Nana Dalton’s ‘getting back on my feet’ blog: a life-changing move

  • With William Fox-Pitt being on the front cover of this week’s Horse & Hound, it seems a fitting time to share the exciting news that next month Toby, the horses and I will be moving to Dorset and will be based at William’s!

    My dynamics have changed significantly over the past year and if they say that ‘life begins at 40’, having reached this milestone recently, it’s time to be bold and do what I believe is going to be the best for us all based on personal, professional and financial reasons.

    Sometimes the hardest thing is all the deliberation that goes in to making big decisions and this is certainly a decision I have not taken lightly. But having now made it, although there will obviously be some challenges with moving house, yard and area, I am filled with excitement and positivity for the future! I have lived in my house for 21 years, so there are a fair few trips down memory lane being taken while packing, but it all just feels so right.

    For a long time I’ve yearned to not have to get in the car to do the horses — since I was 18-years-old, I have rented and run a yard but have always had to drive to get to it. With a little one in tow and fitting in with school drop offs/pick ups, it gets quite restrictive.

    I have a great little cottage but it is bang on an increasingly busy main road, being within an hour’s commute of London. We have to park up the road in a lay-by so it’s not exactly dog/child friendly. And although it’s called ‘The Old Bakery’, ironically it doesn’t have a chimney, so there’s no chance of an open fire/wood burner, which is something I’ve always longed for.

    So, in the many times of reflection I’ve had, I’ve wished for living on-site to the horses, to have a driveway to park in and to have an open fire — not things that are easily affordable living in ‘commutersville’ and trying to earn a living with horses.

    My best friend from childhood days lives in Dorset and over the past couple of years I have spent an increasing amount of time there with her and with some fabulous folk I’ve met through her too.

    As kids, we spent endless happy days together — always outside and normally riding ‘twos up’ bareback on my pony, ‘Smokey’. We both vividly remember the time we were on one of our many meandering hacks, me in front holding the reins/mane and her behind holding on to my waist. We saw a fox cross the path in front of us so theatrically shouted ‘tally ho’ and tried to canter after it… We went around a corner a bit too quickly and as we lost balance and started slipping, gravity took over and we both ended up splatting in a huge muddy puddle! Smokey was a saint and was eternally tolerant of all our antics, so he always patiently waited for us to clamber on one way or another. If there wasn’t anything to climb on, he’d put his head down, and so after giving Caroline a leg up, I’d sit behind his ears and he’d then lift his head up for me to slide down his neck on to his back. Obviously not PC in either sense of the meaning and definitely not advised, but that’s how we improvised back then! Anyway, when we got back from that particular all day hack, my mother took one look at how filthy we were and insisted on hosing us down before we could even take our clothes off!

    Recreating ‘twos up’ with Caroline on her 40th birthday a couple of years ago!

    I had a magic and slightly ‘swallows and amazons-esque’ childhood and this is the sort of childhood I only hope I can go some way to providing for Toby. Seeing recent photos of the Portman branch of the Pony Club minis enjoying a rally with their mums (including Mrs Fox-Pitt), waist deep leading them through a river, really made me smile.

    I have been thinking of moving to Dorset for a while and so when the opportunity came up to have the horses at William’s with a cottage that backs on to the yard (with on-site parking and an open fire!), along with regular Pony Club rallies there etc, I grasped it with both hands.

    I am going to stick to just competing two horses, but with many exceptional facilities there, I’ll be in the right place to best prepare Miley for Burghley this September and Fiddle for her step up to three-star level this autumn. I will then also have a lot more time to dedicate to training other people, so look out for forthcoming clinic dates and do get in touch for private/group coaching and mentoring. I like to focus on key basic skills, which when in place, then encourage confident riding and training, so most importantly people and horses have FUN!

    The other great news is that after over a year of some fairly rubbish health issues, I’m finally and thankfully feeling strong again and pretty close to full fitness. It’s such a big relief, especially after a recent scare which resulted in a scan and some biopsies taken from my breast. Although having the double mastectomy dramatically reduced my risk of breast cancer, it doesn’t eliminate it. I thought the ‘fate Gods’ would’ve been extra cranky with me to have served up this curve ball, but couldn’t eliminate the concept until I received the phone call from my surgeon last week to confirm that the results were all good and that the lump was a ‘fat necrosis’, which was likely to have been as a result of the showjumping fall I had in March. Humongous relief and it means I can now fully focus on all our exciting stuff moving forward.

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    Fiddle and Miley are both competing at Barbury this weekend — one of my favourite events as it’s natural amphitheatre creates such a great setting and fabulous viewing opportunities for all connections and spectators. I’ll be looking forward to competing these super horses but also raising a glass with my fabulous team of owners who have been exceptionally supportive of me. We have syndicates for Miley and Fiddle and I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without the support of these owners — I value it all greatly. #OnwardsAndUpwards


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