And breathe

And breathe....

And breathe

And breathe....
And breathe….

Some of you know all about my ridiculous life, others have a vague idea, and others are only just hearing about who I am and what I do – I live a very nomadic life, whizzing around the world and playing with ponies, in between writing blogs, articles and building up a library of online lessons.  In fact, my phone’s app has just told me that I have clocked up almost half a million miles since 2015.  Scary…  One of the most common things I hear is – you have an awesome life, one long holiday…  Now, I fully agree with the first part of that statement – I have an awesome life.  The second part…  Um, no.  Life is not one long holiday…

So, June and July were hectic, running around Asia.  August was insane, bouncing around through South Africa.  And September was Italy and some training for me at Mary Wanless’s base in the Cotswolds.  I must admit, I was incredibly tired, grumpy and stressed.  My to do list was growing longer by the day, and seemed an insurmountable peak.  Whenever I had a free half hour, I would look at my list, decide that all the jobs would take days, not worth even starting, and play on Facebook instead.  It really was dreadful, and the more days that passed, the more unanswered emails there were, the closer to needing to book flights, the more deadlines loomed, the less I wanted to do, because the more stressed I was becoming about being so far behind and missing so many deadlines.

I posted HELP on Facebook (you know, Facebook really is a procrastinators paradise – so much to do, so many distractions), and got lots of great advice – write a list; do the smallest job first; download this software; hire a PA.  And, I did…  Nothing.  Nada.  Not a thing.  Switched to watching TED talks about finding motivation and avoiding procrastination…  And, still did nothing.

Finally, I arrive here in Sunny Singapore, where I now sit, and due to holidays, people coming, people going, the loss of some horses etc etc, I have a whole heap less lessons that usual, and you know what?  My sanity (well, my version of it…  Don’t comment please), has been restored.  A whole lot of sleep helped.  A few 12-hour nights of total utter dead to the world-ness.  And, then, several whole afternoons in front of my laptop.  I had the time to actually take on a task, work through it and get it done.  I haven’t got many things crossed off my list, because most things on there will require months and many, many hours, but the elephant I have been trying to shift up the hill has lightened slightly, he might not be heading up the hill, but at least he isn’t sliding back down it.

I had a close friend who always said to me, if three different people come up to you and say the same thing, it is the universe trying to send you a message.  Well, a friend and pupil came up to me on arrival in Singapore, gave me a big hug and said, you really look like you need a rest – and she was the sixth person in the last month to say something along the lines of – you need a rest, when is there YOU time, you gonna get sick soon etc.  And you know what?  It was the universe taking out a big hammer.  By having less lessons booked, it removed a huge amount of time issues, gave me time to breathe, and now that I have started getting things done, they are flowing along beautifully.  This week has been incredibly productive, and I have started to feel human again.  I have a hectic time again between now and Christmas, when I will really be taking a holiday, but this 10 days of respite has really stopped me grinding to a halt.

Make time to relax and unwind.

Which leads me to think about riders and horse owners.  How often do riders say, I HAVE to get to ride my horse – he waits for his turn to work…  You know what.  He doesn’t.  He doesn’t aspire to jump higher, practice his half pass or get to the next Olympics.  If he has access to paddocks, can self-exercise and bumble around, has friends, food, water and shelter, he is perfectly happy to have some down time while you have your down time.  My own horses often seemed to come back better after a rest, having had a chance to learn to horse again, rather than be a sporting partner.  If he lives in a stable and has no access to turn out, then yes, you need to do something with him, but maybe hack out, turn out into an area if there are no paddocks, loose lunge, do some liberty work, something or anything that is different.

For the rider too, take some time out.  Try out a new sport or hobby.  Go for a walk, swim, hit the gym, lie on the couch with a book or go off to a tropical island for a week.  Its easy to get bogged down in life, but you know what?  Sometimes we need to stop, or else our body will break and stop us for longer!!!  What are you going to do for your break?

 

 

 

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Online Theory Courses.

Notes - The bulk of my earthly belongings

Online Theory Courses.

