Getting Schooled & Understanding Fear, Part 1

The anticipated cross-country schooling day was here. It was time to head to the Little Downham where I will eventually ride my test for the Wobbleberry Challenge.

It's been awhile since my last outing with my trainer and I wanted to show her how hard I've been to working to develop my legs and my seat. After 5 months of riding 5-6x a week, I finally felt like something was happening down there.  I can tell you my legs have been sore for MONTHS. 

Out of the phases in eventing, cross-country is the most thrilling and the one that gives me the most mental grief, but not for the obvious reasons. 

It's not the galloping nor the jumping nor the combo of the two. I've hunted on a strange horse with limited brakes in a 50+plus field with people I don't know and have jumped everything.   "Point horse, keep eyes up,  legs on either side of the horse" and go. I've been on cross country hacks where we jump everything in front of us. So I know I can do it but the question is...

Can I do it alone? 

This is the first time I will direct a galloping horse over a course of 20+jumps for at least 5 minutes.   Let's ponder that from the perspective of a first time eventer. 

Shit balls. 

Not only is it getting around safely or frankly, just getting around, it is being the leader. It is about the partnership with your horse, it is about some serious leg on and driving them forward. One a personal note, it's also trying not to vomit from nerves; I have been greatly heartened to hear many top event riders also suffer from this affliction. 

It is learning not to let the fear and anticipation over-ride the brave pants that you put on. It is about finding those brave pants and pulling them up to your eyeballs while also wearing the bra of courage so all areas are covered.   It's also knowing the types of fear so you can best prepare yourself. There are 2 types of fear.

                                                     Instinctual + fear of the unknown. 

Instinctual protects us from harm.  This originates from our caveman days when we had to protect our youngins and survive from serious threats,  you know, like dinosaurs. We honed our spider senses to ensure we kept alive, which is still within us today, for the most part.  Instinctual fear is what kept my daughters and me alive when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit us. On the approach, I sensed he was going too fast, I knew something wasn't right and because of that, I  was able to slam on the brakes and save lives. 

Fear of the unknown is exactly that, we fear the unknown. We have no idea what is going to happen.  We visualize, we analyze, we purpose, we discuss, we have an inkling but we can never predict what will happen. We just don't know. This is the mystery of life and since we can't predict when we are going to die, we have an obligation to ourselves and our families to live each day fully. 

I have seen fear show up when I teach handstands in a yoga class. In order to support someone's journey towards a handstand, we look at fear and work on the components to lessen those fears. It's not always quick, the progression to the goal can take some time, but knowing how to diminish some elements of what is causing the fear is the key to success. 

 Whether it's doing a handstand or jumping a fence, fear can present the same way. How we deal with it is the key. 

Whether it's doing a handstand or jumping a fence, fear can present the same way. How we deal with it is the key. 

 

Riding cross country has elements of both fears for me. As a Mother, self-preservation is high on my list of priorities. I have a family that I want to be around for. In order to lessen the instinctual fear we take preventative measures such as body protectors, proper helmets, we train and put preparations in place. We ride a good horse, we work with a trainer and we stay on top of our tack and equipment etc. These all help to lessen the instinctual fear so we are both protected and confident. Then we can deal with Fear of the Unknown. 

I have no frigging idea what is going to happen on the day but here are my two biggies.

1. I will pull up because I fear we are going slightly out of control and won't approach the jump correctly. This will lead to me being unseated and doing a tumble hurting all the bones in my body which do not bounce anymore. To clarify further, it is not the falling off rather it is the moment of complete uncertainty when you know something bad is happening and you have no idea how to stop it. Like those horrible dreams when you experience yourself falling and can't do anything about it?  It's THAT moment and you just pray you are alive on the other side.

2. The other is that I will pull up because I've over-worried myself into thinking I can't do it, that I don't have the balls to get around a course, that I will let everyone down. That I will then start a cycle of talk in my head of 'I'm not good enough' which will spiral into horrible icky feelings and into a bottle of whiskey.  This is old childhood stuff that has taken me years to look at and address.  It is my roller bag of 'stuff' that follows me everywhere and yes, you have one too that is unique to you. These roller bags, while often feel like a burden, are also a blessing when we learn they don't have to control our lives, rather we learn how to deal with it, flick the switch and engage qualities like perseverance, dedication, and our will to keep moving forward to our dreams. Trust me, the roller bag does decrease in size each time we TRY. 

Eventing is not for the faint of heart. It is a brutal sport and for some damn reason, I love it. 

This is why the Wobbleberry Challenge is good for me. I am doing something that I have loved for years and actually doing something about it. The best part is that I'm also raising money for seriously ill kids. Have you donated to my cause yet? Please support, we'd really appreciate any donation!

It is pushing me into the heaviest mental game of my life. Every time I ride, sorry let me re-phrase,  every time I ride or take a lesson with my trainer she pushes my mental game. My self-doubt game is strong but my love for eventing is stronger. It is what makes me show up, day after day with my shit, my insecurities, my frozen shoulder, the constant aches and pains and my limited budget( horses are expensive). My love for the sport, the desire to see what I'm capable of and the memory of Hannah forces me to face the jitters because I know the value of this journey far outweighs my meager complaints.  

We went off to our first session of Cross country schooling. 

Thank goodness Frog was so polite as my damn legs that I was so proud of basically went to shit.  It was rather embarrassing however my trainer put us through a lovely warm up with Frog jumping everything with ease and eagerness. Honestly, he was so good. 

