It is normal to want the best for your loved ones and it seems to be all consuming at present. I spend most of my time worrying for, hoping for, willing them on and watching with half-closed eyes, pacing around in a state of extreme anxiety! I am talking about children competing!!! Whether it is racing, show jumping or the egg and spoon race at primary school, you just want whichever event it may be, to go well, there be no mistakes and being hugely competitive a win!
I have always taught the children to work hard to succeed – put the homework in and, when no stone has been left unturned and you are sure the horse or pony is completely confident in what you’re asking him to do, go and compete. Racing is different; the jockeys have to trust in their trainers to have the horse fit and schooled and in the correct race. Then it’s down to them on the day. In racing there is rarely a one to one partnership as with training a competition horse of your own, usually the first time they meet their partner for the day is in the paddock. Bryony put it very well in an interview, “It is like speed dating, as you try to get to know them as you canter to post”.
This is when the horsemanship comes in. I’m going to try and write the next few lines without getting too “airy-fairy”! I have observed many people interacting with animals, horses in particular and those who have a “gift” or natural affinity do not shout about it or put a label on it, in fact they are oblivious to it themselves. Because it is not forced, it cannot be taught, it just is… I can’t put a name on it – and I’m not suggesting my children are the best riders ever or the best horsewoman/man. All I’m saying is they both have something.
I can remember riding across Dartmoor, one day with Hadden and Bryony. It was a wonderfully sunny day – blue sky not a cloud, the gorse was shinning yellow and as we lob cantered along I looked across to watch both kids. Bare back, riding along full of joy – in their most natural setting – it was effortless to them, the ponies darting around as they swerved the granite rocks, popping over the gorse bushes, splashing down into the clear streams. They both just sat there appearing as if not even having to think, it was as natural as breathing. In perfect harmony with their partners – I knew they both had something special. Maybe I’m a romantic fool but I do believe there is such a thing. They have a way of considering the horse, not necessarily being “soft and lah-lah” about it, but working with not against. Communicating clearly what they are asking him to do, allowing him to understand and enabling him to do it. You don’t need to put a label on this, you can be taught technique, you can gather knowledge but the “feeling”, you are born with.
Hadden at the moment is putting his horsemanship to the test! He is simultaneously riding in Timber Races and show jumping. I don’t think there could be two more different disciplines? And with the U.S.A. time difference my nerves are being stretched to the limit. The last couple of weekends have been a constant battle with the laptop to try and get the live stream up so we can all gather around and watch him! The American racing has very good coverage and most of the meetings are shown somewhere if you know where to look! This does mean however I have just survived watching B’ race and then have to switch my attention to the next nerve wracking episode of watching Hadden. As most of you are aware I am not a very good watcher! In fact I am useless, you would have thought it may get easier after all this time but it doesn’t seem to be? I have no idea why walking around the house peeping in through the window is going to help? Or why pacing around in my superstitious place at race courses around the country or crossing my fingers for the entire race is going to have any effect on the outcome. I know it isn’t logical but it is an interesting fact that many people in racing have these weird strategies. Maybe, it’s the nature of the life we lead… It is a strange way of life and one that must be hard for “normal” people to understand? The racing life is a constant round of being excited and looking forward to forthcoming races tinged with self doubt at the possibility of not succeeding. Setting out long term plans and taking those stepping stones along the way. Accepting that the faith you had in a horse will not come to fruition and you have to lower your expectations. Or if a horse shows more ability than you first thought he had, not to get too carried away and stay realistic! I am convinced that people involved in racing are a strange breed. We rely on adrenaline, fear expectations and in my case getting over excited and emotional! There is also the amazing ability to pick yourself up and go again. That is no doubt down to the fact that there are a yard full of horses and the all consuming cycle that is training race horses must go on. You can’t throw a sicky because you had a bad day at the races the previous day, the next winner needs training! It is constant and hard… But when it works out it’s the best thing in the world, sometimes dreams do come true and fairytales are rare but they can happen! (You see… cross fingers does work!)