Faith…

I have always been a person who put her faith in animals. I learnt very early to trust a horse with my life, and I have put my faith in every horse I have had throughout the 28 years that I have been riding.

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This year I lost my faith in Batialo because I lost faith in myself…

It’s been just over a month since I started back riding and I already feel like I have direction again. I wake up everyday earlier just because I love so much my life…I can’t wait to get to the stables and see Batialo, ears pricked waiting for me 🙂

I’ve always been a competitive person and Mum used to say that whatever I did in life, she knew I would want to be the best at it. The best writer, the best teacher, the best rider…

When I took off overseas and said I was going to compete internationally, she didn’t question it, despite the fact that I was heading off alone.

She put her faith in me. She always did.

I have decided to put my faith in Batialo, and hope that that is enough for him to put his faith in me also. It is working. He feels that I trust him, and today again I let the reins go and let him gallop around the arena, and he knew that I knew he would keep me safe.

13568999_10207987024585271_9110582066519524617_oThere are many different types of faith…When someone asks me what I believe in, to be honest I’m not that sure. I believe that what goes around comes around, I believe that what you put out you get back.

My grandparents were possibly one of the greatest influences in my life, and they were faithful to church and religion, because it gave them something to hope for. It got stronger as they got older, and they realised that they could not be together forever.

To be honest I don’t mind what you believe in, as long as you don’t force those beliefs onto other people. It’s good to believe in something, to have faith in something…I saw what happened to my father when he lost his lost faith in everything, and it’s like he had already died, even when he was still living.

Putting faith in a higher power is one thing, putting faith in other people is more difficult.

But the most difficult one is allowing others to put their faith in you, and then actually living up to it…
Having the courage to say “bet on me, because I am the one who will make it”.

It sounds simple, but in reality accepting the faith of others requires a great deal of strength, and also the self-belief that their faith is justified.
People put faith in you for many reasons, faith that you are a good friend, faith that you can keep a secret, faith that you are a good investment, or a person worth listening to.
Faith that you will keep up your end of the bargain, faith that you know what you are doing, even if sometimes you feel as if you don’t.
My mum put incredible faith in me and my decision to pursue what I love, but I know that she also loves to be part of something bigger, and even if I never get there, her faith inspires me to be my best.

This morning someone wrote to me to say they feel pressure, because people are putting their faith in them, and they feel the weight of expectation…
I told them to consider the alternative…being a person that noone ever puts any faith in 😉

Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian...like their page to find out more...https://www.facebook.com/derriereeq/?fref=ts
Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian…like their page to find out more…https://www.facebook.com/derriereeq/?fref=ts

Adrenaline…RISK…What Drives Us To Get Back On?

The other day Batialo fell down in the rain…I held on, and managed to come back up still on top. My heart was racing…Adrenaline…

I read recently that life is a lot like a poker game…There is both an element of luck and skill involved, but essentially it all comes down to what you’re willing to risk…

There are days when Batialo walks down to the arena feeling like he is ready to leap sideways, or up, or across, or spin, at the slightest shift of any imaginary nothing around us.

When we set foot in the arena he charges off and I just fly along, keeping his attention through inside flexions and transitions, and praying a little that nothing leaps out of nowhere.943833_10206664718168437_7607689385086313369_n

Of course those are the days when a dog runs across the arena, and the jumping ‘idiot’ decides to jump the dressage arena edge in front of me. The garbage truck comes, and then the man cuts a tree down off to the side. Oh and the new one is the people who drive past and toot their car horn at me, because that helps a lot!! Batialo now thinks his butt looks great 😉

But on the days when Batialo still somehow manages to stay within my control, and I somehow manage to not lose my cool…Those are the rides when I feel the most adrenaline, because he is letting himself go, but still listening to me.

You see dressage pairs where the rider has dominated the horse, then you see the ones where the horse wants to do what the rider asks of him…

My greatest ever memory as a kid was when my best friend and I would have galloping races up the hill on our property.

