Monday, 12 June 2017

When things don't quite go to plan...and a safety reminder

                               Beautifully through the first water 

Ok, so that didn't quite go to plan (!)

After jumping the first 7 fences beautifully at MI3DE, I made quite a blunder and we had a stack at the "simple" ditch brush - a type of fence we've jumped confidently many times before. I don't recall the fall at all, but it would seem to be an error on my part as we apparently had a massive "miss" and Snip's hind legs caught on the back of the fence. I was ejected...! I am mortified to have made such an error, however, we are all only human and capable of making mistakes.

I suffered loss of consciousness and was apparently not "with it" for some time after. Medical services at the event were great - I was well looked after and my family were well supported by MI3DE event staff in making sure they were ok too.

I also cannot thank my friends and family enough for taking care of me and my horses. It will make me think twice about going to events alone, as I often do. I am so lucky to have had friends and the event vets to take care of my horse, and family to drive me home & look after my kids.

It has really hit home about the safety issues - I am *so* glad I was wearing a good helmet, my BETA 3 Racesafe back protector, plus a Point Two air vest. Aside from a few bruises, the rest of my body is fine. :) Not a mark on my back/torso. The doctors I saw were intrigued by my air vest and wanted to look at it, as it was not something they were familiar with.

The other thing I always wear (even though it is no longer compulsory) is a medical armband. In this instance, I was still wearing it when I arrived at hospital, so the ED team had immediate information without having to ask a rather befuddled me a million questions. I have had other health conditions and take medications, so this is really important!

                                     Not my weekend plan! 

So - my birthday present to myself will be a new high specification cross country helmet. I am looking into the new "Conehead" and helmets with EPS technology & crush resistance. Anything to reduce the chance of a major head injury is money well spent in my opinion. Always, always wear a helmet!!

                                 Time for a new helmet! 

                                   Obviously hit my eye on the way down 

A rather sobering blog - but as I have said to other people - if you ride horses for long enough, you *will* fall off. It is a matter of taking all safety precautions and training well to be as safe as we can be.

We will be back to competition after a bit of a rest for me, a spell for Snip and (finally!) a holiday to the Gold Coast ;)

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The pursuit of a dream


I've had many blog posts on the go, but haven't managed to actually finish one - I kept getting bogged down in details. I also feel the need to delve a little more deeply into my current personal journey and how important it has been to me.

So, I'm AT MELBOURNE 3DE! We qualified, we got here! 

What has this journey given me? Some of my answers have surprised me. 

It has made me appreciate what my body can do

In this superficial world, we are constantly bombarded by the pursuit of the ideal body. Whatever that is. (Even moreso after having a baby, or know, you should snap back to "pre baby" magically as if nothing had ever happened. Yeah right!!!). 

Like many women, I've been plagued by body image issues all my life (pause for sharp intake of breath, Somehow, I got a mixed message that my weight was a measure of my self worth. It led to decades of disordered eating and very flawed thinking. It was suggested to me recently by someone (who should know better) that I should exercise off the wobbly baby tummy. Umm, hello, it's mostly loose skin. Besides, I walk on average 18,000 steps per day, ride several horses and look after 2 small kids. I don't think inactivity is my problem! Besides, as I head closer towards four decades on this earth, it is silly to think I'm going to retain the figure of my 19 year old self. 

No, instead, I appreciate my body for its strength. I am fit, I am strong. I can lift heavy things and gallop over fixed obstacles on a 500kg horse. I am back riding at the level I was before two kids. My body rocks, even if I don't resemble a stick insect. 

It has given me back my identity

Motherhood does change priorities dramatically. That's a given. But being able to ride and do things I used to do is so very important to me. For a long time, horses have shaped my life, so to take that away from me made me feel very lost. Time on the sidelines when pregnant or with small babies was a huge change. Spending time daily with my horses and having goals to aim for has given me "normality" in a crazy time of re-adjustment. 

There is nothing wrong with being identified as a Mother. But for myself, and many other Mums, we are many, many other things too. 