Notes - The bulk of my earthly belongings
Notes – The bulk of my earthly belongings

This picture is a small portion of what makes up the bulk of my earthly belongings – notes.  Boxes of them.  For 20 odd years I have lectured again, again, again to Pony Clubbers, Brownies, Girl guides, boy scouts, grooms, pony campers, ABRS student, and professional students – the young instructors to be, getting ready for their British Horse Society and South African federation teaching exams.  And, during that time, I have written an awful lot of course handouts, lesson plans, test sheets, diagrams (ya, I really can’t draw) and and and….    Vet notes for people who suddenly say Help, my horse has ringbone, what is it and what do I do about it?  And for clients saying help – I have bought land and am building a stable – where do I start.

Do you know all these parts? Or do you need a brush up?
Do you know all these parts? Or do you need a brush up?

My awesome students have managed to average a 97% pass rate (I did say they were awesome) so maybe there is something useful in all these piles of notes.  Now, my problem is – I travel around the globe (you may have noticed this?) And those irritating airlines don’t like me taking 500kg of paper notes with me on my flights, so all this resource was, temporarily, unavailable.   Which is crazy, considering how many of my pupils want to learn more about horse care, are thinking of taking the plunge and buying a horse, dealing with an unsoundness or are biting their finger nails, getting ready to take an exam.  And, considering the hours I put in researching, developing and putting all that knowledge into a user friendly, compact format that made an almost fail proof resource for my students.

So which is the shoe for a front hoof, and which is the hind? Do you know the difference?
So which is the shoe for a front hoof, and which is the hind? Do you know the difference?

So, a big part of my current job, is putting all of this onto my laptop – making those 20 odd years of research and studying available again – and you know, it’s pretty cool!  Reminds me of some of the simple things I have forgotten to teach because they are such ingrained habits, made me look for new illustrations, made me research new information about things that I haven’t updated in all these years.  And yes, my mother is very happy that she has one less box in her house already!  Only about 10 to go….

There are lots of people doing this now – teaching online, so what makes this different?  Well two things – for starters, not only was I a lecturer, but I was an examiner.  So yes, I got all the daft, confused and non-thinking answers.  And every time I got a really daft answer, the whole problem got included in the notes relevant to that exam, meaning that when my pupils went and sat it, they didn’t say the same thing.  And the other?  Well, having worked full time with horses, teaching and running yards on 5 continents, in a huge diversity of countries, climates, conditions and cultures, I got to see the good things and not so good in each place – what worked really well in a certain place, that wasn’t thought of somewhere else, so we can put a different spin on the same problem.

This is common in some countries – any idea what it is for?
This is common in some countries – any idea what it is for?

Anything useful for you?  That depends…  Are you keen to learn?  Do you have a horse who you want to do the best for?  Do you have a specific problem?  Well then yes, there is something there for you.  Every day more is getting added to my laptop and weekly there is more appearing online…  Some is free, sadly some isn’t since I need to earn my airfares.  And, another thing I love about it?  Read it, learn it, think about it, and when I appear at your yard, we can do all the practical stuff, quickly, easily, saving you money in not having to cover the theory in lesson time and passing tests first time – a pretty good deal I think…  Who is in?

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A Little Bit of Tuscany

How good does that look?)

A Little Bit of Tuscany

I had never been to Italy, but it was on the list…  So, when yoga retreat organiser, Raven, said “How about we do the next one in Tuscany”, how could I say no?

Tuscany is fairly central in Italy, with Florence as it’s capital city and art and wine as two of the things it is most famous for.  What’s not to like?  We were heading to a villa in the province of Lucca, with the walled commune city of Lucca as its central point.     My journey began in Rome, with three trains leading me to my final destination.

Rome
Rome

The train from Rome was high speed, state of the art, smooth, comfortable and very organised.  As I changed trains in Florence to get on the district line, this luxury morphed in to a rattle trap old metal box, held together by a wing and a prayer, that left 45 minutes late, just because it could….  I did have a slight sinking of the stomach moment.  Arriving into Pisa, it really showed that we were getting more and more rural by the kilometre, and our late departure from Florence meant I had missed my connection to Lucca.  The thought of waiting another 90 minutes for the next train proved more than my brain could cope with, so taxi it was – and an introduction to the death defying adventure that can be enjoyed daily, driving on the Italian roads.   At this point I was questioning our plan, but arriving at Villa Benvenuti and meeting Sara, the owner, calmed all my qualms.  (Firstly, even before meeting Sara, due to a wild boar sow and her 4 children running, squealing, along side my taxi before diving off towards the vineyards.  Anywhere that has happy wild boar choosing to live there must be a good place).