No helmet, completely out of control, we would let our horses go, and they would go! The horses learnt very quickly that we were racing, and race they did!!

Nothing made my heart beat faster. Nothing made me feel more free, more alive. I could forget the world for an instant… I was flying.

The last ever ride out with my dad he said he would race me across the paddock to bring the cattle back onto the farm. There were three paddocks between us and the cattle, and never being a person to shy away from a bet, I took off and he followed. We jumped three fences and galloped some miles to arrive on the neighbouring property, and I will never ever forget the look on my father’s face. I beat him, on a horse that was older than his. He was so proud.hsb

Adrenaline…Is an interesting concept. We all get worried that we will get hurt, but is it a small part the possibility of getting hurt what makes life interesting?

If we rode around on bean bag chairs, that had no real living breathing chance of danger, would it be the same?

The major reason I ride is because of my relationship with horses…But do we as riders also love the adrenaline?

My friend said to me one day that if there wasn’t an element of danger, if I got a horse that just plopped along, well, he said I wouldn’t love it so much.

The best rides you have ever had, if you really asked yourself, were the ones where the horse is working with you, but you are letting him be free, not holding or dominating him.

img_0711-2It’s like when I was young and we would drag race the old cars on the wet tracks through the bush, and that moment when the car lost control but you could ease it gently around the track between the trees, was the most exciting part. You couldn’t steer, but you couldn’t just take your hands off the wheel either…

That is what it’s like when your horse is full of natural powerful energy. If you pull and get tense, it’s dangerous. If you leave him completely, you’ll end up back at the hay stack. So you must guide him, gently, keeping his attention without disturbing him so much that he loses his cool.

It’s not for everyone…At school some kids would say “you are crazy”, others would say, “awesome can I try?”…Some people, often people who are involved in some other sport, like to walk that line. They like a sport that involves adrenaline, or pain, or walking that line of control/out of control.

Maybe it’s just me. But I do feel that a small part of our sport and many sports revolves around the thrill of the risk. Ask a surfer what makes the waves so beautiful? It’s that you can’t tame them, they are not in your control…

But is it just sport?

They say that love is giving someone the power to destroy you but trusting them not to…

Does everything in life that involves the most risk, give us the most reward?

What defines us as riders, and what joins us to most people who love sport, is that in spite of the you might get hurt, you continue anyway… The line that you must learn to delicately balance, the knowledge that if you make the wrong move, put your balance to the wrong side, pull at the wrong time…Well, anything can happen.

What defines us as people, is that everything in life worth having, typically means having less of something else, or the risk that you might end up losing it all.

Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian...like their page to find out more...https://www.facebook.com/derriereeq/?fref=ts
Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian…like their page to find out more…https://www.facebook.com/derriereeq/?fref=ts

Can You Ever Really Go Home Again?

We have all heard the term “you can never go home again”.

I was talking to one of my best friends recently about how when we look back at our childhood, the sense of freedom, the taste of fresh fruit, the thrill and the adventure of the simplest things in life, can never be recreated, will never feel as good, because our memory makes the experience almost impossibly perfect.

They said that even if you taste the same fruit now, it will never taste as good as the fruit you picked from your own tree, on your own farm, when you were just a kid.

I read recently that the term “you can never go home again” means, in general terms, “that attempts to relive youthful memories are never as fulfilling as during their initial creation.”

I find so much truth in that sentence…

Portugal, was my new beginning, so I see Portugal as an amazing country, not just because of the country itself, but more because of what it brought out in me, or what it allowed me to create for myself. 14689708_10208841767393307_1892293369_o-2

But I always thought I would go home…one day…

But can I?

Mum says I should take one more year to see if I get back competing internationally, and if not I should just ride for fun and redirect my life.

She says of course that I should do this redirection at home.

At some point I stopped understanding what ‘home’ actually meant for me.

Three years ago I went back to Australia, and I didn’t feel at home. I felt like the people in my life were there, but that I was visiting. I was a visitor to Australia, and then I came back home, to Portugal.

