A Tribute to the Horse

Sometimes the world can be noisy and distracting. A cynical place, where it is all too easy to lose touch with our dreams and become convinced that for whatever reason it is not realistic to follow our passions. I know that I know the feeling. But what if we were given our passions for a reason? Are we just going to ignore that? Sometimes we need to reconnect with a little childlike innocence and magic, for how can we find out what is really possible if we don’t hold onto our dreams?

I want to share a few videos that I found online with you. Make sure you have the volume turned on because the music is important. I hope they help you remember just why you love horses, why they are worth loving. Here is a Tribute to The Horse:

A reminder of their beautiful spirit:

The memory of childhood adoration and the pure joy of pony-filled days:

I was never one of those lucky children with their own pony. I was never able to join a Pony Club Branch, but I did go to a Pony Club Centre based in a riding school. I was lucky in a different way and, perhaps, everyone who gets to experience the simple innocent joy of loving a horse is lucky. We must not let the jaded, complicated, adult world take this away from us. Remember what you love and stay true to that – in whatever form that may take.

I hope you enjoy these videos, but don’t forget that to bring dreams to life you must act.

Horse Daydreamer x


What Makes a True Horsewoman?

alycia-burtonWhat makes a true horseman/ horsewoman?

How can we ride like those who inspire us?

Is it even possible or just a beautiful dream, reserved only for the elusive few to achieve?

We love to hear about inspirational horse riders because they act as our aspirational selves – they’re who we want to be. There comes a point though when it’s not enough just to witness others succeed. Dreams are all very well, but we need to believe!!

Reality and dreams collide harshly though, and all to often our hopes are quashed in the process. Time, money, age, responsibilities, expectations… so many things seem to stand against us in our quest to greatness. It was easy for them, we can’t help telling ourselves. They came from a horsey family/ were riding before they were born/ had plenty of money/ a million other reasons that we’re jealous of those we admire. Often it’s true. But they had their own challenges, just as we have ours. It might not be easy, but we can achieve!!!

Anything is possible in life, if only you can somehow hold onto your dream. – Pippa Funnell

There’s a lot of truth in Pippa Funnell’s words. We tend to let life, doubts, expectations in the way. It’s all too easy to give up on our dreams, but it’s only by chasing them that we can ever realise what we thought was impossible.

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

It’s important to have dreams that seem impossible, dreams that scare us, because it’s only by aspiring to be more than we are now that we can achieve and grow into who we are meant to be. Dreams act as a destination point for us, and life is a whole lot easier if you know where you’re going! Even if you don’t know quite what it’ll look like, having a vague compass direction will help guide your journey. It’s just the journey that’s difficult!

Impossible dreams need to be broken down into possible yet intimidating steps, which need to be further broken down into smaller, more tangible, achievable goals. These goals must be actively worked on rather than just dreamed about, and should be measurable in some way. Set a time scale for these and review them regularly. Adapt them if necessary, but be courageous enough to push yourself out your comfort zone.

If your dream is worthwhile to you, then take fear as a sign that you’re doing something right! Push at your limits and boundaries – you’ll find you’re capable of more than you thought, and sooner or later your impossible dreams will seem not so impossible after all!!

Good luck!! Keep dreaming your dreams alive!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

First Polo Lessons!

polo-lessonHello! If you’ve read my last blog post you’ll know that the 100th horse I rode was a polo pony. I told you that I had a lot of exciting stories to tell you, and one of them is that I’ve started learning polo!!!

So far I’ve only had a few lessons, but it’s amazing how fast everyone’s progressed! The other new riders and I are nothing compared to the riders who have been playing several years, but already we’re managing to play chukkas in walk – and score goals!!

Polo, in case you don’t already know, is a game played on horseback that has been described as a bit like hockey. Usually there are four players on each team, and they all have a wooden mallet with which they have to hit a small white ball. As with most ball games, the aim is to hit the ball into the opposing team’s goal. This is easier said than done!

I thought I’d share with you some of the thing I’ve learnt in my first few polo lessons, as it’s great fun and very different to ‘normal’ riding.

