The diary of the home-made livery yard: ‘my face was heading towards the pommel of the saddle at an alarming speed’

  • “Horses are great levellers.” “Pride comes before a fall.” “What goes up, must come down.”

    Can you see where I am going with this?

    Hilde (my gorgeous Friesian competitive ride, owned by Lynn Wingard) knew that all the success and glory of winning at BD novice and getting a write up in Horse & Hound had gone to my head. So, she set about bringing me back down to earth. She did this in the only way that horses know how, by spectacularly bucking me off in a schooling session.

    The session had gone really well. Hilde had been fantastic — relaxed, supple and willing. I decided to finish up on one last walk-canter-walk transition on the left rein before cooling her off.

    All I had to do was advance my left seatbone for a beautiful upwards transition. A few strides of a neat little canter and we were at the C marker. Then, all of a sudden, I was teleported from the letter C to the letter G. When I came to, I was several feet up in the air above Hilde and upside down, painfully aware that my face was heading towards the pommel of the saddle at an alarming speed.

    I put my hand out to try and save my face, but just bent a few fingers back, before hitting my head, nose and cheek bone on the saddle, somersaulting and landing with a thud on my lower back and hip somewhere near the letter X.

    I’d injured this hip before, falling off a youngster, so the searing pain that ripped through it was horribly familiar. I also knew that the initial agony would pass if I could just get some air into my lungs and stop shouting “Ow! Ow! Ow!” from pitiful shallow breaths.

    After a couple of seconds of labour breathing, Lynn appeared above me, calling to her husband to catch Hilde. My lasting memory of the whole incident is of myself lying on the rubber surface of Lynn’s arena while she fended her dogs off me with a big stick and a fierce growl. I felt the comedy through the pain.

    I got up, ready to get back on and finish the canter work, but Lynn very sweetly insisted I just walk Hilde off. As we untacked and chatted and Lynn and her husband, Paul, fussed over me, I started to feel slightly sick as a nose bleed was trickling down the back of my throat.

    On my way home, I stopped off at a Co-op to stock up on the inevitable Deep Heat, ibuprofen and red wine combination. The lady on the till winced and looked incredibly sympathetic when I hobbled painfully slowly over to pay, sighed deeply and announced that I had forgotten the milk.

    “Oh God, have you hurt yourself, Love?” she asked, as I staggered off, limping, to the chilled aisle.

    “Yes,” I called over my shoulder. “Don’t ever ride horses.”

    Some falls are insignificant. You roll, you are a bit bruised, you get up and crack on. This was a bit more than that and when the stiffness set in, I needed a walking stick or crutches at times for over a week afterwards.

    I still giggle when I remember waking up a couple of days after my fall, with no stick by my bed, desperately needing a wee. I simply could not walk. Neither leg would take any weight whatsoever and I dreaded the imminent loss of all dignity. Luckily, I spotted the kitchen broom where I had left it the night before, in the hallway and used it as a crutch to shuffle off to the loo, dignity still intact.

    I had joked to our trainer, John Chubb, that I had 11 horses and didn’t have time for A&E that afternoon. But when I was still finding it difficult to bear weight on either leg after a while, I popped into the GP. That appointment and some X-rays at the hospital revealed damage to my sacroilliac joint and, incidentally, arthritis in both of my hips.

    Indie and I

    While I was recovering from my tumble, I had another grooming/nannying trip to a competition booked with livery, friend and para dressage rider, Emily Skerrett. Emily is a walking pharmacy and medical paraphernalia store, so she equipped me well for the long lorry drive to Solihull. I bantered that people might question who was the para rider and who was the groom when we got there, but the promise of another prossecco-fuelled hotel dinner meant I soon forgot my injuries.

    Emily has a wonderful team of sponsors who support her competitive journey. One of those sponsors is a very talented photographer called Julia Powney.

    Emily had arranged a beach photo shoot for her horse, Lila, with Julia. When Emily asked if I would like to bring a horse along to babysit Lila, I absolutely jumped at the chance.

    Queue, the trustworthy and reliable Chunky!

    Our beach trip — me on Chunky and Emily on Lila behind

    It was a magical morning at Widemouth Bay. Chunky’s owner, Jo, and her husband, Adam, came along to watch Chunky on what was only his second ever time at the beach. The weather started off very wet and dreary, but soon transformed, through stunning rainbows, to glorious sunshine.

    I’m always one to laugh at myself rather than feel too self conscious, so Chunky and I didn’t feel too inferior posing as we were — a ‘big girl’ on a Shire x cob next to the willowy Emily on an ‘uphill’ KWPN dressage mare. Although we did feel a bit ‘cart horse and rider‘, next to the supermodels!

    Emily and I

    I begrudgingly wore my body protector under my jacket, upon mother hen Jo’s insistence, as I was still sore.

    The photos are absolutely beautiful. We were so impressed by Julia’s photography that we commissioned Julia to come to a competition with us at Tall Trees Arena the following week. It was such a special thing to do.

    Chunky had not competed in nine months, but stormed back out on very little practise, equalling his PB. 70% dressage scores and two first places. We also took Indie, a 17hh Friesian mare belonging to livery, Adam, on their first ever outing together, where they achieved 60% and a first rosette.

    Me riding Chunky on the beach

    I also rode indie in a couple of tests for mid-60% scores, coming second only to Chunky.

    We will treasure the pictures forever and Jo has gone and bought the shops out of photo frames for all the gorgeous images we received!

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    Me with Chunky

    I am slightly concerned about what my wardrobe says about my life, currently. I seem to only have work wear and then pyjamas. Basically, jodhpurs and dressing gowns. Tracksuit bottoms and nighties.

    I have wellies, riding boots, ‘day time’ slippers and then a ‘best’ pair of slippers for wearing after I’ve had a bath each day. Who owns more than one pair of slippers? And who has a ‘best’ pair of slippers that are only to be worn when both their feet and the floor are clean at the end of each day?

    I am not sure that this is okay.

    Katy x

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