I know people who start new lives in different countries, and consider that country home for the rest of their lives.

But, I was talking to an international friend recently who said that yes they do start again overseas, but usually it’s a move with family, or a partner, and they aren’t alone. This friend admitted that he feels alone, and he wants to leave Portugal…

I’m not someone who feels alone. I think you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. I know people surrounded by family and yet they still feel completely alone.

But if I’m honest, life is easier in Australia. I often romanticise moving overseas, but recently mum asked if I want to move to another country in Europe to ride, and I said honestly, “I could not do it alone again”.

14509413_10208677768813445_770818149_nI needed it at the time when I first came, but moving alone to a new country, is like moving house, except this new house is underwater and you have forgotten how to swim.

So mum is right about one thing, it’s Portugal or Australia…She says too that the only way to really know is to go home and see.

Of course my first option would be to get back competing and see where life takes me. Batialo is working with me again, and pilates has helped a lot. My new pilates instructor says that I am strong, not strong for my injury, but strong in general…I believe it!

I hope very much to do Grand Prix next year around Europe…And I hope even more so, for my home base to be Portugal…11411660_10205439596741167_1668263557334878812_o

But I’m lucky that at least in theory, I can ‘go home again’.

Last time I went to Australia it took just ten days to know it wasn’t home anymore…Has that changed now?

Well, there is only one way to find out! But one thing is for sure, Australia, the family farm Horseshoe bend… will never be the way it is in my childhood memories, and depending on what part of my childhood I am remembering that can be either a good, or a bad thing.

 

Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian...like their page to find out more...https://www.facebook.com/derriereeq/?fref=ts
Huge shout out to my new sponsor Derriere Equestrian…like their page to find out more…https://www.facebook.com/derriereeq/?fref=ts

What are you wishing for?

It’s coming up to my 31st birthday, and there isn’t anything I wish for, besides things that I can never have, or things that I would prefer to work hard for…

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Almost 31…6 years in Portugal

They say as you get older your wish list gets shorter, because the things you wish for can no longer be bought.

It’s true…

The first thought that comes to my head when I think of turning 31, is 20 years without my father.

It seems like such a long time, but if I picture it, it feels like it happened yesterday.

People talk about missing someone like it’s a thought, but if you truly miss someone it’s a physical thing. It’s as if your whole body gets involved in the feeling, and it’s like you’re breathing, but no air can get in.

People write to me all the time to say that I am very wise for my age, they say I write like I have lived 100 years.

I went from 11 to 50 in a heartbeat, and it’s true that I grew up way too early, and have spent most of my life feeling responsible for other people’s happiness.

It wasn’t until I got to Portugal that I realised that unless you are happy, you are not only not good to other people, but the people who you attract are also unhappy, and the cycle continues.13707732_10208051258311074_4800011340586123624_n

I have discovered that whatever type of person you are you find comfort in knowing those that feel the same as you do.

If you fear something, your greatest comfort is someone who fears the same thing.

When I wrote about fear in riding, so many riders wrote to me to say that it made them feel better, to know that even international riders go through that.

They weren’t alone.

It’s human nature. We find comfort in being able to relate and share things with others, in seeing our own faults, our fears, our weaknesses, reflected in someone else.

When I was suffering from chronic pain, it reassured me when someone else said they ride in pain also. It didn’t change my pain in any way, and yet it made me feel better.

I used to wish I never broke my hip, because it would make my life now so much easier, with the whole ‘trying to be a top horse rider’ 😉

But deep down I know that if it wasn’t for all that, I would not even be here in Portugal trying to go after my dream in the first place…

A lady wrote to me a while ago and asked if I could recommend a stable for her daughter to work and ride at in Europe. I knew the girl and her character and replied that I can recommend somewhere, but she will last between 2 to 4 weeks.

