It always saddens me that even though there are a couple of busy livery yards very close to where I live, I hardly ever see any of the horses being hacked out. If the owners ride their horses at all, even if they are surrounded by beautiful countryside, they would rather do it in what they regard as the safer environment of the school. Unfortunately the area outside of the yard has become a forbidden zone of spooks and trolls where no rider fears to tread astride a horse!
But this is such a shame, as going out for a hack can be so beneficial to both horses and riders. So, if you're someone who is nervous about hacking out, then I'm not proposing the following is a solution to all problems, but simply suggest you give it a try….. ride out as if your horse isn't there and you're just going for a walk, on your own two legs! I know, it sounds stupid doesn't it, but actually I propose you choose the route you're thinking of riding, and actually walk it first, either on your own or with the dog.
The problem is that as humans we often anticipate problems. For instance, when riding we think, 'there's a tractor ahead, or there's a plastic bag flapping in the hedge, my horse won't like that', and guess what, because we communicate this thought to the horse through our breath and tension in our bodies, when he gets to that tractor, no he damn well doesn't like it! Our fear then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I'm not saying of course that some horses aren't scared of tractors or flapping bags, but I can tell you one thing for certain, if you weren't on a horse you certainly wouldn't be scared of them. So, when you go for that walk notice everything about you; the pile of logs, that pheasant that suddenly gets up out of the grass, or the squirrel running up a tree. And notice how you react. The thing is, you don't, in fact your thoughts are more likely to be, 'ooh, aren't pheasants beautiful', or 'look at that cheeky little fella!.' So pay attention to how relaxed you feel out walking and then keep hold of that feeling. Then, when you go for your hack, try and ride like you're just going for that nice relaxing walk where you don't overreact to the merest rustle or look at things as potential problems. And, if your horse does react to something he sees, then recall that feeling of how you felt as a human walking on two legs and you'll find it much easier to convince your horse that it's ok. In fact when riding past a tractor on the road, if I know the farmer I will often stop to thank him and have a chat. Just being normal, and talking to someone in a friendly manner who has a vehicle that is unsettling your horse, makes you breathe, smiling makes you relax, and then the horse thinks, oh well, it's not quite so scary after all!
Anyway, give it a go and happy hacking!!
I certainly haven’t had a successful equestrian career in the conventional sense. There are no trophies from HOYS or Olympia hanging on my bedroom wall or framed proudly along the corridor in my home. What I do have is a permanent pair of muddy boots and an eternally wet ‘waterproof’ jacket, this being one of the perks of living in the UK and having a small herd of four legged friends at the bottom of my garden.
I suppose to give this some context; we should start, as any story should do, at the beginning. My family never owned horses, my Granddad and his brother had a brief fantasy of owning a Shetland pony during the War, but that that’s about it. I spent 7 years of my life, from the age of 4, begging for a pony. One thing that young girls can be extremely talented at is whining, pestering and emotional blackmail. I utilised all three of these soon to be developed traits to secure my first pony. I don’t believe any of us quite knew what to do with her when we first brought Amber home; my Mum gave her a pat on the neck, my Grandparents took some photos and my Dad developed his famous ‘nervous laugh’ whenever a piece of paper with a pound sign on it was passed his way.
It’s safe to say that small little grey pony became a much bigger part of all of our lives than we ever anticipated. She’s still with me now; we’re a little older, a little wiser and a little chubbier than when we first started out together. Amber and I no longer resemble illustrations by Thelwell; I can now keep my bum in the saddle and hold my reins without my hands being clasped in front of my face as I sent a silent prayer to God. I think the reason that pony (with the face of an angel and the buck of the devil) stayed in my life rather than being sold to a more competent rider, was because she never let me truly fail. Yes she challenged me, kept my feet on the ground, and gave me a run for my (and my Dads) money, but more importantly she gave me the backbone I needed and taught me that it’s important and ok to fail.
