I’ve started the season by breaking my neck in a freak accident, as many of you will know. However, I’m still walking and will eventually get back to riding — others have not been so lucky.

Thank you, everyone who has offered good wishes. I really appreciate them. If the person who sent a parcel of books reads this, please don’t think I was rude in not acknowledging it — the delivery didn’t include information on who sent them, and the company wouldn’t tell me because of their data protection policy.

I’ve started dental treatment, and surgery on my cervical vertebrae is ahead. I’ve had to rethink everything I do and hope I can find something positive from it all. When you have a problem with a horse and textbook solutions don’t work, you have to find a way around them, so I’m applying that philosophy to myself.

Accidents like mine don’t affect just individuals. Their impact affects a whole team, so I’m overwhelmed by the support from all my owners, staff, family and friends. My yard is running at full strength, even if I have to run it from the sidelines temporarily.

Staying in touch

We have installed cameras around the school, yard and trot-up area, so I can watch everything being ridden and looked after, just as I normally do. It isn’t a Big Brother approach, but one to keep me in touch.

I’ve asked everyone to keep diaries about the horses they look after and ride. Team members were initially unsure about this, but now enjoy it — and the results are fascinating.

I’ve always found it beneficial to note management regimes, show performances and judges’ comments, but widening the record makes you realise how important it is to observe your horse and look at every aspect. I recommend it to everyone, amateur and professional.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my ride judge commitments for the season. I hate letting people down, but as I don’t know how long full rehabilitation will take, I had to give societies a chance to appoint a substitute, rather than hope that I can keep my judging appointments further down the line.

I’ll still be judging conformation and will be watching from the ringside.

Normally, I’m too busy riding in, preparing and competing to do this, so who knows? It could give me a different perspective.

Keep it clean

As I write, I’m looking forward to the BSPA’s first 2018 show on 25 February. to be held at the College Equestrian Centre, Keysoe. The classes span several societies, and this show is always one where riders bring out new prospects.

I’m also anticipating seeing last year’s new stars carry on shining. My 2017 judging highlight was seeing a four-year-old (Laybalands Fly By Night) take the overall supreme title at the BSPS summer championships, so I can’t wait to see this pony progress.

I was also pleased to see showing societies announcing a no-tolerance approach to doping. From this year, anyone who contravenes one society’s rules will be penalised by all those who have signed up to umbrella legislation.

There is no room for cheating in our or any other discipline. Keep it clean, keep it fair and have fun.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 22 February 2018