Friday, October 26, 2012


We had great fun again out on location with Marianne McCourt photographer. I'm helping out with some of the Isle of Man Top Model competition and we dragged ourselves out in the howling wind and rain to do a photoshoot on the Andreas Airfield. The lovely Alexandra Mallard assisted again.

A little Razzle Dazzle

Courtesy of the amazing EQUUSPIX
 A little razzle dazzle never hurt anyone. That was the theory, but then I wasnʼt the one trying to steer my horse around the arena. I was however the one behind the scenes at our first ever dressage festival. A small show with a bit of shine and shimmer to give young horses some big competition experience quickly turned into a two day dressage extravaganza. We had estimated entries to be somewhere about sixty or seventy, but by the closing day we were sitting in the stable yard office with notice from over a hundred and thirty dressage-mad loons all wanting to compete. With some scrambling, much coffee, and even more hair pulling we managed to persuade all the kindly, more advanced riders from elementary level and upwards to move their tests to the following day, Sunday. Even with a new judge flown in for the day, the classes were run with absolutely no time to spare. Thankfully, a fantastic crew of stewards, door staff, and ground crew rallied all the riders in and out of the main arena without much complication. I had the advantage of being busy in the warm up co-judging the ʻbest turned outʼ class. Advantageous in that I was well out of the firing line but still able to keep an eye on things and jump in when
things got a little hot!

Judging The Best Turned Out. 
 Apart from the endless running about, it was so much fun to be part of the competition scene again — even if only on the ground. The big horse is literally chomping at the bit to get out and compete, but heʼs just between levels and Iʼm saving him for next season so we can really have a crack at it. I quickly tacked him up towards the end of the first day of competition to give him a chance to see some other horses as usually Iʼm riding on my own. Being 18 3, he was already a little overwhelming to ride in the warm up, but I probably made it harder when I bellowed at someone who thought it was a good idea to go for a canter across our newly seeded grass on the way back to the horseboxes. Needless to say, she performed a particularly quick transition back to walk. I then had my end of the warm up to myself as I think everyone was terrified I might explode again in their direction. (No explosions. Well, none that werenʼt deliberate.)

Both Boys are Frazzled!
IT Always Looks Like I'm Being Told Off.

This weeks training clinic has been a delight. He has been so willing about the work.
Everythingʼs established in his very large head, and now all we have to do is let his large
body catch up. Itʼs exciting to be working on things like passage and canter pirouettes. It
feeds into my gay childhood daydream of being a dancer. Officially now I can ponce about
and pass it off as work. In fact, at a clinic last year a very distinguished Olympic trainer as
a term of endearment gushed, “Oh Ivan, you look like a fairy up there.” How close to the
truth people can be!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Old Model

 It never rains but it pours and itʼs pouring cats and dogs. I feel like such an old man in this weather, eternally talking about the change of seasons. And with all this cold, I feel like Methuselah as I flounder out of the bed in the morning. I console myself by the fact that Iʼm struggling out of bed because Iʼm going to hit the gym at six am. After one barely chewable bowl of oats and a decaf coffee (thereʼs no way Iʼm leaving the building coherently without at least the fantasy of caffeine), Iʼm out in the cold and rain on the way to some weightlifting. Now, these last few mornings itʼs all about being wrapped up in fleecy layers again, pretending the winter isnʼt nearly here. My gym routine is a bit all over the place lately, but the six am sessions make sure I donʼt have
an excuse to skip it later in the day when my brain has dissolved and all I want to do is sit and vegetate on the couch.

  I did do a couple of promotional photo shoots for The Isle of Man Top Model competition last month with the wonderful photographer Marianne McCourt, which means I mustnʼt be too far over the hill. Itʼs great to be back in front of the camera again, and for once without a horse.