So yes, there are a few bare patches on my walls where more rosettes could be added, but the drive that I have isn’t to be the best in the sport. My drive and passion is for the horse, it’s always been for the horse. I believe that too often we are valued for an artificial perception of ‘success’ but that’s not what I believe in. I believe and value success as being every time you hang up your shiny clean boots and pulls on your muddy boots instead. I think my values must come from being guided by a non-horsey mother, who used to always say to me, “Kate, when was it ever a problem or a bad thing to just have fun with your pony?” That’s my belief and something I wish we saw more of. We should be encouraging one another, both horse and rider, to have fun and not always force ourselves to jump higher or run faster.
So back to those ponies at the bottom of my garden…my equestrian life hasn’t been a complete frolic in the field. I’ve had many challenges along the way the main being when Amber unfortunately fell very ill and suffered from a broken leg in 2015. It’s the tough part of the job, but you have to know when it’s time to say goodbye. But by God I wasn’t letting her off the hook that easily, she had been quite literally a pain in my bum for at least the first 4 years of our partnership! I’m pleased to say that by some miracle she’s alive and still with us. Unfortunately her ordeal hasn’t stopped her from throwing in the occasional naughty buck, just to keep us all on our toes. It’s my strong belief that nothing beats the soul of a pony.
‘My Equestrian Life?’ There are no historic events and big goals I’ve achieved to brag about on here. I’m just a little girl (who hasn’t quite grown up yet) who couldn’t stop loving her pony.
p.s. We got that Shetland pony for my Granddad and because he arrived slightly too late for my Granddad’s brother, we named him George in memory of him.
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Katy's novel, Forever Amber, is available to buy now. It is the true story about her mare, who she's owned for 10 years, who broke her leg followed by several life threatening illnesses. It was a huge journey... Amber is truly inspirational, she never stopped fighting.
An agreed percentage of the proceeds from each sale of both the e-book and printed edition is being donated to the British Horse Society in aid of protecting, expanding and maintaining bridle paths across the UK.
Want to find something just that bit different for a horse loving friend or relative this Christmas? - then take a look at some pressie ideas that you might want to put on your own Xmas wish list too!
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Ever wanted to know what it's like to be a top groom in the equestrian competition world? Then read on, for some illuminating info, straight from the groom's mouth!
Q: Name five of your favourite things about being a groom.
A: The bonds you form with the horses are truly something so special. You learn every square inch of their bodies and you're able to tell instantly when something is wrong. You learn where they like to be scratched and which of their muscles get the most sore and which ones will eat your banana peel after you finish your breakfast in the morning. It is an indescribable feeling to watch them shine in the show ring and see all your countless hours pay off. I still catch myself calling every horse I've groomed for "my horse" because they really do become a part of your family.
The people you meet. I have met some of the best, worst, and most fascinating people through years of grooming. The spectrum of people involved in the horse industry is amazing. I worked for a New York business man who owns a company worth billions, and would fly down to Florida on his private plane each weekend to ride and show (sometimes while on the phone making multimillion dollar business deals), then fly back to NYC Sunday afternoon. At this very same barn I worked with another groom who sent every penny that he could back to his family in Honduras while he survived on ramen noodles and lived in the hay loft.
You really learn a lot of life skills. When your rider is on deck to go in the show ring and her boot zipper breaks and you fix it with a spur strap and duct tape, you learn about problem solving. When you see a loose horse galloping around the stable and you are able to calmly pick up a lead rope and walk after it, you learn to stay calm under pressure. When its 3:30am and your alarm goes off and its chilly and stormy outside but the horses need breakfast and baths and to be braided, you learn about work ethic. When you've been at a show all day and you finally have a free second to grab food but you see the pony rider crying because she fell off and you stop to comfort her, you learn about sacrifice.
The travel can be really cool. I've seen most of the USA thanks to going to different horse shows. I am friends with a lot of grooms who have been to Canada and all over Europe for their grooming jobs. It is really a cool way to see new places and experience different cultures. (and sometimes your clients will put you up in a really nice hotel and pay for all your fancy dinners :) )
Making your barn family. You spend so much time with all the clients and trainers and riders and vets and grooms that you really do become the most dysfunctional family possible. When I was grooming at WEF we all used to go out to dinner together at least once a week at the end of the show day. We would have all been with each other since at least 5am and we were all exhausted and sweaty and smelly and probably had hay in our ponytails, but we were still able to laugh and talk and hang out together. That was one of my favorite things about working at a barn. You really do become a barn family, which is so important because most of our biological families are hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
Q: What type of person makes the best groom?
