A New Year, A New Decade

As we move into 2020 there’s a lot of talk about the last ten years, the tenties, the twenty tens and how everything has changed in the last decade. I’m not even going to start reflecting on the change. It was the decade I grew up. Of course things have changed, I’ve changed. In 2010 I was nineteen years old with no real life plan apart from a vague vow with a cousin that by the time we were forty we needed to be married, have a career, and start a family. Tick. Now, I’m looking reluctantly towards my thirtieth birthday, but with a house, a husband, a career, two horses, two cats, and one toddler to my name. Yep, things have changed!

Instead of looking back, I’m going to look forwards. Which does include an element of self-reflection. But that’s important for life’s lessons.

My main new year’s resolution is to fall back in love with myself. That sounds egotistical, but I’ve realised recently that I don’t like myself at the moment very much. I’m not happy. It’s not that I’m depressed, have suicidal thoughts or anything serious like that, it’s just my life balance is out of whack.

One of my favourite songs of all time is called Heavy by Delta Goodrem.

There’s only so much I can carry
Before I fall
They tell me “girl you’re so lucky”
“You’ve got the world in your hands”
But you know the world gets so heavy
You don’t understand.

The lyrics ring true to me because I’m not hard done by; for the points listed above as well as others, but sometimes life whirls round faster and faster like a merry-go-round and I need to get off. I need a break. I need to stop adding to my to-do list and to tick some things off.

But because I’m floating serenely like a swan through life, no one sees my feet frantically paddling beneath the surface. Everyone things you’re managing to juggle all the plates, so when you ask for help because you’re about to drop one, no one steps forward. And then the plates fall.

What are my woes? Some people call it “Mum guilt”: constantly berating yourself because the house is untidy, you’ve cooked the same thing three days in a row for dinner, you don’t have the pre-pregnancy body, the pre-pregnancy confidence is shattered, the washing pile is multiplying quicker than a colony of rabbits, the washing up isn’t done, the kitchen needs renovating, the horses haven’t been groomed for a week, the feed hasn’t been ordered, I haven’t replied to so-and-so or so-and-so…

The list is endless and covers everything you can think of. But naming the list doesn’t solve the problems! I think I’ve been struggling with the Mum guilt for almost two years, but recent months have piled on even more pressure.

In September my Mother-in-law was taken ill, and then later died in October. Yes, I’m lucky it wasn’t my mother, and I’m grateful for that but no one ever warned me how hard it would be to support someone close to you going through a bereavement. They’re away caring or visiting that family member, so you have to keep the household together. Pay the bills, feed everyone, go to work. And doing all of it on your own is lonely. Then you have to suppress your own sadness, guilt – the whole cacophony of emotions – whilst being the shoulder that is cried onto. Who do you talk to about that?

At a similar time work became busier, and I became more involved in the Pony Club. Which is something I want to do, don’t get me wrong, but like starting any job, there are teething issues and you aren’t efficient with your time as you scramble pieces of knowledge together. Everything seems to take up more time and brain power than it should. And the two life changes happened simultaneously; pulling me in all directions.

I got tired. I definitely maxed out in December; physically, socially, mentally. I shouldn’t have agreed to go to so many Christmas parties or meetings. I should have taken a long weekend. Maybe I should’ve turned Phoenix away to take the pressure off me physically and emotionally (more guilt about not fulfilling her potential or getting her out competing as much as I should).

I got fed up. Not just of living as a social whirlwind, but of being the one keeping friendships going: sending messages which weren’t replied to for weeks (being busy doesn’t cut it as an excuse!). Of feeling that I had to meet up with friends when I was too tired to have anything interesting to say. Of making polite conversation when I have a gazillion things to do before nightfall. Of being threatened by ex-clients. Of having business competition of unqualified coaches. Of holding myself together when all I wanted to do was prick my finger like Sleeping Beauty and sleep for a hundred years.

It’s all come to a head now that I’ve had my Christmas holiday and can reflect on life with fewer pressures and less exhaustion. Time to stop and think isn’t something I like to do (when in doubt, keep busy and don’t think about the shadows) but it’s necessary to make changes and to make you realise you need to change the situation. Now I can plan what to do for myself in 2020.

Between Christmas and New Year I boxed Phoenix out and went for a lovely, long hack with plenty of gallops on the good ground with a friend. I need to do that more. That is what makes me happy. Stuff competing; do no pressure activities which put a smile on my face. Go to riding club camp. Sure I’d like to get Phoenix to her first one day event, but she doesn’t know what she’s missing out on!

I need to believe in my professional self again: I have so many lovely, loyal clients and work with some great horses. Recently I’ve parted company with some clients who have left a bitter taste in the mouth, but I need to get over myself. Move on and forget about them. Focus on my current clients and appreciate their journeys. My Pony Club role will get easier as I become proficient with all the ropes, but I need to stop pressurising myself to be perfect and not to hyper-criticise my performance. Easier said than done, for someone who’s never satisfied with less than 100%.

I need to sort out my social life. Perhaps I need to have the conversation with some that I’m fed up of feeling like an after thought, instead of resenting them. Equally, I need to set aside more time to check in with others, and arrange for catch ups doing a more suitable activity with a toddler in tow, and be more dogmatic about what I need to do. Gone are the days of sitting for hours in a coffee shop. I need to set time aside for more regular date nights, instead of giving empty promises.

I need to plan the household better. And delegate more. And ignore any accompanying groans. We’re planning our extension at the moment, which I think will make huge improvements to the house and take the stress out of cooking in a dilapidated kitchen, or squashing an office into a bedroom into a playroom into a drying room. There will be more short term stress, but I’m excited that the house will finally be fully decorated and modernised after five years.

