Tuesday, 14 November 2017
Tuesday, 7 November 2017
Sunday, 5 November 2017
Saturday, 4 November 2017
Friday, 13 October 2017
Monday, 25 September 2017
The last couple of months have presented me with several challenges. Obviously I've had to recover physically since my fall, however the mental side has been much, much harder - and not in the ways you might imagine.
Not being able to remember the fall is a blessing and a curse. It is good to not have any direct negative memories - however in being concussed and not being able to remember, my brain seemed to "invent" various (scary!) scenarios. The days (and even weeks) after were a very confusing time for me. On one hand, everything seemed normal, but a chunk of time had gone missing forever. On the other hand - my cognitive function was not as good as I thought it was....one morning, I went out to feed horses and couldn't remember what to do (and had a few incidents like this - eek!). Am really thanking my lucky stars that my injury was not more serious. It's only when I look back I can see now why people kept telling me to rest (oops!).
One of the hardest things for me to grapple with at the time was other people's reactions. Some seemed almost angry at me, I guess out of frustration and disappointment. In the aftermath, I had much well-intended advice and many people asking "what on earth happened??!!" In normal circumstances, I'm not one to shirk constructive criticism, but when really not myself and unable to recall the fall or process anything, it was not the right time.
Other people were consoling, bracing themselves for me being terribly disappointed. The weird thing is that I *wasn't* disappointed - I didn't feel anything emotionally in the days after, the concussion wiped that out of the equation. Ironically, even now, I'd have been more angry and disappointed had I had a silly run-out or a simple fall landing on my feet. Eventer's logic!
These reactions from everyone are all normal, given the fright I gave so many people close to me. Riding is a dangerous sport, and as riders we accept the risks involved. The impact on my family and friends, I must admit, is not something I've often thought through in depth. Because I have no recollection of the fall (or the 30 seconds before and some time after) it's like it never happened to me. It's like that day never happened, like it happened to someone else. However, for many others, it was frightening and caused a whole mix of emotions.
Riding wise, my confidence was not directly affected; I felt the same as always when I got on a horse again. Over time though, I started second guessing myself about ditch fences, so have had to deal with this. It has been weird to run into people and hear various versions of events and what "supposedly" happened. Some thought Snip had fallen. Some told me I'd landed head first. For the record, it would appear from the video analysis we somehow simply misjudged a fence, Snip's legs caught the back of it and I hit Snip's *poll* with my head... was knocked out and then limply fell to the ground. He stayed on his feet and galloped off!
I am still proud though, that despite everything, we made it to MI3DE. We had such a good season until then, with no placings outside of the top 12 and clear XC rounds every time! Just unfortunate we had a mistake at the big event, but that is horses and sport in general. I am very grateful to not have been more seriously hurt and so glad Snip was ok too. In the weeks following though, he unfortunately had a bout of cellulitis, which meant a slightly longer spell than I had planned for him.
Return to competition
The exciting news - we are out competing! I also have another little thoroughbred to compete alongside Snip, named Typo. He came to me to be a school horse, but has made the progression to eventer ;)
Typo did his first HT at Maldon and was very good, despite being green, with a calm dressage test, clear XC and 1 rail SJ. We then travelled up to sunny Mildura for their wonderful event, Snip in the EvA105 and Typo in the EvA65. I was probably not in my most healthy state, having a bout of tonsilitis! Snip was a star, one of only 2 horses in the 24 strong field to finish on his dressage score, placing 8th. Typo placed midfield with a relaxed dressage, super clear XC and 2 rails SJ.
Monday, 12 June 2017
Ok, so that didn't quite go to plan (!)
After jumping the first 7 fences beautifully at MI3DE, I made quite a blunder and we had a stack at the "simple" ditch brush - a type of fence we've jumped confidently many times before. I don't recall the fall at all, but it would seem to be an error on my part as we apparently had a massive "miss" and Snip's hind legs caught on the back of the fence. I was ejected...! I am mortified to have made such an error, however, we are all only human and capable of making mistakes.
I suffered loss of consciousness and was apparently not "with it" for some time after. Medical services at the event were great - I was well looked after and my family were well supported by MI3DE event staff in making sure they were ok too.
I also cannot thank my friends and family enough for taking care of me and my horses. It will make me think twice about going to events alone, as I often do. I am so lucky to have had friends and the event vets to take care of my horse, and family to drive me home & look after my kids.
It has really hit home about the safety issues - I am *so* glad I was wearing a good helmet, my BETA 3 Racesafe back protector, plus a Point Two air vest. Aside from a few bruises, the rest of my body is fine. :) Not a mark on my back/torso. The doctors I saw were intrigued by my air vest and wanted to look at it, as it was not something they were familiar with.
