Each week I interview the people behind some of the most interesting and popular equestrian accounts on Instagram. This week I’m chatting with the lovely Holly who owns the popular instagram account @the_from_the_muckheap. Holly’s account is fun and features her life on the farm and horsey exploits with her beloved Spirit. Holly is also an equestrian and country lifestyle blogger and is well worth a read.
Tell us a little about yourself and your horse
Hi, my name is Holly, and I am blessed with owning an amazing little horse called Spirit. He also goes by the name Dirty Bertie & if you follow our journey on IG you will know why. Spirit has been in my life for 2 years and he has been a saviour. When we first met, I was going through an awful time with my confidence. I couldn’t even talk about my horse without bursting into tears, it was tough. I battled on with that for over 12 months and finally in 2018 I gave up, I sold my horse, my tack and all the trimmings and to be honest with you I thought that was it. Then Spirit came bouncing along and captured the heart of my Aunty Liz and that was all it took.
How did your horses come into your life?
Aunty Liz met Spirit at our instructors’ yard, and she fell in love straight away. Now, before I go any further, I just need to say that this horse is my absolute everything, he means the world to me and I feel so so lucky to have him in my life. Right, now for the awful truth…love at first sight no, in fact, I really didn’t like him all that much. It feels awful saying that now after all he’s done for me but it’s the truth. I didn’t like how small he was, I didn’t like the colour of him, I didn’t like his mannerism and I really didn’t like his name. However, I had a lesson on him and oh my good lordy lord he…was…so…much…FUN!! I was my usual nervous self, but I just sat there, and he looked after me for the entire lesson. After that Aunty Liz turned and said to me, “that horse is coming home with us, whether you buy him or not”
How long have you been riding?
I started riding when I was about 8 years old. I was having weekly lessons at a local school & livery yard which eventually turned into me loaning my very first pony Dolly. I stopped riding in my teenage years due to schoolwork and transport, then joined the military when I was 18 in 2004. Sadly, I didn’t embrace my childhood passion again until I met my friend Sally in 2014 and she introduced me to Aunty Liz (it’s a term of respect and affection really, no relation). So yeah, I had a 10-year break, makes me sad when I think about it, all the memories and ponies I’ve missed out on but I’m making up for it now which is great.
When and where do you ride?
When I ride in all honesty totally depends on my mood, time and how dirty Bertie is 🙂 I try and hack 2-3 times a week and do flatwork once a week with a lesson thrown in there somewhere too. Spirit is 17 and is quite switched on, if I spend too much time doing schooling, he tends to get a bit…meh. He loves jumping but I’m not confident enough to do any jump work without our instructor around. We are extremely fortunate to have a marked-out grass arena which, apart from during the wet months, we are able to utilise. We are also super fortunate to have a beautiful common on our doorstep which we are always out exploring with Aunty Liz, her gorgeous boy Woody, and our bestie Sally on her beautiful Welshie Mari.
How did you start riding?
My Nan is equestrian mad, I spent a lot of time with her growing up and what Nan loves I love. Horses, gardening, baking, wildlife, and nature to name just a few. She took me for my first ever riding lesson and I guess the rest is history really.
What you and your horses currently working on?
Ah what a lovely question. So, our constant focus is remaining calm…both of us. Spirit is called Spirit for a reason, he’s full of it. Seriously though, we have spent the last 2 years just having fun, playing around, getting to know each other, and building up the trust and our relationship. We’ve spent a lot of time working on my contact and getting him working from behind instead of pulling himself along. More recently I’ve been watching footage of our lessons back and realised I need to work on my position quite a lot so that is my main focus at the moment.
What do you love about riding?
The way it makes you feel so free. You could’ve had the poopest worst day ever, but you get on that horse and literally nothing else matters. All you can think about is the connection between you both and for that brief moment in time, nothing else matters and you’re free.
What would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
My goal for 2019 was to get to my first ever dressage competition. Of course, I didn’t think I was ready but Sally, Aunty Liz, and our Instructors Chloe & Meg both insisted that we did it. So, in true Holly style I left it until the last minute and we attended our first ever competition 21st December 2019. I was full of confidence after that and vowed for 2020 to be our year out and about and nothing was going to stop us…oh except a worldwide pandemic and a nationwide lockdown in England, doh. My goal is for us to go out and do some XC, maybe the end of 2020 will be kind to us 🙂
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Ha-ha, yes!! Nerves whilst riding is my USP
If so, how do you deal with them?
I’m not sure there is enough space here to document the last two years of blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building my confidence back up.
To start with I stripped everything back to basics, I did my best to remove any pressure from myself and my horse and I kept, trying, trying, and trying again. I walked my horse in hand out on hacks to try and build up our relationship, I spent a lot of time on the ground brushing and fussing for the same reason. When I did get on my horse I had someone holding a lead rope whilst we walked out on hacks, I sat there in tears so scared of everything but my desire to ride eventually defeated the fear inside me. I can’t honestly remember how long I did this for, but it was a case of months not weeks. Eventually the lead rope went but the person on foot stayed, then the person on foot went and it was just me, my horse, my neck strap and the wind in my hair (except I didn’t ride when it was windy because I was too scared). From there I just kept doing little and often. I repeated things over and over until I got bored and wanted to do more. That was back in 2017 so there’s a middle to this story which I’ve left out but if I suffer from nerves or anxiety when riding now I try and remind myself how far I’ve come, the progress I’ve made and the reason I turn up every day.
Believe in yourself, you are better than you think. If you are struggling please ask for help, don’t be ashamed or worry about feeling like a failure, we’ve all been there in one way or another. You won’t overcome your obstacles unless you admit that you need the help. Get the help and absolutely smash your goals out of the park. Most of all remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. For most of us horses are a hobby and hobbies are meant to be enjoyed, don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I would love to ride Emily Dunstan’s (EMD_Eventing94) gorgeous girl Spritey. The relationship they have together is amazing and I would love to go out hacking with them & Miss Lola.
Who is your equestrian hero?
Well I do love William Fox-Pitt but what’s not to love I guess, the first rider to win five different five-star events and then the most incredible comeback after that fall in 2015. Being in a coma for two weeks to then come back fighting, going on to make the British eventing team and attending the Olympics in 2016, absolutely amazing, what a guy.
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Ah this is a tricky one, I hope I’ve interpreted this right and the question is based around ‘famous’ people and I’ve not just insulted friends and family. I would love a chat with David Attenborough and Stephen Fry. I also think it would be excellent to have the Duchess of Cambridge there (I love her and the Royals), then how could I not invite William Fox-Pitt and to finish it off I would love Clare Balding to attend.
Favourite colour horse
Now I know I should say Liver Chestnut but…I would love a beautiful clean white horse like the ones you dream of as a little girl. However, I wouldn’t cope with the stains. I am in love with Black & White animals, so I’d have to say Piebald or an Appaloosa breed.
Favourite horse event
Any event that has horses…and a gin stand….and a Mackenzie & George stand
Hmmm, I can’t pick just one. I love broccoli and pizza but most of all I love cheese. Cheese has kept me going through lockdown.
Favourite way to relax
Giving Spirit a good pamper session really chills me out, especially after a stressful day at work.
Whoa, ok, I was not prepared for this…hmmmm. There are too many can I list a few… Harry Potter (all of them), Splash, The Little Mermaid… I could go on, but I won’t 🙂