It has rebuilt my self worth

Having perinatal/postnatal anxiety and depression (twice, yay...go me!) sucked me into a black hole of nothingness and made me loathe myself and feel worthless as a person. I also lived in constant fear of being judged...the simple worry that my house was never in order would be enough to send me into a spin and I experienced constant hyper vigilance. I would read things into everything that anyone said, because I felt it must be about me and how I was a failure as a mother and as a person full stop. I wasn't worthy of even existing. Get the picture? If you have never experienced that feeling, it is very hard to understand. These overwhelming feelings made me at one stage consider selling my horses - thank goodness that didn't happen! 

Alongside finding good medical help, having riding goals has given me another reason to dig deep and keep on going. When there's horses to ride and feed, it's another thing to get up and out of bed for. Then there's the enjoyment factor. Having something to look forward to makes the fog lift and the Black Dog's shadow no longer lingers as a constant threat. 

Doing something well has given me a feeling of accomplishment and pride. This is also evident in my coaching, as I really enjoy being able to help others on their riding journeys. 

So, no matter how the next 4 days goes....I did it. I got here. I'm happy and proud. And even better, I now have my husband and kids to share this special journey with. Along with my very special horse...

As 3 1/2 year old Hamish said to me the other day after watching me jump - 

"Snip is a good horse Mummy. He's your best friend" 


Happy tears! 

Photos by Andrea Dunn Photography 

Sunday, 9 April 2017



For a long time, I have always had fairly 'out there' big goals. One such goal was to ride at the Melbourne Three Day Event. I was very committed, driven and hungry to reach this goal - and it did eventually happen, in 2012. However, in being so focused on this one over-riding goal for a long time, it did mean I missed out on other things along the way. I didn't have much of a life, my house was neglected, my work probably suffered and my husband and family had to put up with me and my somewhat selfish pursuit of a dream.


Since having a family, my goals have been more modest, more training oriented and I've not been in such a hurry to go up the grades. Riding again after kids has been an opportunity to get all of my basics more solid (and have to re-learn a lot of what I had previously been taught). Despite, or perhaps because of this - my results have been better! I'm more relaxed about competition in general too, knowing that no matter how things go, as long as I come home safe to cuddle my kids, it's been a good day.


Tim Minchin in one of his speeches advocates "passionate pursuit of short term goals." He maintains "you should be careful of long term dreams...if you focus too far in front of you, you won't see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye" 

His whole speech about the lessons of life can be seen here. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you watch it...

He is so right about "that shiny thing" - for me, backing off on my sole focus of eventing has meant I've got to achieve some quite different things. Having children. Bringing on a young horse. Going to Portugal, travelling alone, experiencing the thrill of riding piaffe & passage. Developing my coaching skills. All things I'd have missed if I had my blinkers still firmly on.

This year, I am aiming for Melbourne again. We might get there, we might not, but for me this time it's the journey along the way that's most important. To get there again (or even to consider it) after five years and two children is huge in itself.

Time and wisdom now means I put my sport in perspective - I do this for fun. I don't want to miss out on any other 'shiny objects' or opportunities to experience things that I might enjoy just as much (gasp!) as galloping cross country.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Lusitano Diaries - Part 8


...And back to the real world

I'm back. I have put off writing my last installment as it makes me quite sad. I'm now well and truly back into the "real life" of working and being a Mum. The holiday is really over. 

My last ride in Cascais was the morning before I departed Portugal. I had a magical lesson (again with Frederico), riding Vingador. We continued our work on laterals, flying changes and passage. For me, the lightbulb moment was realising that for these movements I had to wait (and wait a bit more...!) and prepare. My eventing reflexes have me wanting to do everything in a hurry (and in doing so, trying to do too much). So it was a revelation in riding the flying changes to sit up, half halt, slight change of flexion...quietly ask for the change. It worked! 


There is, much to my surprise, actually time to do this, even between 3 x changes (if you have seen the video I recently posted on my Gretgrix Equestrian Facebook page, you can see me finally 'getting' the sequence changes...5 across the diagonal). In the passage too, it was quite the experience for me to learn to slow down and travel in that much slower rhythm. I'm sad that I had to leave when I'd just had a brief taste of how much more there is for me to learn! 