After about 20mins my legs felt like they started to work again. My trainer continued with some through lovely combinations, included the dreaded ditch. We went through the water and we jumped stuff I've never faced. She linked jumps for us to build the effect of a course and Frog didn't put a foot wrong. I think he knows I'm still a little unsure and is still holding my hand over the jumps. 

 

It was a great first experience, Little Downham is a welcoming course and aside from riding the course like a show-jumper( must work on that) I loved it. Frog was so damn good and a testament to the owner's hard work and training with him. I would not be where I am as a rider without them both. Frog does have an engine that can go up a couple of gears but he stayed very steady giving me loads of confidence which is all this Wobbleberry can ask for.  We are getting there slowly but surely but not without the ups and downs. Some of my groom skills need developing and my horse handling may not always be the strongest but I don't give up.  The one thing I've learned from teaching handstands for so many years, this is key to putting fear back in the corner and not letting it lead the way. 

Thanks for reading!

Love, Tahnee

part 2: When you part ways, coming soon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Stressage to Dressage

The trainer had decided it was time to focus on dressage. Dressage being the first element of the 3 in eventing and on a side note, my least favorite. 

Dressage is often called the ballet of the equestrian world.  It is 'the highest expression of horse training'( so says FEI);  it is incredibly difficult, powerful and only interesting if you actually know what's going on.

I have never studied dressage nor used a dressage saddle, not practiced the movements and yet dressage is necessary to ensure your horse is moving right, effectively and with impulsion in all disciplines. Ideally the better at dressage, the better you are at riding.

With the intent on dressage, it means long painful and very frustrating lessons in the saddle with legs that ache for days.  I use parts of my legs I don't think my legs even know exist. 

To take a dressage test also means learning the test. At best I can barely remember what I did yesterday. 

My problem is not understanding what is being asked of me: more leg, more bend, more impulsion, MORE CONTACT. I get this.

My problem is execution. 

My seat in the saddle is still weak, my pelvis is slightly twisted, my left side collapses, I have a frozen shoulder and knee issues. Can you imagine if I didn't do yoga? I shudder to think. 

 

Dressage is the element that I find the most difficult. It requires absolute presence; you cannot let your mind wander.   The same applies when doing a headstand in yoga; alignment, presence, and awareness are key.  If you throw yourself up, you risk injuring the tiny vetabrea we like to call your neck.  A headstand without proper alignment is potentially dangerous; the same goes with eventing. It is imperative you have a responsive, willing and listening horse. With show jumping, I can get away with a certain amount of lack in my riding ability, mostly because the jumps are small.

Point horse and jump. I cannot fake dressage. 

I am ill prepared for what I've chosen to do in this Wobbleberry Challenge. I don't own a proper riding jacket, nor a stock( still trying to figure that one out) my one show shirt is over 7 years old, my pair of beige jodhpurs do not stretch and fit poorly inside my boots. *took me years to realize I'm a breeches only girl. I'm seriously lacking in the equestrian kit, however, if you need yoga leggings, let's just say I stopped count at +20. Fortunately, my trainer lent me a beautiful vintage Caldene jacket and a stock that may have needed some ironing. Just saying. 

After many session of working 'dressage', our test was booked. My trainer decided since we were making the drive, it made sense to do not one test, but TWO! Great. How is my memory to cope? 

I wasn't too nervous, mostly because in dressage there are no elements to jump. This causes much ease inside my stomach. And why did I pick eventing?!

My trainer works me in the warm-ups which is slightly sadistic that I am afraid to admit I both like and hate. She works me so hard that I want to get off and cry. She doesn't give me an inch, not one. It's work. every. stride, every damn one.  It gets the grey matter in my head focused and I dislike it because it's bloody hard work. I feel like I can never do what she is asking, all I do is turn more and more red in the face, not a look I like and probably why I stay away from hot yoga. *I'm only half kidding here. 

With my mantra being 'not to stay no',  this means I attempt everything she asks of me, even as I'm suffering and dying on the inside cursing myself for the immense love I have for this sport. 

Honestly, I'm becoming to think yoga is easier than dressage. 

There was no let-up, even on the way into the test.

Work. Every. Stride.  

 Moments before the first test.

Moments before the first test.

Well, we didn't disgrace ourselves. I remembered the test and all the movements and I may not have saluted the judge properly but I think my big sloppy grin of relief hid that fact. 

 Starting to look the part but seriously, how handsome is the Ginger?!

Starting to look the part but seriously, how handsome is the Ginger?!

During a short break, basically to find the toilet before back to the warm-up for round 2. After another short agonizing warm -up of  'will I ever get this?' we went into for our second test. 

 The closest I have to smiling. 

The closest I have to smiling. 

We made a small mistake, which was totally my fault and spoke to the kind judge after. She gave me a few tips like saluting the judge without the whip in hand, which I thought was a valuable piece of information for the future. She also reminded me to breathe and after looking at the photos from the day, I pretty much grimaced the whole way round. 

Aside from that we did pretty good, in fact, we did bloody brilliant! We placed 1st in BOTH OF OUR CLASSES!  AND won a special prize for having the highest Wobbleberry score. *in fairness, there was only one other wobbleberry and she WON her class too! Win win for the Wobbleberries!

My first dressage experience was amazing. My hope was to do well, but I wasn't expecting to place first! Twice! The whole process is  completely addicting however I have realized I've set the bar quite high for myself now. 