Isle of Man Top Model Promo Shoot


The horses themselves have all been busy elsewhere. The big horse is having some time to work over poles to help him engage in the flying changes and give him more expression. After a few days kicking poles around the arena like he was a football player, he pulled it together and we were soon pinging about the indoor. Now it just seems too easy for him, so heʼs decided to try to make it more entertaining and pretend to be a puissance showjumper. Anyone who knows me from times past will know leaving the ground, even intentionally, is not my forte. Luckily, this upcoming week my trainer is coming back. Iʼll leave it to him to sort us out. The rest of the horses thankfully are all behaving like they should — huddling around the gates in the evening, thankful to be coming in to warm stables and even warmer rugs. With the cooler nights theyʼre all into thicker blankets, and itʼs reassuring to see them munching away contentedly in their boxes. Itʼs also a reminder to pull out the winter socks, and that each pair of boots I own has a hole in them. On rereading this, I realize that each pair of wooly socks has a hole too. My old-man complex isnʼt helped by the fact that Iʼm hobbling about stiffly on one leg. I had an abrupt, airborne discussion with a bucking horse recently. I won that argument, yet somehow Iʼm the one tottering about.

 Don Rosario in his moist recent Training Clinic

Moving by in a Blur

I did, however, have the fantastic Claire Townsend of Equilibrium Therapy on hand to sort it out. There arenʼt many women I let get their hands on me, but Clare has managed to ease every ache that Iʼve gotten as I ponce about on my dressage horses, as well as untwist all the knots I get from lifting in the gym everyday. Clare also works on some of the horses, making sure that whatever knots and twists I do get donʼt influence them too much. Clare has oodles of talent as a practitioner, and enough frankness to overrule any justifications I invent for doing something I shouldnʼt. Thankfully she doesnʼt see me so often so Iʼm able get away with a few things.

Clare Townsend Neuromuscular Therapist
Clare Townsend Neuromuscular Therapist

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back To School

Pumpkin (Palermo)

 Itʼs marvelous to be back in school, dressage school because actual school was never as much fun as this. A really true friend who I happened upon when lodging in New York came to visit and it couldnʼt have been more agreeable. Little Buddha as I call him, has a special gift of being able to look right at a horse, right through to his mind and understand not only what he needs but also what will ensure that he grows and blossoms. Together with Little Buddha, we took a horse I was privileged to work with, known as Pumpkin to his friends and allowed him to find his way back to riding and dressage despite being written off by others. It was no mean feat and there were many intense training sessions that went on late into the night but always trying to serpentine round the obstacles instead of meeting them head on, itʼs amazing what a bit of meandering can do. I still have the high score Dutch warmblood award hanging in my office today to prove it.

 Back in School

I was terribly nervous having him come and see the new big horse, a horse that I have so much belief in that it worries me sometimes. Every fibre of my being tells me this is the ultimate horse for me and I can truly say I have never ever sat on a more talented animal.
The arrival day dawned and after I had driven everyone absolutely mad tidying and fussing, it was a helter-skelter dash to the airport for pick up. After somehow missing all the warning signs, I ended up behind an ambulance and a bunch of bikers in the middle of the Manx bike race on the way to the airport. On quick foot to the floor journey later, a slightly jet lagged trainer picked up but there was no time for catching up.

 It was on board and immersed in a lesson before I knew what hit me. At that late hour and I must confess I was grateful for umpteen cups of coffee to keep me skipping through the day because I was mid half pass to flying change before I even had time to think about being tired. Oh! To be able to soar above the ground with so much ease is just delightful. Movements coming without effort or struggle, it felt like the diamond was coming out of the rough and all those years of waiting and biding time waiting for muscles to strengthen, joints to catch up have paid off. Itʼs finally time to play and have fun, as well as grafting and sweating bullets of course! God forbid we donʼt look like weʼre having to work for it!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Spoonful of Sugar.