Forget What You’ve Learnt

Polo needs a different riding style to regular dressage/showjumping, and polo ponies are trained to understand different signals. It’s similar in many ways so it won’t take long to pick up the basics, but if you try steering with the reins in two hands (even just to get out the way of the mounting block when you’ve got on) your pony won’t understand! Apart from having the reins in one hand and neck-reining, you have to hold the reins in a completely different way. It’s very strange to start with, so you almost need to forget what you’ve already learnt.

There’s an Art to Holding a Mallet

This is another thing that’s very confusing, even after several lessons. You can’t just grip the mallet – you have to make sure it’s facing the right way, try to remember how to wrap the ribbon at the end round your hand, and then position your fingers in the right place. This is very important as your arm is going to get tired from hitting the ball and it’s easiest if you’re holding the mallet correctly.

It Makes ‘Normal’ Riding Feel Over-Complicated

Once you get over the strangeness of polo riding you begin to wonder why you ever rode any differently!! The lightest pressure on the reins (even with them just in one hand!) will steer a polo pony much more easily than all those arguments you use to have with nappy riding school ponies. Polo ponies are trained to be forward and sensitive, but it’s also a more natural riding style.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

The advice that’s probably equally applicable for all ball games is to keep your eye on the ball. Being on speedy polo ponies, you need to be aware of your surroundings, but stay focused on the ball. If you let yourself get distracted by what other people are doing, chances are you’re going to miss it.

Just Go For It

Polo is something best learnt by doing and learning by experience. Practise makes perfect after all!! Get out there. Hit the ball. Try a faster place. Don’t hold back. The worst that  can happen is that you’ll miss the ball, and at the end of the day polo is a competitive sport!

Get Over the Ball

When you’re about to hit the ball you’re suppose to get out the saddle into a sort of light seat. However, it’s different from your typical jumping light seat in that you need to be actually over the ball. To get a better polo position, it help to think about getting your head actually above the ball, as this will help you lean out the saddle properly to hit the ball

Your Pony Will Help You

Polo ponies are generally very well trained! They’ve learnt what you’re trying to do and will automatically follow the ball to some extent. Sometimes they kick the ball themselves, which may be helpful or unhelpful. Even if you miss, your pony may help you and kick it along! Also, it’s important to remember to trust your pony! Polo ponies know what to do and will help you if you ride properly!!

Polo Is a Team Sport

One of the main things that makes polo so much fun is that it is a team sport! It relies on both individual partnerships with your pony and a collective team spirit, the combination of which makes it unlike many other sports. Possibly one of, if not the most important thing, is to back each other up, support, and communicate. Different people have different skills and it is only by supporting each other that you can succeed – meaning polo is automatically more sociable than ‘normal’ riding can sometimes be!!

Keep Moving

Polo is a fast-moving sport (when you’re ready for the speed!) and requires you to keep moving forwards. Don’t stop on the ball, just keep moving, and when you’re ready to up the pace a bit, go for it!!

Polo requires a whole new skill set compared to regular riding, but it also feels very familiar. At the end of the day, it’s still horse riding and if you already ride you will feel surprisingly at home in the saddle. Polo isn’t as intimidating as you might expect!

If you get the opportunity to learn polo take it!!! It’s the most amazing fun, and there’s something very satisfying about the clunk of your mallet hitting the ball!

Keep loving horses,

Horse Daydreamer xxx



My One Hundredth Horse!

autumn-horseHello! It’s been a while since I last posted anything, but I’ve decided to start writing again. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, so I should have some exciting stories to tell you, but I might be a bit irregular in how often I post articles. Think of them as a nice surprise! (I hope it’s a nice surprise!!)

Ok, so my first news – as you may have gathered from the title – is that I’ve now ridden 100 horses! I’ve kept a list of the names of every horse and pony I’ve ridden since I started learning properly, and it just kept growing!