I was not being unfair, I was being honest. The girl just didn’t have the guts to do it…

There are two options for a rider who arrives without a horse at a good stable in Europe…Either you have to ride crazy young horses who are talented and you get treated well, or you have to ride crazy young horses who are talented and you get treated like shit.

If you refuse to ride the horse that is rearing and has its eyes popping out of its head, then you don’t ride…the end. Even the calmer young horse if it’s talented will have big movement, and if it spooks then the spook will be big, power equals power!

7 out of the 10 horses I rode when I first came to Europe were slightly nuts. I was often on horses that would rear up, or flip out.

When mum first watched me ride 5 year old Batialo, she said “I would “NEVER” get on that horse”…I said compared to what I have ridden he is pretty calm really.943833_10206664718168437_7607689385086313369_n

It was the truth.

My point is that often what we wish for to make things easier now, are completely irrelevant, because without that we wouldn’t be here anyway, or we wouldn’t know what we know now.

You appreciate honesty after being lied to, you appreciate love when you lose it. You appreciate and value people that make you happy, far more when they are gone. It’s just how life is.

So I stopped wishing for things that wouldn’t happen and started working harder to be able to cope with the things that happen, when they inevitably do.

I stopped wishing Batialo wouldn’t spin, and starting working so that it wouldn’t hurt me when he did._20150605_123836

I stopped wishing I could still talk to my father, and started appreciating missing him, because even if it hurts, it’s real. He is still my favourite person, because he died before I knew him well enough to be anything but that.

The best thing for me though, when I think about what I want for my birthday, or what I want from my life, is to realise again, that my life is in every way exactly how I would wish for it to be.

I have been told to give Batialo to a rider to get him to Grand Prix and I can just start him when he is already used to everything and mature.14686425_10208841880516135_448099613_n

I could not think of anything less rewarding, and I’m sorry to those who buy Grand prix ready horses to compete, but for me it’s in the teaching, and the learning, and the knowing that every step is a step you made together.

So if you are a person who is wishing for something to happen or wishing something didn’t happen, well, I guess you could keep wishing and see how you go… or you could just get on with it, and work hard to make sure it does work out how you would wish it to!

 

 

Dressage…What is it?

I read a blog recently where the husband of a dressage rider explained to his friends what dressage was…

“Well, it’s like watching grass grow, but much more expensive!”

I have to say I have seen some very funny dressage interpretations from my best friends…14238211_10208515313592166_8316966165366789886_n

When I was young I thought dressage was so very boring. I still remember the night before the state championships and instead of training the test I was out mustering cattle with dad and came back well after the sun had set with a very very dirty and exhausted pony.

Mum said “Never again”, and of course the next day I went in the test and won, so she forget about the never again bit.

Truth is, if you are a sport person you know that there is a lot more that goes into it than what you see. Non-sporty people will watch a tennis match or a football game, and think it’s just about hitting the ball over the net, or into the goal.

I walk past the golfers in Beloura every morning, marching around what is basically a big park, trying to put a small ball in a small hole, and think “you guys are nuts”…

Then I get on my horse in the pouring rain and trot around  in circles in what is basically a big sand pit.

I have competed in dressage since I was 6 and I don’t think any of my friends had a single clue what I did every weekend. They knew I rode horses, and they seemed to think that was ok, but when I would get back from a show they would ask “Did you win the race?”, and I would just answer yes, because it was much easier than trying to explain expensive grass growing in detail.

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Me in front, before I could walk…already on Jimbo

I have been working with Batialo for almost 6 years…It’s a partnership. He knows me better than I know myself. He will follow me anywhere I go and will watch my every move when I’m at the stable…If I think something when I’m on him, he knows it. That is dressage. Dressage is also 5am starts in the freezing cold, and falling off, and horse emergencies, and everything else that comes along with any sport…

If top level sport was easy, then everyone would do it and even if the sport looks rather boring, that doesn’t mean it is simple.

I’m sure there is a lot more to golf than mastering walking and hitting a ball, just as I know there is far more to football than kicking straight towards and into the white net at the end.