The venue at Fenning Farm was lovely, the cake was gorgeous which I've realized is quite important when attending shows and everyone was so nice. 

 I cannot thank the Owner/Trainer enough for all the work she does with us. She was a brilliant groom who definitely inspired me to want to groom for her one day; I still have quite a bit to learn but I love it. Her coaching was the key to total success and because the Ginger is so wonderful I want to do a good job with him.  Those agonizing hours in the saddle were worth it and Frog was a superstar. I'm beginning to think as long as I can keep the vomit down in cross-country, we will be able to complete our goal of an 80T.

Time to prepare for cross country training. Even as I write this my hands are starting to sweat.  WIsh us luck, I'm gonna need it!

 

Saying no isn't an option

The last time I show-jumped in an arena, it was a height of 80cm. I came off at fence 4, a lovely little rickashaw over the left shoulder into the ground.

Humiliating. 

That was over 6 years ago. Haven't done it since.

As show-jumping is part of eventing the trainer decided it was time to head off for some clear round show-jumping to gain some experience at a big center. We've been working on jumping at the yard but now the time had come for the big-time. Just kidding! Clear round show-jumping is basically practice, but the jumps are set up like an actual competition, so in other words, pressure is a lot less. 

 easy, right?

easy, right?

I had a notion I was going to be jumping 70'cms; it's a height that I'm comfortable and am confident for the most part to get around. I may not win style points or get a clear round but I will stay in the saddle until the end.

We had a lesson the day before in preparation. 

Death would have been easier. 

I don't think I've ever jumped so many questions; questions being the jumps. 

Angles, skinnies, corners, doubles, parallels, barrels and everything and anything. I'm pretty sure she snuck the doubles up to a height of 90cm as well. 

 more scary jumps hidden from view

more scary jumps hidden from view

When I started this challenge I made a promise not to say no to anything. I would not let myself talk myself out of being able to do this. The trainer is boss and I listened and do. This is basically my mantra in every one of our lessons otherwise, I will over analyze myself right out of the saddle and never ride again. 

One of my new tricks is not to look at the jumps from the perspective of sitting on a horse, rather I look at the jumps from the perspective from the horse's knees. This is done by video tapping a session and then watch it back later. When you see the horse literally 'step' over them, they aren't as scary. This has been a key in switching my mind from seeing all jumps as 4* size to something actually do-able. 

In the lesson, I was trying to see the jumps from Frog's perspective which would be to just 'pop' over them. Hopefully, it works.

 The trainer had me go and I mean GO. 

More, again, more, don't stop, keep going, over this and that and back to this, jump that, do this, jump that, more of that and now this and OMG.

I did have a mild panic in the saddle as it was a lot for my poor nervous system.  Remember I'm a wobbleberry which means I am a nervy rider and Frog was getting excited as he loves to jump. There was a moment when I realized I was jumping a 90cm double combination( first time EVER) combined with Frog's powerful back-end surge over the jump. It did a number on me especially as we were approaching a tight corner and a skinny.

PANIC!  

My trainer is good at what she does. She let me pause and breathe and allowed me a few moments of  'tahnee-speak' which is when I over-analyze everything while she stands there and smiles at me. Then she makes me... 

DO IT AGAIN. 

But it works and I almost vomit from both relief and exertion. 

The next day we headed off to Keysoe for clear round showjumping. Admittedly quite nervous but I trust Frog and my trainer. We arrived just as it was kicking off so it was still nice and quiet.  This is perfect when you don't want many witnesses around to see your many mistakes or falling off, always a possibility when a nervy rider. 

 Last minute advice by the 'boss'. 

Last minute advice by the 'boss'. 

The warm-up was good, partly due to there being only 1 other person in the area.  I felt like I was 'riding', getting that leg on, working every stride, making Frog listen, like I knew what I was doing. The reality is that Frog knows his job exceptionally well and basically is riding me around.

 Before too long, it was time to go in for my rounds. 8 jumps done twice with a wee break inbetween. I wanted to get it all done and dusted as my stomach couldn't handle much more. 

 The face says it all!

The face says it all!

2 double clears! The feeling was amazing and I didn't come off which was my main priority nor did I vomit in the saddle, always a priority. It was the perfect entry back into the world of showjumping and I'm starting to feel this challenge is quite achievable!

 job well done! 

job well done! 

Proof we did it! It was another experience of gaining more confidence in the saddle and more importantly that the prep work you do at home is the key to success out. Thanks again to the owner/trainer of Frog who has been pivotal in my growth as a rider in the saddle and keeping me moving forward in the Wobbleberry Challenge! 

Next up, stressage aka Dressage!

 

Some jumps, a buck and a little Yee-haw!

The Ginger Wonder Horse and I have a list of things that set us into a mad panic. The type of panic that makes the hands sweat, the tummy explode with butterflies and flight mode goes into over-drive.  That type of panic.  Actually, aside from the Ginger being an extremely good alien spotter, the nerves are entirely my own. The Ginger's first priority is food. Always. 

As we are progressing on our Wobbleberry Challenge, the owner decided it was time to cross country school at Keysoe Equestrian Center as one day soon,  I will have to ride a cross country course in a competition. Oh my nerves. 

A trip to the school requires a trip in the lorry. This means loading horses. I am claustrophobic.  This means more panic. 

The General( wanna-be boss) + the Ginger( the actual boss) were our equine companions for the day. The General is a class eventer also loves his job and is very good at it, even at the age of 18( hope for us all!) He and the Ginger are old buddies which made me feel better about travelling. 

