Saturday, 25 January 2014

Juggling competing and being a mother (inspired by the H&H article)

In Horse and Hound this week was an article about mothers juggling competing horses and having children.

While I applaud H&H on doing an article like this, I also find myself wondering where the mum with limited support is. I'm sure many of us would be more interested to read about the one who has to beg, borrow or steal a babysitter, who has to fit 6 hours worth of work into 2 and a half, the ones that have to ride in the dark once the darlings are tucked up in bed, while the rest of us are enjoying a glass of wine in front of The Great British Bake Off, than the ones who are lucky enough to have a yard at home and grandparents or a nanny living on site. Fair play to the dressage couple who did the yard while the kids were still asleep in the mornings. Anyone with small kids knows how precious sleep is, and to get up while the children are still fast asleep takes a lot of dedication!

What I personally would like to read is a series on how professional families work. A different family each week, with a rough timetable - who feeds the horses and at what time, who does the school runs, does the youngest sit in it's pram outside the arena or does it go to nursery? But then I am incredibly nosy, as well as trying to pick up some hints and tips on how to manage myself!

What I will say about the article is that it came across as very wholesome. Where was the bribery with computer games and sweeties? Where was the forgetting the time and having to call a friend in a panic to pick your child up from school? What about having to wait around for vet/Farrier/hay delivery in the pissing rain and dark feeding your children biscuits from the tack room and making them run up and down the yard to keep warm?  And not one mentioned the school run outfit! Do you go along in your jods and mucky boots, with hay in your hair and stuck to the back of your sweater, with green slobber up one arm and other dubious looking stains? Or do they have time to shower and dress in something suitable as to fit in with the other school run mothers (and fathers, but they seem immune to the whole 'appropriately attired' dilemma)

Where do they stand on maternal guilt? You have had a competition written on the diary for more than four months, and then your daughter has a ballet exam booked in for the same day? What comes first? Do you feel guilt over putting your competition first, or resentment for missing it to take a 6 year old to a ballet exam?

I'm some ways I imagine it's easier if it's your job as the justification is there, you are not gallivanting, but working. Can you break into horses as a job after having children?

I know one thing, this year could see us getting creative with the childcare as the mare and I get out and about competing more, and the husband has a new role that will take him away nearly every weekend.

So, any hints and tips gratefully received!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Accepting being an amateur (I won't)

On Sunday we went to an indoor eventing clinic with event rider Phoebe Buckley.

After last week I was feeling pretty disheartened with horses, and if I hadn't booked my place at the clinic so far in advance I doubt I would have gone. Nothing makes you feel more like a loser than completely failing at pretty much everything attempted in that week!

So, I didn't have much faith in my abilities. I was starting to think I would show myself up, that the mare wasn't as talented as I think she is (I can be rather biased!) and that I was wasting everyones time.

My fab friend/super groom came with me for moral support and horse holding. She mostly helps by making me feel like an idiot for being nervous! That does help quite a lot actually!

But I need not have worried. The mare is truly amazing, and was complimented by PB many times. This meant rather a lot to me, having had the mare since she was an unbroken three year old and done everything myself. I really liked how PB ran the clinic, there was very little telling us 'how' to do things, but setting things up so that we had to ride or it wouldn't work. That is how I like to be taught.

Something that struck a chord with me was PB saying "I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you are an amateur, you are not going to be William Fox-Pitt, so enjoy it"

Now, much as I like to think of myself as a bit of a pro, I'm not, and unlikely to ever be. But I do still want things to be perfect. I've worked with horses a lot over the years, and was pretty good at what I did, but that was then, this is now. Then I rode horses for other people, I was paid to sort out difficult ones, or to back youngsters.  Now I am just a mum with horses to keep me sane, I should enjoy them and try not to put so much pressure on myself. I should ask for help if I need it, and not be ashamed that I am not the rider I used to.

I should. But I won't. I will carry on being competitive and argumentative and giving myself a hard time over silly mistakes. Just because I'm not going to be an international event rider, doesn't mean I shouldn't strive for the ability to be.

Sometimes being stubborn is a bugger!

Friday, 17 January 2014

There are times.........blah.... (part 2)

Sooooo...... Thursday didn't go too well. But you know, Friday is a whole new day, also sunny, no excuses.

