Time and Feel – part two

When I wrote my last blog back in July 2016 I intended to follow it up shortly after with some more of my story with Fleygur through the summer, but somehow the months have slipped by. I have missed the writing, it is cathartic for me and I thought often about what I would write, but it never made in on to the page. It is now nearly ten months since Roger died and I know that time alone is not enough to heal the pain of the loss. I have been on a journey over those months, one that I never would have chosen but nevertheless one that has taught me so much about me, those around me, loss, grief and resilience. I have had to consciously acknowledge and work on my feelings as I process my loss and make sense of my life.

Throughout last year I determinedly continued with all of the things that Roger and I had planned with the horses. I attended a riding clinic in May where I rode Roger’s horse in what would have been his lesson; entered Svipur in The British Icelandic Horse Championships in June, where I won the Elementary Tölt trophy that Roger had won two years earlier; took Fleygur and Jandi on a summer holiday to the Gower in South Wales; attended the ‘Icelandic Horse Summer Camp’ in August; and finally the Autumn Show at Oakfield Farm where Jandi and I won the Fancy Dress Class!

I progressed from being picked up, emotionally and physically by my wonderful friends in May and June, through quiet calm support and towing tips from my Dad in July, to packing loading and towing four hours on my own in September. Life had to go on and I did it with all the determination I could muster.

Fleygur and I on holiday, Rhossili Bay, South Wales

In August a house with a small paddock came up for sale in our village, and long term I couldn’t stay where I was as it was a short term rent. ‘When I am ready’ I said, ‘that is the sort of place I need to be’. It was near to the field I lease from the Church and I would have the support of my friends in the village nearby and the community in which Roger and I made our home. Then I realised, this was not just the ‘sort of place’ it WAS the place. So in October I moved home as well.

I had been back at work since June in a demanding senior job with lots of change and I wondered quite where my strength came from. I waited for the moment I would crash and burn. I knew I must be exhuasted but somehow I kept going. In that time I thought a lot about resilliance, where does it come from, how do you nurture it? It seems to me that resilience is to be gained from rooting yourself in your values and beliefs, your purpose, why you are here and why you do what you do. But its not just about looking back, it is also about looking forward with optimism to the future, or if you can’t manage to be optimistic at least with determination to get where you want to be and achieve your dreams. I like to think of it as a tree, putting down strong roots and reaching up with new leaves on its branches. Of course accepting what is and what can not be changed is a pre-requisite for this and an extract from what is commonly known as the Serentity Pray sums this up well,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My life with Roger is gone and I can not change what is, so I have to make the best of what I have. I am reminded often of a story told by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, whose husband died suddenly just over a year before Roger. She talks about a time she wanted her husband to be there for her and the children and was crying to a friend. He said, ‘Sheryl Option A is not available so we are going to kick the shit out of Option B’. And this is what I am trying to do, in the knowledge that my option B, as painful as it is without Roger to share it with, is a pretty good one and in that I am fortunate. I have my home, my health, my family and friends, and of course my horses.

What about those lovely horses?

So what about those lovely horses? How was the rest of the year with Fleygur? Those of you who follow the Facebook blog will know that I have been riding him, and that in general things went pretty well. I focussed a lot on keeping him calm and spent a lot of time walking him with just short sections of slow or medium tölt.  If he got too much I just got off and walked, the aim was to stay calm, him and me, it was not a battle of wills. We had a few little incidents, usually when riding in company where once something set him off he could be difficult to stop but I used the one rein stop where it was safe to do so and as my reactions and riding improved I learnt to sit deep and use my seat and body to ask for the stop. I also found someone in the village who was a good match for Fleygur, a calm, secure rider and this meant I could ride the other horses too. My bond with Fleygur grew strong, this feisty little horse, that I would have never chosen for myself, I think had begin to see me as his!

However as winter progressed work got busy and the weather got worse. Finding the time energy and motivation to ride got hard. I rode most weeks, but usually only once and although the I am sure the horses didn’t mind hanging about in the field, they really didn’t get the work they needed. More than once I thought that Roger would have been telling me I was mad to keep all four horses on my own. My confidence started to diminish, not just the riding but in my decisions about the horses care. The less I rode the more confidence I lost. Then a few weeks ago I fell off Jandi and was winded and badly cut my hand. I have continued riding but that knocked my confidence further and as Spring kicks in I know the horses will be full of beans, or rather Spring grass!

So what am I to do? Get help, that’s what.  Roger always said this to anyone who was having a horse issue, and it is good advice. I have booked into all the Icelandic horse clinics I can, put all the shows in my calendar and am arranging for some experienced friends to come and ride with me and help me get all horses out and ridden. We all have confidence issues from time to time and I will get this sorted – there’s that optimism and detminination again. I can’t let my feisty pony down now can I?

