What’s going on? – A Riders Pandemic

It has been quite a while since I wrote down my thoughts or even blogged properly but I felt it was about time I told you guys what has actually been going on not only with me but with Dante too. I feel like I am being such a negative social media hun lately, I am lacking the happy Instagram that I had been used to sharing. We are currently living through a pandemic, like a world pandemic, it still is quite hard to actually grasp that concept, and the fact that there is still so much uncertainty around where we can go with limits on travel, limits on who you can see, what you can do, it is extremely daunting when you take a minute to think about it properly. Without realising, It begins to take a toll on you, as hard as it might be to admit it, it creeps in during times you least expect. Documenting mine and Dante’s slight issues over the past few weeks, things that have been going wrong, tack I was lacking, the list goes on. But I never stopped to really think of the bigger picture behind it all.

I went through a phase of genuinely hating my horse a few weeks ago. It may have only lasted 2 days but I couldn’t do anything right, I couldn’t ride him properly, I couldn’t jump properly, I couldn’t even get off him properly. I just couldn’t figure out anything to fix why we weren’t connecting and frankly it was doing my tits in. I literally could not cope. I completely overwhelmed myself, where did everything go wrong? Does my horse hate me? 

Dante is not a bold horse, he is certainly opinionated but he is definitely not a horse to go out of his way to try get you off. I still kick myself thinking that I never thought of him maybe trying to tell me that he was sore or something didn’t fit properly. Dante gained so much muscle over lockdown, he completely transformed and with that I was bound that have tack changes but it was something that never crossed my mind. He began what I though was a bold habit of shooting off underneath me whenever I would ask for canter, mainly on my right lead, but I blindly just thought he was being bold, of course I was completely wrong.

When I think back, I think he had been trying to tell me something was off since possibly July? This was when things started to appear above the surface lets just say. I was just to bloody naïve to think otherwise. Our mishaps did begin to take a major toll on me and my riding confidence to be brutally honest, I began to get really anxious when I rode, I even went through phases of trying to put it off or I made up excuses for myself as reasons not to do things. I spend so much time telling myself so much negative things, I was not big enough for my horse, I wasn’t strong enough, He’d be much better with someone else riding him etc.… I basically pulled all the negative things people used to say even if they weren’t hurtful but started to process them as things I needed to believe were true. I can only imagine now what you the reader is thinking, well let me put it this way I haven’t really told this to anyone, I am a heure for bottling things up but riding my horse is something I love, after a few weeks of feelings down, I got quickly fed up with that feeling and a ball of fire was was lit up my hole, I wasn’t going to get defeated that easily by this nervous tick I had started to create.

Whats The Plan?

Like any good horse person, you stop, evaluate and start from the beginning. Lets get the essentials checked, his back, his saddle and quite possibly his teeth, even his shoes. I went right back to basics and I am so bloody thankful I pulled my sad head out of my arse and did. The problem was literally right in front of my face. On Monday, he had his back done and of course that was a factor. When my arse was sitting in the saddle basically a tension just underneath where the back of my saddle lies had a build up, so every time I would do sudden movements no matter how light, small or fat I was he was going to react and shoot away from the harsh pain he was feeling. He also had a tight sacroiliac, his pelvis was out of line, he was 100% overdue some TLC. This brings my next topic of conversation…. the saddle. This is an ongoing issue so fingers crossed I will find the right one soon, if I have to wait another week or two so be it, I have lunging and long reining exercises to do in the meantime to keep Dante occupied.  It just goes to show how important correct fitting Tack is and the role it takes in ensuring your horse is moving confortably.

Moving onto me, the rider. While I don’t think its normal to think so badly of yourself, I know and can see how harsh the equestrian community is all the time over such small issues. Riding Dante has always been my escape from the big world problems, at least I thought it was or it used to be. Here is where the effects of this cruel sad pandemic we are living in creeps in. Close Deaths, returning illnesses, near deaths from Covid, not being able to see people I used to see everyday, I think all these factors I bottled down and thought riding my horse and escaping reality would make the pain these things caused go away but in fact it done the complete opposite. I brought negativity to my riding and created a problem within it.

How many of us horse riders genuinely look after ourselves? Do we look after our bodies properly after the grueling work we put it through trying to get the perfect half pass, or trying to perfect the perfect jumping position? Do we take social media breaks? Do we ever stop comparing ourselves to what others are doing? I think a lot of us can put our hands up and say no… we put ourselves last, like paddy last in the list of things that need to be looked after.

Regular physio sessions have been a new addition to my regime, I was told I had a back like a 60 year old woman at my first session, I also couldn’t bend my arm back behind my back basically the feedback on the state of me really opened my eyes, like no way would I let my horse have a bad back. Being in such a bad physical shape, also made my riding abilities weaken, I was genuinely creating some of the problems. Bad posture, floppy legs, weak abs, we need all these things to engage and connect even control our horses when we ride, I am not afraid to say I have been lacking in all 3 of these, so on the back of this I made the conscious decision to start doing Pilates at home on my bedroom floor 5 evenings a week to try strengthen these weaknesses. I say 5 evenings, sometimes it could only be 3, I don’t get too hard on myself, but at least its a goal I have started.

This pandemic has brought a lot of strange into my life, it has opened a few doors, and it has certainly opened my eyes. Close friends came back into my life, ones I really missed and ones that I drifted from and have gone back to being in regular contact. If anything these weird times has connected some of us back together, brought us together during probably one of the craziest things we will ever live through.

Hopefully my recap hasn’t drained the life out of you, but hopefully it also makes you stop and think of how you really feel during these strange times, what has changed for you? Maybe we should all start with something small like asking people how they are? How has your day been. Keep the contact and check in on one another more.

Be Kind, Be Forgiving, Don’t Cause Any unnecessary Drama. And Lets hope my next post is more positive, involves more riding and has more uplifting elements!!