The villa is stunning, set on a large plot of land with several old established fruit trees and a small vineyard.  Is there anything better than wandering through the grounds, picking figs off the tree and grapes and tomatoes off the vine and munching on their sun warmed gooey-ness for breakfast?  And then of course seeing what lovely Ornella, our Italian chef for the week, would come up with using all these amazing fresh ingredients.  Every time I go on one of these retreats, I say I am not eating much…  Well, how can you resist fresh bread and nocciolata, with piping hot Italian coffee for breakfast.  Pear, cheese, walnut and honey salad or fig and cream cheese, or apple and fennel soup, or aubergine, tomato and mozzarella stack for lunch, followed by gnudi, pastas and risottos for dinner?  And then of course, all those desserts….  Tiramisu, chocolate mousse, slow baked figs….  Hmmm….  As ever, don’t come on a retreat if you are dieting.

How good does that look?)
How good does that look?)

Between Caribbean Raven, our Florida yoga teacher, Angel, and Zimbabwean me, we were a pretty diverse group for starters, but once guests arrived from US, Australia (via Singapore), Sweden, UK and Holland, we could have held international talks.  This international flavour is one of the things I love about our yoga retreat weeks – from the first night, dinner conversation flows with stories of different cultures, new adventures, people’s travels to exotic places and the general ebb and flow of people figuring out who is who.  And of course, the free-flowing bubbles always helps the conversation along.

Our idyllic days quickly settled into routines – getting up for long, strong, hot black coffee (black like my soul…) half an hour of gentle stretching and mindfulness, a delicious breakfast and yet more coffee.  And then choices, some guests wanting to come out and play ponies, some preferring the pool or hiking trails.  A death defying car ride back for more food (sigh) and then generally more ponies or a dismounted riding theory chat, followed by more yin yoga, and (yes) more food.  And bubbles, never forget the bubbles…

Grapes!
Grapes!

Our day off included a wander within (and on top of) the walled city of Lucca, which is quite stunning and, so far, my favourite part of Italy.  This ancient commune city was built around its 11th century cathedral, and surrounded by 16th and 17th century ramparts, creating just a little history.  (Including being the birth place of Puccini).  It is just lovely, especially with the annual flower market on.  I could have done an awful lot of shopping if flowers and plants could travel across borders.

The walled city of Lucca
The walled city of Lucca

The riding was spread over a couple of yards, giving several horses to play with.  There is a very famous horse race held in Italy every year, the Palio di Siena, which has been running since 1633.  17 contrades or districts, race against each other, each putting forward one horse and rider.  These riders race their horses bareback, 3 times around the town square.  It is a controversial race due to the number of accidents and horses that are lost, but still a crucial part of their history.  Our most eccentric yard owner spoke not one work of English, but very proudly led me by the arm into his office, where a worn and weathered black and white photograph was pinned on the wall, obviously many, many years old, when he himself had been a jockey in the race.  Next to it was a portrait photograph of an ancient horse, greyed, hollows above the eyes and rubbery lips hanging loosely over long teeth.  He pointed to the horse he was racing and back to this old equine face several times, showing that he had kept his racing friend for an awful lot of years after their fame, and his affection for his horses was beautifully obvious.

My thoughts on leaving Italy – well, the food – sigh, I would be as big as a house if I lived there.  The people – open, friendly, welcoming.  The scenery, stunning.  But maybe my roots in third world countries and their love of rubber time, (promptness is optional, time is like rubber and can be stretched, 5 minutes can easily become 55 minutes) still irritate me slightly…  As a holiday making guest, being on time is optional but as an organiser, please, please can 2pm actually happen at 2pm?  Maybe?  So will I be back?  Oooh, yes please, when shall we book our ticket???

View through an open door
View through an open door
Sunset in Tuscany
Sunset in Tuscany
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