So - my birthday present to myself will be a new high specification cross country helmet. I am looking into the new "Conehead" and helmets with EPS technology & crush resistance. Anything to reduce the chance of a major head injury is money well spent in my opinion. Always, always wear a helmet!!
We will be back to competition after a bit of a rest for me, a spell for Snip and (finally!) a holiday to the Gold Coast ;)
Wednesday, 7 June 2017
I've had many blog posts on the go, but haven't managed to actually finish one - I kept getting bogged down in details. I also feel the need to delve a little more deeply into my current personal journey and how important it has been to me.
So, I'm AT MELBOURNE 3DE! We qualified, we got here!
What has this journey given me? Some of my answers have surprised me.
It has made me appreciate what my body can do
In this superficial world, we are constantly bombarded by the pursuit of the ideal body. Whatever that is. (Even moreso after having a baby, or two...you know, you should snap back to "pre baby" magically as if nothing had ever happened. Yeah right!!!).
Like many women, I've been plagued by body image issues all my life (pause for sharp intake of breath, yes...me). Somehow, I got a mixed message that my weight was a measure of my self worth. It led to decades of disordered eating and very flawed thinking. It was suggested to me recently by someone (who should know better) that I should exercise off the wobbly baby tummy. Umm, hello, it's mostly loose skin. Besides, I walk on average 18,000 steps per day, ride several horses and look after 2 small kids. I don't think inactivity is my problem! Besides, as I head closer towards four decades on this earth, it is silly to think I'm going to retain the figure of my 19 year old self.
No, instead, I appreciate my body for its strength. I am fit, I am strong. I can lift heavy things and gallop over fixed obstacles on a 500kg horse. I am back riding at the level I was before two kids. My body rocks, even if I don't resemble a stick insect.
It has given me back my identity
Motherhood does change priorities dramatically. That's a given. But being able to ride and do things I used to do is so very important to me. For a long time, horses have shaped my life, so to take that away from me made me feel very lost. Time on the sidelines when pregnant or with small babies was a huge change. Spending time daily with my horses and having goals to aim for has given me "normality" in a crazy time of re-adjustment.
There is nothing wrong with being identified as a Mother. But for myself, and many other Mums, we are many, many other things too.
It has rebuilt my self worth
Having perinatal/postnatal anxiety and depression (twice, yay...go me!) sucked me into a black hole of nothingness and made me loathe myself and feel worthless as a person. I also lived in constant fear of being judged...the simple worry that my house was never in order would be enough to send me into a spin and I experienced constant hyper vigilance. I would read things into everything that anyone said, because I felt it must be about me and how I was a failure as a mother and as a person full stop. I wasn't worthy of even existing. Get the picture? If you have never experienced that feeling, it is very hard to understand. These overwhelming feelings made me at one stage consider selling my horses - thank goodness that didn't happen!
Alongside finding good medical help, having riding goals has given me another reason to dig deep and keep on going. When there's horses to ride and feed, it's another thing to get up and out of bed for. Then there's the enjoyment factor. Having something to look forward to makes the fog lift and the Black Dog's shadow no longer lingers as a constant threat.
Doing something well has given me a feeling of accomplishment and pride. This is also evident in my coaching, as I really enjoy being able to help others on their riding journeys.
So, no matter how the next 4 days goes....I did it. I got here. I'm happy and proud. And even better, I now have my husband and kids to share this special journey with. Along with my very special horse...
As 3 1/2 year old Hamish said to me the other day after watching me jump -
"Snip is a good horse Mummy. He's your best friend"
Photos by Andrea Dunn Photography
Sunday, 9 April 2017
Since having a family, my goals have been more modest, more training oriented and I've not been in such a hurry to go up the grades. Riding again after kids has been an opportunity to get all of my basics more solid (and have to re-learn a lot of what I had previously been taught). Despite, or perhaps because of this - my results have been better! I'm more relaxed about competition in general too, knowing that no matter how things go, as long as I come home safe to cuddle my kids, it's been a good day.
Tim Minchin in one of his speeches advocates "passionate pursuit of short term goals." He maintains "you should be careful of long term dreams...if you focus too far in front of you, you won't see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye"
His whole speech about the lessons of life can be seen here. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you watch it...
He is so right about "that shiny thing" - for me, backing off on my sole focus of eventing has meant I've got to achieve some quite different things. Having children. Bringing on a young horse. Going to Portugal, travelling alone, experiencing the thrill of riding piaffe & passage. Developing my coaching skills. All things I'd have missed if I had my blinkers still firmly on.
