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.
Read on for the latest installment........
The Highs & Lows of Horses – The Road to Where We Are Now…
Welcome to my latest blog update! Once a month I’ll be catching you up on everything I’ve been up to over the past few weeks, including exclusive details that won’t have been mentioned anywhere else! It’s your chance to get the full scoop on all things horsey within the manic life of a soon to be 18yr old, juggling 3 A-Levels, work and a rather accident prone 4yr old horse! Having said that, this one’s going to be a little different as it will cover over a year since I first met Lucy – brace yourselves for a long (and pretty deep) one in an attempt to explain a lot of what’s gone on this year. I hope you enjoy!
To give you a bit of history I first met Lucy in the summer of 2018. I was 2 days into Senior Pony Club Camp with my 15hh super star Teddy when I knew something wasn’t right. Our friends who were currently loaning my previous mare Ruby, kindly brought her up to take Teddy’s place and Teddy went back to stay with them in Basingstoke until the end of the week. But just a few hours after waving Teddy off in their trailer I had a text. They’d taken Teddy’s rug off to find spasms the whole way down his back – no wonder he’d felt off. I was in despair – a good couple of hours away I knew there was virtually nothing I could do to help. Finding a physio seemed like a good place to start – though having not had the best of luck previously – I was understandably apprehensive. Several hours later, I get another text; an advert for a summer deal Lucy was offering for first time customers – at £45 for an hour and a half it seemed too good to be true and we quickly got in touch. I knew from past experience that last minute appointments were like gold dust, usually having to wait months to get someone out but we explained our situation and in a matter of days Lucy had managed to squeeze us in. Relieved was an understatement! I got back on board a week after his treatment and he was like a different horse! I worked with Lucy to create a plan and after some major saddle adjustments we went on to achieve some of our best results to date, placing in almost every competition we attended over the next few months. Ticking off a number of goals; finishing our first BE Novice grinning from ear to ear, being in the money for our first time ever BE coming top 3 in the 105 and going double clear in our first ever Newcomers BS! Teddy felt beyond incredible and I know for a fact none of that could’ve happened without Lucy’s help.
We entered 2019 still buzzing from such a brilliant end to our last season, equipped with keen aims for the new year. However, as anyone horsey will know all too well – these things just never seem to go to plan...
Our very first run of the season began with what was nearly a very nasty accident cross country. Thankfully, Teddy came off unscathed and after more than six hours alone in A&E, I too was given the all clear. However, it had a big impact on our confidence and was the beginning of a long series of mental challenges over the early months of 2019. In the face of hugely difficult personal circumstances, I turned very much to horses for distraction, setting myself ambitious targets and piling an overwhelming amount of pressure on myself to achieve them.
Something being discussed more and more in the horsey world today is mindset and I think this shift towards openness and embracing our vulnerabilities is such a positive movement for the equestrian community. When I look back on the past nine months in particular, mindset has had a real effect on me and it’s something that I imagine is likely to make a frequent appearance in these blogs.
In May earlier this year, I found myself doing the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I placed some very hesitant feelers out on Facebook for precious Ted and within two weeks he had sold to the first person to try him.
The decision certainly shocked a lot of people (especially those who’ve followed his progress over the highlight reel of social media for several years) and it’s something I’ve tried not to talk about a great deal. It wasn’t something I had been planning on at all. Of course, whenever you sell a horse there are usually a million factors that come into play but there’s always one or two really responsible.
When I first began competing, I had no transport and very little clue what I was doing. Shows were this huge deal and not a frequent occurrence. Yet, despite such enormous efforts involved to get me to (usually a maximum of 1-3 shows in an entire year) – I came away eliminated from almost every single one. I faced a lot of criticism from peers and a lot of hate over social media, all of which had a massive impact on my self-confidence. For years after, any competition typically left me physically sick with nerves. There was definitely more than one occasion when I had to ask myself why on earth I kept doing this – what could possibly be going through my head? Well, as you can see – I stuck with it. With thanks to the most brilliant share pony Woody, I completed my first One Day Event aged 14, bringing home a 29 dressage, double clear and to top it all off a whopping great 1st rosette! The nerves were very much still there but there was no going back after that!
It was later, with Teddy that my love of competing (and in particular eventing) really began to evolve! I found myself buzzing on the way to every outing. Whether it went to plan or not, I’d almost always come home smiling, even if it was just at a single good picture! My love for the sport was the strongest it had ever been.
But this year that changed… Whether it was the financial strain of funding such an expensive passion myself or the expectations I would set that I felt I absolutely had to meet – I began to resent competing. Next it was training. Then, within weeks, even riding casually at home. It wasn’t long before persuading myself just to get out the car at the yard became a real mental struggle for me. I wasn’t in a good place and I couldn’t make sense of any of it.
A competition horse through and through and a massively talented one at that, Teddy is the type that thrives on his work and gets explosively fresh very quickly without consistent exercise 6 days a week so it’s no surprise that things began to spiral rapidly. Every ride became a mental battle. I regularly found myself in tears and felt very close to rock bottom.
I finally decided to take a step back. I was doing poor Teddy no favours. I needed a break. I desperately needed a break. So, we stepped away, and that was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
A few weeks later and I was feeling positive. The time away from it all had given me the chance to reflect and regain perspective. But it also helped me come to terms with the fact that I needed a change. Teddy was my horse of a lifetime and no matter what, that was never going to change. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve already been back to see him! All it took was one look at how happy he was, and I knew I’d done the right thing.
But what would come next for me? I really had no idea! Did I take a break from horses completely, focus on A-Levels, get good grades and aim for a top Uni? That seemed like a pretty sensible plan. I gave it my very best shot. Well… I barely managed a month before I realised giving up riding was not something I was going to manage.
Maybe a project pony? Pressure free. An excuse to have fun at the lower levels. This seemed like a sensible plan – especially when I quickly found my absolute dream project horse, just over an hour away! Yet once again luck was not on my side… A failed vetting with a fractured navicular left my savings £800 smaller (yes – it was my own money this time) and yanked us right back to the drawing board.
Over the coming weeks, my feelings of deflation grew stronger. Horse hunting was both physically and mentally exhausting. There was so little I liked and enquires into what I did were often met with very delayed replies if any at all. I was growing sick of being messed around.
Back on trusty Facebook, I put out a request for dealer recommendations and all seemed to mention the same one, so a couple of weeks later, off I went and arrived at his yard for a viewing. I hadn’t gone for any specific horses, so I tried to keep an open mind. Saying that, I’d given my basic criteria – strictly gelding, nothing younger than 6 and ideally slightly bigger boned as they tended to be less accident prone, or so I had found.
Well – let’s just say that’s yet another thing that didn’t quite go as planned…
Until next time!
Facebook: Hannah P Equestrian
**Coming soon, all is Revealed – ‘A New Kid On The Block’**