I have zero experience with loading horses. Not only is this my first time loading, there is also my first time taking a horse to a schooling session and my first trip on a big lorry. I took calmers and didn't drink coffee before I left the house. I'm not kidding.

 At least one of us is calm. 

At least one of us is calm. 

I have learned in previous loading clinics that you have to load like you mean it.  I marched up that ramp like I was marching for Britian keeping a calm demeanor outwardly while inwardly freaking out.   Frog is a superstar and didn't even blink. I think he may have even yawned. 

 The Ginger always cool, ready for action.

The Ginger always cool, ready for action.

As we pulled in, my butterflies went into over-drive.    Oh god, it's happening.  

 I'm supposed to jump these?

I'm supposed to jump these?

In our warm-up I held back, not putting enough leg on nor not getting Frog engaged. If I'm totally honest, I was so nervous as I've never been schooling for cross country. My experience with these type of jumps have been on hunts where you close your eyes, pray like hell, keep your legs on either side of the horse and hope you and your mount are still standing at the end of the day.

The reality sunk in, this is it. This is cross country training, this is real. Those are the jumps you will face. You are an eventer now. This ensued a little conversation with myself that went something like this.

Don't be an ass. Ride exactly as you would at home. Settle, exhale. Go. Move on. He's done this before. Be the leader. You won't die so settle the fuck down. Leg on. Work every stride. WORK EVERY STRIDE. Better. Nice. More. Ahhhhh. 

In no time, the owner, now officially in trainer mode had us popping over the jumps. 

Insert more freaking out here

The trainer does something which is quite helpful.  She says "Head over that piddly jump, then that other piddly little jump and that tinky little thing there. " Otherwise according to my brain, they are all are Burghley size.

As we got going around and popping over some piddly jumps,  I realised something very important. 

The Ginger has some power. 

Like the type of power that where the words 'holy shit' arise.  We started to sail around the course getting faster and faster which was both exhilarating and completely scary.  The trainer did not hold back or introduce this to me gently.  She wasted no time showing me what I would encounter on an actual course from the water element, the ledges going both up and down and the ditches. I'm not a fan of ditches and the Ginger is suspect of them too. 

The Ginger however, was a champ taking a lead off the General until he decided enough was enough. He was the actual leader and must demonstrate as such. Then the trainer had us taking jumps in combos and I was thinking 'I can handle this, this is kinda fun'. 'Progressing nicely', I thought, 'way to go!' down through the water 'easy' and up the ledge. 'Fine, no problems'. Back down the ledge, canter through the water element and over the tire jump

THEN HOLY SHIT, YEE-HAW!!!! WAS THAT A BUCK AND ANOTHER?  AND A RUN AWAY  RIGHT TO THE ACTUALLY C*3 SIZE JUMPS AND WOULD YOU FRIGGIN STOP?!?!?! AND ARE YOU REARING NOW WITH EXCITEMENT? OH LORDY.

We stopped. We exhaled, me particularly. We walked back to the Trainer whom I'm pretty sure was delighted that I a) didn't come off and b) didn't crash into the dressage competitions.  Once she saw we( me) calm-er she had us DO IT AGAIN.  And so we did and it was brilliant.  The owner can't remember the last time the Ginger had been out schooling so his excitement was to be expected. I was excited because I felt like I was evolving into an actual eventer rider. I didn't panic like I normally would have and I wanted to do more! This was huge for me. 

I came away from this experience with even more trust in the Ginger; he may be strong but he is also respectful. He goes from Yee-haw to Yawn within seconds. This is the greatest confidence booster a wobbleberry can have; he looks after me too.

 The palpable relief on my face compared to the total confidence of the General & the Trainer after the schooling session.

The palpable relief on my face compared to the total confidence of the General & the Trainer after the schooling session.

We crossed quite a few things off the nervy bucket list and I left feeling quietly accomplished.  The whole experience was super and I look forward to more trips out getting closer to achieving eventing success raising money in the Wobbleberry Challenge for Willberry Wonder Pony!

 

 

 

Staying grounded through the Full Moon

One aspect of the Wobbleberries that many of us hold in common is nerves; we come with a roller bag full of them. 

We also share the common love of horses and doing great things in the world; it is this love that drives us forward to over-coming our nerves to complete the Wobbleberry challenge for Willberry Wonder Pony.

Nerves happen. They arise from a variety of reasons. The experience of nerves are mostly the same no matter what makes you shake in your boots a little or alot.  

Cold sweat, butterflies in the tummy, negative self-talk & self-doubt which leads to questioning ability, sweaty palms, runs to the toilet, can't eat, can't stop eating etc. 

Nerves can be felt more deeply on the approach to the full moon, which is happening this Sunday.  The full moon can affect our sleep patterns and we can feel ungrounded, unsettled with bouts of anxiety added in. The thought of actually riding, let alone jumping is enough to send a person back to bed. 

I experienced the worst of my nerves recently in a lesson. It didn't help the night before I slept badly (full moon wake up calls at 4:32exactly) had an extra cup of strong coffee which gave me the jitters and a lunch that was light-weight at best. 

