There’s that Oscar Wilde quote: ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars’
Well, here’s my confession. When I was little, I used to daydream that I wanted to be the first woman to win the Grand National… and Badminton… in the same year… and on the same horse!
Last week something happened which made me remember my childhood ‘ambition’. I got to indulge thoughts of combining National Velvet/International Velvet and Black Beauty as Miley (Absolut Opposition) and I were involved in some pre-Grand National filming. We were kitted out accordingly and got to pretend to be jockey/racehorse for the day and jump an Aintree styley fence (pictured top)! (It’s for a commercial and so will no doubt be aired around the National meeting in April).
In May, Miley and I are planning our third trip back to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. I have absolutely no illusions of lifting the winner’s trophy, but to be able to continue enjoying this journey of adventures with a home-bred horse, who is also my best buddy, is something I’d simply struggle to emote.
This month I also got to ride out a horse aiming for this year’s Grand National. I spent a fabulous morning at Colin Tizzard’s yard — I find it fascinating seeing how different people I respect operate and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I did however get a bit carried away and volunteered to ride a couple more than I’d planned, so needless to say, did a bit too much — it was a bit embarrassing having to ask someone to wash off my last horse as I didn’t even have the strength to hold the hosepipe!
It took me a few attempts to get out of bed the following morning, but it was definitely worth it and in a slightly perverse way, it was really nice to feel every other part of my body aching, not just my boobs and legs!
Thinking of this tenuous link between dreams and reality definitely makes me smile and feel very lucky that my life is indeed lit by many bright stars that I seem to have landed among.
The cross over between racing and eventing also surfaced when I took Miley cross-country schooling last week. As a further prep for the St Michaels Hospice charity race at Hereford Racecourse in March, which I’ve agreed to ride in, I arranged to meet Yogi Breisner at Tweseldown. Yogi has helped me for over 20 years so wasn’t in the slightest bit fazed when I asked if we could do some work tuning me up in the racing saddle at the end of the session. However he then totally served it up to me by suggesting that we do all of the session in the racing saddle!
I felt a bit rusty and part way through the session, I stuttered when Yogi suggested I jump a downhill line of fences. He proceeded to challenge me that it’s good to push the limits of one’s comfort zone.
Now bearing in mind this was only the third time I was jumping since my major operation (the first time I jumped, the internal stitches in my legs ripped through my muscle and I struggled to walk for a week!), it was only the third time I’d ever sat in a racing saddle and it was Miley’s first time going cross-country since Burghley etc, etc, I felt I was already perched on the edge of my comfort zone. This, however, highlighted the real advantage of having a trainer that you trust and who knows and understands you well. He was absolutely right and by going that bit further meant the benefits of the session were that much greater. Miley is literally feeling in the form of his life and I was genuinely buzzing with sense of achievement and enjoyment from it!
Having decided to downscale, on 1 January I moved out of the yard I rented and for the past few weeks the horses have been squatting with top rider/trainer, neighbour and great friend, Chris Burton. I have absolutely loved being based with him. Not only is it one of the most idyllic and stunning spots in Surrey, I’ve really enjoyed being in the environment of someone at the very top of our game. I always knew it was only a temporary base as Burto moves to Dorset this week, but it’s been a wonderful safe haven which has given me some breathing space and support while I find my feet. Today my lorry turned into a removal van again and I have moved the horses to a small yard closer to where I live.
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To say I’m all set for our first event of the season this weekend would be somewhat of an overstatement. I’ve not exactly had a conventional winter’s training prepping for it, but I’m of the belief that life is never always going to be straightforward or perfect so we might as well crack on and make the best of given situations.
I’m really looking forward to heading to Moreton on Saturday with two lovely mares. Both have been bred by their wonderful owners and I know them well having started them from scratch. They competed at novice level last year so going for the BE100 should be a nice schooling run to kick off our 2019 eventing season before heading to Tweseldown, where Miley will be running in the open intermediate on Thursday.
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