As of the beginning of 2019 I have been sponsoring a young rider, named Hannah Penney, based in Hampshire.
On this page there will be regular pieces written by Hannah on her riding life.
The Road To Recovery…
Wow, welcome back! It’s been a while – I am so sorry! It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of December – what !! Where on earth has this year gone? Not that I won’t be delighted to see the back of 2020! What a year it’s been… This time last year I was looking back & reflecting on a year of challenges on the competition scene – now, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I was out competing! 2020 has certainly thrown its fair share of curve balls but keeping perspective, it’s taught me an awful lot too. The first few months of the year were actually great. I couldn’t have been more eager to get Bella to her first event & see what she could do. March seemed to take an eternity to roll around & then, just as it did, the Covid chaos began… However, lockdown proved to be a fantastic opportunity to focus on Bella’s education & with A Levels cancelled & more free time on my hands than I’d had in a very, very long time, it led to one of the most productive periods of training I’ve ever had with the horses. I was so focused & determined. I structured every schooling session & set out clear SMART goals that I began ticking off each week. I could see us progressing, going from strength to strength. Bella was feeling SO good. Safe to say my excitement for her eventing debut was only on the rise! Then came the injury… Tears to both hind suspensory ligaments. Gutted didn’t come close.
Never having anyone to take any pictures or videos lately, my social media feeds have become pitifully barren & updates on Bella’s rehab have been a rather rare occurrence. Whilst there’s no denying that the step back from social media (I have a whole other blog (half written) on this already & coming soon!), has been a good thing for me, it definitely makes this month’s blog topic well overdue!
This is actually the third time I’ve written this blog & each time it’s taken a different form. The first time I wrote this particular blog was back in late September, teary eyed & exhausted from the unrelenting rollercoaster of emotions I’d found myself trapped in since July. Bella was finally moving out to the New Forest to be closer to me, having spent weeks struggling to keep up with her rehab plan since I’d moved out of our family home a month prior. To finally have facilities on site – that was just the icing on the cake! To top it all off, Bella had just breezed through her first ridden assessment, leaving the vet seriously impressed with how good she was looking for such an early stage. I was on cloud nine – no competition result could have topped that feeling. But within less than a week of being allowed back in a school, one very fresh Bella managed to reinjure herself, again… It was nothing more than a tweak & wouldn’t set us back more than a couple of months at maximum but I was devastated. It felt as if the whole world was against me – those who know me & my history especially, will understand why.
Since Bella had proved she couldn’t be trusted in the field without reinjuring herself, it was back to box rest on vet’s orders... Now, anyone who’s had a horse on box rest, knows it has a tendency to make one a tad hot headed. My blood bred, 5-year-old chestnut mare was certainly no exception. Gone were the days of the dopey donkey. Bella was a handful. I accumulated a great many anecdotes over the following three months but in short, I think my heart has had more exercise from Bella induced stress than it has from my 20km+ runs this year.
Now, I feel at this point it’s worth revisiting the fact that a horse at University was never exactly a part of my life plan. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall Mum stating against it as a categoric rule when she finally gave in to my dreams of a pony all those years ago. Yet, the moment that gangly four-year-old walked in to my life, I knew leaving her behind was out of the question. So here we are… A full-time physio student with 40 hours Uni work a week, a part time job, a newbie rower with training 6 days a week & a horse in rehab, on box rest & DIY livery. Sleep? Who needs that…
Our rehab plan began with your basic hand walking. An ever so simple task you would think & initially, I’d have agreed. Fast forward a week to Bella hammering it round the arena, lunge line & snapped reins flying, refusing to be caught – it’s safe to say we hastily scrapped that & headed back to the drawing board. The horse walker. Although not necessarily always ideal in the early stages of rehab, we were so fortunate to have access to one, it seemed like a good solution in Bella’s case & to begin with, it was. I’d be up at the yard by 7am, could stick her on while I mucked out quickly before Uni & all was right in the world. That was until the lazy sod developed a habit of sitting on said walker… Don’t ask, really – don’t ask… Luckily, it had an optional ‘pusher’ feature that essentially gives them a small shock (much like an electric fence), if they try to do exactly that. Well, problem solved I thought. Hmm, not quite… Less than 10 minutes later & the donut is acting like I’ve tried to kill her & proceeds to refuse to go anywhere within 10 yards of the walker for nearly a week afterwards. Real helpful considering I’m usually on my own at the yard in the mornings… Riding it is I guess! You’d think this would have been the light at the end of the tunnel after all that & don’t get me wrong, in many ways, it was. However, one ride in & it became evident a career in the rodeo or circus may have been a less eventful option… It’s a theme that’s remained pretty consistent – I think the vet’s prescription for 10 syringes of sedation about sums it up…
Whether the day’s been a good (or not so good) one – with her laughable antics, Bella always finds a way to make me smile. Yet, it felt as though with every step forward, came another two steps back. I was constantly exhausted & the rising stress levels seemed never ending. Having a horse at University was always going to involve ‘sacrifices’ – though can you really call them that when they’re in support of something you love? However, they definitely hit harder without the more ‘fun’ aspects of riding to enjoy but at the end of the day, that’s owning a horse for you. Being a horsewoman over a horse rider. Bella means the world to me, in ways I cannot begin to explain. She’s a part of who I am, my identity. My responsibility, my priority. She’s on my mind, always. The skills she’s given me & the lessons she has taught me – I am a better person for having her in my life.
Despite various mishaps & countless questionable rides, Bella has actually been making really promising progress recently. We began cantering again about four weeks ago & are currently focusing on trying to build her fitness levels & muscle tone back up through schooling, pole work & water treadmill. Her last Vets assessment showed her looking fantastically level behind & only a very slight nodding lameness in front – put down to weakness. We have a very long way to go & I have no doubt it will be far from smooth sailing but if there’s one thing Bella has proved to me time & time again, it’s how rewarding she is because boy, when it goes right, it’s hard to find a feeling like it. That little mare has so much talent & so much potential – I know one day she’ll get the chance to show us all what she can do. Everything in life has a reason & we’ll be stronger for all this. Our time will come.
Wishing you all much love & luck for the New Year. Keep faith, 2021 will be better – it has to be!
Love Hannah xx
Facebook: Hannah P Equestrian