Itʼs so early, far too early. Well, not so early for horse folk, but for anyone with a scrap of cultivation in them itʼs beyond early. Itʼs strange how even before my brain has begun to
engage I can still manage to twirl my fingers through a scruffy mane and transform it into something resembling a show standard plait. Years of gophering as a working student, and tending to hunters, show and sales horses, have embedded my digits with this skill to move all of their own accord without my senses ever having to concentrate on anything except the forthcoming coffee (even if itʼs decaf) and the bowl of porridge that even Goldilocks wouldnʼt turn up her fastidious snout at. At this point Ruby interrupts my autopilot state, stretching his neck just a little too far away and at the same time managing to nip me, sending any culinary thoughts off on the morning breeze. Last plait secured itʼs back to the stable for him and in for breakfast for me.
The joy of filling my belly in the morning on show day, knowing that no matter how much food I shovel in, there will be no excuse but to give in to the aroma of the chip van by mid day. Nothing will do but something carby covered in ketchup or even curry sauce. Rushing through breakfast, grabbing spare socks in case of rain, collecting the camera for those all important been-there-done-that pictures. Changing into something vaguely neat, checking for test sheets. Ticking lists, endless lists that eventually get forgotten and abandoned at the bottom of boot bags or grooming kits as I move into that automatic place again once we hit the show ground.
Itʼs probably just me, but I canʼt help but survey the warm-up arena as I tack up and roll fresh sparkling white bandages onto already gleaming white legs. Casting an eye on leg yields and half passes as they float across the arena towards me. Making notes of which end of the warm up to head for optimum space and which end to avoid where darting ponies are bound to set us off like an exploded rocket. Two five-minute tests later, not grueling but yet somehow sapping of all energy, itʼs back to taking notes and making lists again. Checking comments, burying them away for later resurrection at home while training. Vowing to add to lists all the things that have been forgotten, and that have been forgotten from every list since Iʼve begun. Fingers back in action, deftly undoing all the mornings work that at the time seemed so important. Rubyʼs impatient now, but forgiven and excused in his eagerness to join his field mates and tell them of his days adventure. White legs suddenly looking so silly out in the paddock, making him look so out of place in his herd of buddies, all grass-stained and dusty from getting on with the proper horse business of rolling and eating.
This morningʼs secret delight at the idea of chips was undone by my loving better-halfʼs preparation of my meals for the day and packing them in the horse-box. Thankfully he took pity on me and didnʼt add in the usual slimy, evil looking green vegetables. Flicking through photographs as I edit, uploading and eating explains why my laptop is always covered in food. The techie who repaired it was able to tell me what was on my meal plan almost down to the last grains of basmati rice. Then I had to admit the reason the laptop was making this visit to the repair shop was because an extra large cup of coffee somehow jumped from the cup to the keyboard. Maybe it was appalled at the sheer volume of caffeine one person was contemplating ingesting in one sitting. My Java habits havenʼt really gotten much better. I now just preempt with “well, I shouldnʼt but…” or “well, maybe just this one”.
Life is catching up to me though. Lots of little pointers directed me to some inescapable conclusions during a physiotherapy session with Claire Townsend. Diagnosis: not nearly enough stretching or long, outer training; Iʼm missing my yoga class with Suzanne at The Gym, and so it seems are my hamstrings; my outer pectorals and my rhomboids have decided to throw in the towel altogether. Prescription: two mandatory days off from the gym and a new stretching routine that seems to involve warping in positions that Iʼm sure no one else has to consider. The medicine is hard to take. Whereʼs Mary Poppins with her spoonful of sugar when you bloody need her.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tweedy Weekends

 It’s been a whirlwind weekend, and finally someone caught me out. All the chatter of making dressage more integrated and more accessible has come around and bitten me in the ass. At our September festival we thought it might be fitting to offer some prizes to reward the people who have bred horses on the island and stuck by them even when others like myself are bringing in some great big fancy-schmancy warmbloods. This resulted in me consenting to act as a judge for a potential dressage pony/horse class at the Ellan Vannin Native Pony Association Summer Show.
With the date upon me before I even knew what was happening, I had set out on a quest to replace my tweed jacket, the last one having been hastily donated for fear of having to do a show hunter class ever again. Some of you will remember the excursion to the Iverk Show on Don Rosario, my 18 3, much to everyone’s amusement. My merriment too, until I discovered there were about twenty-five horses in the class and it was going to take most of the day for the ride judge to get through them all. Luckily my horse decided against having a complete fit and bucking the judge off despite her legs barely coming past the saddle flaps.
Tweed jacket found, it only took one pleading conversation with the nicest lady at a local bridal shop to have the sleeves graciously let down so you couldn’t see my elbows. Unfortunately, not a hope existed of finding a bowler hat for my massive cranium. On the morning, I donned my beagler that had been retired for my approved riding helmet ever since common sense took over at dressage shows. All this palaver almost went to waste as grey grumbling skies and drizzly mist covered not only the mountainside but everything else in sight. The pragmatic steward resisted the urge to tell me off as I arrived driving a clapped-out 1993 Subaru.  He suggested I park on the roadside rather than the sloshy field.

