Along came Pepa

I’m a big believer you get out of life what you put in. By following this motto I manage to squeeze every ounce out of my day – cramming in school runs with schooling and dog walks with daily household chores, alongside a demanding job as a journalist. I also have a husband – why is it husbands come so far down the list with us horsey women? Little wonder he holds my hobby with such distain. But then we all know horses aren’t a hobby, they are a way of life.

The downside of living every moment, of every day, is that it’s exhausting. I often wonder why I put myself through it – why on top of work, kids, home, husband, friends and family, I also have a horse.

Today is a classic example of trying to do too much. We are going on a family holiday tomorrow – driving to Brittany. We haven’t packed yet, and I’m competing in a BE90 competition this afternoon. Stressed? You could say that.

There are some days when I have so much to tick off my ‘to do’ list I feel my like my head will explode. These are the times I wish my motto was ‘do less, stress less’ but it’s just not in my nature.

I come from a family of do-ers. I’m last in line of six children and we are all ridiculously, annoyingly busy people. My husband finds it exhausting just being in the same room as me.

Other than a genetic predisposition to ‘doing, the main reason I have a horse is precisely because of all those other demands. Riding is utter escapism from my every day life. Age, income and marital status are irrelevant. I’m just me, out with my horse, having fun. Any working mums will understand the importance of that – stepping outside the home and doing something for yourself.

It’s true that having a horse adds to my daily workload, and often my stress when I’m working out how I can afford to pay for her shoes each month. But horses are something I quite simply can’t – and won’t – live without. They are my daily dose of happiness.

I am lucky enough have an amazing horse on loan, after six years of sharing various types. I sold my 17hh warmblood-cross in 2010, when my daughter was two and we were trying for a second – it was a time when owning my own horse just seemed too much.  My mare went to a loving home and I took some time out.

After that, I swore I’d never get my own horse again as sharing was so much cheaper and easier. Why would I put myself through the daily chores and expenses? But once my baby brain cleared, I started to remember why I loved having my own. I was also desperate to compete again.

Then along came Pepa. A Welsh Section D, just 15.1hh, couldn’t more different than my previous ride, but I knew she was perfect for me. She is full of confidence, super talented and totally straightforward (well, I say totally, she does have a sharp spook in her as my deformed finger is testament to…). She is also just about the sweetest horse I have ever had.

When I’m riding Pepa I feel like anything is possible – I know that if say ‘jump’, she will say, ‘how high?’. Together we have competed in our first BE event and have been in the ribbons at every show. She truly is one in a million.

Such is my belief in our partnership that I have added yet another box to tick on my ‘to do’ list. I aim to qualify for the BE90 Mitsubishi Motors Cup Competition at Badminton.

Why, you might wonder, have I decided to on pile more pressure? It’s something I often ask myself, particularly on the morning of a show, when the nerves kick in and I’ve still got to plait, groom, make the kids lunch – oh, and pack for a holiday.

But I know once I’m at the event and in the saddle, all those worries fade away. For me, competing is the ultimate form of horsemanship – it tests my riding, my partnership with my horse and my mental strength. The buzz I get from going across country is like nothing else. It’s when I’m at my happiest, and often my most scared, but then that’s all part of the appeal. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I am more competitive now than I ever have been. Maybe it’s because I value my free time so much more since becoming a mum, or maybe it’s just because I have teamed up with an amazing horse. I want to make the most of this opportunity – life is for living, right?

Over the next few months I will take you on my journey as I try to juggle life as an amateur eventer and working mum. I’d love to hear from any of you going through the same experience – and maybe together we can work out how to have it all.

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