It seems to be true that the older you get the quicker the years go by and after another year full of demo and course organisation I look back and it can all seem a bit of a blur. I realised I’m full of admiration of students when in their introductions they tell us they ‘decided to take some time out for themselves’. As I wrote in Perfect Confidence, recognising what you admire and even ‘jealousy’ can be used very positively; it can direct you towards knowing what you are looking for or needing in life at a certain time. So I started looking for the message it was giving me.
This realisation was coupled with me experiencing a real shift in my thinking about the courses we’re teaching. Over the 22 years, I’ve known on a surface level that students have found the courses much more than ‘a course to help with horses’. I have letters going years back saying ‘The course with you and your team has helped me so much in my life’ but it’s as if this summer something happened where; and if this were Facebook I’d say ‘OMG!’ or ‘Whooaa!”; it came over me, that what we’re doing is really important for people, far more than I have ever completely acknowledged before.
It actually felt quite scary. One of my deepest fears is letting people down, and then to realise I have this whole other level of responsibility. How to be sure I’m stepping up to the mark is the question? The awareness alone is a big part for any of us to get things right. As a team we all appreciate that for students on the Five Day Foundation course particularly, the experience of being in a new environment, with people they haven’t met before, coupled with being surrounded by the animals they love so much and want to right by, can make people feel vulnerable and even bring feelings up that they may have pushed aside for a considerable time. A positive and supportive atmosphere is incredibly important in those circumstances.
It came to me that putting myself into similar circumstances could help me understand more from the students point of view, so when student, Sam Quarashi, told me about the one course, that has a reputation for being amazing, but actually he hasn’t done (he’s done everything else!) after some careful investigation I took the leap and signed up – to a 7 day retreat type experience called the Hoffman Process taking place in December.
‘What you are seeking is seeking you’ Rumi
I won’t be allowed a phone as it’s considered a time to take a complete break from the outside world. None of the usual coping mechanisms are allowed ie no alcohol (not a big problem for me), no books (that will be a big problem for me!) and not even yoga or running and of course no Pie! I shall be reporting back in the Spring Edition of the IH Magazine. It will be ‘interesting’ whatever and I’m sure I’ll be able to find positives to bring back to IH from the experience.
Quality Pie Time
Apart from the wonderful connections with students past and present this year a stand out event was some ‘Quality Pie Time’ at the annual Lambourn Fun Ride. I’ve spent far more time leading Pie round the 3 mile ‘dog walk’ I have round my home than I have riding him. This is because I’ve had such a limited time to take any exercise it seems a good alternative to getting fitter but still having time with Pie. Meanwhile Pie gets alternately hacked by two lovely retired ladies 3 days a week so he keeps up a reasonable level of ridden fitness himself.
We missed the Lambourn Fun Ride last year and actually the last time we jumped was at Your Horse Live 2016 when he was ‘brought out of retirement’ after 6 years away from demos to do his party piece and after what was a difficult start to the evening, Pie came in, did his thing, and suddenly we all knew we were on track for the great evening we’d imagined.
As usual on this Fun Ride, I start off thinking we’ve forgotten how to jump (well I usually have!) but there’s always alternative jumps of about 9 inches high you can pop over and after a mile of those, and there’s nothing that gets Pie more enthusiastic than some jumps, I start to think ‘he’s so keen we could probably to the 2 foot jumps (apologies I still think in old money, I mean 60 cm?) then I think we were getting up to 3 foot 6 ins (1.10 cm?) What’s that Monty says about working up ‘incrementally’?! I’ve included a couple of photos here as frankly I think he was amazing! We both went home exhilarated and thoroughly pleased with ourselves. At 23 years, Pie and I won’t have many more years of that kind of fun but I’m so glad we took that time out together while we still can. Q. What should YOU be taking time out to do sooner rather than later?
FOOTNOTE: Just the day before the ride I learned two friends of mine had nearly had a Facebook fallout re. ‘The Pony Club Kick’. If I make it clear that both these friends are IH Members and total horse lovers and sensible women HOWEVER they both had very different points of view on this. So is it a fuss about nothing or encouraging horse abuse? It’s why I think the Intelligent Debate is so useful in the magazine as it encourages us to look from alternative points of view.
For instance, one person stated you wouldn’t encourage a child to kick a dog – so in their head was footballer, Harry Kane stepping back as he powers his foot into the side of an innocent pony, and probably in the other person’s head is the image of their darling 6 year old daughter, waggling her legs upon the saddle as her feet don’t reach much beyond. I was pondering this as Pie and I were going around the Fun Ride and even thought about it approaching a jump, Honestly I was sitting back and gripping so firmly with my whole leg going into the fences I thought ‘How on earth do you ‘kick’ going into a fence?!
You can go more deeply into this subject with Daisy Smith’s instructive article on keeping your lower leg position stable when jumping. I feel we can take comfort that the Pony Club Kick is something most people grow out of by 16, hence its title, and the answer to a solid leg position is not only about education – but getting older, wiser and likely as not, to quote Lucinda Green, getting a lot more ‘chicken’!
- Just heard there is an article promised on this very subject ‘Beyond The Pony Club Kick’ for the Spring 2019 Issue of the IH Magazine! Please send in any contributions you may have to The Editor!