Maria gave me a souvenir of my stay - my very own CRC shirt ;) Very happy to be the first Aussie recruit (well, after Sarah that is! ;)) 


Upon packing my bags, Paulo collected me from Quinta da Bicuda to take me to the Airport. We had a slight detour to make - I had been looking for a special souvenir tile to take back. Earlier in the week I saw beautiful tiles of Lusitanos at The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. I naively assumed they'd be everywhere, which wasn't the case. Anyhow, Paulo specially took me back to Belem so I could get my beautiful tile (2 actually...oh and a print for the wall!). As a result, I got to the airport an hour before departure and only just made it to my boarding gate 15 mins before closing. Gate 46 is the furtherest away of course....! I like living on the edge ;) 



So what have I learned? 

Many people have asked me how riding other "fancy" horses can help me with my own riding. I cannot emphasize enough the value in riding schoolmaster horses in developing "feel". To understand straightness, you need to ride a horse that can go straight (when I sit straight, of course!). To understand true collection, it is something that must be felt. To get the feeling of the higher level work, it is best experienced on a horse with a higher level of training (and tolerance!) before attempting to train the movements on a less educated horse. I also had the opportunity to ride younger horses, to learn the process of their training and experience riding a range of horses. I could write volumes on so many of the things that I've learned. Many of them that I'd been told before, but needed extra time for the penny to drop! Riding under instruction for consecutive days also saw quite a transformation in my position, feel and timing. It taught me I need to be more disciplined in my training - both on myself and my horses. 

Both Sarah and Frederico gave me exercises to do off the horse, to improve suppleness and body awareness. Use of the Balimo chair helped get my lower back, pelvis and hip flexors more free. Regular visits to my osteopath and off horse strength/suppleness training is now part of my routine. 

Experiencing "pure" dressage training has seen a shift in my thinking/training & ambitions. I now view dressage as it was originally intended - training, and an art in itself, not just related to competition. Whilst my first love is still eventing, I really enjoy dressage training. I have the utmost respect for those who ride high level dressage - and am in love with the Lusitano horse ;) So beautiful, so much power, personality and yet a forgiving, willing nature. I now just need to win Lotto to bring home one of my own....In the meantime, I have a lot of learning to do with my current horses first! 

On a more personal level, this trip was a way for me to step outside of my comfort zone - going somewhere new, to concentrate on a different riding discipline was an exciting adventure. Much to my surprise, I felt relaxed the whole time I was away (must have been the nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night....bliss!!!). Travelling alone teaches you so much about yourself & what you are truly capable of. I was able to talk to my kids each day (hurray for the internet!) and it wasn't as hard as I thought being away from my family. So many people said to me they could never leave their kids for so long - however, I have faith in my husband's parenting ability, not to mention my wider support network of family. 

If you ever want to do something like this - just do it! It might be a leap of faith, but the rewards are great. Life is too short. Get out there and seize the moment!  

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A tour of Lisbon

I was going to include this as part of my "Lusitano Diaries" but it really deserves a chapter of its own. On Monday 23rd January, I went on a guided tour of Lisbon with Paulo and Agnes of Amazing Discovery Tours. What a fabulous day!

We started off in Belem, where there are many significant monuments and historic buildings (I have included hyperlinks for those wanting more historical information).  The first of note is the Tower of Belem . This is just magnificent!

We then visited the Monument To The Discoveries. It is difficult to comprehend the size of this until you are right up next to it.

Nearby is a world map set in tiles...

Next up was morning tea at Pasteis de Belem - home of the Pastel de Belem, their spin on the Pastel de Nata (or as most Aussies would say, a custard tart). They are quite different to the custard tarts we are accustomed to. The pastry is light, more like a puffed pastry, and the egg custard filling more fluffy. They were delicious - I had mine with cinnamon and sugar. 

They even have a display window so you can see them being baked ;) 

From Belem, we moved to explore the older part of the city. Alfama is on the slope towards St Jorge Castle. The old houses with coloured walls and distinct terracotta coloured roofs make a magnificent picture.

It was then time for lunch, so we moved into the Central district. 

We had a delicious tapas lunch with piri piri chicken, cuts of cured pork, local cheeses (including goat & sheep milk cheeses) with bread, cod cakes and a local white wine (sorry, totally forgotten region!). 

Then it was more exploring of the central district -

Anyone for some vintage port? It was only €1,000 odd...

We finished our meandering through town with a visit to a Ginjinha bar. Yep, you just walk in to be served your shot of cherry liqueur. Bottoms up! 

