Knowing so many people whose lives are currently affected by cancer and having been inspired by Hannah Francis’ story I have taken myself completely out of my comfort zone by enrolling in the Wobbleberry Challenge raising money and and awareness for Willberry Wonder Pony. Hannah was a young talented event rider who tragically was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer in 2015 at the age of 17.Before Hannah’s death in 2016 her family set up the Willbury Wonder Pony Charity to raise funds for bone cancer research and granting equine related wishes to seriously ill people. (https://www.willberrywonderpony.org)
I am a classic "wobbleberry", a 52 year old unfit nervous grandmother, who enjoys a nothing more than gentle wobble in the beautiful English countryside on my horse at a sedate and leisurely pace.
What little confidence I had riding in my teenager years disappeared when following an injury to my leg the pressure of the saddle at a walk dislocated my knee on my 21st birthday, and since then I have always avoided taking risks when riding due to my fear of injury or falling off and avoided putting myself in situations such as competing where the risks of falling are far greater. Any confidence I have can be easily lost, on the very rare occasion I have jumped my horse Amber over a very tiny fence, if she puts in a bigger jump where I become unbalanced it sets me back for months and puts me off jumping ever again!
I have only had about 3 riding lessons in 30 years, having never been keen on the idea of having lessons and as I know absolutely nothing about dressage or even how to ride a horse correctly in a school, so to be able to ride a 20 metre circle accurately and complete the most basic of dressage tests will be a huge challenge in its own right.
I have spent many hours supporting my daughter and granddaughter at showjumping competitions and although a little bit of me would like to have a go, my nerves have prevented me from even attempting the smallest novice class or clear round so once again this will take me completely out of my comfort zone and is a nerve-wracking prospect.
Cross country - gulp !!!- The thought of doing a cross country course, even a tiny one, fills me with terror! - travelling at speed up and down hills in wide open spaces over solid fences and ditches - fun to watch as a spectator, (even then my heart is in my mouth) and eventing has never been on my bucket list of something I could or would ever do in life.
For the challenge I will be riding my granddaughter’s 5 year old Connemara pony, Curragh Kid (aka Mr Pickles). We have only owned him for a few months but despite being only young he has given my granddaughter lots of confidence and she recently did her first hunter trial competition on him where he really looked after her with a lovely clear round. At the time of writing this I have only hacked him out a few times, and never attempted jumping him, but I think it will do us both good to have the lessons and get to grips with the flatwork basics. I have offered my horse Amber, a 17 year old Belgium Warmblood to a friend to do the challenge on.
What do I hope to achieve?
To become a more competent and confident rider by attending regular training tailored around achieving the goals of the Wobbleberry Challenge
Change my default negative “I can’t” mindset to that of “I can”
By pushing myself outside of my comfort zone with the support of other wobbleberries I am hoping that my confidence will grow to help me achieve my goal of overcoming my nerves and participating in a competition by the end of 2017..
Lose weight! Improve my fitness and stamina and the fitness/suppleness of my horse.
Get an understanding of dressage and progress to a level that I am able to complete a dressage test with confidence.
If I can attempt a small novice show jumping / cross country competition by the end of next summer I will be delighted with my achievements. The ultimate challenge is to be fit, competent and confident enough to enter a British Eventing 80 event in 2017, (at the moment this feels as achievable as flying to the moon!! ) I cannot make any guarantees to my sponsors that I will achieve the ultimate of competing in a BE event in such a relatively short space of time, however please support this extremely worthwhile charity I will be working hard to achieve my personal goals and will keep you updated on my progress along the way.
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