Winter should be a very relaxing time for those involved in our equestrian sphere. A time when you can progress and work, make plans and generally take a break from the competitive open season. However, winter is deceptive in this way, as it is in fact full of perils.
Since we are so much less busy without a qualifier or training session whenever we are out of school and therefore have no fitness, coats (of the horse variety) and mental strength to uphold, we tend to resort to other activities to fill this void. Through many winters spent with my mother and sister though, I have come to realise that these ‘activities’ are actually just a dangerous trap, which should be avoided if possible.
My mother, for example, has taken it upon herself this winter to put a great deal of effort into me learning to drive (I’ve been 17 for 11 months and have made very little progress). Since there seems to be almost no rush in our lives during the winter with no pony appointments, it means that we have a lot of time to get anywhere we need to go, and so my mother insists on making me drive to these places.
At first, I thought that this was a very good idea. My driving lessons with a very expensive man with an extremely short temper have mostly been disasters and so I thought the soothing sound of my mother instructing me would be a great improvement. However, I was sadly mistaken. She, rather than telling me what gear I should be in or whether I should be indicating or whatever, tells me as we are driving along: “Lucy you’re very tilted, your left hip is collapsed. Can you please think about your core,” and then a few seconds later: “Lucy can you not even feel that you are collapsing your left hip? Look at your seatbones! I really do insist that you sit properly.” And then, mid-roundabout: “Well I don’t know how you can expect Cash to go nicely if you are sitting with your left hip collapsed. I simply can’t understand why your driving instructor hasn’t brought this up with you before. It’s really spoiling your balance.”
Once I’ve adjusted my seating position, she moves on to the next useful tip: “I really do hate it when you have that bend in your wrist like a begging dog. You really can’t help but block Cash’s movement if you do that.”
Her most extreme though came when I got too close to the curb and I heard her shriek: “Outside leg! Outside leg!” And so it continues. You’ll be pleased to hear that after several near-misses and having failed to half-halt to her satisfaction just before a sharp bend, she has accepted that I will in fact make more progress with an instructor again (in the car, not on the pony).
The internet is the other great trap. Facebook in particular seems to be a favourite in my house for checking up on everybody else’s progress. However I have found this to be very unhealthy for my family and a complete waste of time.
Take my sister for example; a terrific worrier who frequently informs us of the new partnerships for next season, adding after each one: “Oh how annoying, they will definitely not be beaten. I don’t have a chance. I might as well just give up now”. By the time we have calmed her, she’s found another person with their new pony who she is sure she will be thrashed by. The problem is, if they are going to be unstoppable when the season comes around (her predictions are usually misjudged anyway), her four-month-long anxiety over it is not going to make them any less good. It only results in a very stressful anticipation, which, let me assure you, she is able to efficiently spread to each and every person in the vicinity, making for a very trying winter.
Finally, and what I would consider the most dangerous activity of all, is the extreme temptation to look at ponies for sale on the internet. I have experienced this first-hand as I get a call from my mother at least once a week about a pony she wants to buy unseen as what she optimistically calls a ‘project’. It’s as easy as her just seeing something she vaguely likes the look of, regardless of whether we need it or not, and suddenly I am flooded with pictures, videos and information of a 14.1hh Exmoor, or something similar that we definitely don’t need.
I then spend a great deal of time interviewing her on a series of determining factors as to whether it would be a worthwhile investment. Who wants her to buy this pony from them? What is she planning to do with it once it’s sitting at home? Who’s going to ride it? Does she really want another Exmoor in her yard when Cash in his winter state already looks like one? And so it goes on.
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So far this year I have managed to dissuade her from every one of these absurd ‘opportunities’ she has rung me about. I admit that she has done remarkably well with the ponies who she has insisted on getting, Beat the Boss being her pride and joy after his Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) supreme title. There is a very funny video of him on her Instagram from his past life if you’d like a glimpse of the material she was persuading me with. There are also a few others who thankfully have been a great success. However, I fear she has got more carried away with it since then. Thank goodness Christmas is almost here so that her mind is occupied with something else for now.
P.S. Unfortunately my mother sold my hunting pony (pictured top) last year, who admittedly I was huge on, but if anybody has a horse that I could borrow until Christmas, I would be hugely appreciative and it would be a welcome relief from the above described.