The full moon has a gravitational pull on the earth which causes big tides in the ocean. We can feel this gravitational effect on our emotions, thus the feeling of being 'not in body'. Full moons are great for contemplation and for solitude time. It's an opportunity to take a quiet step back to re-visit your intentions and goals. It's normal to feel slightly anti-social through a full moon; you may also feel more tired. What's key is listening to your body, your needs right now and not to take mishaps personally, like forgetting to turn the slow-cooker on in the morning of a big day. It helps to laugh it off and blame it on the moon. 

If you are sensitive to the full moon, here is a list of things to help keep you grounded until she wanes again. 

 full moon fever got you mad?

full moon fever got you mad?

1. Turn off your social media 1hr at least before bed. The light of your screen can trigger awake responses in your brain. Turn it off, drink sleepy time tea, find a book and a blanket and let yourself actually settle down for sleep. Don't get wound up in other people's lives, let yourself digest your own day and experience. You will sleep better for it. Re-visit your goals and your intentions, chat with your beloved, do your gratitude list. This will prepare your mind for a good night rest and the next morning.

2. Rub your feet with oil. I use organic sesame oil with quite a few drops of rose aromatherapy oil, but any calming oil will do. Doing this right before bed helps to relax the whole body and also makes for happy feet. Having a bath first is also a lovely idea. I sometimes bring a sneaky wine in. 

3. Breath. When you are driving, riding, walking, sitting, waiting for tea, each and every time you can think of it, take a breath.  Allow it to be steady. Many times we aren't aware of our breathing patterns, start to focus on how you breathe allowing the inhale and exhale to be equal in length and depth. A few minutes of this and you will notice a sense of calm that follows.  I prefer this calm to the shouting at my kids in the morning when we need to GO!

4. Move your body. Go for a hack on your horse,  walk in nature,  go swimming, work in your garden. Movement without exertion. Try to avoid high energy impact places and people right now that will overwhelm the body and mind. The key is to move the body, but not over stimulate the adrenals and nervous system. You do want to release nervous energy by doing something, not jacking up your system into flight mode. Now is not the time to drink whiskey and head to a dance club, think long walks in nature followed by a visit to a quiet pub for conversation and chips.  You will thank yourself the next day, trust me I speak from experience. 

5. Listen to what you need. It may be rest. It may be a run. It may be a dance party in your kitchen. Tune into the deeper messages the full moon offers, it may mean you take a rare afternoon nap, or say no to a girl's night out. Anxiety rears its head leading up to the full moon so I cut back on coffee, increase my water intake,  unwind earlier, allow myself to feel tired, eat good chocolate if necessary( always necessary), write in my daily eventing journal and know that soon the moon will turn again.

 The best way to unwind thoughts in the mind...Notebook from Stamford Notebooks. 

The best way to unwind thoughts in the mind...Notebook from Stamford Notebooks. 

 

Take heed of what is arising for you. Be patient with yourself and others( they may be feeling it too). Nourish yourself with good food and time in nature. Let yourself write it out. Be kind to yourself and don't take on more then you can handle. Most importantly, the moon will wane and we will back to 'normal' again soon! 

Happy Full Moon Fever!

 

 

 

 

 

Rain or shine, you gotta get on with it.

A while back I had asked the owner of The Ginger Wonder Horse if she would ever have an indoor school. 

She looked at me and then stated rather vehemently;

Tahnee, we are EVENTERS.

The sport of eventing is like a triathlon in that it has 3 stages, the poetic dressage (when done well) the precision of show-jumping and the exhilarating cross-country phase. It is incredibly demanding and requires one to be a bit of a bad-ass + adrenaline junkie.  Eventing is a sport in which all elements must be faced and met with determination + grit, all in partnership with a horse. 

This is why I love it. Outside in nature with one of nature's most beautiful animals. Frankly,  nothing beats being on a beautiful estate with gorgeous landscape and watching galloping horses go by at speed. It is simply awesome; even better when the sun is shining and a glass of pimms is in hand.

This week, I have been battling a small dose of SADS, that damn seasonal affectional disorder that arrives during dark dreary days of winter and creates a sense of lethargy, disengagement and lack of motivation. To survive in Canada during winters of -30c, I had a sunlight lamp, drank a small glass of wine almost every night (to relax)and ingested vitamin D. There might have been a morning or two where I started the day with baileys and coffee. Just sayin.

 Riding in the cold in Saskatchewan and not to worry, one of the only times I have ever rode without a helmet. 

Riding in the cold in Saskatchewan and not to worry, one of the only times I have ever rode without a helmet. 

With all phases of eventing being completed outside, logic stands that one might also train outside. This is is fantastic when the weather is balmy and beautiful but when the reality is pissing rain, one has a head-cold and feeling rather unmotivated, enthusiasm can be hard to muster up. The preference is obviously cake and tea. At home. In bed. With blankets. And Jilly Cooper. 

When it came to having a lesson in the pouring rain, there is no no.  There was only a get on with it and time to ramp it up attitude.  With the rain starting to bucket down and SADS trying to cling to me like an old boyfriend dumped who doesn't take the hint, we embarked on our first lesson in well over 6 weeks. 

The rain did not hold back. This is England after all, it had to put a good appearance in for the Queen I imagine. 

We warmed up. It poured. We WORKED. EVERY. STRIDE till I was red in the face and huffing and puffing. We shortened the slippery reins (raining remember), we legged on and any lingering remnants of SADS got kicked out the back door.

Then we jumped.

 It still poured. We jumped some more. The school was turning into a lake and I was turning into a steam bath. We added some height to the jumps and changed the direction.

The rain never let up. 

I was screaming in my head  "WE ARE EVENTERS". The rain continued to pour. 

