend Laura was there to sort us out though, she told me how my leg wasn’t on and my hand was too restrictive (again)! I briefly slapped myself and decided I didn’t ought to ride like a foetus forever (wasurk) and I got my act together didn’t it!?
In the ring though, I could feel that nervous paralysis was taking over, my legs numbly dangling and lifeless… the epidural monkey returns: clinging on to Pat’s face and losing the use of my legs, perfect!
A good strong canter, that’s what she said… focus on that! And I did, I didn’t take a pull much either! So, apart from trying to fit 6 million strides into the one stride double and having the second part down, we left the ring with a glorious smile and only 4 to add to our 31. I’d call that “not a disaster!”
The dreaded XC, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to spoil the good day with a display of limp legged riding. I would have gone home if Laura hadn’t have kicked my assark into next Wednesday!
I warmed up so confident with her there helping me, I felt amazing and I was actually SMILING and enjoying it! But then it was time… she left us, we were alone, Pat and I, in the lonely white box of shameful self criticism!!
“5,4,3,2,1…. have a good ride”! Screaming “thank you” in your most up beat voice when on the inside you feel like a sack of spanner’s doing the hula… we were away!
A lady we passed on the way down said the half barrel at 1 was causing a lot of lookie lookie, so I rode for it like a goodun’ and to my delight, he wasn’t bothered by it one little bit! Sailing down to the roll top at 2 he was flying forwards and I didn’t even check him up. I kept my hands down and had a strong leg just as I was instructed and it only bloody worked!! I screamed with joy and bounded down to 3.
Down a little crevice and back up over a wagon, firm leg… hands down… he only went and jumped it in his stride AGAIN!
This was too good to be true, I was properly sobbing on landing. I couldn’t believe this change, that feeling of confidence rushing back and consuming us both.
Pat made nothing of 4, a dressed palisade and keeping him strong off the turn, we sailed the purple pencils at 5 all on the same rhythmical stride. (There’s no ‘happy tears’ emoji but if there was…)
6 I was dreading. It was a huge narrow table shared with the 100. It was also in the same spot we had our refusal last year. I rode so positively and didn’t take that pull, he sailed over so boldly that we almost missed the turn for the log at 7!
But we didn’t… he popped over, down the bank and straight as a die over the skinny (7b) log pile to more squealing and “Bloody Good Boy” cat calls down to an open set of rails at 8.
He bounded over them no problem, and down to the pheasant house at 9. He did take a look at this, but I didn’t get all flappy, I just sat… gave him time, didn’t panic and let him pop on a short one! No drama!
10, the steps came and went! 11, a little skinny… guess what? because my leg was there he gave me a straight and confident jump! 12,a coffin and role top was a confidence boost (Pat loves jumping ditches) as we galloped to 13 a skinny hanging log!
I was very aware at this point that all the jumps I was fretting over had been and gone, but I mustn’t get complacent! The log jumped lovely so off we trundled to the water with more whooping and shouting “Good Boy”!!
He sprang over the red cartridge at 14 and bounded through the water, another straight confident skinny out, a hedge this time, we hit that on a really good stride! Result!!
New horse, new territory… our first event of the season!
So, what’s new from Episode 1… well, quite a bit really!
Pea has been with us for 26 weeks now. Bang on 6 months today. The last time we chatted she she had had her checks done and had started all of the basic training and fittening with the hope that she would be up to eventing at some point this year.
Well, a lot can happen in a few months! Pea has taken back to ridden work so well and I cannot believe how much progress she has made. I feel really proud looking back at just how wibbly and inverted she was to ride only a few weeks ago.
He flatwork and suppling work remains a priority for us, as this is the area that will benefit her the most in terms of building the right muscles to become stronger. It is also the area that she finds the hardest and the least enjoyable, so I have to keep changing up what we do to make it more fun.
She is doing two schooling sessions per week and these are either on the lunge or ridden. They usually start by lots of stretching and bending, then move on to basic transitions, then direct transitions (e.g. Walk to Canter or Halt to trot and vice versa). This helps her rotate the pelvis and work rounder over her back which she needs to build those muscles. I will then do 5-10 minutes of lateral work, spiraling in and out of 10-20m circles and shoulder in in walk and trot, always dishing out tons of praise. Every other session I add poles and raised poles in too just for a bit of variety and add some lift to her paces.
She has responded so well to this program, with 2 hacking days, a jumping day (once a fortnight) and 1 or 2 days off.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though! Our first lesson off the yard with incredibly stressful on the travelling front, so was the second trip to be honest! She is AMAZING when we get there, but her erratic weaving in the box makes the pit of my stomach do somersaults. She is just not settled.
