When I left School many years ago, the only thing I had an interest in was horses. So I went to college and got some qualifications and even competed in some small show jumping and cross-country events. At the stables I worked at, we ran summer clubs and gymkhana’s. My days there were some of the happiest of my life. Except the falling off horses, being kicked by horses, being trodden on by horses and horse flies…. Other than that, pretty awesome days. As much as I loved all the horses in my care, two stole my heart. Starlight and Sundance, although we had nicknames for them. I still have a drawing of them both that was given to me as a gift for my birthday when I worked at the stables (I think it was for my 18th birthday).
Here, have some pictures of me between the ages of 17-20 ish years old with both of them.
Sundance, also known as ‘Fatty’ because he never stopped eating, was bay colour and a gentle yet stubborn git! If you wanted to head to the right, it was a given that he wanted to go left…. towards the lovely grass he had his eyes on. Always getting holes in his rugs, I spent many a night at home hand stitching his rugs. He was popular with everyone, his name often requested for hacks out because he was pretty safe with all scenarios regarding traffic etc. He was the cute boy that you just had to love.
Starlight, also known as ‘Scar’ or ‘Scar bag’ because of the scars on her face but she was so beautiful. She was a chestnut mare with a serious temper. Nobody was allowed near her tail, she was a kicker. She once let me plait the top of her tail for a competition but made it clear when she’d had enough by trying to eat my face. At competitions she had to wear a red ribbon in her tail which basically alerted others to the dangers of her flying back feet. She was a bitey, kicky, feisty, moody, stubborn, aggressive mare… and I loved her dearly. Point her at a show jumping fence and she was happy. We won a fair few rosettes for clear rounds between us. I have fond memories of us jumping, hacking out (although freaking at the sight of a tractor and trying to chuck me in a ditch was not as pleasant memory wise) and I loved just watching her grumpy attitude as she strutted across the field. One day I went to work and she’d gone. The vet had been called and she was ‘put to sleep’ because of twisted gut and she was suffering. I cried for days. I miss her every day, even now.
Eliza will be 9 soon and has struggled with anxiety a fair few years now. We use essential oils which help loads. We have various strategies that we use if we see her anxiety rising. These days she is pretty good at saying how she feels so she can sometimes give a heads up that anxiety has popped by. One of the best things she ever did was attend ‘Horse Therapy’ (or Equine Therapy). At the start she hated it, well hated the thought of it (anxiety) and would scream as soon as she saw the turning to the stables (anxiety) and we’d spend the first 20-30 minutes of the session in the car for safety whilst she screamed, kicked the car seat and yelled (yep, anxiety). Eventually she would get out and tell me she’s only staying for five minutes. I agreed as it was confidence for her and her compromise. Every time those five minutes ended up as at least an hour if not longer. She’d help groom the ponies, feed them and learn about how to look after them. The minute she sat on a pony to ride she was totally relaxed and anxiety gone. Horses are said to be amazing help for those with autism and special needs and it certainly worked for Eliza. We went for weekly sessions for a year unless the weather was too bad. It gave her confidence, pushed her boundaries, improved her speech along with the confidence and lowering anxiety. She also made friends there. After a year, she didn’t want to go anymore and to be fair I think she’d got what she needed from it. The amazing power of horses.
(I’ll just add here that even though Eliza’s anxiety caused some upset as described above, I know her extremely well and I trusted my instinct and her fighting spirit that she could do it and it was worth persevering. Eliza often needs ‘anxiety squashing time’ and she actually really enjoyed the horses company and she still talks fondly of them now. If at any time it seemed damaging to her, I would have stopped the class).
Here she is (2015-2016)