Despite my reservations, I had a marvelous bunch of entrants, with all ponies round and forward (although sometimes a bit too much). Showing kids are more sharp witted than I ever was. Some of them almost rode me over, doggedly determined to display their ponies leggy movement. There were super animals, and all quite well ridden. If even only one of those canny riders comes over to the darker side of dressage, it’s a job well done.

By midday the sun had won the battle for the skies and we were all thoroughly melted in our layers of rain gear and woolies. Regardless of groggy weather it was refreshing to see so many young riders confident and competent around their charges. Tiny kids hauled resplendent and uncomplaining ponies across an enormous open field without a care or a worry, then hopped on board and got to work. In dressage these days we almost seem to be developing less horse-sense. Even I find myself getting rather precious about what shows to ride at and what footing is deemed superior enough. I often overlook the days when I rode my first little Irish dressage horse Nabucco outdoors, rain, hail or shine, emboldened by tales from my trainer on how she had schooled one of her first competition horses to Prix St George on the roads and lane-ways around the village. By the end of the day I vowed to myself to get out and school in the field again and maybe even have a look at classes for the Royal Manx Agricultural Show later this summer. I don’t think show riders need worry. Rex is going well, but he’s so full of spit and vinegar that sometimes just going into the spooky corner by the door is too much, let alone having a gallop across the show ring.

 Maybe it’s just me, getting older and creaky. I am a less likely these days to run around like a loon. And it takes an age for me to recover from a boozy night. At a recent physical the doctor asked me how many units of alcohol I was having each week, and without thinking I said, “Doctor I’m trying and trying, but I can’t manage anymore than a couple of glasses of pinot before I conk out.”  And in the gym I find myself in the middle of something excruciating before I realize that I’ve only started it to compete with the bloody youngsters on the gym floor, determined not to be my age and even sometimes fooling myself.

The single minded narrow approach to lifting is getting me into a bit of trouble, and a blocky lower back has me paying closer attention to what I’m doing when I’m on my own without someone to watch for habits creeping in. Rex’s physio is also making a visit this week to inspect that all is going to plan since her last stopover. I glibly mentioned how developed my back muscles were getting and I could see her eyebrow twitch with disapproval. She suggested I have a check myself. There was a fleeting moment where I thought proudly how she’d like to check out my growing latissimus, until I realized she wanted to see how much damage I’ve done in my effort to be statuesque. I bet you Michelangelo’s David spent a fortune on physical therapy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Midnight Musings

Lying quietly, still and serene, staring at the square of light outlined across the room. The midnight
gloom penetrating the still dark hours of the morning. Awake and mind tilting, sliding from one
worry to the next, from one wish to another. Suddenly regretting that nose-dive crash-landing at
lunch time, when I dozed off into oblivion and found peace. Escaping from the day’s noises, but
leaving me soaring high in the cloudless sky tonight.

A part of me hoped that as I grew older I’d become wiser and less worried about life. I’ve certainly
grown older, although I feel like I’m nineteen still (except for the wonky knee and the aching back).
Wiser is something you’d have to ask someone else about. I know that I have more opinions on
things. But I also know I have less of a need for anyone to agree with them. And the rest — the
worries — they’re still there. And new ones, new little yapping thoughts to haunt the night hours
when I’m determined to put them away till the breaking light of day, tell me it’s time to face them

