It seems strange not to be talking to you about shows, judging and results. Instead, the pressure of shows seem to have faded into insignificance, and I am actually really enjoying my horses during this time. I’m sure I’m not alone in living in my own little world at home – it is a chance to escape from reality and some of the horrors that are unfolding outside my yard gates.
No doubt the novelty of isolation will wear off eventually. In the coming months, we will start to miss the buzz of competing. But currently I am carrying on fairly normally day to day and I feel pretty calm and reflective.
It has caused me to think about old stories and past experiences. My wife, Natalie, informs me that social media is flooded with lovely pictures of past show horses and riders, which is fabulous. There are also plenty of online tutorials and tips from the professionals and I hope that people take advantage of them. Using and filling your time productively is a really positive step. It is great to see social media being used in the right way, which makes a very welcome change.
A happier time?
It actually made me question – do we secretly enjoy being isolated? I for one have enjoyed spending precious time with my six-year-old son. We have been out on the tractor and teaching him a few practical skills, while Natalie has been doing the academic side.
Being isolated on the yard brings a real normality to the current situation. We can busy ourselves with routine and get stuck into training. Irrespective of whether we will get to a show soon, the end goal is still the same, but we are just somewhat delayed in its delivery. The horses have been my saviour and my owners have been incredibly supportive, and I have taken great pleasure in spending the extra time bringing on the youngsters.
I have discovered that actually, we don’t really need the glorification of a red rosette to prove we are doing a good job. There are so many small triumphs when teaching a young horse and it is great to reach those goals without the time pressures of an impending competition. Sometimes, we find ourselves so busy and wrapped up in the rollercoaster of shows, we lose sight of what we are doing and what we are hoping to achieve.
It has been a cathartic experience and, for a while at least, the world seems to have slowed down a little and given us all time to breathe and take stock. We are so lucky to do the job we do and my hope after all this is that people don’t become obsessed with the rosettes and instead appreciate their horses, perhaps taking time to help others out too.
Loss of a legend
I would like to end by saying how devastated I was that my friend and fellow showman Rory Gilsenan passed away. Rory was the biggest character in showing. There really was and never will be another like him. He was always great fun to be around and I am sure no one else could have got away with his colourful language!
He was a fantastic, natural horseman who had a great feel for a horse, especially to a fence. I was so pleased to see all of his ambitions come to fruition when he won the Royal International and Horse of the Year Show. The great sadness is that he was at the top of his game. He was a hard man to beat in the ring but he was a great pal outside it.
I am sure that Rory will never be forgotten.
Ref Horse & Hound; 7 May 2020