I see a lot of adverts on social media from people either looking for a sharer for their horse, or looking for a horse to ride.
It`s at that point I realise that I`m very fussy about who rides my horses, and always have been.
I guess I wasn`t so bothered when I was younger, and loved swapping horses, but as soon as I was responsible for the schooling and education of my horses I was suddenly terrified that a single moment of bad riding could undo all of my good work.
With Llani, I was interested in other people riding him to broaden his horizons and get him used to different styles. However, with Otis I still consider him too precious to put up for share, or to let anyone ride him without my close supervision. Not that he would ever do anything to hurt anyone, but he`s not used to novice riders and I know it would worry him, even if he didn`t react. Plus, Otis is extraordinarily bouncy, so even experienced riders can struggle to follow his movement. I know now that minutes of pootling along with a different rider will not stop Otis performing at elementary level, as he can differentiate between different riders and with me being the main jockey he won`t slip in his standards.
That being said, if I knew someone in the position of needing a ride I would consider letting them ride Otis, or if I had another horse. One of my favourite memories is when two sisters came to my rescue.
It was a few days before Otis and mine first ever one day event and the silly pony managed to get rope burn around his left hind leg. Something to do with scratching his ear whilst tied up and getting tangled up with his lead rope. As he was still not sound forty eight hours before the competition, I had resigned myself to withdrawing.
However, my luck was in. I was supposed to be going to the event with our yard manager, her husband, and another livery – a girl slightly older than me. She and her sister approached me and offered to let me ride their other horse at the event. I was thrilled, I had been so excited about going and had been struggling to hide my disappointment.
Anyway, that day was Friday and I was working all day Saturday, before the competition on Sunday. The girls were really kind and after they`d ridden Saturday morning groomed their little black Welsh cob (just my cup of tea!) and cleaned his tack for me, so I didn`t have too late an evening.
So the next morning I loaded this cob on the lorry and tried to find out as much about his as possible during the journey. Once there, I had a long dressage warm up and I remember I struggled to get to grips with him. I`d almost given up and accepted I wouldn`t get a very good score as I couldn`t get him forwards and accepting the contact. As the rider before me went in, I set off for another trot. And I got it! We clicked suddenly, and I didn`t stop for breath before my number was called, and kept him together for the test.
I remember being quite happy with the test, and then started to relax for the showjumping. Again, it took a few warm up fences to get used to him, but we jumped clear.
Then, in my borrowed cross country colours, we set off for the final phase. I think he was tired by now, as even a 2`6″ ODE was a lot of a horse who was only really in light work, but he gave everything a shot and didn`t refuse anything, we just had numerous time faults as we trotted through the finish line, before collapsing in a heap!
I was thrilled to have actually competed, and this little horse had tried his heart out for me, despite not knowing me from Adam, and given me an excellent taster for eventing. Obviously we weren`t placed, but I did find out that our dressage score was a personal best for this pony, even with his usual riders.
These girls were really generous in letting me borrow their pony, and I like to think that if the shoe was on the other foot I`d do whatever I could to help them, or others in that position, out.
Every so often I see this little Welsh cob, now in his twenties but still full of life, and I always reminisce about my first ever ODE.