I’ve not ridden at all this month due to Prince having his tooth removed last month and allowing it time to settle down… That and the fact that dreaded snow hit the West Midlands pretty bad the other week, so with that in mind and with the New Year upon us, this months blog is going to be completely different to usual!
Having a month off has really allowed me to take a step back and actually reflect on why I even started riding in the first place, and why I love my sport.
You may already be aware of this, but for those who are not, I started riding at the age of 7, just as a form of therapy for my disability, upon recommendation from a Physio I was working with at the time, who was quite frankly sick and tired of me refusing to do any exercises she had ever given me.
Needless to say the whole thing stuck after Mum and Dad brought me my first pony, but after 15 years of riding, and competing, what do I actually love about it?
Riding has been the biggest part of my life for year, and it’s defined me into the person I am today. I’ll never forget being told by David Hamer in a conference that talent alone won’t make you successful! You can be the most talented rider, but without motivation, dedication and resilience to the sport, you will never be successful!
When he first made that statement, I didn’t quite understand what he meant by it, as back then, I was a strong believer that you have to be talented in what you do in order to be successful, but over the years, I’ve learned that statement couldn’t be more true! There’s been lots of riders that I’ve seen come and go on the circuit some of which were really talented, but the ones who have stuck around including myself all have one thing in common:
We’ve never quit! No matter what sport you are in, and this also applies to life in general, there are always going to be times where it gets particularly tough, and you wonder why your even putting yourself through all of this, for it all to end in disappointment! I’ve asked myself this question a few times, and I think it would be strange if you didn’t at certain stages within your sport, career or life. But whenever I’ve asked myself this question this is what I think of:
There’s been times throughout my life where I’ve been knocked down for various reasons, like getting on the ladder to create myself a professional career, or failing my driving test for the first 5 attempts, but no matter how bad I have ever felt about things, the riding has always been the one constant in life that I can always turn to, and it makes me feel like myself again, regardless of how low I’m feeling about everything else.
As soon as I get on, everything else completely dissapears, and there’s a distinct feeling of tranquility, and I find it quite magical, to think that your working in partnership with an animal that is far bigger, stronger and more powerful than you is an amazing feeling! Especially when you consider the fact that as soon as your on, you’re putting your life in danger In effect because of how dangerous it could potentially be! I’m extremely grateful after I’ve ridden, because I know that Prince and every other horse I’ve ridden, have looked after me and done a good job, even when I feel we haven’t performed as well as we could have.
I still remember my very first competition at Allen’s Hill at the age of 12, where I got my worst score of 56% because Dandy went over the white boards a couple of times, but despite the fact it wasn’t a great performance I still remember the adrenaline rush it gave me, with the emotion of nervousness and excitement all in one, and to this day I still get it, and love it, difference being, I’m now focusing on controlling those feelings and using them to enhance our performance in front of the judge, rather than let them get the better of me!
Despite the fact that there are a lot of people with disabilities out there, at a young age being in school, I really felt like the odd one out, as I’d rarely see others with disabilities that I was able to relate to. This always made me feel self conscious, but since having the privilege of competing amongst others people with a variety of different disabilities, it has really allowed me to accept myself for who I am, and actually be proud to say I’m disabled, because without it, I wouldn’t be half as driven or determined as I am now, and for that reason, I’ll always be thankful to Para Dressage for helping me to accept myself.
I’ve had the question ‘could you see yourself without the riding?’ On a few occasions, and the simplest answer is absolutely not, nor would I ever want to! Whilst it’s been a tough journey, my sport is the single most important thing in my life, and no one will ever be able to change that fact!
A month without riding feels like a lifetime, and I can’t wait to get back on and start training ready for Winter Championships in February, but what does 2018 hold for Team Jones? After having almost two fantastic years with Prince, the original loan agreement is coming towards the end, which means we need to have conversations with his owner Mandy, as she may decide she would like him to return home to her. Even if we are lucky enough to keep him longer, with future years in mind finding a horse to take over from him eventually will be essential, especially as it is such a difficult and lengthy task to find a horse with that special brain along with the quality needed at top level, and These horses are also extremely expensive when you are lucky enough to find one.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have my parents backing both with support, and financial support, which I’m forever thankful for, but 2018 could be a crucial year where I really need to find external help and support extremely quickly if I find myself without a horse, especially as my aim for the end of the year is to re apply for World Class, which obviously means achieving criteria at certain competition from January onwards throughout the year.
I’ve had a dream of winning a gold medal since I was 12! I may take a few knocks along the way, but I’ll get up stronger each and every time, because my goal of winning my gold medal is non negotiable, and with the amazing support from my home team, and sponsors from the past, present and future, I’ll make it!
Happy New Year!