A: It may be obvious, but you have to really, really, REALLY love horses. Because they are large and occasionally very stupid animals, and after spending hours upon hours with them they can easily piss you off. They will bite you and kick you and jump on your feet because the flower pot they walked past 10000 times suddenly became really scary. They will get sick and get hurt and rub out their braids and chew holes in their brand new reins and pull shoes and knock things over. Because as loving and majestic and incredible they are, you do have to be prepared to deal with their idiocies.
Likewise, you really have to like people too. A lot of people don't realize just how much of a people job it is to be a groom. Clients and trainers and riders invest tons of money into horse showing, and they are going to want things to run perfectly. You are largely responsible for this perfection. It is your responsibility to have a beautiful shining horse, a nervous client, and a patient trainer all at proper show ring 10 minutes early. This is not always an easy task and you need to be able to do it flawlessly time and time again with a big smile on your face. You have to offer water to the rider who is about to go on course and run to the food truck and buy the trainer a coffee when they are getting a little too grumpy. It's just as much a people job as it is a horse job.
Q: And who shouldn't even think of applying for the job?
A: If you are scared of getting dirty, waking up early, working long hours, being underpaid, overstressed, or under appreciated, run away fast. You will need to scrub the cobwebs and very large spiders out of the corner of the trailer. You will have to be at the horse show from 5am to 10pm without much of an actual break. You also need a good sense of humor and some humility. This job is not easy and you will mess up and you have to be able to accept that and deal with in the the best way possible. You will also be working with a lot of very powerful people who have invested a lot of money and are under a lot of pressure. Horse shows are stressful and sometimes you are an easy target. You can't take things personally.
Q: When working as a groom have you ever made a real 'goof' that you got away with?
A:I was once clipping a horse's legs to prepare for an FEI show and I was using a set of clippers with an adjustable blade. I didn't realize it but as I was clipping I had my finger on the lever and so the hair kept getting shorter and shorter and I didn't realize it until I finished and stood up and realized that I gave this horse with white socks a surgical clip and he was now sporting pink socks. I was able to grow the hair back with hemorrhoid cream and vitamin E oil mixed together.
Q: And one you got caught out for?
A: We used to use safety pins to attach numbers onto the show pads for our jumpers, and once I was in a rush and forgot to take them all off before tossing them in the washing machine. I ended up ruining a bunch of beautiful white show pads because the pins rusted and put big orange stains on the saddle pads. Oops.
Q: What sort of employer should you run a mile from?
A: If it seems too good to be true, it almost definetly is. If you are promised to not muck stalls, ride all the time, have a good salary, and days off, something is probably off. Not to say that these positions don't exist, but they are extremely hard to find. Also, if you notice a specific trainer or barn constantly posting a help wanted ad, this is usually a red flag. A lot of the big show barns here go through grooms like water. Most grooms don't stay at the biggest show barns for more than a few months, and this is for a good reason. If you're looking for a grooming position, it is usually better to start small and work your way up.
Q: And why do you love working in the competition world?
A: One of the absolute best feelings is watching your horse and rider succeed. You watch them train and sweat and work so hard for hours and hours and hours, and the feeling that you get watching them on a victory gallop is really so amazing. I will never forget one international championship that I was grooming at, and the week started off really tough with the horse arriving off the trailer colic-y and lethargic. He ended up fine but they didn't place in the first class and had a couple tough schooling sessions. They ended up winning their last class, and watching them gallop around with their ribbon and cooler was truly an indescribable feeling.
There is nothing in the world that I love more than horse shows. I remember one morning at WEF that we somehow had a pretty quiet morning, and he had an hour or so of free time before the day was going to kick off. It was around 6:30am and we went and grabbed coffee and sat and watched a schooling ring. The poetry of horse shows is really something that is hard to put into words. Watching the sun come up and cast its warm orange rays over an already crowded schooling ring. Horses quietly working, their muscles contracting, balancing, and the quiet huff as they push off the ground and over a fence. Moms braiding colorful ribbons into their daughters hair. Watching golf carts and grooms and ponies all quietly hustling to wherever they needed to be. Riders in their white breeches holding coffee in one hand and a course map in the other. The quiet buzz of excitement and tension in the air that is almost palpable. Here we all were, from all walks of life and all corners of the earth, all gathered together in this tiny little town in Florida. I felt so incredibly lucky and blessed and just completely in awe of this crazy, horrible, wonderful world we call horses.