These last few days however have seen the worry-load lightened by the fact that my main horse has
seen the physio. It’s her first visit for him, and not before time. The poor big bugger has been
holding it together so willingly. He truly is a star. After a couple of days off and a miserly handful
of walks around the property to check fencing, he’s finally back in actual work. The first day was
difficult to tell if there was a noticeable difference as I’d just bought a new pair of boots. They
swished and swashed as I rode and made it impossible to listen for a footfall. Today, despite the
squeaking of boot on saddle, he felt his old self. Powerful and full of energy, ringing out clear crisp
strides in the outdoor arena. His neck no longer full or tweaks and weakness, but reaching and
supple. His back lifting and strong, with the muscle of the hindquarter pushing through evenly
again. A credit to his new physio, who I discovered also treats humans — so I’ve booked myself in
for a once-over. Little does she know that I’ve been doing Olympic rows, single arm rows, lat
pulldowns, and all sorts of other back-blocking work in the gym. I’ve been working on developing
a decent musculature that can support an 18 3 and look like the picture I have in my head.

My little Dutch horse has decided not to be left behind either, and despite his smaller stature, has
been an absolute saint. He decided it’s all about traveling sideways now that he’s gotten this
‘travelling forward with impulsion’ thing down. We’ve been sweeping seamlessly across the
ground, much to the amusement of the guys putting up the new fencing who don’t seem to be able
to fathom why I can’t make my horse move forward in a straight line.

Some of you will be delighted to know that I did get off the farm this week and go for a proper hack.
Others among you will be equally delighted that my horse thought it appropriate to spin, buck,
spook, start, and propel backwards at high-speed. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, I don’t know
why I had left it for so long to do it.

So before the sun starts peeking under the blinds, I’m going to stop worrying and enjoy the bits in
between. The wonderful giving horses. That fleeting bit of sunshine that’s left my forearms, and
only my forearms, sunkissed. (I tell a lie. Not just my forearms. My mother always told me to put
sunscreen on my sticky-out ears, but do I ever listen? At least the ashen Irish pale is gone from
some of my skin.) And my new boots actually fit and don’t squish my toes!

That Guilty Feeling

I feel so guilty. After years of a thoroughly beautiful relationship, I’ve abandoned one of my best ever friends. Replaced in the mere wink of an eye all for the sake of vanity. I feel awful about it. Morning aren’t the same, afternoons are even worse, and evenings leave me so low and glum. “Coffee, I love you, come back, life isn’t the same without you.”

Why would I do this?  Well, over these last few months I’ve been preparing my old weary body for a new challenge which will be revealed later. Part of this change and challenge you may have gathered from my last few blogs. It is working with the superb Susan Mitchell of “Elite Fitness” on nutrition and training. First thing on the list, remove the coffee. It dehydrates, it’s diuretic, and it also increase your metabolism -- so naturally thin guys like me, breaking their hearts in the gym every day trying to add muscle, certainly should not be on it. Oh, but I only remember the good things.  The highs, the good times. Like looking back on your childhood fondly, I look back on my latte.

As you can imagine I’m loudly struggling along without my daily intake of caffeine and letting everyone know about it. Grumpy would be an ambitious term for how I’m behaving. It harkens me back to my childhood, to my pre coffee days, when my family nickname was “briar arse”. Enough said.

So bearing in mind how little coffee I’m having now and how horrible decaf coffee tastes, I’m amazed I get anything done out in the stable-yard, let alone what we’ve been getting done. This last month saw me talking to American clinicians for talks on future training seminars.

All of my horses would be only to delighted with a change-up of routine. Believe it or not I’ve even started hacking some of them again. It’s not quite what most people would consider hacking since it’s just around the bounds of the paddocks but for me it’s practically outer Borneo. There’s stacks of little shorts-cuts and maze-like tracks, and a great whopping hill in the middle that I was valiant enough to let Rex gallop up. It took us about four strides to make it to the top. That was plenty for me. The other boys are still getting used to the fact that there seems to be a waiting pheasant or lurking bunny on every corner, so it’s a quick trip after work in the arena when we’re not quite so volatile.

I’m also sorting a German trainer for coaching sessions. The hulking horse is wholly stepping up his game everyday, but we need some help making sure that I can control all that ricocheting energy and make it collect more, engage more from behind. We’re blending the days up with lunge work, pole work for all you jumping enthusiasts and light hacking before and after training sessions. It’s a endeavor keeping him improving and making sure he doesn’t ball up into a bunch of knots. It’s enough that his rider gets his knickers in a knot over training.

