My friend and student Lauren has written a blog for me about her ongoing confidence journey. Around 16 months ago she had a horrific accident whilst leading one of her own horses. I can pretty safely say I’ve no wish to ever visit a student in hospital in the ‘halo ward’ again! Ever since she came home from hospital she’s tried harder than most other people I know. Tried to get her life back to normal, to go to work and run her business, and, to enjoy her time with her horses. Every time I’ve turned up for a lesson her and her lovely mum Ros have been there ready to tackle what today’s brought them. There’s ALWAYS a stunning smile, there’s ALWAYS a way of looking on the bright side. “Check out how tall I sit now, it’s excruciating not to” springs to mind for one of the early rides back. It’s taken a while to find the right riding partner but Jasper has now landed and is worth his weight in gold.
People like Lauren are one of the many reasons I love my job so much! Sure some days feel like they’ve been a step back rather than forward but looking at the big picture shows huge progress. To have a happy text or Facebook message from any of my students who struggle with confidence challenges 100% makes my day!
June 20th 2012 my life changed for ever. I was leading one of my horses (who I had owned for 13 years) into a new paddock, something we all do daily, leading our horses! This day, my horse was hot, she was pushy, she let herself eat grass and in the moment of me pulling her head back up, she reared/pushed into me (16.1 chunky tb). I fell to the ground on my right sight in a ball protecting my head thinking, thank god im okay, then the next second this is where my life changed.
My horse proceeded to run on top of me, her two back legs went into my left side of my chest. I honestly thought I was dieing. My breath was taken away instantly, I was in so much pain, but most of all I was gasping for air and I knew it wasn’t good. Lets skip the in-between not nice bits. I ended up with a punctured lung with internal bleeding and two badly displaced broken ribs (hence the punctured lung).
The picture below shows my ribs as they were after the accident on the left and how they’ve healed, 12 months on on the right.
This story is where my fear of horses began, up untill that point I was your usual confident rider, I had been riding for almost 20 years and was 24 at the time of my accident. I was having regular lessons with Fiona Dearing from Remote Coach, my main riding horse was a stunning 4yo Palomino Warmblood He was my dream horse, and never had I bonded with a horse like I had with Gerry. Unfortunately after my accident, I didn’t want to be anywhere near big horses and I made the decision to sell my big boy Gerry.
It was one step at a time, first of going down to the paddocks, then patting them over the gate. It took me a long time to be able to lead a horse again, thankfully I have my little trusty 20yo 12.3hh pony who ive had for 14 years. She is what allowed me to go near the horses again. My mum would be there every step of the way and she still is 16 months on, when a horse plays up or freaks me out on the lead mum will take over, what would I do with out my mum! I was lucky enough to be given a pony to lease, a beautiful young girl, who was DEAD quiet, she was young and not much education, but she had the most beautiful temprement. Fi was there for our first ride, and it was seriously back to basics as though it was my first ride ever again! We had the halter and lead out and I was walked around on the pony by Fi, then we did a little trot!!!
Unfortunately the pony was unsound, so it was on the search for a new pony for me again. I went through 3 different ponies to find the right one, and hopefully now I have him! Fi has been there every step of the way, weather it be on Facebook, on the phone or in person in lessons. I have come such a long way. I am still nowhere near ‘confident’, as soon as the ponies start to spook/shy/play up I get scared, especially if that happens on the ground. Under saddle im pretty good, my fear is falling and puncturing my lung again, that scares the crap out of me. And a few weeks ago I did have my first fall after managing to stay on for a lot of bucks, pigroots this day I came off, I got up and I was okay (I think I was more freaked out that I was okay as Ive always had it in my head that I wouldn’t be). Needless to say I don’t have that gorgeous pony anymore, my safety is my priorty.
Fi was the first point of call, I think she knows every little bit that happens to me or my horses, I probably annoy her at times! But you can always count on the fact that she will be there to help! Most days I wish I had fallen instead of being knocked over, as falls are much easier to ‘get back on the horse’ but something that happened on the ground, that’s hard to get over especially as its something we have to deal with every single day, twice a day.
Fi had come out to teach me and my new pony, it was her first time of meeting him in person. She had certainly heard all about him from before I looked at him to watching countless videos of our progress and he had been perfect since I had him! But typically horse who are of course unpredictable, he got the wind up him hearing Fi’s car arrive and the dogs barking(this is a pony who normally doesn’t care if you drive a bob cat or tractor next to him!). He couldn’t see Fi’s car or the dogs and heard it and then he got all shitty and became a pushy pig. This is where I get scared and want to run and hide, which I do still run and hide at times!! So lucky Fi was there for this bad Jasper moment as he turned from my quiet pony in a pushy turd and grew about 5 hands in the process, this freaks the crap out of me. Fi taught us some valuable lessons on the ground, to get him out of my space, I now have these tools to help me if that happens again. It dosnt take away the fear, but it does help. She not only shows you what to do, she will take control of the situation herself and she then gets you to do it yourself so you know what to do in the future if she isn’t there.
I have what I call my ‘security’ blanket. It’s a vipa safety vest level 3 rating, I wear that no matter what im doing, from putting rugs on, to feeding the horses to riding, its to protect my rib. On the weekend I attended a show with my new pony Jasper who I’ve had for about 8 weeks now. We were only able to do the led classes as Jasper is on vets orders to only wak/trot for a month, typical you find a good pony and its got soundness issues! I was disappointed that we weren’t able to compete properly, this was to be our first outing and I was really looking forward to it, but I was still determined to do this show. I plucked up the courage to do the led class! (LED That means HOLDING onto my horse while it TROTS next to me, that scares the bejesus out of me at just the thought of it). Well from the moment the pony stepped off the float he was an angel, he was falling asleep in the line up, and im surprised he wasn’t tripping over his own feet in the trot out, as he was so calm and relaxed! We might not have been the prettiest horse out, or the best presented(ie still have half winter coat on) but I kicked so many goals yesterday! I stepped out WITHOUT my security blanket, and I took my new horse to a new place and ran next to him while he trotted! THAT TO ME WAS BETTER THAN ANY RIBBON, I wasn’t there to win ribbons! We got two ‘last place’ ribbons and the judge said sorry as she took a while to decide who got 4th and 5th place and I got 5th, but I said no don’t be, Its just fantastic to be here!! Actually this weekend was full of achieving big steps, a few days before the show,I called jasper up to feed him, I was in the paddock and he came TROTTING up to me, this now days freaks me out and I normally run the other direction, or I don’t stray too far from the gate, but he was trotting so softly and gently that I stood there and let him trot all the way up to me! While I was feeding jasper some hay and it was a beautifully sunny day(I had been struck with the flu) I thought It would be nice to stay out in the sun for a bit, I actually crouched down next to jasper just patting his forehead and felt safe, so I stayed there for a while just sitting in front of him.
I know not every day will be perfect, I know I will never get over my accident, I know that I will never be the confident person around horses that I used to be. BUT I cannot forget that I WAS a good rider beforehand I am still that same person, and I WILL NOT let the fear stop me from doing what I love. With the help and support of my mum and Fiona Dearing, I have been able to achieve so much since my accident. Life wont be normal again (living in pain everyday and having fear in the back of your mind) but it’s the way life is now.