• Vic

When your brain isn't your friend, your pony always is.

So, apologies in advance... I realise I don't update this often and we've gone from fun jokes/storytime to HEAVY in 3/4 pieces of writing. However, in my defence, you write what you feel and this story (and the explanatory gap in content) is the perfect encapsulation of that.

So, as you know if you read blog 1 or follow me on Insta, 5 months ago I broke my collar bone and had it pinned back together (I bang on about it constantly)... now this, for me, was the most significant injury I have had in the last 15ish years... by a long way. Apart from breaking my pinky finger, in the last 15ish years my only other injury was fracturing my back... which as a teen (and an idiot), resulted in me selling my horse, giving up for about 5 years and not following any advice so resulting in an far worse injury that was required. Oh to be young again. (BTW... every one of those injuries is horse related... obviously)

Now, this is where she introduces the deep bit! Strap in.

Our first BE - BE80 at Munstead Horse Trials

As a person, I am inclined to the negative side of life. I wish I woke up every morning with a passion to dance in the rain and sing in the shower and achieve things and grind... butttttt I wake up with a passion to go back to sleep. This isn't ideal. And to be honest, most people I know who *say* they have that life amount of enthusiasm... I mean in essence I don't always believe it (this post by Muddy Mayhem captures my feelings on this perfectly). I have struggled with this a lot, resulting in struggles with mental health, dropping out of uni, I even had a breakdown once... ain't those some stories for another time. Now, the fracturing of the back is the perfect analogy for basically how I deal with these things in life... I give up. Even when people tell me its fixable with a bit of work... give up. Bloody useless personality trait, one that I'm sure a therapist would love to dive into, and one of my deepest dislikes about myself... SUPER deep.

So, bring this back to horses cos this is why we are here. My darling little demon devil of a pony... the little bastard that he is... has, I think, taught me more about life than anyone I've ever met.

Zarry certainly has talent, probably more than both of us realise... but by god is he the most challenging horse I've ever trained. I mean that in every sense... nothing about him has ever been easy. Now through my journey with him, there have been multiple occasions where I've been like "nope, can't do it". However, evvvvver so slowly, every time I have gone back, reassessed, looked at myself, listened to others, tried really hard and got there. Effectively, I have never given up with him. I have truly wanted to, I believed I wasn't good enough for him, or he wasn't suited to me or whatever... but at the end of the day, due to loads of circumstances, we were kinda stuck with each other and so we had to kept going.

Our first placing in something that involved dressage!

Now, after just insulting his difficulty, the wonderful thing about him is that his heart is made of gold. So every time I have wanted to give up, but tried one more time, or tried something different, or just tried again, eventually... we have got there. I mean, he's still a dickhead sometimes, but every goal I have set... we have got there. And every time I've been having a rough ride in life, he has been there for me. He is a constant source of joy and stress in equal measure, but he is always there and (metaphorically) *shows up* for me every time I need him. Yes, probably would have been quicker or easier or better or prettier with a different horse or a different rider... but it doesn't matter... us two little pair of mismatched idiots have eventually got there and got through it together... and that fills my stone cold little heart with warmth and happiness that's indescribable. One of the things that puts this into words for me is a recent post by Sophie - @ridingremington - about why some horses are horses of a lifetime... its really good, check it out here.

So back to the collar bone, this was a significant injury that, in a previous life time, may have given me a reason to give up. However, with all the lessons my little ginger pony taught me, we broke the cycle and I didn't. Yeah, its been annoying having time off and having to build up slowly but... I have a working arm, working pony and our aims and plans are still the same. This may seem small to some people... but to me and the (slightly shit) tool of my brain that I'm working with, its actually really big. I'm thrilled. Doesn't mean it gets less difficult, just means I want to keep going.

Weird side note: I was really interested to see if the fall knocked mine or his confidence... oddly, I don't feel like it has. Over 3+ years with each other, I think both of our resilience to bouncing back after "failure" has grown together. We cute.

So translate this to life...

Our first BE90 - Tweseldown

I have a job (like most people)... It's quite a difficult job in terms of resilience. Its not difficult in complexity, but as a young woman in a heavily traditional male environment, a big element of resilience is required on a daily basis. As with horses, if you repeatedly hit walls all the time, when you're trying to move forward, you can sometimes lose the will to try to move forward at all. This is not good, and this is where I have been for the last 6 months. Over the last year, we have had some monumental difficulties to sort out at work, in a system that is somewhat broken to begin with. After 18 months of doggedly working to get through the issues and fighting through many walls, we were very slowly moving forward, but I had to take 6 weeks off to deal with the collar bone and in that 6 weeks, I forgot the progress we'd made and lost that will to try to move forward at all. Sitting alone for 6 weeks, with just your (shit) brain for company lets you talk yourself into these things. Its not good.

So I came back to work with no will to go forward at all, add in the constant daily battles of a reasonably toxic environment, it became worse and worse and essentially I wanted to give up, run away and just start again somewhere else. Pretend it would be different.

However, like my horse, this job has potential. So much of it. If you can get through all the crap and difficulty, there is genuinely a massively rewarding and brilliant prospect at the end. Not just for the company but for me personally in terms of a future career... and at 26 years old, that's quite important. But I'd lost sight of that, just like in the past I have lost sight of any progress with Zarry, all in the stupid quest for perfection.

So, I decided to employ the same logic. What would I do if it was riding? Well, I'd get a vet, check we're healthy and able to work, look after our minds/bodies with maintenance/self-care, put preventative changes in place to protect us from injury, but effectively... just keep trying. Every day. Take support and help and advice where you can, find mini successes along the way, reflect on what you can do differently. Go into every meeting with a "sit up and kick on" mentality. Don't worry about knocking poles, they're minor blips on the way to better things. Try to get the basics in place, do exercises to strengthen them. Utilise the truly good people with more experience to teach you, ignore the people who don't want to see you fly. Admit to others when you're wrong and where you're struggling, identify the problems, be truthful with yourself, identify your weaknesses, work to make them better.

Our first eventing double clear - BRC at Coombelands

Basic life resilience. The ability to keep going along the path of getting better.

Progress not perfection.

I've made a rehab plan for my job... In the same way I've worked through rehab plans with my horse when things have gone wrong. Slowly building up, taking steps towards the goal but not having that as the main focus. What would I do with the pony if I felt like there was no way forward? Pool all the resources of resilience and confidence we've built and the wonderful support that we have, work out a return-to-work plan and get on and do it. Assess and communicate as we go... Deviate from the plan if its not working, but effectively... not stop and discount all your progress, just cos you had a bad fall!

I'm a bit proud of myself tbh, but mostly grateful for horses and the impact they have on my life. We aren't worthy of them. They're lovely. Especially little ginger ones. Mine specifically. Mines the best :-)

PS - each photo in this represents the day we achieved a goal I'd set... in order:

Cover photo - first ODE, then first BE, first rosette in something that involved dressage, first BE90, first eventing double clear and finally (below) first double clear at BE90.


Our first double clear at BE90 - Tweseldown