William Shakespeare wrote that man passes through seven stages in his life, from baby to extreme old age. We reckon the same thing applies to horse riders…
Stage 1 – Clamour constantly to be able to ride pony on lead-rein. Ride pony. Get off. Repeat as often as your parents can be persuaded to take you.
Stage 2 – Clamour constantly to be able to ride pony off lead-rein. Learn to canter. Fall off. Get up, giggling hysterically. Get back on. Canter again. Fall off again. Repeat for several hours a week. Only consider the idea of falling off and breaking your arm in the context of quite fancying a couple of weeks off school.
Stage 3 – Clamour constantly to start jumping. Jump over literally everything you can find, from logs on hacks to the mounting block to poles held up by school friends. Fall off almost constantly and barely notice. One of your friends falls off and fractures a wrist and you’re jealous of all the cool stuff people write on her cast and the fact she’s signed off from gym lessons.
Stage 4 – Clamour constantly to be able to compete. Your parents, who were quite hoping for lie ins at the weekends, now find themselves getting up at 5.30am to take you to shows. Life suddenly seems a lot busier – good thing falling off doesn’t happen too much these days.
Stage 5 – Constant clamouring dies down a bit, as you’re now juggling horses, university and a social life. You still ride as much as possible, but you have been known to turn down a competition in favour of a lie-in yourself.
Your trainer is a huge part of your team. You can rely on them to keep you and your horse
Stage 6 – Listen to your daughter’s constant clamouring about riding on the lead rein. Still ride yourself, but have ‘white knuckle’ moments every time your daughter’s pony sneezes. Live in terror of falling off and breaking a bone – who would do the horses/walk the dog/go to work/look after the children for you?
Stage 7 – Your criteria for buying a new horse is no longer ‘how high can he jump?’ but ‘how safe is he?’ Find yourself wearing more safety gear than you ever wore when you were competing. Opt out of riding on wet days and be completely unrepentant about it. Your contemporaries have long ago opted for less demanding hobbies such as flower arranging and refer to you as ‘the mad horsewoman’. Fortunately, you have long ago stopped caring what anyone thought of you.
Would you like to read Horse & Hound’s independent journalism without any adverts? Join Horse & Hound Plus today and you can read all articles on completely ad-free.