There's been a succession of talks back and forth to Ireland to organize our next clinic, a judging seminar with Marion Greene. Marion is a dear friend from Ireland who has known me through my dressage career, right from my first horse to the full string of ponies that I ride today. Marion has on occasion helped me with one or two of the horses and she’s especially great at finding a more tactful way of keeping our old Grand Prix schoolmaster in order.

Our last clinician Sue Rotheram, the fabulous Alexander Technician is coming back, but this time I won’t be worked upon in front of an audience or curious onlookers all giggling as I try to find my seat bones! Hopefully, Sue will set me on the path toward proper alignment and more graceful riding. I’ll be blaming my tight muscles on Susan and the new gym routine, as I’m back lifting heavier weights again working on what they call bulking rather than definition. Now before anyone gets excited, my version of bulking up is far from whatever rotund image is springing to mind. I’m naturally very lean so bulking up just means I look a lot less like a thin 19th century immigrant these days.

Speaking of heavier weights. I always vowed not to be a meathead in the gym, grunting and groaning like I’m either passing a gall stone or a twelve pound baby. But as I was training legs, working on my “quad sweep”, I added some more weight as instructed.  Then some more.  And then some more again.  And much to my surprise, half way up through a squat, I let out the most audible, guttural grunt, making the poor woman opposite jump.  We both laughed and all was hilarious until I realized that I was so busy laughing that I couldn’t get the weights back up. Whatever shred of credibility as a serious gym rat was shot to hell in that one noisy moment.

All this lifting, carrying and throwing big heavy bits of iron around the gym did prepare me last week for the fastest dash I’ve had to make in a long time. Early morning to the airport, quick flight to Oxford, pop up on a horse, and flat-out like a lunatic back to the airport to make the return afternoon flight to the Isle of Man. I’d like to think I looked like an Olympic sprinter as I bounded through the check-in and across the tarmac. It’s more likely I looked like a runaway convict. But at least those thunderous squats are doing their job, and I was able to soar up the steps just in time before everyone on board got too disgruntled with the late passenger. You’d think they’d have a coffee and calm down.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New blog, Stable To Stable Equestrian Magazine

I'm now blogging for the fabulous Stable to Stable Equestrian Magazine so between here, there, Facebook and Yahoo you have no excuse to not be able to keep up on whats happening in stable Ivan! Check me out at Stable to Stable here.

If you're like me and too lazy to follow the link (but please do at some point check them out, it's a great website), here's a copy of whats going into Stable To Stable.

I’ve been sitting and watching the edges of my life. Peering into the darkly lit corners to
see if shadows are moving or is it just a trick of the light. Looking for some sort of sign of
madness. I’ve been a card holding member of the lunacy club for quite a while. You get
your card stamped as soon as you enter the world of horses.
It’s been a superb first month here at the new yard. After a perilous journey which took four
days all in all, each horse has settled in happily to their new habitats without so much as a
grumble. I’ve settled in with only a few minor grumbles, but nothing my better half isn’t
used to. Neighbours are more than friendly and have already saved the day. The sun has
been shining almost every day. And yet I’m determined to find a way to slowly drive myself
bonkers and turn my hair even more grey. (Thanks to my young stylist for pointing out how
much more grey I have become at each appointment.)
On our official opening day, we had an informative afternoon with an Alexander Technician,
Sue Rotheram, who, in just one minute, politely managed to put her finger on the button
on my positional faults in front of sixty or so people. No pressure! So in my fuzzy brained
state, lunacy-card in hand, I’ve joined a new gym, starting my journey to the peak of physical fitness all over again.
Luckily “The Gym” (appropriately named) is less than ten minutes away, allowing me to
feed my madness with two hours of gym training every evening, a new yoga and pilates
class and my latest fad, wheatgrass shots. To further the lunacy, my trainer and nutritionist
back in Ireland, Susan Mitchell of Elite Fitness has me on a new routine and a new meal
plan. I asked her since I had been so good on the old one could I indulge in a big bag of
greasy chips from the local chipper that faces the gym and she said absolutely, absolutely not!
What’s all this mania about? An 18 3 dressage horse that more than inspires me to
greatness everyday. He’s the motivation to get my little (but now tightly muscled, thank
you) ass into the gym everyday. He’s more than the motivation, he’s the one that makes it
a habit, makes it a routine. At 18 3, and needing support, you suddenly discover the aches
and pains the Alexander woman pointed out are the bits that stunt a pirouette, get in the
way of a graceful half pass, or block that half halt.
So each crazy shift of weight, each insane lift of a dumbbell, each deranged yoga stretch
gets my crazy hours logged, but it also gets me closer to that one moment — the glorious
feeling of harmony and lightness with my horse. Of breathing and melding into a
movement without hesitation and without having to go for a nap afterwards. So punch my
card, have the men in white coats on standby. Because I can feel greatness within my
grasp in this partnership, and if it takes 265,453 sit ups to do it, I’m there.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Getting My Good Side.