It was at 99 for quite a long time before horse number 100 came along, and it seems very fitting that she was a special horse. My 100th horse is a polo pony!!! But more about that later…

100 is quite a significant number, it sounds almost exaggerated but it’s not, I promise! I’m yet to own my own horse (that’s a dream of mine that will come true one day!) and have been riding now for about eight-and-a-half years.

Mostly I’ve just had weekly lessons at my riding school, with occasional extra rides whenever there were Pony Club rallies or summer camps. I love horses but I’m not one of those lucky, lucky people who get to ride nearly every day.

As much as I wish I had a horse of my own, not doing so may be partly why I’ve been able to ride such a variety of different horses. From 4-year-old Connemaras to 16.2hh Irish Draughts, elderly thoroughbreds to cheeky little Welsh ponies, beautiful Andalucians to trustworthy trekking cobs, I’ve had the chance to ride many different horses and ponies!

It’s worth noting that all the horses I’ve ridden were relatively safe, enough to be in a riding school. They all have their quirks and difficulties – some of them were by no means easy – but none of them were dangerous or ‘problem’ horses. I don’t want to lie about my ability!!

Still, compared to people who have ridden the same horse for the past six years or so, getting on a horse that I don’t know doesn’t phase me. (And I know nobody would give me a horse they didn’t think I could manage.)

100 is a significant number, and it means I have lots of stories to share!! I know though that I’m far from being a ‘good’ rider, whatever that vague and ever-shifting label means, so I still want to learn as much about horses as I can! I’ll be writing about what I’ve learned (and what I love) here. I hope you’ll join me on the endless journey of equine obsession!! And I’d love to hear your stories too, so please share them in the comments!

See you soon,

Horse Daydreamer xx

25 Things We Love About Ponies!!!

children & ponyHi everyone!

Since you’re here you obviously love horses and ponies, but when people ask us why we love them so much it can be difficult to put it into words! Horses are just amazing, how can anyone not love them?!! Anyway, I’ve had a good long think and come up with 25 reasons we love ponies. Here goes:

1) They’re cute…

Ok, this one sounds a bit shallow but ponies are just adorable, there’s no denying it!

2) …and fluffy!

Ponies give the best hugs! And when they nuzzle you for carrots, who can resist?!

3) Ponies are fun!!

We enjoy being with ponies, and that has to be the most important reason of all!

4) They never judge us!

Ponies don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. They forgive easily, don’t hold grudges, and live in the present. As long as you’re nice to them then that’s all that matters.

5) They let us forget the world!

Work, stress, arguments… it all dissolves when you’re with horses. Riding needs concentration so you have to clear your mind of everything else.

6) Ponies bring peace!

When you’re with ponies you just are! You exist. There’s something very relaxing about simply watching ponies in the field or munching a haynet.

7) They spread laughter!!

Whatever goes wrong – and it does go wrong when you’re around ponies – there’s always a funny side to it!!! (Usually…)

8) They understand!

This one’s hard to explain. People say that ponies don’t understand us, and maybe they don’t understand our words, but they do pick up on our emotions. Ponies are intuitive. You can just sense that they understand.

9) They give us confidence!

Riding or even just spending time around ponies gives us confidence and a sense of self-worth. That’s why they’re used for therapeutic riding. Besides, when you realise that a 400kg animal with many times your strength (watch this) will listen to you, it has to do something for your self-esteem!!!

10) Ponies are empowering!!!

They let us achieve what we never thought we could, and that confidence and inner strength has to rub off on the rest of our lives! Where would we be without them?

11) They’re humbling!

Let’s admit it: ponies are unpredictable and not everything will always go to plan! Arrogance can’t exist for long when you’re around ponies. They don’t care if you’ve won a million red rosettes, they’ll throw you off just the same!!

12) Ponies make us all equal!

Money, age, background – none of it makes a difference when you’re in the saddle! Ponies bring together all sorts of people!! Did you know that horse riding is one of the only Olympic sports where women and men compete as equals?

13) There’s always something to learn!

There’s always something new to learn and another pony to ride. It’s a never ending quest for knowledge!

14) Ponies let us achieve the impossible!!