Groom's Secrets grew up in New Jersey but is now living in Florida. Graduating from high school a year early she worked full time with the horses as a groom, a working student, an assistant trainer, and pretty much everything in between. She traveled and worked at Lake Placid, the Kentucky horse park, NAJYRC, WEF, and has experience working as an FEI groom.
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1990s ; earliest use found in The Ottawa Citizen. Source: Oxford Dictionary
Not only when the days are getting shorter the barn is my happy place. Every day after work I can go there to come down, to charge my batteries, to simply be there and think of something else than work, money, life. The barn seems to be like a whole different world, where only horsey people meet to do only horsey talking. Most memories I have regarding barns are positive ones. Sure, sometimes bad things happen there, too. But you will never feel depressed there. Not only you can do what you love (e.g. horseback riding), there is also somebody waiting for you.
Last week, when I was on holiday, I missed to go to the barn. I wasn't unhappy, of course, holidays are great and doing a little sightseeing is a treat. But coming back always feels like coming home. I am lucky enough to have Hafl in a barn that is more than gorgeous and the common rooms are as comfy as my apartment. So I really enjoy to be there not only to have great training sessions but also to just hang around and chat, watch Hafl graze, do some barn chores or whatever I feel like doing.
Happy places come in all sizes and colors and you can have more than one. According to professor of psychology Christopher Peterson happy places are easily accessible, neutral and without penalty. What's more, he emphasizes that happy places are always contributing to the meaning of our lives.
I am pretty sure that everybody has his happy place, but just in case, here are five things you need to do to find yours:
Recall places you’ve been where you appreciated the sounds.
Summon the places where you’ve enjoyed the imagery.
Choose a place where you can experience the elements that contribute to your happiness.
Remember where you were when you experienced deep contentment and meaning.
Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog
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At just 21, Gigi Hadid has graced the cover of almost every major fashion publication, from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar to W. But she still manages to keep us guessing. For her first-ever Allure cover, she bares it all like she’s never done before.
The model spent years growing up as a competitive horseback rider, and she’s still passionate about the equestrian arts. Which may explain why she looks right at home doing her homage to Lady Godiva, posing on horseback wearing long curls, a nude thong and nothing else.
The star shows off her beauty marks and Victoria’s Secret model body while sprawled naked across the back of the black Lustiano horse — which, of course, she immediately bonded with at the shoot.
Hadid remembered falling in love with horses when she got her first one at two years old, in her Allure cover story. “We were living in Aspen, and my first pony, Rocky Daddy, was a rescue from a farmer next door,” she said. “The farmer was kind of old and couldn’t take care of him, so my mom asked if we could, and that’s the pony I started riding.” ... READ MORE
For most it’s the end of a busy season and it’s also a time for reflection. It may have been a great season for some, but for others it may have been a season of disappointment.
With Winter on the door step, things can start to feel, frankly, a bit depressing – especially if the season has not gone to plan.
Blow away the cobwebs
I particularly find the winter months really tough. It’s wet, dark, cold, and if horses are not your day job, finding time to ride can be really difficult. If coming into winter is making you feel a bit miserable, pick yourself up, go for a gallop flat out across the field and remember why you do the thing you love. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better after you’ve blown away those cobwebs! Just try to not fall off in the process :-)
Do what you love
There’s been so many times I’ve said to myself:
“Abi, why do you still do this sport? You spend all your money, energy, time and what have you got to show for it?!”
This is probably all getting a bit deep, but I’m sure many of you have asked yourself the same thing before?
If you have a dream, go for it! At the end of the day you only live once, so really, what have you got to loose?
Here’s my three top things to stay Horse Happy this winter:
1. Have a day off training to have some fun with you horse. By factoring a fun day into your weekly training program, it will help you remember why you love it.
2. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, or your horse. Remember that at the end of the day it should be fun and enjoyable for both of you. If it’s not, change it/do something different.
