Horse sense, [hawrs sens], n. Stable thinking

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.”  ~William Shakespeare, Henry V

I’m afraid that this week’s blog will take a bit of a departure from its usual form. I’m not writing this to inform, educate or entertain, and yes, I do usually try and blog to the BBC’s exacting standards. This week, I’m attempting to use my blog as therapy. To save me from boring you all with my dilemmas and thoughts, I am going to attempt to throw them all down on this piece of paper in the hope that I will feel lots better, without having to go through the embarrassment and pain, which so often comes with therapy. I suspect that the standard of my writing may take a dive in this departure from the norm; who would allow a sentence as long as the last, for example?

As you may have guessed from knowing me at any point in the last twenty three years or even from reading my blog in the last few months, my life revolves around horses. I’m not hugely competitive; I’m aware that there is a limit to my talents and I’m happy to enjoy it for what it is. People say that a dog is a man’s best friend, but the relationship between a horse and rider is something quite special. It takes time, strength and patience to build that relationship, but once it’s there, it never goes. Robert Smith said “there is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse” and he’s right. That’s why we do it. If you watch a combination who know each other very well, it will look like the rider is doing nothing, but in actual fact, they are working in harmony. That’s what we all aim for and that’s the joy of doing it.

There is another great thing about the relationship between a person and their horse; they make a great psychiatrist and all they cost is the price of food and hay. Spending a couple of hours riding your horse takes away all the troubles in the world. It can be both the best and worst thing in the world; you are entirely alone with your thoughts and you’ve got to battle them out. I guess that it’s the same for people who go running or cycling – it’s just you and your mind. Sometimes we can’t cope with our thoughts for that long, so we block it out with music.

Everywhere you look back through history, horses are celebrated; an old proverb says the winds of heaven can only be found blowing between a horse’s ears and they are right. Half a tonne of raw muscle, power, grace and poise between your legs isn’t something you’d get from a hamster or guinea pig. I can talk about the wonderful characteristics of these glorious, intelligent creatures until I’m blue in the face, but I know that not everyone agrees with me. There are those who believe that sports such as racing and eventing are unnecessarily dangerous and cruel. I always come back with the same argument; you take a horse onto the gallops and feel how they behave. They are excited and impatient to get going. It is in their nature to run and they love it. A horse is eleven hundred pounds of muscle and power so if they don’t want to do something you aren’t going to make them!

Another part of having horses is the society and camaraderie that it brings with it. As a kid I was well used to missing out on things because we spent the weekends horsing around and competing. You would always see the same people at shows and at pony club. Sure, some faces changed, but there were some that have been around forever. I joined the pony club when I was about three years old and at the age of six, I clearly remember asking my instructor if I could have a different colour felt yet? Each year at camp, we would take an efficiency test. The first is your D test, then your D+, C, C+ etc. With that, you would receive a different colour felt to put on your jacket. According to my mum, I went home complaining that I had got my D test three times and why couldn’t I take my D+? I had to have it gently explained to me that most children hadn’t gone to Pony Club camp three times by the age of six. I have so many happy memories at shows and in pony club and sure, some friends have come and gone, but there is always the same core group. I remember being taught about balance whilst trotting, by holding a cup full of water, then everyone except me getting food poisoning from some tuna bake; I knew tuna was dangerous stuff and this just confirmed my worst fears. Then when I was a little older and put in charge, I attempted to cook scrambled egg for 30 children without adding milk. It resembled a chopped up, burnt omelette.

I’ve had endless whip fights, dunking people into water troughs, getting dunked into water troughs etc. Basically, it’s all very Enid Blyton, but it was wonderful. It was a time before mobile phones and facebook. We would clean our tack outside the caravan whilst listening to Now 34 on my tiny stereo. In the last couple of years, I have been quite a done quite a lot for High Wycombe Riding Club and it’s really odd; it’s like going back to Pony Club. It’s the same old faces in the same old places. Horses have allowed me to have a fairly idyllic upbringing and gained some great friends along the way. So it seems so cruel that horses are currently responsible for ripping one of those dear friends from our clutches.

As we grow up with our horses, we know that falling off is a huge part of the learning process; it’s character building. We know that there are risks inherent in our sport and we chose to do it anyway. It’s a bug and you love it. You are aware that people can get seriously injured, but you tell yourself that is at the top level of competition and not the weekend riders like ourselves. Equally much, we could get hit my a bus crossing the street. But last weekend one of those people I have been riding and pony clubbing with since I was about three had an accident. She’s an extremely competent jockey, the horse just slipped on the ground and the impact was obviously too much for her. At the moment, she is sleeping and her body is doing overtime readying itself for her to wake up.

She is a big part of my childhood; I remember one year at the AGM aged about seven, we had to dress up as the perfect Pony Club person and the worst. I think we were both desperate to be the scruffiest and we made ourselves dirty with such relish! It just hurts me so much that something that is such a big part of my life can do so much damage. The way the accident happened meant that it could have happened to any of us. We are all as vulnerable as each other. Life is delicate and we hang on to it by a string.

How are we meant to react to something like this? Is it meant to tell us that life is delicate and we should be really bloody careful? Or that we only get one life, so live it? I’m not sure. But I tell you what, I’m in the process of buying a Point Two Air Jacket. I might look like a prize idiot doing Pre Novices and Riding Club events in such an expensive piece of kit, but it will give me peace of mind.

In the meantime, all of my thoughts, hopes and prayers are with Laura. She’s a massive part of the Riding Club, a great team mate, a fantastic laugh and always a good mate to have around. It seems so cruel that someone so vibrant should be clinging onto their life. Laura is one of the strongest, funniest and nicest people I have the pleasure of knowing and if anyone can pull themselves through this, it’s Lor.

I’m afraid I haven’t proofread and even reread this weeks blog. It’s not really intended to be a masterpiece, just a little rant about the unfairness of life.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen Isabirye
    May 01, 2010 @ 19:43:44

    Talking of “it’s all very Enid Blyton,” that is a world that
    existed prior to the advent of the mobile phones and
    facebook, I am glad to inform you that I have written and published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five:
    A Personal Anecdotage (
    Stephen Isabirye


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