What are you even doing? Walking with a limp, and hunting for cowboys



WARNING: Uncensored language. But all in fun.


What are you even doing? Walking with a limp, and hunting for cowboys

Life is a funny old thing, especially with horses. One minute you’re up, and the next you are really very down indeed. Accident, illness, injury and plain old fashioned rotten bad luck are never far away when you are working hard to achieve any objective. 2018 was-in hindsight-a defining year for me in many ways. There were many wonderful people and horses tangled up in the casserole of madness that is my life, but there were some stark lessons in the mix too.

It all started well enough. The downhill slalom of doom didn’t kick off until last May, when I was floored by bronchitis. I spent a week alternating between dying quietly on my nebuliser, and winning an award for being the world’s slowest at mucking out. I tried to ride, but my opportunistic horses sensed weakness immediately. Suddenly, everyone was VERY LAZY and required things like lots of leg, and regular halt-breaks whilst I wheezed in an undignified fashion, crumpled over the pommel of my saddle.

Next up was the rearing over backwards crazy horse, and multiple fractures of my sacrum….again. That particular episode was also complimented by a pretty nasty concussion, which saw me refuse point blank to go to hospital until I had ridden two more four-year-old horses. I often wonder what I was thinking, but the truth is of course that I wasn’t – I had temporarily or otherwise turned my brain to jello. I think I was worried that if I didn’t get back on, I would be afraid. That turned out to be bullshit, because I couldn’t really remember what had happened anyway… I did eventually seek medical attention, but not before I insisted on going to the bank. I had to abandon my transaction to be sick outside, which made me very cross indeed. Horse people are straight up certifiable…

The next few months were a further strange mash up of nonsense and disaster. At some point, I had glandular fever. Then, I went to hospital for a little stay when I somehow contracted cellulitis IN MY MOTHERFUCKING FACE. I normally enjoy hospital holidays, as I get to catch up on reading whilst being brought food, and getting to stay in my pyjamas all day. However, this stay wasn’t restful at all. A whirlwind of vomit, stoma bags, gall bladders and convicts meant that I went home traumatised, and not rested AT ALL…

Next up, my fabulous grey mare pulled off a shoe, and somehow managed to separate the hoof wall internally. Fortunately, I have a truly brilliant farrier who not only rehabilitated the mare back to health over the winter, he also talked me down out of my panic tree regularly, and maintained a constant, reassuring sense of calm throughout. He is a wonderful man, but I am also partly blaming him for my end of year catastrophe. I was pretty financially broke, but I was scouting around for a horse to bring on whilst the grey was injured. I dithered. My farrier decided to sort me out with some sound advice. He said-“keep buying. No matter what, just keep buying.” Buoyed up with encouragement and clutching my puny savings, I trotted off to do the harm.

My first purchase was a truly stunning mare. Rising seven but unridden in almost three years, she was within my budget. The mare proved to be an exceptional talent over a fence, and my little brain was once again full of joyous nonsense about jumping big things and finally fulfilling my potential in the saddle. Or not, as it turned out. Two things happened. The first was that the mare unceremoniously decanted me into the dirt when feeling a little ‘frisky’. The fall was soft, but she continued to plunge without me – all over my already shonky right ankle (I have the equivalent of navicular in it. For real) The second thing was that the mare suddenly showed up lame. We scanned her, and she had damaged the top of a front suspensory.


My second purchase was a mare I have looked at several times over the last couple of years. I think if you keep kicking the same tire, you better buy the car. So I did. This mare has just turned six. She is a maternal half sister to my lovely grey mare, and she is a truly gorgeous horse. She is very small in contrast to her sibling, but she is vastly intelligent and very capable. I was beginning to feel quite excited as I got her going, but then one day she got a little fright when jumping. What followed next was akin to a cross between The Exorcist and a Jato Unit. I hit the ground with a speed and trajectory that was previously alien to me. I broke ribs, damaged muscle attachments in my right hip and injured my T spine. Along with the defunct ankle, I was forced to stop. I couldn’t plough on in ignorance this time. This was a defining incident in my life, because it made me ask myself what the actual fuck I was doing with my life. The answer? Blindly doing what I have always done, because I’m no good at anything else.

And that just won’t do anymore.

So now what?

The lovely grey mare is back in work now, as is her little sister. The other mare has fully recovered, and will likely go to Stud in the summer. I have temporarily stopped teaching, and I have closed down my livery business to spend more time with my son. I am training to become an NLP practitioner, as well as partaking in some sports psychology courses. The aim for now is to become proficient in the world of mindset and performance coaching-with particular emphasis on equestrian sport-whilst producing my own horses. Chris Bartle better watch out…! I’d love to get over to Badminton in the spring and I can’t wait for my annual pilgrimage to Tattersalls in June. I have had some mad ideas about studying the psychology and the mind-body performance of bull riders (closest thing to Eventing really…we can seriously learn from these guys! ) and I’m aiming to make a trip to the PBR finals in Vegas, on my birthday. Nothing AT ALL to do with beautiful cowboys. It’d nearly be rude not to go. It’s FOR MY CAREER…

Sometimes, we all need a change.

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