3. Don’t loose sight of your dreams. It can be hard to see past the mud and cold weather in Winter so remember to keep sight of that bigger goal. Don’t let small hiccups upset you.
Lots of love,
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Some honest, straight talking as Phoebe Buckley reflects on her equestrian career.
So here we are again, you guys are about to read a blog I’ve written whilst I wait with bated breath for feed back from you all…
I always worry how you guys will react to my blogs. I am very aware my blogs are not the ‘usual’ type of blog. Also, I worry my blogs are too much like me! - Too honest, too close to the bone and to the point... But this blog is different. Not only will it be my last ever blog, but I know this blog is too honest. I know it is too close to the bone and I know it is to the point! But sod it, I may as well go out with a bang shouldn’t I?! So pull up a chair guys, because this will be a very long read...
Over the last couple of years two of close friends have a) unfairly lost the ride on a horse or have b) unfairly lost their job which included all rides on horses that came with it. Just like that, BOOM!.. Carpet pulled from underneath them, both friends privately turned to me. At the time I didn’t really understand why. But now I think I know why, because they knew I would be a 100% honest with them. If they had deserved it I would have said as much... I remember one conversation that went a long the lines of ‘Phoebe, did I deserve to lose that horse? Me – 'No you didn’t, don’t get me wrong you can be a t**t but the owner is a c**t and you don’t want to work or ride for people like that. The end, now move on.’
Recently a friend went through a similar thing and it brought memories back of having to watch people you care about being treated badly, and just how mistrustful it can make people. But worse than that, it brought back memories of how badly I felt I was treated by someone right at the start of my career, and how without a shadow of a doubt that experience changed and the path I took with my career.
I will never ever forget being a keen 19yr old event rider and being told I would get to ride on one of the best event horses on the circuit. Excited doesn’t even cover it. You see despite what I say.. I used to LOVE eventing. I remember at the tender age of 15 planning how I was going to Badminton event by event! So imagine my delight when I was offered a horse that had been 8th at Burghley. Yes, he had had 2 years off with leg problems but I didn’t care. I knew just how lucky I was and I adored the bear bones of the horse. Our first season went fantastically well and we aimed at a Autumn 3 day with the plan of really giving the young rider team a proper go the following season. So can you imagine how I felt when I found out at our Autumn 3 day that, whilst watching me trot up, someone heavily involved with the young rider system was slagging me and my wonderful horse off! He was helped in the bitch fest by a groom of one of the other people who would be aiming at the young rider team the following season. And my crime that meant I deserved this public hanging? It was is just because I had been given the ride on this horse. It destroyed me... I didn’t poach the ride, I didn’t go ringing up the owner trying to nick the ride in anyway. He had been in the field with leg problems, my owner had been asked by his owner if she knew of a young rider who might like the ride, and thankfully my wonderfully loyal owner jumped at the chance to have him. She ran him as her own horse for me to ride. And because of that I was being ripped to pieces. From that moment on I promised myself I would never ever get involved on a friendship level with anyone from eventing. If the powers that be felt it was acceptable to stand and rip me to pieces in public, they were not the sort of people I wanted to be involved with... And I’m worse than an elephant. I never ever forget...
However time heals wounds and by the following season I had mellowed out about it all. My dream horse was on fire that season. We won first time out and kept up our fantastic form all season. However, midway through that season it happened again. I over heard a ‘power that be’ slagging me and my wonderful horse off. This happened just before Bramham. I went to Bramham crushed but also so angry. Needless to say I went there with a point to prove, and a massive chip developing on my shoulder! That week I did a masterful job of steering my wonderful horse vaguely in the right direction in each phase, and he did an even more masterful job of not only putting up with my crap steering, but of also somehow looking after me and also managing to win. In the moment following the prize giving I was happy to draw a line through my dream of being on the young rider team.
From my first BE Novice and Burghley pony club jumping in 2001 to Burghley proper and top 20 finish 5 years later...
I loved the idea of eventing to the highest level and representing my country, but I didn’t like the reality of having to 'deal with' and 'be nice' to people who such horrid narrow minded views.- People I frankly thought were ar*ses.
