My name is Victoria Brant and I’m a self-confessed wimp. Only 18 months ago I found myself sobbing into the pillow of our honeymoon suite after writing Pat’s ‘for sale’ advert following another confidence crisis. I couldn’t face getting on. The thought of riding him made me want to spew and the sweating, well – no medication could help my dripping palms. Sitting up and drying my eyes, I decided it was now or never, make or break. I was destroyed at the thought of selling my beloved boy, so that was it. Get a grip time.
I can’t quite believe it, but I’ve just completed my first-ever British Eventing season, starting at 80cm and going up to BE100 (including a trip back to BE80 in the middle when I lost my bottle!). Pat still scares the living flies out of me with his totally unnecessary spooking, but I think I might just be learning how to ride him.
We’ve had placings, Regional Final qualifications and a lot of fun, but none of it without the constant battle with fear that I face before each outing. I know what it feels like to want to tear off my horse’s shoe with my bare hands the morning of a show just so I don’t have to go, and I’ll tell you now, I’m not afraid to admit it!
So here we are, winter dressage and showjumping leagues are upon us, as are dark nights, ice block toes, frozen water buckets and drippy noses. Riding in winter is a struggle and, out of all the seasons, winter puts the willies up me most of all.
In summer, my horses get more turnout, are slow and are much less likely to launch me into orbit thanks to big bellies full of grass. In winter, however, they’re fresh as farts when I whip their fur off – I spend all year brushing the fur, oiling the fur and hot clothing the fur, then in winter shave it all off! Good Lord, I’d want to scuttle off in any direction possible if someone stripped me bare and hopped on my back in weather of less than 10 degrees!
I remember one particular wintry ride, probably a few days post-clip, when the temperature was in single figures. I tacked up, mounted and hadn’t made it to the end of the drive before I was sailing through the air onto the frosty verge after a gust of icy wind hit my horse’s backside. I decided there and then, as I lay on the icy floor, that it was time to instigate some survival tactics to see me through until spring.
I build up to winter rides and make a point of using exercise sheets (plural!), a massage pad and vigorous grooming before getting on. I layer up to keep warm and look four dress sizes bigger just so my horse doesn’t mistake shivering for white-knuckle fear.
And I’m not ashamed to say that before mounting a fresh one I give him a spin on the lunge or walk for half a mile – it’s survival tactics, after all! That and a large glug of Rescue Remedy or port… whichever is to hand! I think it’s safe to say, I look forward to being able to keep them out 24/7 again – sadly not a luxury I have in winter months.
Grin and bear it
If like me, you haven’t quite fully embraced winter, you hate dodging darkness and only get to ride a bullet-fresh horse at weekends you, my friend, are not alone. I’m right there with you, clutching my neckstrap for dear life. Just keep ploughing through the mud, smile often and, before you know it, it’ll be spring and you’ll have thawed out, made a plan and feel ready to get going!
That’s all from me this time – I’m off to consider other hobbies, such as cross stitch or competitive chess.
Love as always,
Vic and Pat