Enter DAISY… yes, we got her a friend! Daisy is a 12hh pony that when her and Pea are in the van together, all is well in the world. However, separating them at the other end… not great AT ALL! So I am still on plan C of the 467 step plan Pea has mapped out for us and would welcome any suggestions here! (I have tried a mirror, a calmer, a teddy, partition in and out – it is a separation thing).
Regardless of our travelling woes, Pea was entered for her first BE80 at Epworth Equestrian last weekend and to save this post being exceptionally long, here is her our FIRST EVENT REPORT. If you don’t have time for this, just know that all my hard work paid off and we very narrowly missed out on a placing and more proudly, we had a 33 dressage which I was VERY happy with indeed.
We have also shuffled her feeding around a little bit and there is a post detailing both horses new feeding regimes HERE.
All in all, I am absolutely astounded as to how amazing this horse is. Every single day she makes me smile and I cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives together making even more fun and happy memories.
It’s 2019 and there are nearly double that number of horse feed options available to horse owners… I’m glad it’s not 4019!
Disclaimer – I am not sponsored by a feed company, I am not a moron and I am aware of the difference between quality products and good marketing.
Basic Pony Club knowledge enlists the help of the 10 Golden Rules of feeding, you can even get a sodding badge in feeding for just knowing the basics – why are there SO many horse owners that don’t get this or equally, have so little common sense?
I thought I’d go someway to outline what horses need, give you a run down of what my horses get fed and hopefully provide something useful for you to share with your mate Mildred who doesn’t know her arse from her arsenic!
Basic rule NUMBER 1
Feed according to the WORK LOAD/HORSE TYPE/MENTAL STABILITY of your equine friend
Stop getting misled by the internet and trends in marketing. Yes, keep abreast of what’s available but stick with what you know (and if you don’t know, ASK a professional – see rule 2!).
Example; Jonny has a pony, it is an idle little sh*t and royally takes the p*ss out of Jonny. Because Jonny is also lazy and doesn’t like kicking, he feeds his pony a bowl of Racehorse cubes, barley and Redcell before each ride. Jonny is destined for impending accidents, Jonny’s pony has more energy than it needs, is on the verge of colic and will probably jump out of the field (or worse) when Jonny isn’t looking.
I know, I know… it’s so basic but if you are just hacking once a week and your horse is of a good weight, does it need regular buckets full of hard feed? Probably not.
Start with the most basic ration available, keep things SIMPLE – I would recommend an unmolassed chaff and a decent, all round vitamin and mineral supplement or balancer. I used to use Equivite for this, it was excellent so it probably doesn’t exist anymore!
Basic Rule NUMBER 2
If in doubt, ASK!
This might seem really obvious but… Nearly all of the big feed companies (Dengie, Dodson and Horrell, Spillers, Baileys, Saracen, Allen and Page, Topspec, Blue Chip, etc.) all have feeding helplines. NUTRITIONISTS ARE NOT SALES PEOPLE. They won’t just try and ply you with their own feed if they don’t think it would suit your horse.
Ring them, try it out. Don’t just take my word for it. These people are nutritionists, they have studied for years and have a very good knowledge of what will work for you. Your horse is their priority. Your questions will never be daft.
Basic Rule NUMBER 3
Stop using it if you don’t know what it’s for!
If you feed a supplement that you’re not sure is making a difference, it probably isn’t (other than to your purse). For years I fed stuff that I wasn’t sure of, I’m guilty too! I fed ‘Be Nicer to your rider’ powders, ‘stop pacing the fence’ liquids and syringed in more ‘please don’t kill me at a show’ tubes than I care to remember. If it isn’t making a difference STOP BUYING IT IMMEDIATELY and spend your money on a book on equine anatomy and digestion.
Yes, I am very cynical about this subject but I’ve seen SO many people asking what to feed their retired, overweight welsh section D, that I thought I ought to address it! I too have fallen foul of marketing fads in the past, so I feel very well placed to share this information.
For reference, I have 2 horses (mostly full TBs) Pat is VERY hot headed, Pea is the polar opposite. Pat reacts to ANYTHING in his diet, Pea could eat blue Smarties everyday for a week and still fall asleep on the job. – I feed them EXACTLY the same feed stuffs but in different rations.
I use Alfa A Oil as a staple and have done for years – Pat gets half a scoop, Pea gets a heaped one. I add the Dodson and Horrell Balancer (calming one, they’re all of a similar price but this one you can order on Amazon and get it delivered a few days later FOR FREE!!!). And to keep the weight on and a shine on their coats, I add a mug of Marriage’s or Charnwood cooked linseed meal (‘micronised linseed’ for anyone born pre 1990 – God help you if you ask for this in a shop these days) twice a day to Pea and half a mug to Pat.
On the supplement front, I useEquine America Cortaflex with Superfenn. It is the best joint supplement I have found after trying a few over the last few years. And to Pats feed I add their Super So Kalm Powder – this is a story for a whole other post… (Nutshell; I tried MANY – wasted hundreds ££ – this is working for Pat, perhaps a placebo to his stupid owner, but it’s helping and definitely worth the £29!)