I did in fact go to the young rider European Championship... We won gold and my wonderful horse was the best British horse. I went to the championships with an awful outlook. I went there for my owner and my horse, not because I wanted to be on a team. I just wanted to make sure my horse and I got to be the best British combination. We did that, I had an ok time and I just hope I did my horse, my owner and my mum (who came to watch) proud.
Anyone that knows me will tell you I’m all about everyone one else. I adore helping and encouraging others… I would have loved nothing more than to have felt I could have truly been part of my team, but how could I when I had to sit across a table from a groom and a person in a position of power that had not only slagged me off, but also had openly joked about me being a dirty pikey! So I did what I do best… Get angry then just shut myself off from the world.
Fast forward a few years and...
Not so long ago I lost the ride on a horse I felt I shouldn’t have. I was told it was all a genuine mix up... Then soon after that, the same owner bought the rider they had given my ride to a super smart horse to ride. That was some bitter pill to swallow! But I have (hopefully) not complained about it to much for several reasons.
I love the idea of having a big, busy event yard with loads of horses and going back to being that 19yr old with dreams far bigger than her actual talent. But, I don’t like the reality of that in order to have that big busy yard, I will have to deal with people that aren’t loyal and think it’s ok to take horses away from you when they shouldn’t. And to have to put up with people talking about you because they have decided you are beneath them, and that someone who rides as badly as you shouldn’t have rides on nice horses. Don’t get me wrong these people are a minority not a majority... But still, eventing is in my experience dog eat dog and as the old saying goes – if you can’t stand the heat get out the kitchen. I never liked cooking that much anyways…
I took a step back from eventing about 3 years ago and I have to say I’m happier than ever.
I love the reality of my life... And I like the idea of changing it. Until that balance changes, I shall stay as I am – a random blonde girl who talks to much, laughs at her own jokes, has a couple of event horses that she adores riding. Has a million fantastic people she loves teaching more than words can say, has a few select friends she misses more than she’d ever tell them when they aren't around to either try and force feed me gin or let me drive over speed bumps at a million miles an hour, and one very loyal owner that never ever makes her question if she will lose the ride on any of her horses…
Life is so very short…
Love your reality more than you like the idea you don’t have. Don’t complain about something you don’t have but aren’t prepared to do what needs doing to have it, and remember sometimes being a majority is better than being the minority.
Stay safe, be lucky and if you can’t do those two, then just make sure you are having fun whilst you are being unlucky and unsafe. - There is a positive in every negative if you look hard enough...
Over and out all...
Phoebe, Champ and Custard Xx
Re-published with kind permission from Phoebe Buckley|Blog
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As a young woman, in this day and age, I find the constant pressures from our society absolutely suffocating. The relentless bombardment of images and advertisements that tell women what to wear, what makeup to buy, what shine inducing shampoo to use, how to make our teeth whiter, and our waistlines slimmer. In magazines, on the TV and all over Instagram, Twitter and Facebook we are barraged with perfected and unattainable ideas of what beauty and femininity are meant to be. This leaves us girls standing at the base of an unclimbable mountain, looking upward at everything we should strive to be. But let’s be practical now, who the hell can be bothered to bang out 50 squats before breakfast and live on lettuce leaves 7 days a week, whilst wearing full makeup and a waist trainer? Not me! My beauty regime consists of a year old mascara and trying to remember to shave my legs bi-weekly. But even admitting this, I feel a slight sense of shame… but WHY? Why do we feel bad, or embarrassed about not conforming to today’s exhausting beauty expectations?
For many of us horsey girls, the equestrian world offers a chance to escape the pressures that reduce our value as human beings to mere physical appearance. I love the fact that a horse yard is a place of rosy, make-up less faces, grubby jodhpurs, chaotic, straw flecked hair, sweat-patches, and that warm dusty horsey smell that lingers on you hours after coming home. We don’t have to worry about what we look like, our priorities change here; it's what we DO that counts! We become content with ourselves all of a sudden, because around our horses, we can be ourselves. In a way, we’re silently fighting against the general assumption that girls are pretty, delicate things, whose only purpose is to decorate the world of men. Every time we lift bales of straw, bags of feed, shift jumps around, and ride powerful, intuitive animals, we prove that we're not going to be defined by our waistlines or makeup bag!