 You've seen most of them before, mainly because I'm so proud to be in them, partly because I'm terribly vain and also because those fantastic gals at Equus Pix deserve to be promoted not just for the amazing photographs they take but also for the level of determination they have.

 I was determined to have some new pictures for a website and they were even more determined to make them something out of the ordinary and really special.

 I'd been wanting to shoot with them again after they did these beautiful pictures of Rex at horse shows and as luck would have it, just before I relocated to the Isle of Man, the girls trekked up from Waterford to spend the day with me in Kildare,

 We started shooting in the morning but it only took till lunch time before I was knee deep in the river Liffey trying to persuade my enormous dressage horse that actually he wasn't afraid of water. It turns out he's not and after much plunging about and almost getting washed down stream we went indoors to do some lit shots.

 I was so thrilled with the finished product that I even managed to sneak onto set of my husband as he had his new acting head-shots done.

Equus Pix have an amazing website where you can see all their amazing work as well as order some prints. One of which is me! Make sure to check out the website at

Sea Crossing

2am at Dublin Port

For those of you who haven’t been put through the torture of seeing me add a new status update on Facebook every 12 seconds it’s time for an update. (In my defense, the new stables have wifi throughout so it’s just too tempting not to tell you all what I had for breakfast)
Once again we find ourselves crossing the seas to find a new spot to call home, this time it is a shorter trek over water but an adventure nonetheless. I’d like to say it was an easy crossing but little did I know, becoming part of the Manx geography has it’s difficulties. Picture if you can at two in the morning, a horse lorry docked in Dublin harbour waiting for the off. We worked in convoy, horses, cars, trailers and belongings, almost felt like we were off to Narnia. Turned a little more like the quest to Mordor and I wasn’t feeling much like Legolas when we received the phone call from the English port to say they weren’t taking on horses because of the weather and it might be another four days before they did. Lorry turned about without the convoy which headed on and we trucked down what seemed like an endless number of pretty chocolate box villages and roads to get to our temporary home in Chester.
 Over-nighting in Chester

 Back On The Road Again

All the surprised ponies unloaded into their quarters with their mostly racehorse neighbours and it was amazing to see how what was once a svelte dressage horse suddenly looked like a plough horse next to those tiny legged creatures. Rex quickly had a queue of people who couldn’t quite fathom that horses came built like him, 18 3 seemed like an impossibility. That was until he popped his head over the wall to say hello to his tiny cousin, a little cute point to point gelding. That evening brought me to the pub, “oh a haven in a storm” you say. That was until the staff let me know that the village turn off the water because of the water shortages so no shower and the internet was out. The second night, fortunately they were fully booked and I moved to more upmarket premises that had actual hot water and the dearest woman, like someone’s grandmother who was insistent on feeding me up like someone’s grandmother. When I showed her the high protein meal plan I’m on she giggled but did her best to make a no yolk omelette for my breakfast and the prescribed 100grams of oats that were fantastically well cooked. She gave me her secret and told me to never tell anyone, so here it is.......
But wait, we were back on the road before I could finish my breakfast and with the gods smiling down on us, we made the ferry. One long snooze, some rubbish tv and several awful cups of coffee later we ascended the ramp to be greeted by the most heartwarming sight, a costa coffee shop, I mean, a welcome to the Isle of Man sign. 

