By Courtney Clarke
I’m not an adrenaline junkie, I don’t have a need for speed and I avoid putting myself in situations where I might get hurt. But my ultimate goal is to do a One Day Event.
It might not seem to be much of a big deal to the majority of you reading this as you probably do this sort of thing every second day but for me this is the ultimate. I guess that’s a bit easier to understand when I tell you that four years ago I wouldn’t even lead a horse.
I had experienced two accidents which resulted in broken wrists and just like that my confidence was gone. My love for horses wasn’t. I wanted to ride and be involved but I just couldn’t.
The fear was bigger than the want.
Poppy has been in my life for the last six years, firstly as a harness racing horse that my Dad trained and now as my best friend and show pony.
Poppy was never the easiest horse to handle on the race track but she had a lovely nature and loved to be fussed over which made me fall in love with her.
With some convincing to Dad I was allowed to keep her. When she was first broken in she proved too much for me – looking back she wasn’t doing anything that bad but at the time it scared me.
So I did groundwork. I led her around, lunged her, desensitized her with plastic bags, spent hours teaching her voice commands and hours and hours talking to her and cuddling her – and feeding her treats!
My confidence increased so much during this time and I started to think about inhand showing. My first show was at the end of 2015 and I came away with Reserve Champion. I was shocked, I really had no idea what I was doing and I felt completely out of my depth but I did it and it was a huge deal. Poppy has been to around a dozen inhand shows now and has come away with six wide ribbons.
Last year I decided that I was sick of watching the Standardbreds be ridden after the Inhand section and being too scared to ride Poppy when I knew how nice she could be. I had a serious think and talk to Poppy about selling her or leasing her to someone who would be able to take her where she deserves to go in the show ring. She bunted me and just about knocked me over and I knew that person had to be me. So, I entered a show in March 2016 in the beginner ring. We rode for weeks leading up to it really well but I was extremely nervous and we weren’t ready and although I was proud for actually getting on and riding her in a show I made Poppy get all worked up because I was so nervous. She attempted a little rear and wanted to run out the gate and I had to be led in the classes I went in and then scratched from the remainder of the day. When I think back to that day now I feel sad for Poppy because she must have wondered what the hell was wrong. So that day I made a decision to get a very good friend to come and school her for me. She rode her for a few months and then took her to a green horse show where she was still very green but she was relaxed and I was able to watch and see the partnership between horse and rider.
Skip forward just about a year and Poppy and I have just completed a figure of 8 trotting in a big paddock! Again, probably doesn’t sound like much but one of those broken wrists was the result of a pony trotting and not stopping and I think it has always haunted me. I’m quite happy just walking around and never pushing myself but poor Poppy was bored. She loves a good trot and she has started to love to work and has been an absolute darling for me. I am completely new to ridden showing and schooling and even the technical side of riding and we all know a green horse and a green rider aren’t the smartest combination but with some lessons and lots and lots of time I finally completed a figure of 8.
A lot of people will probably be thinking – my goodness it’s taken her this long to trot?! Well it’s not about what anyone else thinks. It’s about what works for me and my horse. Yes Poppy is quite capable of cantering around and even jumping by now (iv seen her clear a paddock tape) but I’m not. And I probably won’t be for quite some time but it’s not a race. I have nothing to prove to anyone except for myself. If I had rushed this I can tell you right now I wouldn’t be riding.
The bond that Poppy and I have and how she looks after me while I bounce all over the show and regain that balance I have lost after many years is something that I don’t think will ever be broken. I know that I have to be relaxed because as soon as I even think of something I’m worried about how Poppy will react slightly which just shows how much of a bond we really have.
This weekend I am off to a Green Horse Show and i’m riding. This time i’m riding without being led, I’m going to trot and I’m going to be relaxed so that Poppy is relaxed and not worried.
This time the want is bigger than the fear.