For being so blunt and non-conformist, I have indeed wangled a discount code for you all too – use EAWIMPY on www.equine-america.co.uk
My horses event at a low level 2-3 times a month (worked 4-5 times a week) on chaff and balancer, I’m not saying all horses could, but mine do and have more than enough to give in terms of energy. They also live outside 24/7 with access to as much hay as they could eat. Basic is sometimes best, it certainly is for us.
And, one last thing before you go, I highly recommend going back for another look at those Golden rules, I re-learn something each time I bring this up and I think that’s the main point – you will never know everything there is to know – that’s your horses job!
Day two of our first events of 2019 and it was Pea who was today’s star of the show in the BE80.
For anyone that doesn’t know, little Pea is a thoroughbred mare who I had on loan back in 2013-14 from a very good friend.
She restored so much of my fragile confidence back then and when the opportunity came to have her back and keep her forever last September, of course I took it! Since 2014 Pea hadn’t really done much, so dragging her out of early retirement and giving her a fun job is my main priority!
Since September I have worked really hard to get her happy, flexible and willing to round on the flat… something she hasn’t ever found terribly natural. Jumping and running, they are her favourites!
So this morning, I woke without a single dash of nerves. An event day without toilet trips, without tears and without dread was seriously, seriously wonderful. Regardless of the outcome (which definitely didn’t matter) I just wanted to make sure she had fun!
With little Daisy, our new companion pony, in tow, we set off at 8.35AM in time for our 11am dressage. Pea is a weaver and weaves terribly in my lorry, but with Daisy there it’s hasn’t even occurred to her to do it even for a second! RESULT No.1!!
However, on arrival having to leave Daisy on the van and take Pea away for the dressage was about the time Auntie Smurph and I thought we might like to go home!!! Pea was calling, napping, you name it… it was terribly stressful! I walked Pea away leaving poor Smurph with the braying Daisy and consulted a friend further down the lorry park as to what I should do.
She gave me a mounting block and told me to get on with it! Result No.2!
Alone, I walked to the dressage warm up… I trotted most of the pathway because Pea was napping so badly I was a bit afraid of her bolting back to the van in search of a small pony lesbian romance!
Alas, we made it! Our warm up was horrific. I couldn’t even trot a circle without her veering, bolting or busting out the queen camel dance moves… I was not holding out much hope for a sub 40 test!
In the arena (when I finally made it there) she was awesome… I rode accurately and with an open hand and she gave me her all for a very surprising 33!!!
Back at the lorry park, I tied up at my friend Katherine’s lorry so we didn’t upset the pony or Pea and this worked so well! Everyone was calm and settled and Pea was very happy munching her haynet alone… result No.3!
After an hour and a half, we tacked up for showjumping and after a few practice fences, we ambled in… no pressure, I pootled around the course having a wonderful time with my horse without any pressure to perform. I know I could have collected her up and gone for the clear round but I didn’t and we came out beaming with two silly rolled poles where I just didn’t ask too much.
I was delighted how she took it all in her stride in a big dressed arena with so many fillers and banners and so much going on, I could give a fat rats ass about those poles… she was simply wonderful to be on top of today!
And there it was, cross country… the bit I usually dread. Except, I was not full of dread today. I was calm, happy and looking forward to seeing what my little horse had to offer. And by Jove she didn’t disappoint!
After popping a few practice jumps we headed for the box, not of doom, but of joy… the start box of joy!
5,4,3,2,1… she sailed out and over the first fence not a bother but we were still ambling! I picked up the pace and she soared fence 2, the house and 3, the bird house so well I couldn’t believe it! Down to 4, the shavings trailer that Pat had a stop at yesterday… And there is was… it happened again!
Only this time, my horse saved me.
I chased her in a bit and got a bit foetal up her neck out of nerves, she tried to chip in a stride that didn’t quite fit. She stopped, decided that might not be the required outcome and bloody went over it anyway!
She lurched over and got to the other side as though I was the one who had lost my marbles! Leave her to it Vic who doofus… she would jump the moon if I asked her to, and I’d do well to remember this more often.
Unscathed and over 5 a double with a skinny on a curve, she answered in fine style and galloped away over the big trailer at 6 and hopped up the step and brush at 7!
Galloping down to the pipes at 8 and round the back of the woods came 9, 10 (a double if dressed skinnies) and 11… she was bloody flying! To 12, the water ? which she doesn’t much like.
Not today my friends, straight in and jumped out without question to a chair at 13, down to the home straight taking each fence in her stride, she soared the last, the big carrot box and I screamed with delight for us both.