From being brave enough to perform in front of an audience to galloping faster than the wind, ponies let us achieve beyond what we thought we ever could!!!

15) Ponies lend us speed…

The average horse can gallop at 30mph, a thoroughbred racehorse can gallop up to 40mph, and quarter horse racehorses have been known to reach 50mph over short distances!!!! Even if most of us never reach those speeds, ponies lend us wings and let us fly!!

16) …strength…

Inner strength and physical strength. Heaving that wheelbarrow to the top of the muck heap mountain has to do something for our muscles!!

17) …and adrenaline!

Galloping across the moors. Improvising a game of horse ball or polo. Racing towards a giant hedge out hunting. Even just navigating our way around a show jump course. It makes our hearts beat faster and may be a bit scary, but it’s so exhilarating!! And we feel so, so alive!!!

18) Ponies are beautiful!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but just let us gaze at ponies all day long! As Winston Churchill once said “there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

19) They lead us on a path of discovery!

Ponies help us discover so much, both about ourselves and the places we ride through. How else would we have noticed that the view looks so much better through a pony’s ears? Who else could have mirrored the depths of our soul?

20) They make the best friends!

This is why we loved ponies so much when we were little and still turn to them for comfort or fun today. They never lie and will love us forever!! Sentimental maybe but true!!!

21) They communicate without words and are always honest!

Humans are complicated and small talk tedious. While we all need human friends as well, ponies are far better!! With ponies we don’t have to hide anything and can truly be ourselves.

22) Ponies have great personalities!

Remember that cheeky Shetland from when you were young? The escape artist who always looked as though butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth? The smallest ponies have the biggest personalities!! We can never forget them!

23) We experience all emotions with them!!

Joy, fear, relief, love, tears, laughter… Ponies teach us about life – especially when we’re young – and are always there to share a hug at the end of the day.

24) They form our identity!!

For those of us who truly live, breathe, and dream horses they help form our identity. They shape us, define us, and we wouldn’t want it any other way!!!!

25) We’re just plain mad!!!!!

Yep, that’s the truth of it!

Whatever you do, keep loving horses and ponies!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Blue Skies and Horse Dreams!

sky horseHi!

It’s nearly the end of 2015 and the start of 2016, so I’ll wish you an early happy New Year!!

Come January, we all start thinking about turning our lives into the lives we want. The scattered, abandoned promises of last year are forgotten as we enthusiastically come up with our New Year’s resolutions. Is it just me, or do New Year’s resolutions always seem to be the same, repeated then forgotten every year?

Still, I like January! It feels like a fresh start, another chance, full of endless possibilities and opportunities. A few years ago I came across the concept of blue sky thinking, which I think is very poetic and suitable for New Year. Anything is possible, there are no limitations!!!

Sometimes it’s slightly sad reflecting on the past year, but the overriding feeling is one of hopeful positivity for the future.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

– Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns

Do you celebrate New Year? Usually there’s a party on New Year’s eve, with people traditionally singing Auld Lang Syne, and then everyone setting off fireworks at the stroke of midnight!!! The sky is filled with colour and light!!

I’m determined to stick to my New Year’s resolutions this time! I want 2016 to be the year I fulfil my horse dreams and thought I’d share my horsey New Year’s resoultions with you:

  1. To work towards my Pony Club C+ test and be ready to take it by the end of the year.
  2. To start entering more shows and competitions (I’ve not done much competing but the last show I did was fun).
  3. To continue volunteering with horses and gain more equine experience.

Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions, and have a very happy New Year!!!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Christmas With Horses!!

christmas horseMerry Christmas!!!

One of the things I love most about Christmas is the magic and beauty of this time of year. I volunteer for a horse charity and the excitement of the children I’ve been helping makes it really feels like Christmas!!

Before the children arrived for their riding lesson we (me and the other volunteers) decorated the suprisingly patient ponies in tinsel. They looked like fluffy, four-legged Christmas trees by the time we were done! We tied tinsel around their necks, in their manes and tails, and behind their saddles. The ponies were very interested in staring at themselves in the riding arena mirrors once we were done, but the children loved it!!!

