A couple of weeks ago I introduced Britain’s Personal Best here on Splodz Blogz; a scheme aiming to recapture the motivation created by London 2012 by encouraging us to challenge ourselves.
My personal challenge, the thing that Britain’s Personal Best inspired me to do, was to ride a horse. Relatively simple compared to many of the challenges I’ve been reading about, but something that quite honestly made my heart beat way too fast and a lump form in the back of my throat. I received so many messages from people I know and people I don’t wishing me luck and offering advice and support for my challenge. I was so touched, so thank you if you commented on my blog post or over on twitter or facebook, it meant a lot, and you definitely encouraged me.
I booked a private horse riding lesson with Calder Farm Stables following a recommendation from a friend – they are just down the road from my house and so it was very convenient. The owner, Jackie, was ever-so friendly on the phone and was very happy to get me riding a horse even though I was very nervous. She insisted she had the perfect horse for me, a happy and friendly horse called Frankie that would really look after me. So earlier in the week I walked down to the stables in the hope that I would walk back with a big smile on my face.
I arrived a little early so I had chance to have a look at the Stables (and calm down!) before my lesson. Jackie was giving a lesson to a couple of men when I arrived so I sat down on the seating by the School to watch. My heart was really pumping and I wondered if I’d even manage to get on the horse (which looked huge), but I had booked it and I really wanted to ride. After signing my life away and being kitted out in hat, back protector and riding boots (!), I met Frankie, gave him a pat, and walked into the School (which was covered in shredded car tyres for a nice soft landing, just in case…). We did discuss going very slowly and starting by leading Frankie around the School first, but when it came to it I just wanted to get on and do it.
Getting on was thankfully much easier than I thought, and Frankie, true to Jackie’s word, just stood there and let me wiggle until I was comfortable and got used to being sat there. It was nothing like being sat on a motorbike! I held the reins while Jackie lead Frankie around the School, explaining how I told him to go and stop – she did teach me some of the lingo but to be honest I was concentrating so much on what I was doing it’s all fallen out of my head now!
After getting a feel for how Frankie moved it was my turn. I squeezed my heels into his side and he started to walk, nice and slowly, around the outside of the School. I learnt how to turn in each direction, how to stop and restart, how to go round in a nice large circle, and how to keep Frankie close to the fence. Each time around the School Jackie got further and further away and I was left to give Frankie instructions myself, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, but I never felt like I was out of control. Phew. As the lesson progressed I started to relax a little and felt confident enough to tell Frankie to go a little faster, until we were marching quite nicely around the School.
At the end of the lesson Jackie encouraged me to try a trot, just for a short distance, and so we gave it a go – I didn’t quite get the stand and sit technique right but I was quite comfortable on Frankie and felt like I was quite safe up there. I even managed to smile through the concentration on my face.
After that I dismounted (very unprofessionally!), lead Frankie to his stable, and took off his bridle and saddle. A job well done. A challenge completed. Definitely a personal best.
I walked the mile or so back home with a massive grin; I had really achieved something in that 30-40 minutes. It might sound like not very much really, but I felt good. I had ridden a horse. I hadn’t ended up in the dirt. I had my pride and dignity intact. It was a successful day.
Sadly there are no photos of me actually riding (I went on my own); I hope you believe that I did it! I think I might book a second lesson just to see if I can be a bit more relaxed now I’ve got over most of my fear (mainly to see if I can remember to keep my heels down!); I’ll definitely take someone with me to get a photograph or two.
I am genuinely chuffed with myself, proud even, that I took myself to a Riding School, touched a horse, got on a horse, and rode a horse. Seriously. I am so pleased that I can tick that one off my things to do list. And yes, you read it right that I might even do it again. There is a lot to be said for massive challenges that push our minds and bodies to the limit, I admire people are extreme in their challenges, but sometimes to achieve your personal best you simply have to have a little faith and just do it.
It is the official Britain’s Personal Best weekend this very weekend, so why not set yourself a challenge to complete tomorrow? Or come up with a fantastic challenge to complete between now and Christmas. What are you waiting for? It’s a great opportunity to do something you’ve never done before, or beat your own personal best at something you already enjoy. Take a look at the What’s Yours? website for inspiration and information, and make your pledge. Let me know what you challenge yourself with.