Finally Home

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sun Is Up, Time To Shine!

The sun peeked, lifted and crept it’s way across the grass this morning, stretching it’s warmth and lengthening the shadows turning shades of green into dappled yellow and speckled gold. As I step out the door for work in the morning, no longer in the dark, those dark morning hours are reserved now strictly for the long march to the gym floor.
Work hours and horse hours are instead greeted by this sight of the rising sun with a coffee in hand and a satisfied smile on my face that I’ve been and back from excruciating exercises all in the name of vascular vanity.
This shiny new minutes in the orb of light have an amazing magical quality, an effect strong enough that it washes my body of all the darkness and greyness of winter. In quick moments already I’ve forgotten all about midnight blue skies as I mucked out or threw blankets across the backs of grateful steeds who tucked away from the touches of Mr Frost.
It makes me think these glimmering instants in the sunshine are like those feel-full magical connections I make with my horses. Tiny twinklings where everything comes together for just even the briefest, tiniest of glimpses where just a thought from my burgeoned brain transfers through my body and is reflected in the most glorious movements and steps of dance.
Recently Rex has been offering these glimpses, showing me and guiding me even to some truly remarkable work, not even work because in those moments I lose all track of time, all logic and heady thought leaves me and it’s just a partnership, movement for beauties sake. Lengthening and shortening, flexing, contorting, smoothing through space becoming not a result but a way of going.

He and most of the other horses now are ready to begin their competition season, strong and supple from all those weeks and months training in the cocoon of the indoor away from rain and wind. I’ve pulled my show jacket out of the back of the cupboard, gathered the trappings of competition and have dusted off my boots. Lets hope the sun sends it’s blessings on us and wraps us in its light as we hit the show circuit this year.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sunday Gym.

On the last day he rested. It’s Sunday and I’ve already mucked out, ridden four horses and now I find myself in the gym on the initial day of a fresh weights routine. I’m reasonably sure if God did rest on a Sunday it was because his trainer thought it was a ridiculous idea to train on a weekend. In fact I’m rather sure Jesus grew up being told weekends were all about loaves, fishes and wine tastings! Less about the treadmill and the weights!
I was about to ask why I had all the stuff I’m rubbish at in my new routine but then I thought about it for more than a millisecond and it registered with me it’s because I’m so rubbish at it that I need to put it into my routine.
I’ve mentioned my aversion to grunters and grunting in the gym. Five sets in and I find myself with the selection to either have my head implode or let the most audible child labour guttural grunt. Much to the amusement of all my fellow gym goers, especially the very large guy sitting next to me who used the same weight a moment ago to scratch his very wide muscular back! I take momentary solace from the fact that when we both stand in front of the mirror assessing ourselves as one is prone to do for some unknown reason, even though his biceps are as thick as my waist his waist is as thick as my car whereas I’ve managed to keep my girlish tight trim six, almost eight pac.
As the thought of skipping the next exercise changes into only doing half the superset passes through my liquefying brain I look up to see my trainer sauntering across the weight room floor, that look of eager enthusiasm on his face again and I have no doubt he feels I should be feeling exactly the same way despite the beetroot complexion and vein popping neck. Part of bodybuilding is about being vascular and veiny which all the big guys want, I’m happy keeping the veins on my body standing out but the ones that hold my eyeballs in from exploding everytime I heave another dumbbell off the floor.
Even the notion of the next superset makes me think about vomiting, actually doing it only encourages that action further. As I scan the gym for a nearby bin or receptacle I catch the eye of that omnipresent trainer and fake a smile and start again. Maybe it’s time to pass out.
Despite all my complaining and yammering, I do actual enjoy this, testing and pushing the limits of my body, feeling and indeed seeing the progress and transformation. Now I just keep having to remind myself of that especially as grunter and I find ourselves in another face off in front of the gym mirror.