I need to take time out for myself. For having a long, hot bath accompanied by wine, chocolate and a book. For having a manicure or a haircut. For spending time on me. For looking after myself better; eating more healthily, and doing more non-horsey exercise to claw back the body of my mid-twenties. Having an early night. Doing all the things that get pushed off the to-do list.

It seems like a lot to do. Some of it already seems easier with a few days rest under my belt. Others will require more planning and timetabling. Others will take time to heal. Some just need me to be honest; with myself and with everyone. The rest, I just need to ask for help with and to stop being a swan about it.

It won’t be easy, to fall back in love with myself, but if I don’t like myself then how can I expect others to?

Happy New Year!

Everyone knows that I’m one of the rare breeds who loves their job, but what is the best part about it?

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect. I think the variety in my day makes mine such a great job. I see hundreds of people a week, certainly have my full of horses, and visit numerous yards.
For example, I enjoy clipping because I get a lot of satisfaction from the finished result. There’s nothing better than seeing straight lines on a velvety smooth, freshly clipped horse. Or those feather free, contoured legs, and smartly tidied mane and bridlepath. But I don’t enjoy clipping and trimming enough to focus on it every day. For starters, I’d soon get fed up of hair itching down my back!

Then of course there’s the teaching. Which I love, but when I do a full day of teaching I know I run out of power towards the end, so it’s nice to chop and change between teaching and clipping. I’ve got chance to regenerate, reflect and plan lessons so that I don’t feel like I’m on a production line – one client in, one client out … – I feel I know my clients well now, so can pick up where we left off each time and I can follow their journeys easily. Rapport is a great thing, and it means neither party is afraid to ask questions or make suggestions. It’s a team effort.

Finally, there is the exercising of horses that I do. It can be a more lonely job, just me and the horse, but as I’m not a social butterfly I enjoy this bit of downtime. Again, there’s some time to reflect and trial any new ideas I’ve had for future lessons. But it can be tiring riding all day, so slotting in a couple of lessons or clips is a good opportunity to rest my riding muscles.

I think I’ve got the right mix of work to keep me fresh and allow me to do my best and stay interested in my work and clients – human and equine.

But I think what makes my job incredibly satisfying and motivates me most is seeing the development in everyone. 

In the horses I school it’s the developing relationship and trust between me and them, and also the improvement in their way of going. For example, the mare I ride who had a serious bout of PMT about a month ago started randomly stopping, bucking and rearing, but I’ve managed to get inside her mind and get the attitude out of her system by working with her through it. Then there’s the Shire cross who I hack out, who can be nappy but he trusts me more now so that when something worries him he’ll listen to me first, rather than run away. It’s feeling the understanding in the pony I’ve been schooling recently so that he now starts in the school with a more active walk and using his hindquarters to propel himself along. It’s the horse I hack spotting me in the yard from the school and taking an opportunity to gravitate towards me. It’s the confidence in another pony over poles and jumps after a few days of working with me, of her relaxing and taking me towards the poles without fretting. It’s feeling the Anglo Arab understand the aids for shoulder in and try his hardest to produce it.

When I’m teaching the greatest satisfaction comes from the massive grin on a client’s face when they jump better than before. It’s their new found confidence on the ground and the relationship building between them and their horse. It’s the horse looking to them for guidance, and trying their heart out to please. It’s the understanding of a client to a technical term, or a correction, or the reason for the way their horse behaves, or why they didn’t succeed last time. It’s the pat and cuddle at the end of a lesson from a hot rider to their tired horse. It’s the new goals they set, such as starting to compete in a new discipline, or having the confidence to move up a level. It’s the smile as a client relives their success in a competition, or even just riding without me. 

I don’t think I could even begin to list the highlights of my 2015. I feel everyone has moved forwards along their yellow brick road, and are closer to achieving their goals, whatever they may be. The horses are all happy and healthy, with better fitness and muscle tone, whilst owners are more knowledgeable and confident in their abilities, and hopefully as happy and healthy as their horses!

So Happy New Year everybody, and good luck for 2016. I’m certainly looking forwards to moving along my yellow brick road and helping the people and equines in my life continue to grow.


Happy New Year!

Yes, I know I’m a little late, but there’s still 364 days left of 2014, so in the grand scheme of things I actually on time. Anyway, happy new year readers!

So what is everyone’s New Years resolution? Devote more time to riding, work on that core, or to stop buying rugs unnecessarily?
I’ve made a long list of things I’m going to be a bit more aware of and what I will try not to be doing, be in on a personal level or a professional level.

Firstly, it’s me I’ve put under scrutiny. I will be working on improving my posture and core, starting with a strict sit-up routine. Both the “sit up and don’t slouch!” Drummed in to every child at a young age, and the stomach muscle exercises. My car journeys will now involve me bringing my chest up and out, and shoulder blades together. I’m also going to be a bit healthier; less junk food and more fruit. I’ve decided I can only eat chocolate on the weekend (and that’s only to stop me gorging on the rest of the Christmas chocolate!). I’m sure that once these resolutions are under control i can move onto the getting fitter phase ready for the eventing season.

Secondly, I’ve put my horse in the limelight; get regular dressage lessons, even if the sitting trot kills me, get him up to elementary (I think that was a goal from last January but we got sidetracked with eventing. Do more jumping; and enter some BE100s in May/June, depending on what competitions are around. Finally get that dressage saddle; let his feathers and mane grow so he’s a proper Welsh cob. Not one of these rare Welsh Warmbloods.

Thirdly, it’s the work and career goals. Use any opportunity to expand my knowledge; try and think of a new exercise every fortnight, be it flat or jumping. Keep writing and sharing this blog and hopefully be head hunted.

I think 2014 is going to be a busy year!