However, I've noticed that the pressure to look a certain way is filtering more and more into the equestrian world. Suddenly the way we look and the clothes we wear has become more important. There have even been mutterings about overweight riders. Particularly at some events the competition has ramped up in more way than one; everyone’s got the latest gear, and this can be quite intimidating. But on the whole, I'd still argue that it’s an environment where appearance isn’t the be all and end all. In the equestrian world, we are valued for being good at our jobs, which is to effectively and sympathetically care for, train and ride our horses, and here we can find our escape from the usual value system attached to women which puts the way we look above all else.
I would be so interested to know how you guys feel about this topic, do you feel that being around horses is an escape from the beauty pressures of everyday life? Do you feel like you can be yourself without having to perform to the world? Or do you think the pressures of beauty ideals and fashion are creeping into the equestrian world?
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Every parent hopes their child will grow up happy, healthy and as a good human being. The methodology by which this is achieved, however, can be tricky! Hours can be spent reading about child psychology, for a parent to gain the knowledge to give their child the best chance at success and happiness.
Let me suggest an easier way! Get them on a horse!
I always joke with parents I meet that they should never introduce their children to riding, because they will never have any money or free time ever again! This is probably true, and there is no denying that ponies are hard work, expensive and potentially all-consuming for a family, but the benefits of growing up around horses are overwhelming, and a monetary value cannot be placed upon this. Some of the skills and traits that are encouraged by riding and being responsible for an animal are indispensable life skills, that children can learn with the horse as their teacher (ie with no parental involvement).
Horses are a huge commitment. They require tending to twice a day, both before and after school. Looking after a horse is not a choice, because it is totally dependent on the owner for food, shelter and ultimately for its’ survival. Young people that grow up around horses learn the importance of responsibility, hard work and dedication, which are important values that will serve them well in life, and even in their career.
Health and Fitness
Riding and mucking out is physically demanding and involves spending hours in the fresh air, being active and running around with friends. Many children help out at their local riding school all day at weekends, and run round leading the younger children, helping them with their riding too. This is fantastic for their fitness and wellbeing, and sets them up for a healthy future. It also equates to free childcare if they are at the stables all day! Horses provide young people an invaluable distraction from going out drinking, smoking and getting themselves into trouble. They will be far too tired at the end of a day at the stables to get up to any mischief!
Empathy and communication
Research has shown that animals show people how to be empathetic, and it is for this reason that horses are often used in human psychological therapies. Horses, as a large herd animal, require a great deal of empathy in order for the handler to stay safe and train them. They are a herd animal, thrive on company and communicate using very subtle visual cues. In order to truly communicate with a horse, a young person must demonstrate empathy towards the horse and understand life from his perspective. They must be consistent and patient in their behaviour, and the horse will reward the child with trust.
Horses don’t care what background you are from, what you look like or what make your jodphurs are! They only respond to love, consistency and effective communication. Humans (teenagers in particular), do not always respond to such traits, and spending time with horses can help young people reground and understand their worth.
Horses test our resilience – daily! As a live animal, they often have injuries, sickness, and (like children), misbehave! We have good days and bad days with our horses. If a horse misbehaves, the young person has to keep quietly persevering, for several weeks and months to train the horse correctly. This requires resilience and patience – and a good dollop of determination too.
Friendships made in early life when riding often endure into adulthood, because they are built on a common interest and involve memories of fun and laughter. My oldest friends and I grew up riding together, and we never run out of things to say because we have those many treasured and happy years that we shared together. Out of the good times and tough times we have had with our horses, the glue that binds children together is strong enough to last the test of time.
A horse is a huge prey animal, and managing to handle and ride a horse is a big confidence boost for children. Riding a horse well is a real skill, art and a science. For this reason, they never stop learning. This is why people still ride into their sixties and beyond, because continuous learning never gets old! Every time a young person rides they will have achieved something, which is a great boost to confidence and self-esteem, which infiltrates all areas of life. People with high self-esteem are less likely to develop eating disorders, take drugs and self-harm. Horses can help mould a young person’s personality and act as a therapist as well as their friend.
In short – horses are magic! Introduce your child to horses and let them do the parenting for you!
at my horsey girlfriend's wedding
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Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.
Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy
Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.