Claire Drey-Brown’s we need to talk blog: ‘am I letting my horse down?’

  • I’m going to try to share something that I haven’t really fully admitted before…

    It might not sound like a big deal to most, but I’m sure a fair amount of people may be going through something similar. This blog is going to be all about my four-year-old (horse, not child!), Pippin (pictured top).

    Pippin is an incredibly talented dressage superstar who I backed myself when he was three. We’ve done lots of hacking, playing over teeny jumps, lungeing, and generally a lot of different things to provide variety.

    Pippin is practically perfect in every way. His ONLY ‘hang-up’ is that for the first five minutes after you get on, he is a bit cold-backed. This is in no way severe and he doesn’t have a nasty bone in his body, BUT I have lost my confidence riding him.

    This has all stemmed from my ankle injury, as the whole experience was a huge trauma — I should probably have a lot of therapy for it! It wasn’t just the injury itself, it was the rehab, the fact that my life has literally been put on pause since then, the chronic pain, the mistreatment in hospital, mental struggles and so on.

    I’m essentially ‘not allowed to fall off’ when I ride because my leg is so fragile. And subconsciously I am beyond terrified of re-injuring it or going through the trauma again. It’s a really hard thing to explain; I don’t fully understand these feelings myself.

    Being a recently backed four-year-old (he has had a lot of breaks to allow him to mature physically, and has had extra time off because of my rehab), he kind of qualifies as ‘high risk’. To emphasise: he is not dangerous. He is not nasty in any way — he is just a baby, that’s his only hang-up. By ‘high risk’ I only mean that out of my three horses, he is the one I am probably most likely to fall off. Again — he is a baby, so has baby moments, but nothing out of the ordinary for a young horse in his stage of training. What is very strange though, is I am more worried about riding him than I am about the actual high risk horses that I ride. I ride a couple of horses that are ‘naughtier’ than him and less predictable. But I don’t worry about riding those horses at all. Why?! That really does not make sense now that I write it down.

    I adore Pippin, and I so want to be the person who gets to bring out the best in him, and has a competitive career with him. But it also makes me think, maybe I should sell him to another professional who isn’t bothered by young horses. This is so hard to admit, especially on the internet, as the biggest part of my business used to be backing young horses and training ‘problem’ and some genuinely ‘nasty’ horses. Nothing bothered me, and I enjoyed the challenge. I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself actually. Training young horses was what really sparked my interest. So now I’m just feeling a bit lost.

    This brings me to the point of this ramble I guess. I’m in that frame of mind where I’m thinking ‘the horse deserves better’, ‘I’m letting him down’, ‘he would be doing so much better with a better rider.’

    BUT — Is he happy? Is he well cared for? Is he loved?

    The answer to every single one of those second lot of questions is a resounding yes!

    Pippin has the best of absolutely everything, and spends a huge amount of time just grazing with his buddies. He may be in a low level of work and is being ‘ticked over’ (I lunge him twice a week and ride him twice a week on average, sometimes more), but this is anatomically perfect for a growing young horse. I absolutely adore him — he gets ad-lib cuddles, is very well-handled, and therefore very well-mannered. Pippin is as happy and healthy as can be. He has absolutely no concept of what other people may be doing with their young horses. He has no concept of the fact he ‘should’ be further on in his education than he is (in some people’s eyes). He isn’t holding anything against me. He isn’t angry that I don’t ride him six times a week. He isn’t desperate to be out competing already. He doesn’t feel let down — he has no concept of that!

    He enjoys his work, he’s growing, he’s maturing, his joints are developing, he’s confident, he’s loved and he’s not stressed out or overworked.

    Continued below…

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    I will get over my confidence issues, and I will be able to bring out the best in him. We’ll go out competing and do everything I want to do with him, but in time. There is no specific time frame. Again, this is another thing I hate about social media, as it makes you feel as though you should be at a specific training point at a specific age/in a specific time frame. That’s not how the real world works, you have to allow each horse the time they need or you will run into problems further down the road.

    I have a happy horse, we have a great relationship, and we genuinely love each other, the rest will come with time.


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