Charlotte Ricca Smith: ‘With Age Comes Experience’

Blue Chip resident blogger, Charlotte Ricca-Smith has been back in touch to tell us about her thoughts on growing older and how birthday wishes really do come true… Read on to find out more!

Today it’s my birthday. But I’m not that bothered. Because it’s true what they say – birthdays really do get less exciting the older you get.

In my 20s a birthday was a chance to eat more cake, drink more booze and get more presents. I didn’t really worry about the number concerned. Hitting 30 was a tricky time, as I realised I was at the age when people start thinking about marriage, babies and buying houses. But once I’d got married, had a baby and bought a house, I spent the rest of my birthdays in pretty much the same way. Eating cake, drinking booze (although the bubbles were now a bottle of champagne and not five bottles of lager) and getting lots of presents.

And then I hit my 40s. I still love cake, but I drink less and I seem to get fewer presents – even though I now have two extra people in my family (apparently kids don’t do buying presents, just receiving). I’m also far more concerned with the digits. I now realise that every year that passes I’m getting closer to FIFTY. That’s insane!

For most of the year I can be in total denial about my age. In fact I often forget how old I really am. It rarely comes up in conversation and I still feel like that care-free 20-something, even though I can’t drink like her. And I have a husband, a house and two kids… But on my birthday I suddenly have to go, ‘hang on… I’m how old?!’ Forty-five, in case you’re wondering. Just seeing that on paper makes me feel a bit queasy. But as I often say to people moaning about getting older, the only other option is death. So I’ll take aging every time.

As a horse rider there is a silver lining to this saggy cloud. Horses are the one thing that have stayed constant during all the decades. Nothing has changed. I might ache a bit more and I’m not as brave as I once was. But when I get on Pepa I instantly forget about my age, my worries and my aches and pains (until I get off, that is). In fact, I’ve never felt more competitive. Since having Pepa I have trained more, and jumped more than I have in years. Her talent is an inspiration and makes me want to keep improving – and keep winning.

This weekend I jumped on Saturday AND Sunday – something I have never done in my life before! I managed to get a double pass from my husband, as I played the ‘birthday weekend’ card. It means I’m officially allowed to do what I like. So I went jumping.

There was another reason for my double date with Pepa. I had my eye on a very large prize – a massive rosette to be precise. Big enough to adorn an elephant’s head, never mind petite little Pepa. To win this coveted (and slightly gaudy) ribbon I had to win an arena eventing series at Brendon Equestrian Centre, which I had been competing in all winter. I didn’t even know about the league when I started. I was just using the 80cm competition as a confidence builder following my fall last year. And then I started winning – and when I thought I should stop (time to move up to the 90cm) the organisers told me I was in with a change of winning the league. So I kept going. By the final weekend I was just nine points off the leader. And with double points at stake, there was everything to play for. I won on Saturday, which put me one point away from winning… All I had to do on Sunday was place higher than my nemesis and that rosette was mine.

I was sick with nerves. But also very excited. I knew we could beat her on time – we had done so several times before. We just had to keep the poles up. Pepa, as always, was a total star. We pulled off some amazing turns and she didn’t touch a pole. We went into the lead… but my rival still had yet to jump. I tried so hard not to wish for a pole to fall.

The poles stayed put (see, wishes don’t come true? Even birthday ones) but she couldn’t quite pull off our tight turns… I held my breath until I heard her time… She was once second slower, which put her in second place. Leaving me at the top of the leader board, by just one point. We had done it. We were the champions. I was elated. What a perfect birthday present!

Taking the title wasn’t just about the very large rosette, or the glory of winning. It was about proving to myself that I’ve still got it. I may be the wrong side of 40, but when I’m on Pepa anything is possible. Age really is just a number. Whether I had been 15 or 50 – I couldn’t have ridden any better. In fact, my age has made me more experienced, which with horses is one of the greatest assets you can have.

I may not be able to out drink a 20-year old, but you know what? I can out ride them!


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