This year, I am aiming for Melbourne again. We might get there, we might not, but for me this time it's the journey along the way that's most important. To get there again (or even to consider it) after five years and two children is huge in itself.
Time and wisdom now means I put my sport in perspective - I do this for fun. I don't want to miss out on any other 'shiny objects' or opportunities to experience things that I might enjoy just as much (gasp!) as galloping cross country.
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
...And back to the real world
I'm back. I have put off writing my last installment as it makes me quite sad. I'm now well and truly back into the "real life" of working and being a Mum. The holiday is really over.
My last ride in Cascais was the morning before I departed Portugal. I had a magical lesson (again with Frederico), riding Vingador. We continued our work on laterals, flying changes and passage. For me, the lightbulb moment was realising that for these movements I had to wait (and wait a bit more...!) and prepare. My eventing reflexes have me wanting to do everything in a hurry (and in doing so, trying to do too much). So it was a revelation in riding the flying changes to sit up, half halt, slight change of flexion...quietly ask for the change. It worked!
There is, much to my surprise, actually time to do this, even between 3 x changes (if you have seen the video I recently posted on my Gretgrix Equestrian Facebook page, you can see me finally 'getting' the sequence changes...5 across the diagonal). In the passage too, it was quite the experience for me to learn to slow down and travel in that much slower rhythm. I'm sad that I had to leave when I'd just had a brief taste of how much more there is for me to learn!
Maria gave me a souvenir of my stay - my very own CRC shirt ;) Very happy to be the first Aussie recruit (well, after Sarah that is! ;))
Upon packing my bags, Paulo collected me from Quinta da Bicuda to take me to the Airport. We had a slight detour to make - I had been looking for a special souvenir tile to take back. Earlier in the week I saw beautiful tiles of Lusitanos at The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. I naively assumed they'd be everywhere, which wasn't the case. Anyhow, Paulo specially took me back to Belem so I could get my beautiful tile (2 actually...oh and a print for the wall!). As a result, I got to the airport an hour before departure and only just made it to my boarding gate 15 mins before closing. Gate 46 is the furtherest away of course....! I like living on the edge ;)
So what have I learned?
Many people have asked me how riding other "fancy" horses can help me with my own riding. I cannot emphasize enough the value in riding schoolmaster horses in developing "feel". To understand straightness, you need to ride a horse that can go straight (when I sit straight, of course!). To understand true collection, it is something that must be felt. To get the feeling of the higher level work, it is best experienced on a horse with a higher level of training (and tolerance!) before attempting to train the movements on a less educated horse. I also had the opportunity to ride younger horses, to learn the process of their training and experience riding a range of horses. I could write volumes on so many of the things that I've learned. Many of them that I'd been told before, but needed extra time for the penny to drop! Riding under instruction for consecutive days also saw quite a transformation in my position, feel and timing. It taught me I need to be more disciplined in my training - both on myself and my horses.
Both Sarah and Frederico gave me exercises to do off the horse, to improve suppleness and body awareness. Use of the Balimo chair helped get my lower back, pelvis and hip flexors more free. Regular visits to my osteopath and off horse strength/suppleness training is now part of my routine.
Experiencing "pure" dressage training has seen a shift in my thinking/training & ambitions. I now view dressage as it was originally intended - training, and an art in itself, not just related to competition. Whilst my first love is still eventing, I really enjoy dressage training. I have the utmost respect for those who ride high level dressage - and am in love with the Lusitano horse ;) So beautiful, so much power, personality and yet a forgiving, willing nature. I now just need to win Lotto to bring home one of my own....In the meantime, I have a lot of learning to do with my current horses first!
On a more personal level, this trip was a way for me to step outside of my comfort zone - going somewhere new, to concentrate on a different riding discipline was an exciting adventure. Much to my surprise, I felt relaxed the whole time I was away (must have been the nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night....bliss!!!). Travelling alone teaches you so much about yourself & what you are truly capable of. I was able to talk to my kids each day (hurray for the internet!) and it wasn't as hard as I thought being away from my family. So many people said to me they could never leave their kids for so long - however, I have faith in my husband's parenting ability, not to mention my wider support network of family.
If you ever want to do something like this - just do it! It might be a leap of faith, but the rewards are great. Life is too short. Get out there and seize the moment!
Thursday, 16 February 2017
I was going to include this as part of my "Lusitano Diaries" but it really deserves a chapter of its own. On Monday 23rd January, I went on a guided tour of Lisbon with Paulo and Agnes of Amazing Discovery Tours. What a fabulous day!
We started off in Belem, where there are many significant monuments and historic buildings (I have included hyperlinks for those wanting more historical information). The first of note is the Tower of Belem . This is just magnificent!