Making it Happen as a Rider (Thanks, Carl Hester!)

Blogger Pam Stone embraces the advice of the British Olympian as she continues to pursue riding opportunities.

Have your read Carl Hester’s autobiography, ‘Making it Happen’ which came out shortly after his gold medal team triumph at the London Games? If you haven’t, you’re not only missing the candid honesty and laugh-out-loud scenarios described within the pages, but also a hefty shot of mojo when you might be seeking motivation. For me, the take-away message was his motto that while some riders want success to happen, and some wish it would happen, only those who truly break through make it happen. And of course, defining success is up to you, whether it be riding in the Olympics or conquering an honest half halt. 

For me, it’s been to keep riding, no matter what, until I find a horse of my own. Forrest, by the way, has been looking darned sound in the field, so there might be another ultrasound in his future, but to hope that a soft tissue stifle injury remain healed might be a bit overly optimistic. Until then, as I wrote in last month’s blog, I’ve found opportunities by riding for Grand Prix trainer, Hokan Thorn, a couple of days a week and as I also wrote, if you need saddle time, it’s up to you to get out there and let it be known as you look to be back in the irons.

I had a rather nice opportunity arrive at my barn just a couple of weeks ago in the form of a 3-year-old Dutch/Draft filly who is here for consignment after she is confirmed in the basics of walk, trot and canter in both directions, nicely loose and correct. After 18 hours on the trailer she was quite pleased to audition for Cirque de Soleil when allowed into the little paddock next to the barn.

Well, wouldn’t you if you’d stayed on a trailer overnight? Seeing that she’s left everything she’s ever known including her security of routine, I found her dearly trusting and affectionate. This is a filly that bonds quickly. Giving her ample time to settle in (more than usual as none of my bridles would fit her head), I did what I always do: a bit of longeing, mounting block lessons and jaw flexions. “Lyric” actually has a few rides under her belt, but when you’ve got an insecure baby in a brand new place, I always start from ground zero and work my way up. Despite a couple of “I see dead people” moments during longeing (the woods along the arena always freak out the babies) she was a super girl.

When it came time for the big day, she stood like a rock, which is helpful when they’re 17 hands and actually built like a rock, and waited patiently while I mounted. I was well pleased that she immediately submitted to the jaw flexions, chewing the reins out of my hands and stretching down, so that the first step away from the mounting block would be loose and reaching. From there I was even happier when I closed my legs, verbally said “And…walk” and her response was so prompt and willing. What a nice walk she has! And how is it that even I can make a 17-hand horse look 15.2?

In fact, so solid did she feel (even with the squirrels scurrying through the woods on the long side) that I chanced a bit of trot. Again, a nicely forward response!                                 

So while this filly isn’t mine, and it’s my job to get her going so that we can then advertise her for sale, for the time being I have something quite lovely to ride if only for the next couple of months. And it was actually a funny, chatty text with her owner that brought us all together. 

This is why I repeat my refrain and borrow Carl Hester’s reply to a question I’m often asked by those who are horseless and despairing: ‘How do you stay motivated to ride?” My answer is simply this: I have to. It’s all I’ve ever done and all I’ve ever wanted to do. We all hit equine roadblocks: our horses go lame or suffer a catastrophic colic…the economy crashes and we can no longer afford board or training…a divorce rocks our world. In the end, I asked myself the same question I was asked by my former acting coach when I was struggling to hold my own on a sitcom. He was teaching me how to ‘break down a scene’ in the script and said, “Before you can begin, you must ask yourself, as your character, these two questions: ‘What do I want and how am I going to get it?’

Funny how that’s come back around in my life in regards to horses. Try it. And then bloody well go for it!






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