I told you in a previous blog post here that I was going to Olympia Horse Show this Christmas. I went, and it was every bit as amazing as I’d anticipated!

The extreme driving, which I’d never seen before, was very impressive – the carriages had four horses and turned really tight circles between cones/blocks at speeds, according to the announcer, of over 25mph!!

The Household Mounted Cavalry Musical Ride was incredible too! I’ve done drill rides before, which are similar, and I know how difficult it is. We only tried to trot really slowly through each other, but they were galloping full speed and jumping over each other’s spears as they did so!!

There were so many things at Olympia worth telling you about that it would take forever, so I won’t try to tell you about any more for now. I’ll just say that, if you’ve never been to Olympia before, you should defintely go next year if you get the chance!! It’s brilliant, amazing, fantastic!!!!

My last riding lesson before Christmas was so much fun! We played gymkhana games, and I think my leaning-out-the-saddle-to-pick-things-up skills made up for the fact that my pony had a tendency to canter off to join the other team instead!!! Though, to be fair, it might have helped that I was riding quite a small pony while some of the others had 16hh horses!!

I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Bye for now!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Learning to Ride!

learning to rideHello!

Whether you’ve been in the saddle since you were born, or are just considering taking up horse riding, it’s a question most riders wonder at some point: how long does it take to learn to ride?

It’s a simple question but, of course, there’s no easy answer!!

It depends what you want to do. It depends where and how often you ride. It depends on your age, balance, strength, stamina, concentration, riding instructor, the pony you ride, and many other things,

At the end of the day, the answer really is forever! You never stop learning – there’s always something new to try, something else to learn, another horse to ride. The better you get, the the higher your expectations will be of yourself, and the more challenging horses you’ll be able to ride.

However truthful that answer may be, it’s not always helpful!! Everyone learns at different rates so it’s important not to compare yourself to others, but it can be interesting to know the average time scales.

To be able to walk, trot, and canter confidently off the lead rein, my riding school say – with a 45 minute private lesson every week – usually takes about 6-8 weeks. However, it’s important to note that “confident” doesn’t neccessarily mean competent. Multitasking is one of the most difficult things for new riders to master (or mistress – language is sexist)!

The time scales vary for everyone, especially according to age. Younger children take much longer to learn new skills. It took me weeks and weeks before I could trot. My sister, who started riding when she was a few years older than I had been, pretty much learnt rising trot in her first lesson.

I can’t remember how long it took me to become confident at the basics. I know I was jumping within 8 months of weekly group lessons, but my diary was a bit irregular back then and I think I’d been jumping months before. My sister started learning to jump before she’d even had 9 lessons, which suprised me a bit. I think her instructor was pushing her a bit more than usual because she wanted to join the teenage lessons rather than ride with the little children.

As a general guide, I reckon it takes about 12 lessons (if you ride for an hour every week with a qualified instructor and well-behaved pony) to be  confident and competent enough to begin learning to jump! The real answer though, as I said before, is that learning to ride takes a lifetime!! Enjoy the experience!!!

Do you think this time scale sounds realistic? How long did it take you to be confident in walk, trot, and canter? Or are you just starting to learn? Let me know what you think!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

It’s Time For Olympia!!!

olympiaHello everyone!

It’s that time of year again!! Nothing says Christmas like Olympia!! I can’t wait, I’m so excited!!!

For those who don’t know – Olympia, The London International Horse Show, is possibly the biggest equestrian event in the Britsh calender!! It takes place every year in the week before Christmas, and for many people has become a Christmas tradition!

It’s like a huge equine festival for horse lovers from all across the country (and world)!!

Olympia has a really friendly atmosphere, and knowing that everyone has something in common, means that people are more likely to just start chatting to random strangers on the train who they would normally ignore! It’s easy to talk about horses!!! You can always tell who is going to/leaving Olympia from the country boots, wide grins, and little girls clutching giant cuddly ponies they’ve bought!!

