When I was 14 my parents bought me a pony. He was a beautiful, palomino, Welsh Cob cross. He was 8 years old, and boy could he buck! But so the saying goes ‘if they can buck, then can jump’. Well, he could jump. He just didn’t always want to!
Every night, after school, my mum (who knew nothing about horses), drove me to the yard so I could ride my pony. The indoor school was jam packed with kids like me, just home from school, riding their ponies with their parents at the side line, chatting and having a coffee while we were yelling ‘circling!’ or ‘cantering!’ or ‘change the rein!’. I loved those evenings and the friends that I made there. Many of whom I’m still friends with now.
Once or twice a month we were bundled up into the lorry and driven off to a show. The excitement! Ponies on board, kids in the living of the lorry, trainer driving, music on. And then when we progressed out of ponies and into horses, I would take Storm and the kids I had competed alongside in juniors also had bought horses and took them along. Same vibe! All riding together, competing together.
And note that word. Together. We were a team! I’d never really been part of anything in my whole life before that. Not anything where I felt included and involved and really with the competing I never stood a chance of winning with my pony that threw me off all the time, and my horse who was scared of her own shadow and not quite right in the head! But it didn’t matter, because as a team we were awesome. Imagine being in a group of people who have the same goals and dreams. The same work ethic with their horses. We would commiserate and congratulate each other. We would cheer for each other from the side lines. We would be shoulders to cry on for each other. (But never in public. I was taught to hold it together and be dignified until back at the lorry and then cry all I liked!)
There is nothing quite like being a team player.
So my plea to you if you are a competitor (or even if you just ride with other people!) is this.
1) Be kind to each other – Horse riding is a tough sport, physically and mentally.
2) Be courteous – Manners are free! If you have just finished your round in the arena, stand aside and let the next person in. Wish them good luck! If you are about to go in the arena then tell the person who is coming out well done! ‘Good luck’ and ‘well done’. Simple.
3) Say hello – It’s great to be part of a team and have each other, but it’s hard travelling your horse, warming up and competing if you are alone.
4) Help the show venue organisers – If you’re called to the arena then BE ON TIME! If you pull out, notify them. If you are non-riding and can help in any way (pole picking etc) then do it!
5) Also a ‘thank you’ goes a long way. Thank your trainers, thank your support team (family, friends etc), thank the show organisers, thank the judges.
6) Most importantly THANK YOUR HORSES for they are the most important team member of all! 😀