Each time we took canter to the jumps I kept reminding myself "I LOVE THIS".  And still the rain.

I love eventing, I really do but I am a bit of a self-proclaimed wimpy pants; add some crap weather, low energy and a dodgy hip, leg and shoulder and given half a chance I will talk myself out of riding. Yet, I love riding. Weird I know. 

When I started my lessons last year the owner I made a pack with myself that I wasn't going to entertain any negative thoughts. NONE. I promised myself I would never say no to what was being asked of me. 
I'm doing this for a purpose greater then myself so I can't allow limited thoughts and belief interfere with my Wobbleberry Challenge.

 *disclaimer. The owner's top priorities are both safety and well-being for horse and rider. Everything we do has that at the absolute forefront so I feel 100% safe with what she asks of me.  

A strong mind-set is paramount. It is a tough muscle to build. Decades of a yoga practice has helped considerably with understanding this process;  the great gift of yoga is that it develops mind focus and control.  You learn over time to recognize the difference in your thought patterns and voices and learn how to control them.  My yoga practice has finally given me scope to refuse any negatives 'stops' that attempt to come into my head.

And you know what? It's really working!!! 

When the owner/trainer finished the lesson with "Right. Pick up right canter and head over that jump"

 I didn't hesitate. There was no no. THAT jump is the skinny of which we had not attempted that day. That skinny is the one where I have this weird panic that my leg is going to somehow come off but I set my lips (like this helps) and we picked up our canter to the jump. After we cleared it, the words that were sweet music to my ears "that was a good 90cm, well done."

 Soaked to the F*&king bone, red faced and yet totally thrilled! 

Soaked to the F*&king bone, red faced and yet totally thrilled! 

 

Although I was soaked to the bone, it was a brilliant lesson in what real eventers experience. It might rain the day we go to compete. I felt my own eventing muscle get stronger through that process and my confidence in my riding ability growing. Big thanks to The Ginger's owner for making sure we had the lesson (I did ho hum about the weather if I'm totally honest); without her encouraging us, our dream to complete in an 80T wouldn't be the reality it is and I wouldn't be crushing some of the smaller goals I have. 90cm!! Woo!

Next week. Spurs. Eeks! 

 

 

 

 

Building a new muscle called discipline

When I drive everyday to Frog the chestnut wonder horse, who is also my first ginger, the magnitude of what I'm doing and trying to achieve, quite overwhelms me.

I question myself.                                 I doubt myself.

I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. 

When we are working on canter transitions or attempting a jumping seat or even as I muck out his stall,  I question exactly what the hell I am doing. The mind has a tendency to question your aims by off-loading a barrage of questions on constant rotation such as what am I doing? 

It will ask you to dig deep in the inner vortex of your bones and the courage that sits in your heart to find answers.

It will make you question everything about what you are doing even as it hums with the vibration of rightness. 

It's been over 30 days since I've started this process. 30 days+ of driving 20mins each way to muck out Frog's stable, exercise him and do his feeds including the dreaded hay-net.  30+ days of adjusting to a new lifestyle, of a new routine, of establishing a partnership, of discovering hay not only in my boots but also down my pants. 30 days of building arm muscles that would make a pole dancer proud.  30 days of re-discovering  a long forgotten muscle called discipline. 

 *after looking after 4 competition horses in the pouring rain, dealing with Frog and his cut on his leg and still we smile. 

*after looking after 4 competition horses in the pouring rain, dealing with Frog and his cut on his leg and still we smile. 

 

I understand the process of working towards a goal and  yet I resist it. I battle the monkey mind in my head questioning every aspect of it especially if I'm able enough for the task.  The task to complete an 80cm event this year in 2017 with the Wobbleberries.

Full disclaimer. I have never evented before nor have I ever looked after a proper event horse.

If so many people hadn't had donated to my challenge( THANK YOU!!!) and I didn't have such a great horse and owner team supporting me, believe me when I say I seriously considered dropping out. That thought has been on constant rotation initially when I was building the new muscle of discipline. As a yoga teacher, I work on a yoga mat or at a desk working at yoga; it been years since I've done hard labour in a yard.   My desire to dump this challenge isn't because I don't want to do this, or believe that I can but because the resistance is the wall that calls you to climb over it to see how vast your potential is. 

To overcome being stuck in our mind and body, to move forward to our path of goals  requires the heavy discipline of the grunt work, the hard labour, the constant application of ourselves during the very mundane tasks we want to avoid. Mucking out is not glamorous, work every stride with leg on is damn hard work and yet, myself and thousands of other horse owners do it every. single. day.

Why?

For the love of it.

And that moment when you fly over a jump or when you receive your first rosette or simply when your horse comes in for a cuddle.

 This makes it all worth it, sunset rides on a cold winter evening.  

This makes it all worth it, sunset rides on a cold winter evening.  

So we continue, sometimes with a grumble, with some lingering resistance, but with a willingness to continue because the right path does that to you. We do the work because of that moment with discipline being the pathway to a greater experience of it.

You know it. You feel it, even when you have doubts and want to stop. You won't though, because you know inherently you. have. to. do. this. That's the right path.

Changing the mind game is as Nick Skelton said 'just get on with it'. Just get on with it through good and bad days because they are just days, some are sunny and some aren't. However each one of those days is building the discipline that shapes you into a better and more stronger version of yourself. 

So get on with it and I'll see you at the finish line. 

