I think people were a little curious and surprised when I told them I was off to Portugal for a week of dressage training. To the casual observer, it does seem rather indulgent to travel to Europe alone, leaving my husband and children behind. And why dressage (when I'm a hot blooded eventer!) and why Portugal? Let me explain...
The idea surfaced mid winter 2016. I was physically unwell the entire winter, with constant throat and chest infections. Caring for two small children when constantly unwell was getting me down. I'd also been battling post-natal depression for some time - something that I have been open with to friends and family. Riding and returning to competing my horses was a turning point in helping me find my way through the thick fog. A lot of people think depression feels like sadness and is something you can just "snap out of". It doesn't work like that! In my experience, it felt like anger, self loathing and an extreme fear of what everyone thought of me. I was terrified someone would turn up at my door at any given moment and tell me I'm doing things all wrong, judge me for having an untidy house and had an intense fear that I was being judged and talked about behind my back all the time. I felt worthless and inadequate. This may shock many who know me, as on the outside, I probably appeared OK. On the inside though, I was struggling. Thank goodness for good medical help to set me on the right path....and then one day, I decided I needed a holiday.
I happened to be scrolling through my Facebook feed one day and saw on Warney's Whip page, a little article about riding holidays in Portugal. Something about it really appealed to me - I'd never been to Portugal and never met a Lusitano, but had always admired the breed. I also used to have lessons with Sarah's mum years ago, and knew I liked her training style! The idea of having an Aussie contact also appealed, if travelling on my own.
I remember watching Hayley Beresford competing years ago with Relampago do Retiro - and always thought if I "did dressage" that was the style of horse that appealed. I mentioned the holiday idea to my husband and he said "why don't you do it?". I thought he was joking! But he was deadly serious. I think he could see that I needed something to look forward to, to motivate me and inspire me. I decided January would be a good time, when he is home on school holidays. And from there, I booked flights, organised accomodation with contacts of Sarah and what was once just a random, "unrealistic" idea turned into reality! I am very much a believer that you need to find a way to follow your dreams and really "grab life by the horns". I worked hard, found a way and here I am....
Why dressage? Well, I feel this is the area of training that I need the most help with. I don't want to just be a rider, I want to bring on horses myself and for them to have a good dressage grounding, no matter what discipline they compete in. I also want to be able to offer better training to the clients I teach. As I've become older, I've realised the value that dressage training has...and how the different stages of training develop the horse's body into an athlete. Gone are the days where I think of dressage as being a series of movements you just have to get through in order to go cross country ;)
And why Portugal? Well, in January, it is probably the warmest place to be in Europe! It is a beautiful country, with so much history and amazing scenery.
So, that is how on 16th January I found myself on a plane from Melbourne (after a few teary goodbyes to my kids!) enduring 24 hours in transit to Portugal via Dubai
Next installment - a diary of the past 3 days ;) It has taken me a while to get writing, as my body clock is quite out of synch. By 9pm each night I have fallen asleep! I woke at 5am today (I can hear my family laughing about that!) so I've finally had a chance to document my thoughts.