I know most people when they write blogs focus on the positives and highlights of the past few weeks. If I’m honest, I’m not going to gloss over what has been a pretty shite month. But let’s face it, that’s horses! One minute you’re up, next you’re lying flat on your back eating sand. There’s no point making anything seem glamorous.
On the plus side, all the horses recovered well after Great Witchingham and Burnham Market, so I was looking forward to Norton Disney, Breckenbrough and Belton being next on the agenda. A mechanic, however, was not what we wanted to have needed on the first day of the competition at Belton. We’d already had some things go wrong that morning, made a contingency plan and were away, but if there wasn’t such a thing as bad luck, we’d have had none that day.
Everyone tells me everything happens for a reason though, and after walking the courses the following day I couldn’t have been happier that Prince Mayo got moved from the CIC3* to the open intermediate. Although organiser Stuart Buntine and his team had done an amazing job preparing the ground, it was still quite deep and holding in places. In my experience, this is the ground that always causes more injuries, and I wouldn’t have wanted to risk an injury this early on in the season. Especially as none of them were entered for Badminton, it took a bit of pressure off needing to run.
I opted for steady open intermediate clears instead with Prince Mayo (Mayo), Wanskjaers Carlsson (Carl) and OBOS Colombus (Obie). As these are still very new horses to me, I felt we needed the run as there’s still quite a lot of familiarisation to be done between us both.
I have to say though, all three felt awesome, and I was left feeling like I’d started to put the key in the right place with Obie who seemed much more confident compared to his run at Witchingham. I didn’t even take DHI Paparazzi off the lorry for the advanced though that day. He’s like putting on a pair of old slippers and bringing out a pipe for me, and I really want to take him to the three-star in Tattersalls, so I thought it best to bring him out a couple more times nearer the occasion.
The week prior to Belton, was supposed to be a weekend set for some neckstrap action with the young ones again and some novice horses getting their first runs of the season. But in true British weather style, it didn’t stop raining! This forced all events to be abandoned on the BE calendar that week including Norton Disney and Breckenbrough, which we were entered for.
The next scheduled event for this bunch was Solihull. All was looking promising the week leading up to the event — the sun shone and we even managed to get all horses out cross-country schooling. They felt on great form and everything including the youngsters were so straight to everything. What could possibly go wrong…?!
The day before Solihull I was in the school jumping a young horse, who was going really well. So impressively in fact that I jumped the last fence and thought “bloody hell! That’s some jumper. I’ll just jump one more.” Famous last words. The horse came to the fence again, jumped it so big that it almost amazed itself and somehow twisted and shifted sideways in mid air. This sent me in the other direction, and knowing I’d parted company, on landing I tried to jump to the side in case the horse kicked out at me. Stupidly my foot was then the first thing to hit the floor and I went straight over on my ankle.
A trip to A&E was needed for an X-Ray and several hours later fortunately nothing was broken. I was relieved to know it was nothing a bucket of ice, strong pain killers and some laser therapy couldn’t fix. I just wouldn’t have passed the trot up the next morning.
If I’m being honest, I would have kicked on and carried on at Solihull too if I could have got my boot on, but it wasn’t to be. I also had a lorry load of young horses who were green and it would have been pointless to take them out when I wasn’t fully able to help them out. I have to say with regards to that weekend too, full credit to my staff who always help to keep the show on the road. But also to our youngest members of staff, Ella and George who were thrown in at the deep end along with Andrew who is still learning the ropes as he goes along.
I have also had to make an incredibly difficult decision over these past couple of weeks. As many of you all know I was due to participate in the Best Western Hotels and Macmillan Ride Of Their Lives on 16 June at York Racecourse. To be able to do this I needed to get my weight down to 11 stone to comply with the 11 stone 7lb weight limit.
I’m not embarrassed nor am I now ashamed to say that this started to consume my life. I could tell you daily whether I was down or up on pounds. I turned the air conditioning off in the car and wore my padded coat while I jumped 10 horses in succession at home, hopeful that I would be a few pounds down when I got back on the scales at home. After eating a meal, if I was up on the scales I had even resorted to making myself physically sick on a couple of occasions. I was obsessed with weighing myself daily and this also started to have a massive effect on my mental health again.
Since I started losing weight at the end of December 2017, I have lost three-and-a-half stone and feel so much better in myself for it and I hope people can notice. I had a final two stone to lose before 16 June, which I believed I could lose in eight weeks sticking to a vegan and juice diet. Following a medical, I was advised that this was not to be the case. I was told I was doing a lot of harm to my body especially with the health problems I’d had previously.
I hadn’t felt depressed for a long time, but this really got to me. For a couple of days I wasn’t a particularly nice person to be around as I felt like a failure for not being able to take part in the race. For me failure is not an option, but in this case I was defeated. After speaking to race organisers they have decided that I will ride in the race next year, allowing me a longer period of time to prepare. Once I realised that this was still going to happen, just not when I originally thought, I was able to come to terms with it. I also realised that the three weeks leading up to the race was Houghton, Tattersalls and Bramham, all of which I have a couple of horses for. Riding round them on vegetable juice in a snow suit probably wouldn’t have been the most sensible idea I’ve ever had. I have some incredible owners who have invested a lot into me this year, and I owe it to them to give it my best shot.
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I would just like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has made donations to Macmillan. I can’t thank you all enough. My JustGiving Page will stay open and I will continue to try to raise the £10,000 I had set by next year’s race. I am also going to continue losing weight to raise funds for Macmillan and hopefully can inspire people who get stuck during weight loss to carry on while I’m at it. I think people are so quick to make fun at people over their size, I’ve been guilty of it in the past, but sticking at something that is very difficult and can destroy you mentally is a hard thing to do when you feel so stuck.
So that’s my low down of a pretty sh*t few weeks. Taking the positives from it though, I’m alive, I have a great family, I have some lovely horses to ride, a top team of sponsors and some great owners. It was a crap couple of weeks, but I’ve got a whole season to turn into something good. And the start of the year for me has been incredible so there’s bound to be ups and downs. Let’s face it, that’s horses.