My Feisty Pony

In February I left my job, not because I had crashed and burned but because the time was right. I will still be working but in a more flexible way and I hope that this will give me time to explore my other passion of writing. I will have more time to blog about my journey with the horses, and who knows some Little Viking Horse stories or a book may appear too!

This last ten months have contained more significant and stressful life changes than I could have ever imaged but still, here I am, ‘kicking the shit out of option B’.

2015 Rider Rankings Announced

The Icelandic Horse Society of GB has announced the Rider Rankings for 2015 and through my amazing talents My Mate Roger is ranked first in the FIPO Elementary Four Gait. Maybe that will stop all the musing about retiring me from competition, it’s quite exhausting all this ‘will we, wont we take him to the shows’. Blondie helped the Woman achieve first place in the non-FIPO Elementary Tolt too, so he must be following my example.

The GB Ranking is a comparison of results of the Icelandic Horse Society of GB members at sport events. After every competition a new ranking list will be computed by taking the result of a rider in any discipline (FIPO (and/or World Ranking), non-FIPO or Gæðingakeppni) and is based upon the average of the best results with any horse in the respective discipline over a certain number of years. Riders have to go on competing to keep their position in the ranking list. The results used for the calculation per rider may be achieved at different events with different horses. At the end of each year, the highest ranking rider in each class is announced

Okay, I get it, the horses do all the work and the riders get the praise!

For more details on the GB Rider Rankings Click here

Apparently though I am going to the shows this year and My Mate Roger is already talking about getting me fit, I have a horrible feeling this is likely to mean more Boot Camps too.

003Fleygur Ranking 3Roger and Fleygur 2015 RankingCatherine and Svipur 2015 ET Ranking

Icelandic Horse World Championships 2015

In 2013 we visited the Icelandic Horse World Championships for the first time and vowed that we would be in Denmark in 2015 for the next one, and here we are! The trip was a little more dramatic that the one to Berlin in 2013. We drove through Holland and then Germany where unfortunately we were involved in a crash. We were not hurt and after a five hour delay the car was patched up and we continued to Denmark where I am glad to say there is less traffic, and much more sensible driving!

At the end of my blog post that year I mused about the need to continue to focus on the well being of the horses (link here: WCs 2013 Report) so this year it’s good to see the new Judges guidance being applied. This years WCs Magazine says

The prime judging criterion should be the harmony between the horse and rider. The rider must handle the horse with fairness, delicacy and respect; be it’s true leader rather than is dominator. At all times the rider must put the horse’s welfare at first hand and guard it’s health and safety. The horse should be able to fulfil it’s tasks with pleasure; be calm and supple, but also confident, attentive and keen.

For the competitors the new guidance will mean lower scores this year as they work to adapt to the new requirements and the ‘firewalls’ come into effect – barriers in the scoring for each element that can not be crossed and will guide the judges.

The elements are

Riding Skills and connection

Beat and Balance

Suppleness and Relaxation

Outline and movements

Correctness and precision of execution

Such great sentiments. I am looking forward to seeing a competition that is judged in this way.

coloured horse

My Fun Fast Tölt

I have begun my training for the Show season, and this means lots of tölting. My Mate Roger is trying to work out why I tölt so fast when we are out on a rambles, but don’t offer him the same speed on the oval track in competition.

It’s easy really. My really fast tölt out on our rambles is so I can get home more quickly and get fed! Fast tölt on the oval track is a waste of energy as I just go round in circles (or ovals!).

Watch my super fast fun tölt here.

The Spring Show is here!

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This is me, at the Spring Show in Verwood, Dorset, England. On the eve of the Show the early arrivers rode out together. Today is the Spring Fling – including the fancy dress! The serious classes start tomorrow. A full report of how awesome I am will be posted on my return.

I don’t want to know…

We all need to know we are loved…..

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I don’t want to know what tomorrow brings, how it all turns out, how we might, at the end of it all, be rich or poor, lonely or surrounded, fine with it all or disappointed.

I don’t want to know the count of the stars in the sky or if they might fall one day.

I don’t want to know if this is it or if there’s more, because what is more than this?

At the end of the day all I want to know is the way the sun cast shadows and makes the manes on the horses glow like haloes in the pasture outside my window.

I want to know this. I always want to know this…

And the crunch of the leaves beneath my boots.

The smell of the sage.

The red on the berries, a gift of color that stays with us through winter.

The sound of…

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