I wanted to write a post about horses because throughout my life they’ve proven really important. As soon as I could point at things and make noises, I pointed at horses.
This came as a surprise to my completely not horsey parents. Somewhere way back an Irish great-grandfather was a jockey, and yes, my great Uncle Nigel had once driven a carriage at Bakewell show, but I started pointing at horses before I could have known that.
I begged and begged for riding lessons and on my sixth birthday my wish was granted! I was SO happy to be riding. I imagine I was also SO terrible and I vaguely remember being scared of most ponies. But it didn’t matter – I was riding!
Thirty minutes once a fortnight isn’t a lot of time on horseback though. I amassed a lot of small plastic horses as a result of the withdrawal and begged for more. Thankfully, as I got older my parents very generously kept up the riding lessons. In the school holidays I did pony club, little riding school shows on rented ponies and helped out with stable chores and children’s lessons to earn schooling time.
I kept it up throughout my teenage years at the same riding school. They held little shows every so often and I treasured the rosettes we won doing gymkhana games and jumping little courses. I did natural horsemanship workshops with a Welsh Cob mare called Heather who I adored, rode at Pony Club, groomed for too long, sang to, and basically did everything a lovesick teenage girl will do. (Unfortunately she was sold 2 ½ years ago but I did get to ride her a couple of final times when I was home from university.)
I loved horses. I wanted to work with horses. And the way I wanted to do that was to become a vet. Being a teenager provided some distractions though, and along with all the usual ones, I got really into biology. At the last minute, I wimped out on vet school. I couldn’t give up the rest of biology that vets didn’t get to look at.
It was still horses who kept me sane through the degree though!
Look at Marley. Isn’t he beautiful? He lives at Springhill Stables in Cambridgeshire, a riding school I can’t recommend strongly enough! Being there could fix all my problems and make everything OK again.
When I started work I had nowhere to ride for 16 months. Then, when we moved, a lady from work told me about a local charity yard. I couldn’t believe my luck when there turned out to be space in her weekly lesson with several other friendly people, a great instructor, lovely variety of horses and plenty of opportunities to jump!
Horses will always have a place in my life – now that I try and save money at every turn for my university fees, my riding lessons are my “allowable” expense. In my head I’ve questioned that quite a lot but at the end of the day, horses do a really good job of keeping me sane. (And I know that I must really, really want to go to vet school because if I didn’t, I have blown the savings on a real life horse of my own by now). I also do some schooling and volunteering at the stables and it’s better than therapy! It’s one of the things that keeps me on track and stops me freaking out about the idea of quitting my job and going back to university. Animals, especially the horse-shaped ones, and physical, outdoor work make me happy. I know it will be tough, and take a long time, not to mention blood, sweat and tears… but eventually I know I have to leave my desk and my computer and gets myself a hands-on job with animals.