Sunday, 15 January 2012


My mother always told me that if I didn't understand something, or couldn't do something, I must ask for help.  So when my confidence dropped, I did just that.

Once I started riding again, I began joining the weekly farm lessons, run by Gaynor's daughter Olivia. The lessons were (and still are) brilliant, because Olivia knew my weaknesses, and just how far she could push me in my confidence loss. Originally, there were a few of us on these lessons, all with our own horses. I went along to every lesson, getting there an hour early to lunge Hillary, and mentally prepare myself. Although I was riding now, I would still feel physically sick, and found that if I had to rush anything, I would end up feeling stressed, which made the whole thing much worse.

Along with taking everything very slowly when preparing for a lesson, I also took to whispering to Hillary, something that I still do now. When I tack her up, or when I get on her, I whisper to her. For some reason, this makes me feel better, as I feel, in a strange way, that she is listening to me.

These group lessons did not last long. There was a man joining in the lessons who was a very novice rider, riding a very sprightly Welsh Section D. Although I get on well with this person, and absolutely adore the pony, I have to be honest in admitting that when he joined us in lessons, I found it harder to cope. The man had no sense of control over the pony, and it got to a point where, even knowing he was in the lesson, made me feel worse.

This maybe selfish of me, and I completely understand, but I have to be completely honest and admit that the only thing that mattered to me was getting back on my horse, and getting over my own fears. I decided that I would stop these lessons, as they didn't seem to be helping.

I had a few private lessons, but again, this didn't work for me. The only feeling Hills had to go off was me, and because I was a bag of nerves, she became so too. The worst lesson I had, Hills had a bad spook, and I couldn't calm myself down. I ended up riding round so rigidly, that my back seemed to be screaming out in pain. I had tears rolling down my cheeks, and kept brushing them away. When I got off, my partner Ric, who had come to watch me tried to console me, but I felt beyond help. Even if I physically could get on, how could I ride? I couldn't hack out (the thought physically terrified me), I couldn't join in group lessons, and I couldn't have private ones either. I felt terrible. It was as though I had got through something major, to find that what was on the other side was purely another set of problems. I was exhausted.

At the time, Guinness, a lovely black cob, was stabled next to Hillary. I had taken him out on a hack right at the start of my problems because it was thought he'd be quieter than Hills. Even then I'd felt afraid, but I'd taken him out with a group of others, and had come back having achieved something, even if it wasn't with Hillary. Guinness is the horse on the right in the picture at the top of this post. He is a real gem.

At the time, Guinness needed exercising, and a lady came to see him. Because I am the kind of person who loves to chat, I got talking to this person. When she next visited, the same happened. She made me feel at ease somehow, and I got talking to her about my problems. Between us, we decided to see if we could have a lesson together. That way, I wouldn't be on my own, and I would also know the temperament of the other horse. It sounded perfect.

The lady's name was Emma, and we have ridden together ever since. Emma makes me feel as though I am teaching her something. This in turn, makes me feel competent, and thus boosts my confidence. Our lessons are great. There is an atmosphere of calm and focus, but with a lightness that means we can laugh when things don't go to plan. These lessons are undoubtedly the highlight of my week, and I know that if the weather is not good on the day of the lesson, I find it very hard to give up and not ride. I think that I perhaps find it harder than most now; I will always try to ride if I can and if it's safe, and I know that if I can't ride, the frustration I feel is not only difficult for me, but also difficult for Ric, who has, rather graciously, always had to bear the brunt of it.

Emma (pictured at the top of this post) I hope will be a friend and riding partner for a long time to come, along with the other people who have helped me move forward. From Gaynor and Olivia who have been my teachers and advisors, to Halina who is always there for a good natter, and who is a constant support, I have a network of friends who I am grateful for, and whom I know that without which, I would not have got my relationship back with Hillary. When something means as much to you as she does to me, there is are no words that can describe the way support makes you feel. So for everyone that has been involved with us, in any shape or form, thank you.

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