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Tell us about you and your horse

I work full time as Buyer and come from a non-horsey background, my husband is now horsey (even though he won’t admit it) and I am very grateful to him for all the support he gives me. Fitting in work and horses has always been quite hard, I am usually just about to get on my horse as most people are just settling down for their tea. Tea in our house is often at 9pm which my Mum still tells me off about!
Nicola and Bond enjoying a relaxing hack

My horse ‘The Name’s Bond’ (Bond) is an ex-racehorse and raced until he was four he will be 8 this year. Bond is such a kind and gentle horse, however he does get very grumpy in a morning, especially if it has been windy all night which he seems to particularly dislike. It took him quite some time, I would say really only in the last 12 months to really come out of his shell. Bond is my first Thoroughbred having had 3 pure bred arabs before him, I think every one of my friends was more than a little surprised, but I have never once regretted it. In addition he does suffer from quite a lot of bites and cuts from playing with his friends, I have never owned a horse with such thin skin and didn’t really know the meaning of the word until I met Bond. However there is something worse than having a horse on box rest, and that is having a horse on box rest that won’t stay in on his own and Bond I am pleased to say is happy to be in on his own (something I don’t understand considering he will ever have been on his own for the first four years of his life).

I spent the first year mainly just hacking him and giving him time to adjust further to his life out of racing, we also went trail riding in Scotland for a week which I am not sure either of us were quite ready for! Since then we have been to Dressage, Showjumping and Horsemanship clinics, and started competing at affiliated dressage.

How did your horse come into your life?

Nicola spent the first year with Bond just hacking and letting him settle into his new life
Bond was bought straight from racing by my friend Guy Robertson who I train with. The intention was for him to be retrained by Guy as a cow horse and then to be flown out to Kentucky for the Thoroughbred Makeover in Lexington to compete there with Guy where he would be sold after the event. Fortunately for me (sorry Guy) he didn’t end up going, and I was able to purchase him from Guy later that year. I had pretty much bought him after only seeing the photos and videos of him with Guy (including the one of him self-loading which I thought was brilliant). So Guy showed me the best of Bond including taking his bridle off and riding him in the field and over jumps. I remember him saying do you want to ride him now? And me saying urm yes but can I have the bridle back on and a ‘proper’ saddle and then realised I was inferring that a Western saddle was not a ‘proper’ saddle. Good start was that my saddle fit him ok, so it must have been a sign! In all honesty I had bought him after walking one length of the arena on him.

How long have you been riding?

I had to think on this one, but I ‘think’ since I was 9 or 10.

When and where do you ride?

I keep my horse at a livery yard about ten minutes drive from my house. I try to ride 5 days a week if I can, but with work and the great English weather it isn’t always possible. We are very fortunate to have nice hacking and an outdoor arena with lights. There are some weeks in the winter when I may only get to ride once during the week so I do try and make up for it at the weekend. In addition I also try and have a flatwork lesson once a month and also started last winter attending a pole and jump clinic once a month. I think adding variety into your horses work is very important although I rarely jump at home in between unless I have someone on the ground to pick the poles up that Bond invariably knocks down!

How did you start riding?

My friend’s older sister started having lessons our local riding school, so both went with her one day. I was hooked, my friend not so much but I was brave and carried on going every week on my own. Most of my Saturdays were then spent leading other people around the arena for their lessons and working on the yard for a free lesson at the end of the day which I loved. I then started riding ponies for Mrs Brown a family friend, and then loaned a pony called Paladin at her yard. Mrs Brown was amazing and also had donkeys (still does), she took me along with her family to horse and donkey shows and also got me involved with the Glossop Pony Club, we used to ride about 2 hours to get to the rallies! That was it, I was totally hooked, I then had a larger horse on part loan, a beautiful part bred Arab called Poppet who took me through to my Pony Club B test, although I did have to borrow a horse for the test as the cross country jumping part would have been too much for her. I then bought the first horse of my own when I was 24 (my now husband thought we had best make sure I could afford a horse before we bought our first house!) and Bond is my fifth horse.

What you and your horses currently working on?

Working hard during a flatwork lesson
So Bond is just coming back into work after virtually 3 months rest due to cutting his leg open and the COVID-19 lockdown. Once we both regain fitness then we will be working on collecting Bonds trot and canter work further as due to his build he does struggle to compact. This is mixed with hacking a couple of times of week and also do in-hand work with him to help with suppleness and muscle building without a rider on top. With no idea when competitions may start again this year, I am planning on entering some online dressage competitions instead as we really should be attempting some Novice tests this year.

What do you love about riding?

Everything! The learning, the relationship that I have built with my horses over the years and the patience they teach us, the friends I have met through horses and the opportunities I have been given. Every time I sit on a horse I think wow, how lucky am I to be able to do this. I cannot imagine my life without horses.

What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?

The future will be filled with further learning and trying to improve myself and my riding, and anything that allows me to do that is something I grab with both hands. I very much hope to be able to ride at Medium level with Bond (that would be a dream) and certainly the plan over the summer to be working at Novice level.

Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding? 

Yes, most definitely! Most recently I fell off Bond for the first time in February after a humongous buck dislodged me. It was very out of character for him and it’s a long way to fall, after which we had such bad weather and storms that made riding out of the question for a few weeks and I was terribly jittery about getting back on. Then he cut his leg and we had lockdown so I felt it yet again when I started riding again a few weeks ago, telling myself I couldn’t possibly ride if it was even a little bit windy!

How do you deal with them?

For the above, mainly just keep doing it and telling myself not to be so ridiculous and also ensuring that for the first few times I rode that I was not alone. Over the years I have found that talking things through with my friends and family really works for me. Mostly the things I worry about I realise are fairly irrational once I break them down. In addition I have done some NLP courses and they made a huge difference to my view of the world and allow me to put things into perspective. In addition, I am a big believer in doing something even more difficult than the thing it is you are worrying about. Such as, to make going doing a dressage test seem much easier I started going to showjumping clinics which push me beyond my comfort zone, I find this helps with the thing I really want to be relaxed about!

Your Top Tip

Listen to your horse, get to know him or her really well, you would be surprised how often your natural instincts are correct.    

The Final Furlong

 

Who would be your dream horse to ride?

Hawtins Delicato

Who is your equestrian hero?

Carl Hester

If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?

Mary King, Carl Hester, Clare Balding, Mark Todd, and Tom Hardy

Favourite colour horse?

I can’t possibly say

Favourite horse event

Royal Cheshire Show

Favourite food

Pizza

Favourite way to relax

Reading

Favourite film

Twilight                            
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Sharon Howe

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