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The year after dad died when I was chosen to lead his ride through the bush…Took a short cut through the creek and everyone fell off…Was not asked to lead the ride again 😛

For non-sporty people it can be difficult to explain, for people of any sport, they get it, even if they don’t get what we do when we go around and around in circles, they get that there is a lot more going on.

One of my very first trainers, who used to watch me fly around the arena like a cowgirl, said to me that she always knew I would end up a dressage rider, because of the empathy and connection I had with horses…She said I would ride around not thinking, and then get in the test and the minute my mind switched on, my ponies would as well…He was my partner, whether it be chasing cattle, or riding dressage, he just loved to please me…
hsb

That is dressage, and for a dressage rider, is there a better compliment?

 

Now or Never…What is your “What if?”

Today I had one of those useless conversations with someone, where they asked me a question and I didn’t give them the answer they wanted, so they kept asking the same thing in different ways.

They wanted to know “why” I want to compete, why I want to ride, why do I think that is a useful thing to do with my life…img_0711-2

I have found that once you find your own happiness you don’t feel the need to justify anything to anyone, and I just replied with “why” does that matter to you?

I know someone who is riding his bike around the world, and I thought “that sounds awful”, but I know that to him it isn’t awful, and I admire him for putting his effort into something that he desires.

People spend a lot of time thinking on time wasted, or where they should be, and what they want, and forget that life goes on and you can actually change things, or go after something new, whenever you want to.

This person wanted to know what I wanted to do with my life, like I had to make that decision and then go “ok well now I can just wait to grow old and die…good”.

Just because that is what I want now doesn’t mean that won’t change.

Mum said today that it’s “now or never” with Batialo, he will be at his peak soon, and If I want to compete internationally again I need to put pain aside, and just go for it. There will always be a reason why you can’t do something… So I will give it everything I’ve got and if that doesn’t work out I won’t sulk about it.

There are lots of other things I can do, and I can go after something else, I can take a break and try later on a different horse, or not, but you don’t need to decide right now what you want forever.

Everything changes, all the time.

Ten years ago I thought I would live in Australia forever, and work as a journalist at a newspaper, and ride horses for fun. One day I woke up and said, well this isn’t working, so lets change it.

I was always told “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it”, but a friend of mine recently reminded me of the opposite which is “If you aren’t happy, change”!

Sometimes that is not easy, because often we find comfort in what we know. It would have been much easier for me to stay in Australia, but I’m so glad that I am not a person who likes to do what is easy.

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Me and B- Man I love this horse 😉

I very nearly gave up on Batialo this year, but I know that I actually love the challenge. I love to really go after what I want, even if I know that I might be disappointed. They say in Portugal “Não se muda de cavalo no meio de banhado” (don’t change horse mid stream), and so I stuck with my horse, and he is going better than he ever has.

But now is the time!!

Will I go to England? Will I get back competing? Will I ever go to Australia? These are the questions only I can answer, and it will be for me, not to justify myself to anyone else.

This year was one of the best year’s I’ve had in Portugal, despite the fact that I was still recovering and not competing.mates
This is because I changed the most. I learnt to just let things go, and enjoy the moment, even if I knew that the moment wouldn’t last.

14694667_10208782979563648_1089201486_nI think that is the greatest thing about living overseas. Meeting new people who grew up on the other side of the world from you, but still share the same values, the same humour. I said it before, that meeting people from another culture, actually teaches you more about yourself, and I learnt that I am not always that strong, but my weaknesses are what make me, me.

I stopped worrying about where I wasn’t, and started appreciating where I was.

I will never be Portuguese. But I admire so much the people. And of course the horses ;).

Sometimes, when I wake up and my horse goes really well, and I have an amazing Portuguese seafood lunch and my friends make me laugh, I wonder if I really need to compete…

But I know myself, and I will wonder “what if”?

