19, April, 2019

If you’ve ridden for long, especially as an adult you’ve doubtless been asked this question, and more than likely have asked yourself. Horse riding becomes challenging for all of us from time to time, no matter how successful or how all-encompassing your passion is. It’s expensive, time consuming, soul destroying and heart-breaking. You will struggle to pay your rent, give up weekends, curse your horse as you drag yourself out of bed as the rain lashes your windows, rain you can’t see because it’s still dark due to being ‘oh-my-god-it’s-early’ o’clock. You will prepare for months for a show only to have your horse pull a shoe on the morning of said event, and if you love horses, at some stage you will lose your best mate to injury, illness or age.

 I’ve tried to give up, really, I have. In my early 20’s I moved to the big smoke for a boy. First mistake. I thought that I’d be busy with my studies (anyone who knows me has dissolved into hysterical giggles at this point – while I did well academically, I was allergic to applying myself in any way) and be overwhelmed with all the stuff there is to do in a big city. Second mistake. I sold absolutely everything. Biggest mistake. I lasted about 2 months before I took the offer of a loan horse up, had to buy all my gear back at huge expense and I was soon driving over an hour each way just to have the chance to ride.

 Over the last six months, my resolve has been tested again. My older horse, the one I brought to the U.K. with me to fulfil my Olympic dreams will never compete the Grand Prix again. My younger horse, the horse who scored an 88% in his debut year and who I had visions of competing in Paris if not Tokyo on, has another 6 months in the field before we find out if his journey is over. I’ve got my weekends back and my family remember who I am. I can afford to go out for dinner occasionally with the friends who have stayed the distance. I’ve also gotten fat and unfit, but at least I have the time to get to the gym or go for a run. I’ve gone on our first overseas holiday with the family since moving to the U.K.

 Yet on Monday when I took Frankie from rehab to his holiday home, I took the chance to have a sit on Des. Des hasn’t been properly schooled in over a year and it’s at least six months since I sat on a horse who knew how to go on the bit. As I settled in the saddle and took up the contact, wrapped my legs around him and asked him to take me, I felt like I was coming home. And Des just danced. Forward and back, leg yield and half pass and the flying changes all the way down to two times. This week he is being viewed by a couple of potential Para riders. Whoever chooses this special horse will be in for a treat and I sincerely hope I’m there to cheer them on next year in Japan.

 Anyway, the end result is that I know I’ll never quit. Someone will have to chisel me off to make sure I’m not late for my own funeral.

A horse being calmly ridden in an indoors arena, seen from behind

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