Today I took the mare out for a little hack around the village. We were dressed up to the nines in our bestest, brightest hi-viz. Well, a bright yellow exercise sheet on her, a builders hi-viz vest with 'Daavid' written on the back in permanent marker for me (it is a vest that hangs up in the tack room, I have no idea who it belongs to, or why it has Daavid written on it)

The hack went well, lots of traffic, but that's fine, and mostly the drivers round here are pretty good. Managed to get back just in time for a meeting at the preschool to discuss the boy and how he was getting on.

After a quick lunch it was time to get back to the yard to ride the gelding.

I don't ride this horse much, as somewhere along the line we have lost our way. He has no trust in me, and I don't trust him one inch. He is not naughty, or have vices, he is just a bit of a plank, and I am quite keen on self preservation.

To get over my wobbles with him, I had organised for another livery to be there on the ground to babysit me. This has worked well in the past.

Today we very nearly fell out. Admittedly we didn't get off to the best start, a skip lorry turned up just as I was trying to get them in and proceeded to pick up a skip while I was trying to get the paddock gate open (all the woodchip) there were some rather creative swear words heard at that moment.

The moment I got on him I felt wrong, this is not the mare, I am on the wrong horse! Sadly it didn't improve. I spent 20minutes on him, all we did was walk - transitions, circles, loops etc, interspersed with some hefty spooks, a bit of planting and going backwards, some bucks, and even rearing. In other words a right little tantrum.

I know it is my fault. He needs more work, that is all it is, but since my accident and both kids, I am lacking the courage to get on and be the rider he needs. So I've swallowed my pride and asked for help getting him started. This was hard and I felt like shit afterwards, but rationally I know it is what we need. I may still physically be as capable as I once was, but mentally I'm just not up to it by myself. Bollocks.

There are times when you wonder why you bother (part 1)

This week has been pretty shit if I'm totally honest. From a purely selfish point of view.

I seem to have lost all oomph and enthusiasm for pretty much everything. Nothing bad has happened, I've just felt miserable, and my confidence seems to have randomly disappeared. Yes I know, woe is me etc....

Anyhow, yesterday was cold but sunny and I had given myself a very stern talking to (mostly along the lines of "Man the hell up") only to get to the yard and find the yard owner was having some trees chopped down and chipped. This upset the delicate flower that is the gelding, and he was turning himself inside out. The mare was indifferent, but not wanting to be outdone she was chasing him (the cow!) After I had been dragged in from the turnout area, stripped the top rug off the sweaty mess the gelding had got himself into and very nearly lost the plot with the pair of them, it became apparent that I hadn't a hope in hell of separating the horses. The gelding, or knobhead as he was temporarily known, would probably have taken the front of the stable off if I had taken his comfort blanket away, even if she is vile to him.

I was cross, and quite frankly pissed off. I had had a low start to the week, had bucked my ideas up and it was all for nothing.

The day was finished off with turning up to put the horses to bed, to find an enormous pile of woodchip in the gateway to the turnout. 40minutes of shovelling, and some very tight muscles, and I could finally get the gate open and closed.

Marvellous, time for gin. But wait, Friday is just as good! Look out for part 2 (please contain your excitement) 

Monday, 13 January 2014

A 'meh' kind of Monday

I am one of the few people I know that actually like Mondays.

I get to drop the kids off at school and disappear to the yard for some guilt free horse time. I generally don't ride at weekends, so I am desperate to get out by Monday, full of plans and enthusiasm.

Today I really can't be arsed! I've got a niggling headache that I've had all weekend that just won't shift, lots of stuff to do at home, and on top of that I attempted to loose school the mare over a grid yesterday, and it was a complete disaster. She was an absolute tramp to be honest, and I have no inclination to ride it today!

I know I'll feel guilty for not doing anything with the horses today, later in the week, but sometimes a day off can be a good thing.

I'm enjoying a very peaceful coffee, I am writing this week's meal plan and shopping list, waiting to hear back from the British Horse Society with regards to my lost membership card, and losing the ongoing battle with the laundry pile. Also need to get tonight's dinner in the slow cooker.

Hopefully some enthusiasm will return for mucking out this afternoon?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Establishing new habits, and anti procrastination....

I'm trying to establish some new habits this week.

My biggest problem is that I procrastinate (hence the blog, great way of putting stuff off) and absolutely everything gets left til the last minute. We are rarely late, but are usually rushing.

