I am a horse trainer and horsemanship instructor in Surrey. My horse, Tao is a haflinger and will be 15 this year. When I bought him, I was working in the film industry and he turned my life upside down. He was a problem horse who had a troubled past and had been in 4 homes before me – he had just turned 8 when I bought him. He has been the best teacher I could ask for and always has a new lesson for me.
How did your horse come into your life?
I had never had my own horse and it was always my biggest dream. I was 26 when I found Tao’s advert. He was advertised as green and low mileage, but his problem behaviours were not disclosed. I would have bought him anyway, I’d tried a number of horses but I just knew Tao was ‘the one’. Buying Tao changed the course of my life. I quickly realised that I couldn’t be everything he needed while working crazy hours in London, so I had to make a choice. I quit my job and got a normal job closer to home. After documenting my journey with him online, people started to want me to teach them and the rest is history.
How long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding since I was 9, but I was begging from age 5 – my parents just couldn’t afford lessons. Even at 9 I was only able to ride every other week.
When and where do you ride?
I exercise Tao most days as he has arthritis so needs to keep moving. I mostly hack around our local common in Cobham and occasionally ride in the school. Of course, we also do a lot of groundwork.
How did you start riding?
My mum loved horses, so made the mistake of buying me a pony ride on a farm aged 2. I fell in love.
What you and your horses currently working on?
In the school, Tao and I are working on the passage. We are also working on hacking alone. It has taken 7 years to take him from bolting home even in company to now hacking 3 miles alone in walk and trot. We tried a canter last time we were out, and he remained relaxed. I am so proud of him.
What do you love about riding?
I love the connection. It is such a gift for a horse to willingly allowing us on their back. It’s amazing when you think about it – that they allow us to be there. Nothing beats the feeling of harmony – of having a horse WANT to carry you and show off their moves.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
I would love to be able to travel and teach people around the world.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
Yes, I had a bad fall last year where I fractured my spine and had a closed degloving injury. A lot of my nerves came from losing my riding muscles/ my pelvis being misaligned and my body not feeling balanced anymore.
How do you deal with them?
It’s been a slow journey and has taken me over a year to get my confidence back in the saddle. It is mind over matter and I’ve been fighting my demons every ride. Groundwork helps a lot. For me personally, lots of body treatments and other types of exercise to build myself up physically again have helped. Talking about my nerves has helped too – you’d be amazed how many people are willing to talk about it and it’s comforting to know you’re not alone. I’ve also found having someone with me on the ground has helped. Just sitting in the corner watching or walking with me out hacking. Now I don’t feel I need that and get a little more confident each ride. It’s hard because I still have my degloving injury as a reminder of what can happen and I am waiting for surgery next year.
Your Top Tip
Learn about horse behaviour. How they learn, how they communicate and how they indicate signs of stress/pain. You can avoid so many unnecessary situations that way and improve your horse’s wellbeing as well as your relationship.
The Final Furlong
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I was lucky enough to ride Shilas the haflinger (owned by Eva Roemaat) a few years ago, he was my dream horse to ride!
Who is your equestrian hero?
I have SO many. I don’t follow equestrian sports, mine are all in the liberty/trick training world. To name a few, Eva Roemaat, Norah Kohle, Nadine Lindblom and Ebony Porter. They are all doing amazing things with their horses with and without tack!
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
If we are just talking about horse people, probably the four mentioned above and Kathy Sierra (Intrinzen). That would be a fun dinner!
Favourite colour horse?
GOLDEN – Palominos, chestnuts, red dun, dun. I just love them.
Favourite horse event
Is it bad I don’t have one? I don’t tend to go to them.