I think I came straight out of the womb into my obsession with horses, insisting that I be allowed to run around on all fours, in public, pretending to be ‘Fasty’ the horse. Much to my very non horsey family's embarrassment! So, naturally, as soon as I was allowed to take lessons at the local riding school, I was up on board, feeling my fantasy of one day becoming a professional show jumper.
However, this didn’t quite go to plan! I wasn’t naturally a confident rider, especially with a worried mother on the sidelines fretting over her small child trying to hurtle herself at fences at the grand age of 5 or 6. Whilst that’s probably the norm in those brought up through pony club etc it was more of an achievement for a once a week lesson goer from a family that preferred surfboards to whiteboards.
Skip ahead a few years and the horse addiction was still strong. I now spent most of my spare time helping at another local riding school every weekend to make up for not always being able to afford a weekly lesson, in the hope that all those hours mucking out, grooming and preparing horses for other people to have lessons on would earn me the right to ride one of the school ponies to the field. But this was where I found that there was some sort of strange hierarchy amongst horsey people that meant only the brave riders and those who fit in the required description would be allowed to be part of the gang. I was robbed in the yard, not just mentally, with the usual childish taunting, but actually physically robbed and spent all my time there alone with the horses. Thinking back on how lonely it was, I very nearly stopped riding after 5 years, only age 10 due to the bullying from the older girls.
Fortunately for me, at secondary school I met some friends who were also horsey, and we all went to a different riding school (again) and had a blast. But by this time, I was really hankering to have my very own pony and managed to rescue a slightly obscure, opinionated but utterly perfect in my eyes, chestnut Dartmoor pony. I wasn’t in a position to go out and compete, a lot of the time I was barely living the life of a child that age, but I never gave up completely on the idea of horses.
Over the years, I had some horses on loan, rode for people and began my horsey career at about 16, but I never felt like I fitted in. My life was a little turbulent, to say the least, and my alternative way of looking never really made me feel like I was part of the horsey girl world.
I was the epitome of ‘no gear, but lots of ideas.
Now it's 2020 and I am thankfully out of the years of disaster! I had moved back home to Cornwall after a few more attempts at riding for people and trying to get out there in the horse world. There were two significant women in this time who seemed to really want me in their yards, they supported me hugely and never once made me feel like my health issues, coloured hair or masses of tattoos were a reason to not be part of the horsey tribes. I'll owe them always as it's because of them. I began to find the more I just shined my light, the more accepted I felt. Perhaps all this time it had actually been down to my feelings about myself.
It was actually through social media that I started to see more and more people popping up who didn’t fit the mould. Who had come through trials and tribulations, borrowed horses, looked like I did and weren’t all from horsey parents. Suddenly it seemed like a possibility again to become a ‘horsey person’.
I was between horses, about to start university at 32 to study animal behaviour, and I was volunteering for a local riding club show when someone I knew suggested I try one of her previous rides. I hadn’t a hope in hell in my mind! He was a fabulous, 16.2 chestnut, sports horse who evented, this was dream stuff, and I never thought I'd be capable of riding him. Especially as his owners were incredibly well respected in the horsey world and would surely be horrified at my electric blue hair….
And in the long run, I wasn’t! I spent 9 months with him and we did things I never thought I would be able to, first show jumping competition, arena eventing, dressage test and so on. I was proud as punch to be aboard him and all I ever received was support, encouragement and love from my riding club, Cornwall Trec. I started to realise maybe it was me who was being judgemental, thinking the horsey world wouldn’t let me in, but it turns out these were my people.
I handed the ride to my brave and fabulous friend and have now got my freckly unicorn, Gemini, who I am obsessed with. She is a little less spicey and more my wavelength, because it turns out a lot of us feel nerves and not everyone, myself included, wants to set the world on fire! We love riding club competitions and qualifiers and I never, ever feel like I should hide who I am from the horsey world anymore. Because it turns out as soon as I let the ‘scary’ horsey people in, they did the exact same to me.