 

 

 

The Wobbleberry Rally Session 2

We were blessed with the coldest day in Cambridge for our second Wobbleberry Rally but that didn't stop our wobbleberries who came ready for action!

Our 2 instructors Sara and Frances were excellent and extremely professional in their deliveries of information and instruction. 

In the classroom session, we were reminded of the importance of safety both on and off the ground. This is key as many of us, are not as limber anymore need to up to date with all equipment. Frances started her talk with this which was an incredibly important reminder. Horses are prey animals and we are asking them to do things they wouldn't normally do. To enjoy the sport for both horse and rider, it is of upmost importance we keep up to date with safety checks, helmets, all tack and body protectors and always be mindful when around horses.

One key phrase I walked away with is to have 'a fresh set of eyes' looking over your tack and horse for you.  Accidents can happen when we get complacent so having a qualified coach is one small way to keep your and your horse safe. 

 Getting a qualified professional to check your tack will help keep you and your horse safe.

Getting a qualified professional to check your tack will help keep you and your horse safe.

Another reminder was to keep checking your saddle as your training progresses which wasn't something I had thought of and yet, makes total sense. As the horses get more fit their muscles will change and develop. Having a saddle that fits your woolly mammoth in the winter is different then your slick riding machine in the summer! Please stay on top of this please. 

Equally important are the right feeds for your horse. Getting a feed technician can make a huge difference to your horse's behaviour and success. This goes for us Wobbleberries as well.  In my facebook group, Wobbleberry Wellness, I offer health and lifestyle tips to ensure we keep vitality and strength up as we move forward with our challenge.  This challenge will demand alot from us and keeping fit, well and healthy is key to success.

Another great tip about the actual competition day, is to know your course before hand. This means getting to your chosen location and having a good peek around.  By making the course as familiar as possible will save one from experiencing extra stress on the day.  With nerves to be already high, this is a great tip to make the day smooth sailing. 

  • Know your course and walk if often
  • Where to park
  • Where the Loo is 
  • Where the office is, to get your helmet check etc.
  • Where your favourite tack shop vendor is if you need back-up on the day
  • Where the champagne hut is after you've completed your day!!

Sara also offered some great advice over season planning. Check in every 4 months to see where you are at and make adjustments as needed, ground changes, weather etc. This is a great thing to do with a mentor or your trainer as well. She offered these SMART GOALS which can help with your plans.

S - Specific. Be specific about your goal and intention. We are aiming for 80T, not C*1, although the pressure will feel the same!

M - Measured. Plan for BE80, not Burghley. 

A - Achievable. Keep the goals achievable, work within your means so you continue to succeed.

R - Realistic. Burghley, no. 80T's yes. 

T - Time phase. Manage your time and keep on track. 

Organization is a must. Frances made a great suggestion to use a diary. I love sitting down every Sunday and planning my week of what Frog and I will do in terms of training and exercise. I bought one specific for Frog where I write down anything and everything that has happened from his recent cut on the leg to when I clean tack. By writing a few bits down everyday, you can look back at what you did to see what worked and what didn't.  This will also help your trainer continue to build your program.

Sara, during the flat session had everyone watch what was happening in the transition exercise.  I love doing stuff like this because you develop not only your obversation skills but can learn alot about body language, position, movement, balance and rhythm. She also offered that it's important to look for the small successes in your sessions, not what you did wrong. This will continue to build up confidence which we wobbleberries need!

Frances had everyone crack on in the pole work session. She made sure that everyone knew this type of work did not have to be done in a designated arena and could be done in a field at home, which is great news for those that were once happy hackers and now eventers!

Our wobbleberries brought their enthusiam and a great mix of mounts. Many of the  horses coming back into work, or trying new horses and also some trying new disciplines. Aside from surviving the cold temperatures, a horse losing a shoe and getting it repaired that morning, everyone did excellent and it was a great day out.  Everyone who showed up are well on the way to achieving their eventing goals and hopefully having some fun along the way!

Big thanks to Georgie for organizing the rallies and to the two wonderful instructors. Sara is a BE accredited coach who will be on site and available on the eventing 80T days, so make sure to ask her if you need any help. She was very clear to everyone to take advantage of not only her, but any of the coaches that will be onsite. This will be a great help on the day so please seek them out. 

We are looking to do specific discipline rallies next so stay tuned and happy wobbling!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Wobbleberry Rally!!!

The first Wobbleberry Rally got off to a great start on December 20th. As I drove into Cambridgeshire Horse Sport Academy in Milton, there were quite a few horse boxes with some eager heads peaking out which made it feel very exciting. The weather on the day, while fresh was gloriously clear and sunny.

The day began with a short classroom session with Georgie Horrell introducing the two qualified instructors, Sara Horrell and Frances Murray who explained what to expect on the day out at eventing, as well as the plan for the day. 

Each wobbleberry received a pack with important information inside including a BE 90 dressage test and a “Things to remember when eventing” sheet. Also included was an observation form that we kindly ask everyone to fill out who attended so we can continue to make these rallies and training the best we can.   Then it was time to mount up and get riding! 

 Getting ready!

Getting ready!

There were 2 riding sessions, dressage and a jumping session while one group observed. The group not riding were able to watch the progression of the mounted groups and get to know each other officially, and not just on Facebook!  Observing on the ground is a great way to watch how the instructors work and to learn the difference between what one might think is naughty behaviour in the saddle is actually the horse trying to figure out what is being asked of them. 

