It has been a while since I was a regular Horse & Hound person of interest, and a lot has changed since then, including my name.
As Laura Bechtolsheimer, I was a less tired and far more successful creature than I am now, but no happier. As Laura Tomlinson I have my work cut out for me; I am on my yard a lot less than I used to be, I have two children, enjoy less sleep and have a lot more to juggle. But I have lost none of my determination to get back to the top, and I enjoy my work with each horse as much as ever.
My respect for my mother and any other career-minded yet hands-on, loving mother has increased exponentially.
Coming back after having children and suffering a slipped disc after my second child, Wilfred, has been challenging in more ways than one. The fitness side was the least of my worries, but having to manage the responsibilities and no longer always automatically putting my top horse first, has meant I have had to change the way I do things and come to terms with that.
The next step is believing I can make it back to the top, despite it being with different horses and a new system. I ride fewer horses and therefore have all my eggs in fewer baskets. I have had to learn to take the time I do have on the yard and focus intensely in that time; I have to draw my confidence from past experiences as I have a lot less ring-practice now, but I am enjoying the new journey.
A top-class national circuit
As a result of my new circumstances and finding myself back at the start of a climb, I have been competing more at national shows again, and I have been impressed. There are more great facilities around than there were several years ago and plenty of local shows to practise tests at any level, often through the FEI pick-your-own classes. Venues such as Hunters, Wellington, Summerhouse and Somerford Park have invested in their arenas and become top-class facilities with good surfaces, which is key to bringing young horses up the levels.
I have also been struck by the quality of horses and the level of riding. We used to have a few nice young horses in the country, but they never seemed to go far, whereas now we see good horses across the levels, which shows that training and riding has improved.
The knowledge from the top few has trickled down to those that train with the top few, and they in turn teach a wider range of people. The result is that better riding spreads and the good horses benefit.
Don’t add fluff for fashion’s sake
I would caution the assumption made by many, it seems, that lots of fluffy padding makes for a comfortable horse.
I am all for making tack as comfortable as possible and often better-shaped tack and padding helps, but if a saddle was made to fit and we add a big fluffy pad, the saddle no longer fits.
Likewise, a badly fitting saddle is not made comfortable for the horse just because a pad is added, nor does a padded noseband excuse tightening it by three holes.
We need to think about why we are adding certain items; they do have their place, but not for fashion’s sake.
Ref Horse & Hound; 21 June 2018