!!! Felt a bit lightheaded after that at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. 

On that note, I have to say I had a really enjoyable day. There's heaps more to explore, but it has given me a taste of many of the things Lisbon has to offer. A good reason for a return trip ;) 

Thankyou to Amazing Discovery Tours - it was great to have company and to learn more than I would have exploring on my own. One day I will have to come back in the summer time to see the city at night, with all the restaurants and Fado singers bringing the city to life. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Lusitano Diaries - Part 7a


I apologise for the lack of blogging over the past fortnight. It took the better part of a week to shake the horrific jetlag (so much worse flying home, remember flying 'west is best'). I kept waking at 3am and falling asleep, exhausted at random times of the day. I then stupidly knocked my iPad off the bench, wrecking the screen. Add in a 1700km round trip the weekend after I got home and you can see why I haven't been in a writing mood! Back to the reality of my very hectic life! 

Now to test my memory. January 23rd was my second last day in Portugal and I started with an excellent morning lesson with Frederico, on Hostil, the lovely 4yo Lusitano. We worked on getting him soft, supple and travelling in a good rhythm. We then did some lateral work, introducing leg yield in trot. His canter work was fabulous. I was so much straighter, my reaction time so much better that suddenly I just "got it!". As horse people will relate to, it was a ride where I didn't want it to end.

The rest of my day was filled in with a guided day trip to Lisbon with Paulo and Agnes from Amazing Discovery Tours. I will write the next (very pictorial) chapter tonight, once I have the chance to download more photos from my camera.

Up soon : Lisbon, my final ride at Cascais Riding Club on Vingador and lots to reflect on.
PS. Did I mention I am already planning to go back??? ;)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Lusitano Diaries - 6 1/2

I am sorry to not yet have installment 7 done yet, but jetlag is really affecting me this time - who knew travelling East would be so bad? If anyone has any tips for overcoming waking at 4am all the time and then battling to stay awake in the afternoon - let me know! This has never happened to me before.

I am blown away though, by the response to my little iMovie - which has had some 3000 views in a matter of days!

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Lusitano Diaries - Part 6


It is now almost a week since I last posted and I have been in a confused jetlagged fog since arriving home at 2am on Australia Day!

Sunday 22nd is where I recap my journey. I had a day off riding and met up with Sarah for a cuppa before heading up to Sintra for some more fabulous sightseeing. 

As quoted by Wikipedia - Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near the capital, Lisbon. A longtime royal sanctuary, its forested terrain is studded with pastel-colored villas and palaces. The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework. The hilltop 19th-century Pena National Palace is known for a whimsical design and sweeping views

It is a place you could spend days exploring. I did some (ok, quite a lot of) shopping in the cute little village, before looking through the beautiful National Palace. 

The ceilings in this palace are so ornate - I can't imagine the work that went into such a building! 

The tile walls are also magnificent

The kitchen is huge! 

I then saw a "walking track" up towards Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. "A nice day for a walk" I thought...I should have viewed the sign more carefully (see that hiking picture???) Note I had also bought some cast iron wares that I was carrying with me!! 

A nice seat for a rest?

And oh just got steeper....and steeper

Umm,  was heading in the direction of that castley-looking place, and then saw rockclimbers on their way up the cliff. A little out of my depth! 

But, I made it to the foothills(!) of the beautiful Pena Palace and got a transfer to the top.

My photos don't do it justice, but it has AMAZING views from the top

Once again, beautiful inside (and an even bigger kitchen!)
(my other photos are yet to be downloaded from my non mobile device). 

I then got a ride all the way back down the mountain, saving my legs for another day.

Monday morning, I had a lesson at 8am with Frederico, this time on Hostil again. Hostil & I were on the same page. He was beautifully responsive, did lots of suppling work & baby leg yielding and I could feel my coordination and timing was getting SO much better. Work on the Balimo chair had also loosened me up before my ride and I felt much better through my body. 

Stay tuned, will soon write my next (lengthy) installment on my day tour of Lisbon & my final ride (sob) on Tuesday morning...

NB: I have been awake since 3am this morning after falling asleep on the couch at 9pm last night (!!) My poor body clock is hating the transition back (along with the heat and 2 very busy small children...) PS For my new Portuguese friends - a forecast of 39 degrees today! 😳