Some of the shows at Olympia this year are:

  • the dressage Grand Prix
  • The Kennel Club dog jumping
  • Jean-François Pignon (I’ve not seen him before, but he does apparently very impressive stunt riding. Last year they had the Ukranian Cossacks.)
  • extreme (horse) driving
  • show jumping
  • the Shetland Pony Grand National (This is adorable!!!)
  • The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment musical ride (Last year the Metropolitan Mounted Police were there, jumping through rings of fire while taking off their saddles and skillfully avoiding collisions with other horses, who were going over the same jump, at the same time, from the opposite direction!!! The Household Cavalry have a lot to live up to!!)
  • the puissance (Have you seen the heights of those jumps?!!)
  • The Pony Club mini-major (These riders are incredible! The professionals and Pony Clubbers are paired up and the best combined time wins! First a professinal show jumper goes round on their horse and does some huge jumps. Then an 11/12-year-old finishes a course of jumps that are much smaller but still massive compared to the size of their ponies. The little ponies are amazingly wizzy and do impossibly tight turns into the jumps!!!)
  • the Riding Club quadrille
  • the six bar jumping
  • the native pony showing championship
  • and of course we can’t forget the Christmas Finale!
  • even Father Christmas  goes along with his sleigh!!

While waiting for the show to start, you can wander around the equine orientated shopping village, which is a great place to get any last minute Christmas presents. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a great way to soak up the excited, Christmassy, horsey atmosphere!

Olympia is possibly the most festive horse show ever, definitely at Christmas time. I can’t wait!! Will you be going to Olympia or somewhere similar this Christms?

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Equestrian Fashion!

equestrian fashionHello!

One of the many good things about horses is that they are completely unjudgemental!! They don’t care what we look like, or what we say, as long as we’re nice to them.

It’s a refreshing break from stressing over what to wear the rest of the time, but sometimes it takes longer to decide what to wear to the stables than anywhere else! There are so many thing to think about. What’s the weather like? Is it going to rain? How hot will you get while riding?

And even though the horses don’t mind what you look like, it can give you confidence and just be nice to look good!

Equestrian fashion may be influencing high street trends at the moment, but it has to consider different things to regular fashion and has its own unique style. Here are some of the key features of equestrian fashion!

Weather – If you ride or look after horses you’ll outdoors all year round, in all elements. Rain, storm, snow… horses need to be looked after whatever the weather. As with all “outdoorsy” people, having weather-proof clothes that will keep you warm and dry is probably the most important aspect of equestrian fashion.

Safety – As much as we love them, horses are unpredictable. It’s not their fault, but we need to make sure we’re safe around them. Sturdy, sensible boots are essential!

Practical – This one is pretty much common sense. You can’t really muck out a stable in high heels or ballet style shoes, can you? (If you’ve tried, let me know!!)

Warmth – Same as before, if you’re outdoors all day long you need to make sure you’re not going to get too cold or too hot. Equestrian clothing is often designed to be worn with layers so you can easily regulate your body temperature. Lots of thin layers are better at keeping you warm than one thick coat.

Comfortable – For obvious reasons, comfort is very important! Jodphurs have knee and seat patches for this reason, and are made from a soft, stretchy matierial so they won’t rub.

Close-fitting – Because horses are naturally prey animals they can be, as we all know too well, very spooky. Unless you ride one of those rare superstars who is completely bomb-proof, it’s worth putting some consideration into this. You don’t neccessarily have to wear really tight-fitting clothes around horses, but it’s important that your clothes won’t flap around and spook the horse or get caught on anything.

Tradition – There has been equestrian fashion for nearly as long as people have been riding. It can be nice to wear something traditionally associated with horses to show that you’re a horsey person – an easy way to find something in common and start a conversation – but it’s all down to your personal tastes in fashion.

Looks nice! – Last but not least is the obvious one! We all want to look nice, and looking the part will give you confidence, meaning that you’re more likely to ride well. It’s win-win!

With Christmas fast approaching, now could be the time to think about whether you need (or just would like!) any new equestrian clothing.

Bye for now!!

Horse Daydreamer xxx