Sometimes, that is the better question to ask…Not WHY are you doing something, but in 5 years time what will be your “What if?”

Mine will be “what if” I had of given it one more go with Batialo, or even with Iota, would I have made it? Did I really give it everything? If I can answer yes then there is no “what if?” and I can walk away happy, but right now I can’t!

It’s true that you can always change, but there are some things in life that you have to go after, and I’d rather be a person who looks back and says “I gave it everything”, than a person who spends their life saying “what if?”.

Beijo...NAILED IT!!
Beijo…NAILED IT!!

 

Attitude is Everything…

Someone asked me why Batialo? What makes him so good? Well, It’s his attitude towards everything, he is just so happy…

This week has not been an easy one, but it has been amazing! Batialo decided that after three weeks it was time to test if I was in fact confident or just faking it, and he tried his best to check if I was paying attention at every killer piece of nothing that might jump out of nowhere.

It didn’t phase me at all, because my attitude has changed.

Me and B
Me and B

Do you ever have those days where you sit and listen to someone bitch and moan about nothing and everything, and have to hold yourself back from telling them that if they spent that time fixing the problem they are moaning about then they might not have a problem to moan about?

I often think about my aunty in these situations, when my mind has drifted off and I’m just nodding as they go on and on, about everything and nothing.

She has been battling cancer for over 20 years, and while she has every right to complain as much as she damn well likes she never does.

She found the sort of courage that no-one ever needs to find, and her attitude has always been to fight it, and enjoy life, as long as she can.

After I listened to this person winge for over an hour I said nothing. Huge restraint on my part because typically what I think comes out of my mouth before I have the chance to stop it…

Truth is, when I do shut up it’s usually for two reasons…either the truth is wasted on the person, or i’ll get the blame for being the bad guy.

I said before that self-awareness is the single biggest asset to a rider, but I’ve decided it’s the single biggest asset in life. If I told a self aware person that they were being pathetic they would accept it and try to change it. A self-aware person is also aware of what they can change, and even though it may be really  difficult, they accept what they cannot. I’m still working on the last one.

I was once told I am too independent. I thought that was not a bad thing at the time, but I realised later that the person was right, I was too independent and that made me put too much pressure on myself.

It’s actually a trait of riders to be too independent…

I didn’t accept help when I needed it, and I forgot that balance in life means that you actually need to have people you rely on…

BUT, this does not mean that you use them to complain about your life. In fact it’s the opposite, and I realised this year that the good people to be around are the ones that make you forget what you had to complain about in the first place.

My mum (yep again) used to say that “If you are going to do something you might as well enjoy it”.

I hate people who passive aggressively go along with something and then try to ruin it for everyone else by popping in little comments like “well, if we had of blah blah blah..” Well we didn’t so get over it!

I see that in schools now they are teaching gratitude. I find this interesting. I always thought gratitude was something inherent in your character, and in your attitude towards your life.

I think gratitude comes from experience, and from dealing with things that come up.

My attitude has changed because I am now more grateful just to be riding. I am grateful for my friends that support me. I’m grateful for the readers that follow my blog and write to me, it honestly makes my day better.

But actually the biggest thing that changed is my attitude towards myself. I spent 20 years blaming myself for something that actually had nothing to do with me, and I just decided to let it go and be happy. Being happy with who you are allows you to except that as people come and go from your life, it typically has nothing to do with you, and it’s probably not your fault.

They say actually that that is the most difficult relationship you will ever have, the relationship with yourself, and they are right. I love who I am, and I honestly never thought I would say that and mean it.

Horses, know everything. Batialo knows that I’m different, he will still test me, but he knows. I also know him, and I know and have been told, that he would do anything for me. I have been in a test and totally mucked up the movement and my trainer said you could see him trying to guess what you wanted.14550612_10208742510671951_85003351_o

Sometimes, it’s not what you are doing that needs to change, or the people you are with, or the things you have to deal with, but your attitude towards it, your attitude towards those people, and most of all, your attitude towards yourself.