I understand that, whilst I went on holiday with my girlfriend, Brad (Continuity) wrote my blog. According to some sources he did a better job that I do. (Gee thanks!) Since his shoulders were injured he has been taking an unhealthy interest in my Facebook page but I am slowly increasing his work and limiting his online time so balance is restored…….
Talking of balance I was sorry to miss an important and, from the reports I have heard, quite incredible event hosted by David Sheerin and his team at the newly revitalised Wellington Riding, Reading. It was a charity day in honour of and inspired by a young instructor/coach and talented event rider against whom I competed against called Tom Searle. Tom sadly took his own life earlier this year.
We, who work in the equine industry or own or care for horses, can be sure of a few things:
Hard work, long hours, physical danger and the likelihood of injury, stress, lack of funds unless we are very lucky!
And, if working freelance as I do, social isolation. Even if you are a member of a big team on a livery, competition or training yard, it is still hard to prioritise thinking about yourself and your own needs (“healthy selfishness” according to Dickie Waygood MBE) as the horses must always come first.
I am surrounded almost daily by women and young people (Great, you may think) but no, not always, as I am a young man as Tom was, and sometimes feel isolated and under pressure as I try to understand the way women’s minds work. I have to. My livelihood depends on it. Luckily I have a strong father figure in my life and I also try to make time each week to go out with a great bunch of mad, mostly male mountain bikers for a dose of complete lad-ishness. But essentially I am often on my own on a horse or in the car travelling to my next client. So I understand just a little of what Tom must have felt in terms of the isolation that working with horses and being dog tired can cause.
We all need a work life balance and horses are not something you can turn off and walk out on at 5pm. The effort of fitting everything in gets worse as daylight hours decrease about now and the physical work ramps up as horses spend more time stabled.
The Charity Day in aid of the royally supported “Heads Together” Charity sported many high profile trainers who gave their time for free because they understand that horsey people do not have a water cooler to stand around to chat and over which to make sense or life or at least moan about it. (The cooler, and they, would probably freeze!) Speakers Richard Davidson FBHS and Judy Harvey FBHS constantly referenced how your mind works, for and against you when you ride, as they did training on the flat all day. Nick Turner FBHS and Dickie Waygood MBE also talked about positive reinforcement for horse and rider and the management of expectations in the rider and coach as they coached the jumping sessions. They spoke about how to deal with inevitable failure and how to repackage it so as to use it to fuel future success. The specialist psychologists dealt with how to manage depression and where to go for help. And, in a very brave seated line up at lunchtime, a cross section of equine related professionals including fellow instructors, debated how we can recognise those needing help, whether that’s ourselves or others, how to self-help and talked from their own personal experience about mental health issues in themselves and those around them.
As far as I am aware this was the first time such a day has been held. It was a sell out with 250 attendees and Tom’s family also attended. I think that tells you that there is a thirst for knowledge on the subject and a need for us all to think about our own mental health, and that of those around us, rather more. A silent auction further boosted the sum raised and I understand at least £10,000 was given to Heads Together. I would be glad to help with the running of another day David, well done.
And so to another balancing act. I recently had to keep a young horse in for a short period of box rest. He had a tiny ulcer on his eye and needed to have the light restricted so I put him in our darkest box in the corner with an overhang. Plenty to look at through his fly mask but no direct glare of sunlight. A previously very settled happy horse in his own box he proceeded to box walk for a week making a complete mess and losing a lot of weight. When, finally, he was placed back in his own box prior to being turned out, his eye having recovered, he promptly fell asleep for some hours.
Balancing the need for shade in a sunny autumn had led me to put him in the wrong box for him. How lucky I am to have the option of moving horses about till I can find them their ideal stable environment. It led me to think about those horses who are unhappy in their field, stable or work because it feels wrong for them and yet have to put up with it because they can’t say. They are labelled box walkers, naughty or even neurotic and fed calmers, chastised, bitted more strongly or worse.
We are not the only ones who need balance in our lives and the horses in our care need us to “listen” to them too to try to work out what they need.
Who said being a horseman or horsewoman is “easy” and not a “proper job”?
Anyway food for thought, till next time!
This blog comes courtesy of tweed fashion brand Timothy Foxx www.timothyfoxx.co.uk