She gave me the most wonderful ride, I’ve missed that huge Peewee heart and her steely courage. She is just as determined as I am and together we are seriously bold. I cannot tell you what it means to have this little horse back by my side, she is my soulmate and I cannot wait for what the future holds for us. We finished in 14th place and would have been top three if I hadn’t have been in a busman’s holiday in the showjumping!!
Massive thanks to Auntie Smurph for her help and support today and to my lovely friend Robyn who was also there holding our hands and cheering us on. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at an event as I did today and I seriously cannot wait for the next one.
Thank you for all of your wonderful support as always and I look forward to (hopefully) getting off the waitlist for Oasby next weekend too!
Daddy Carrot was playing football today so we don’t have that many pics… but there will be tons of video on Instagram to follow!
…all I wanted to do was smile and bring my horse home safe.
As you may have noticed I’ve now got two horses to compete, XC train, jump and school, and I have been working really hard riding at least 10 times a week to get them ready.
I woke up today for my first event more prepared than ever before and that really helped my nerves by at least 50% less terrified than usual!
We were on at midday, first to go in the BE90 with Pat which meant a not too antisocial set off at 9.30am. I was very nearly ON TIME! Plaited and on the road by 9.35am feeling pretty queezy, I did have to ban poor Daddy Carrot from shovelling last nights pizza into his face on route for fear of me dry heaving the whole 50 minutes to Epworth!
We arrived, got checked in and got stuck into a cheeky Bucks Fizz to settle the nerves. I will just add at this point that because I have changed Pat’s feed and calmer I was not one little bit worried about getting on him today!! This is a total game changer for us and I cannot thank the wonderful Dodson & Horrell and amazing Equine America enough for their advice, it’s all working so so well and has truly changed my riding life.
I got on and headed for the dressage. Then it happened…
The moment I have waited for for many years….
Ben Hobday wished me good luck on the way to the dressage!! I felt 12 years old and grinning like never before, strutted all the way to the centre line!
In the dressage warm up I felt so happy I could have burst! I wasn’t frightened, I wasn’t clinging on, I was HAPPY… truly happy for the first time in this situation. I can’t tell you all what this means to me to be able to write this.
In the ring, my new found confidence made me ride for the marks we deserved and he pulled it out of the bag for a mega 27 this sat us in the top 3.
Back to the box and a swift change for jumping, I was first in and had the painful wait for the course change over and disjointed warm up but never fear… because my amazing friend (bit ambitious there Vic ?), Ben came to the rescue yet again… he gee’d me up and even offered to go first but I was right there, warmed up and ready so I declined his kindness and rode for my life!!
It all f*cking came together… when does it ever do this?! It did today, he flew everything, I kept the canter forward, I looked for my lines and we WENT BLOODY CLEAR!!!! I don’t think I could have smiled more if I’d wanted to! My new Bff (?) Ben, also did a clear round! Double result!
Nerves hit me hard then. But XC changes made, we headed to the warm up. At this point I think my new BFF (did I mention this was Ben Hobday?) was turning into some kind of Wimpy guardian angel because he walked with me for several laps of the warm up whilst tactically diverting my impending tears…
i casually trotted off, jumped a few and we were in the start box of doom being counted down…
5,4,3,2,1…. out of the box just and a short stint to the first fence, a half roll top came and went like it was nothing, to number 2, a wooden house which he also seemed to just take in his stride… was this actually happening?! Was he finally growing a pair after 7 years…?
Don’t be stupid! A sticky jump at three, the rather plain looking bird house did not bode well for the spooky shavings bale trailer at 4.
It happened, fence 4… he grabbed the anchor and royal chucked it down, ground to a stop and kissed the f*cking jump!! REFUSAL. Blast! That was it, placing over, potential win; gone.
But, I wasn’t there for that. Yes it’s nice to get placed but that’s always secondary. I was there to help my horse, I was there to show him it’s ok, to add another layer of bricks to our confidence wall and that’s exactly what I did. I gathered him up, held his hand and coaxed him over on the second attempt.
Fence 5, a double with skinny sharks teeth… not a problem for him, he popped both very nicely. 6 was a set of rails that saw him grow in confidence again, but backing off at the chair at 7, I had to work hard to get him over to the safe side!
8 was a double of hedges which were also not that pretty to watch, he was just sticky, but he trusted me and went and that’s all Icould ask for. 9 was a big table which he jumped so well that it took my breath away! Huge pat and a yippeeeee and we were at the water… he popped the jump before it, splashed in and popped the jump out so so well I was bursting with pride again!!
Galloping down to 11, the pipes, he absolutely flew it and bounded down to the tractor at 12. Surprisingly, he absolutely pulled me into that! But backed off 13, a simple roll top and leapt the coffin much bigger than my unfit person was expecting!
Over 14 and down to two skinnies at 15… I thought they might cause us a bit of bother and he made me feel a fool, he..