There were 3 phases for the the jumping course;  Francis had set up a series of poles to start which would enable her to watch the horses gait and straightness. This is also an effective way to watch the partnership between horse and rider.  Then it was off to canter 20m circles over poles which created more balance, suppleness and bend. What was great to see were the horses really getting the exercise and picking up their feet; there were a few launches over the poles which always creates a bit of excitement!

Finally it was as Frances called 'the wiggly bit' which is an alternate off-set cross poles to encourage the rider's seat, the bounce for the horse and build confidence in the saddle. One key phase I heard Frances call out was "Keep your eyes up; their his poles, not yours!" 

She also encouraged the use of fillers, which she left up to 'frighten' the rider( in the best way possible). The idea is that the more you practice what you will experience at a real show, the more confidence you will create during training sessions. Shows are hectic and overwhelming, preparing ourselves by working with different types of obstacles is key to keeping calm and collected when competing.

There was lots of great flat work happening with Sara who was encouraging movement and suppleness with response to aids. Some of the horses were experiencing their first time out in awhile and it was great to see how Sara kept gently encouraging the best out of horse and rider.  I think Julia Godbold is 'one to watch' in the upcoming months; she was cracking on!

I wasn't able to stay the rest of the day due to other committments but what I was able to witness was incredibly encouraging and I feel the riders felt the same. Everyone had big happy grins on their faces after and finishing an eventing 80 is now becoming a reality. Another highlight was the role reversal of having a few daughters on the ground supporting their Moms in the saddle!! Prizes were also given out at the end of the day, which is always a nice way to finish.

 

The next wobbleberry rally is December 28th with the two amazing instructors, Sara and Frances held at the same location. In order to keep quality and attentive care, we are keeping the groups small as we all build up the confidence. The wobbleberry rallies will be expanding into other regions shortly so please check with your reps. 

Thanks to Georgie for putting it together and everyone who contributed to making it a fantastic and educational day out. 

For more info on how to support, please visit Wobbleberries! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the impossible becomes the possible.

Have you experienced that feeling someone asks "what did you dream about when you were younger?" and you can't answer them?

I would shuffle my feet, avoiding the question. I would often lie. I couldn't tell the truth. My dream was simply not feasible. It was too unrealistic for words given my situation, a single kid living with her Dad. It wasn't a 'real' thing. It was too far-fetched of an idea.

I kept it hidden away for years.

Even though I was able to full-fill one part of that dream by owning a horse when I hit 40, my closet dream never came close to flourishing. 

 The day I became a horse owner!

The day I became a horse owner!

 

Recently a young girl died. We never met. During her last year she charged fearlessly forward against all the odds. She had a bucket list and determination. 

Read her amazing story here. Bring tissues.

She started a charity for cancer and lived as fully as she could given all the set-backs that she experienced. 

Her charity, Willberry the Wonder Pony involved the story of the  stuffed pony who had his own blog written from his perspective. They went everywhere together,  and he even went around Badminton, one of the greatest 4* events in the world. I was there this past May and was lucky to catch Ben's round as they went by.

While Hannah got sicker and sicker with bone cancer and other complications no one should go through, she also became more brave, courageous and inspirational with her fight to #kickingcancersbutt. She wanted to ensure no other kid experienced the depth of pain she endured. 

This past August at the tender age of 17, she moved on to greener pastures and died from her illness after a 18 month fight.

She left a legacy.  The sad passing of her death inspired many, including some older women to do something MORE.  If this young girl can face the horrors of her immense challenges with such optimism and positivity, then they thought 'so can we'. They got creative and "what would really challenge us and raise some money"??

And the wobbleberry challenge was born.

Because of Hannah Francis I get to full-fill a child-hood dream I never ever thought remotely possible. 

I'm going to event. 

Yes, I'm going after a far flung dream and the best part is raising money so a sick child can full-fill their horsey wish bringing some much deserved light to their life.

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What is a wobbleberry you ask?  

Generally someone over the age of  40 who is either unfit and or wimpy( my category). Most of us have done minimal to no jumping, can be a basket of nerves in the saddle and want to do something more.

For you non-horsey peeps, eventing is the ultimate challenge for horse and rider. It involves the precision of dressage, the exhilarating pace of cross country and the action of show-jumping. It is spectacularly awesome.

Hannah Francis was an eventer, who sadly lost her fight with a rare and an aggressive bone cancer.  Cancer affects everyone; no one is immune anymore. My Aunt died of bone and breast cancer. My Grannie had breast cancer and my Mom recently kicked lung cancer to the curb.

There was only one thing to do when I found this challenge, I jumped right in or on. *catch the pun?! And because I believe in it so much, I signed up to be a rep in my region AND launched the Wobbleberry Wellness program on facebook. Here I offer my years of experience in the yoga and wellness industry by giving free strengthening and flexibility exercises, yoga tips, nutritious recipes, and Ayurveda health tips to increase vitality and energy all for the Wobbleberry Challengers.  

Not only am I pushing my own buttons to see what I'm really and truly capable of in the saddle but I'm not only doing it for me. It's for the inspiration of Hannah, its' for other people that will be affected by cancer and it's for a child who has had their dreams dashed by the disease that they can still experience some of their wishes.  

Your contribution counts.

To read more of my story  and to make a donation for my challenge, please visit here.

I can't thank you enough for your consideration.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Remember, dreams can come true. 

#inspiredbyhannah #rideforhannah #wobbleberrychallenge