I am now back at uni and have sadly left my pony life back at home again. I’ve had the most relaxing Christmas and New Year, and now that Cash (pictured with me top) is in my sister Susie’s hands (part time, though — I am very much planning on a comeback for a few things in particular…), I have been able to take it easy and concentrate on Gladiator.
I really feel that this has completely revived my enjoyment of riding. Although Cash and I are at a stage where we are one, Gladiator presents more of a challenge for me and my riding, and I had never quite appreciated the feeling of having no pressure. We have always known at home that while Susie thrives off nerves, I am much better under pressure but crumble as soon as I get anxious. However, having a horse at home who is still a baby, hasn’t appeared on the scene yet and whose future is still all in our hands has been such an opportunity to unwind. When I ride him at home, with mummy teaching me, it feels like we are back in the old days, and it is just so calming and always so rewarding when we feel he’s gone really well. While I ride Cash for either thinking time or to give him a jump the day before a show, Gladiator is a whole new chapter which I have found very exciting, and which has refreshed my whole approach and attitude.
Having said this, I definitely always lose a bit of motivation during winter. There’s something very energising about being right in the midst of the season. Not only is there all the excitement of new results coming in every weekend, but I also absolutely love the “goings-on” of it all, which is inevitable during the busiest times of the season. It’s not quite the gossip, which can range from thrilling to tragic, but the social media posts, speculation and confessions are riveting. My parents are always telling us that “in their day” almost the worst thing you could do to someone was to read their diary. Privacy was sacrosanct. Now, people effectively keep an open diary online, with seemingly nothing off limits from their unwanted pregnancies to their medical records.
The politics of the showing world absolutely fascinate me. Without this as a focal point in my life as it gets quieter and colder, I have to admit that I find it easy to become a bit discouraged, and ever so slightly disinterested. One of mummy’s favourite reminders is that “rosettes are won at home”, which is usually enough to push me through until it’s time for those rosettes to actually be won again. She’s obviously forgotten, however, that I am not in fact at home now, which plays nicely into my hands at this time of year.
Although I am excited about getting back out and trying to win these rosettes, and especially about what’s to come with Gladiator, I’ve known for quite some time that the 2018 season would be a much quieter one for me, especially as I don’t break up this term until the day before Suffolk County at the end of May, where I will be reunited with Cash for the Horse of the Year Show qualifiers.
At one time, the pony world was one of the principal things that my life revolved around. But like many other 19-year-olds, my priorities have sadly evolved over the past 12 years, and competing simply isn’t my biggest commitment any more if I am to have a career outside horses.
This has made me become rather nostalgic of my pony career, and, going back to the politics of the showing world, it’s made me think about how things have changed over the years.
When mummy isn’t sending me motivational messages (“The harder you practice, the luckier you’ll get. The river cuts through rock through persistence, not power. Three months from now, you’ll thank yourself. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Rosettes are won…), she is explaining that the reason for such great comradeship when I was seven and doing cradle stakes was that the mothers were just so thankful that their children had got round safely, that nobody cared about what place they were, or had time to start getting chips on their shoulders about things that are simply not worth it. Everyone was pleased and supportive of everyone else.
I absolutely love the BSPS (British Show Pony Society) and all it has done for me, but it just seems so sad that the showing environment becomes more hostile the older (and dare I say, better) you get. As I said, I take great enjoyment in the chat of it all, but all too often this is just the top of a downhill spiral into a snake pit, where suddenly everyone seems to have some kind of absurd vendetta. Originally I wondered why this was only true for showing, but actually, it seems relevant for all walks of competitive life.
I have a lot to thank the BSPS for, my working hunter pony experience has contributed more than I could ever imagine to how I am as a person. I have had a mix of both surviving the snake pit, as well as the makings of the happiest memories, meeting some of the nicest people I could ever wish to meet, and wherever there are snakes, there’s always a mongoose somewhere to protect you.
Wishing you the most civil of years.