So, with the kids back to school this week, I have been trying to get up 10mins earlier. This gives me time to get the kids ready and empty the dishy and sort some laundry. In theory. In reality, I feel I should do these things, so do them but nearly lose the plot in the process of trying to get too many things done.

Another thing I'm very good at putting off is riding. If course I enjoy it, but unlike the mucking out it is not a necessity, and I think this is why the confidence issue took so long to realise, there were always other excuses instead. But now I have a friend to ride with twice a week the excuses have stopped, and the confidence has built. I am still struggling to get enough motivation to get the gelding going though. I basically have 3 child free hours a day, which comes down to 2.5, by the time travelling etc is taken into consideration.

So, this time gets broken down into 30mins for mucking out the two stables, hay, feed on to soak, water etc. 30mins sweeping up, getting horses in, tacking up, 45mins for riding at an absolute push (if hacking out) then 15/20mins feeding and finishing up. I am more inclined to ride the mare because she is mine, and because she is easier and more enjoyable, having done more work.

The gelding is special (in lots of ways) he is kind hearted, but so daft and such a wuss! He doesn't take the piss, he is just genuinely terrified of pretty much everything. He needs a rider to say "Come on, we are doing this today" and actually mean it. You can see why I've had problems in the more recent years?

So, with my new years anti-procrastination, I am going to do something with the gelding. I am going to stop making excuses and get on with him. I have arranged for one of the other liveries to stay in the school with me while I ride him next Friday. Small steps, but I need to break the habit.

Things are going well with the mare and we need to just continue as we are, and work on brakes and fitness levels. The gelding and I need to work on getting a routine going and starting pretty much from scratch - reminding him of the correct aids and how to behave! Watch this space!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A good day, where things seem to work, and even the Husband rides!

Thursday was a good day, the weather was bright and sunny, we had been out for a cooked breakfast, the boy had his booster vaccinations, which although a bit rubbish, were over and done with very quickly.

Both my husband and I got to ride too! This was achieved by wearing the kids out, then putting them in the car which was parked next to the school, with a computer game each.

We put some poles out in the school (I like poles a lot at the minute) and both rode slightly bigger than 20m circles. Our school is flooded and boggy in some parts, and almost bare in other parts, so a 20m circle is about the best you can hope for!

My husband and the gelding don't like schooling, but they desperately need it. Much as I think you can learn a lot out hacking, the odd bit of schooling is still necessary. Besides, they barely hack either!

So, I told my husband to follow me and the mare, not too close, but copy the same movements. We tried to get the circle actually circle shaped, we did lots of transitions, we walked over the poles, we trotted over the poles, and then we stood in the middle of the circle. I then told my husband to make the gelding walk away from us, and walk and trot the circle by himself. Which they did, really quite well. My husband sits very well, but doesn't really 'ride' the horse (hence liking hacking more) and the gelding is very attached to the mare and can be spooky. But I was very impressed with them both, and the best bit is it actually cheered up my husband who had had some crappy news. 

The gelding was then put away, and my husband came back to put the poles up into a small x pole. This was on the centre line, so I could jump it while still on the circle.

I had hoped that by keeping the approach and landing side short, she would not rush into or away from the jump. We also approached at trot and only occasionally slipped one stride of canter in just before take off.

I was really, really pleased with this, as our jumping is out of control at best, and fucking terrifying at worst!

Now the horses will have a few days off due to atrocious weather (thunder, lightening and hailstones!) and the fact my husband is working all weekend and we have to get the kids ready to go back to school. Hopefully the gelding will get clipped this weekend though, as he is a woolly bear at the moment, rather than the sleek thoroughbred he is meant to be!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year's Day

New year's day, a new year, new start etc.....

Hard to feel enthusiastic about the new year when it is gale force winds and horizontal rain.

So, we did what any sensible family would do, we went to see Frozen at the cinema (amazing by the way!) followed by a huge lunch at Frankie and Bennys.

Still, I really felt that I should make the most of the free childcare and do something with the horses. So I put out some poles in a fan shape, and lunged the mare for 15 mins at walk and trot with the poles. I then arranged the poles so that there was one to go over, with one on the outside to stop the gelding running out, and keep straight over the pole. He then got 10mins in the failing light, followed by a good brush off. Would have been more impressive if he hadn't rolled in his own piss just before I went in with the brush. Just when I think he can sink no lower......