So, I’m feeling pretty emotional writing this and it’s taken me a couple of days to be able to put into words what I’m feeling!
I can finally say I’m a Wobbleberry graduate and to have finished my challenge at the Hannah Francis one day event was an honour!
It’s been a long journey for me, there has been some unforgettable ups (Wobbleberry camp, jumping my first course on Bridget without being eliminated, coming 5th at my first ever unaffiliated ode…to name a few) and some very big downs (having to admit I was not going to be able to do my challenge on Bridget, having to give her a year off, sitting on an xc field for the first time in my life and crying because I was too scared to even jump one jump, going to Cricklands and being eliminated from EVERY class we entered).
Before I do my event report I want to tell you what I have gained from this challenge and ultimately that’s all down to Hannah!
I have Bipolar disorder and Asperger’s and prior to this challenge I was a shadow of the person I am today! I couldn’t ever be alone, I rarely went out, I didn’t even like driving unless someone was in the car with me and I was so withdrawn and had such little self confidence that speaking to people I didn’t know petrified me so due to that I had very few friends!
Everything changed for me when I went to see a friend who I hadn’t seen for a while, she asked me to ride her horse for her while I was there and until this point I had never jumped, her horse was lovely and really looked after me so she popped a little cross pole up and ‘forced’ me to give it a go.
I’m not going to lie I flopped about like a salmon but something inside me awoke and I decided I quite like this ‘jumping’ (it was probably 20cm max) lark.
I won’t go into too much detail or I’ll be here forever but when I got home I looked for a horse that I could do a bit of jumping on and found the amazing Chelsea! Chels got me jumping, she was amazing and literally put up with my horrific balance, lack of knowledge and complete inability to ride, she got my confidence up cross country and it was while I had her that I decided I wanted to take on the challenge. By this point Chelsea was 20 and needed a quieter life.
I had got myself a little single trailer and was starting to take her to local riding club shows! Due to this I was starting to meet new people and come out of my shell a bit.
I’ve never really had much of a purpose in life, most of my teenage years up until this point just getting out of bed was an achievement! I was never career motivated and never aspired to go to uni or even knew what I wanted to do for a job! But all of a sudden, I found I did have a purpose…I wanted to event, I wanted to be Wobbleberry and complete the challenge and it gave me a new found drive!
Due to this I started looking at this point for my wobbly stead and came across Bridget!
When I viewed her, I was unable to even get her into canter but I fell in love with this showjumper with incredible breeding and scope, however looking back I was very naive and didn’t realise how little I actually knew! Chelsea did everything for me, she was the perfect school master and I was a happy hacker who’d never really even had regular lessons.
When I got Bridget home I had a massive rude awakening, she was quirky, nappy, Bucked and reared if she didn’t want to do anything! So, I got myself an instructor and went back to basics.
Fast forward a year and my riding had come on tremendously. I’d taken my trailer test, and would now not only drive on my own but hitch up load and tow for hours to get to clinics, lessons or competitions.
During shows and clinics, I would find myself chatting away to people, mainly about my amazing girl, but I was making friends and it wasn’t as terrifying as it had always been in the past.
The thing was even as my riding was improving Bridget’s behaviour in the ring wasn’t, she would be amazing at clinics and lessons but the moment we went in the ring she still freaked out and I was coming off at almost every one!
I asked my instructor to compete her for me as I was adamant it was me or my confidence causing this as we had had everything else checked by vets, farriers, physios etc! Sadly, she had the same reaction with my instructor who is a very good rider and it was at that point my world shattered as it became very apparent that realistically she wasn’t going to be the horse for my challenge.
This was at the start of this year! I was crushed. We had been training the in snow to keep her fitness up ready and I’d sunk pretty much every penny we had into getting the best training, tack, feed the lot but nothing made a difference, we think something must have happened in her past to make her this terrified.
Seeing what a different person I had become with this goal in mind my mum and husband made the decision that we would begin looking for a horse that had been there and done it, something to teach me the ropes and get me out on the circuit.
I saw Bucks (was Brook, but Buck quickly stuck not quite sure why) advert early on in my search, he was beautiful had a great BE record, had had a few years off and was ready to get back out there! But he was a long way away from us and slightly out of my price range so I tried to put him to the back of my mind.
I went to view a number of other horses and while they were nice they just weren’t the ‘one’, Bucks advert kept popping up and in the end, I gave his owners a ring and arranged a viewing.
The moment I saw him I fell in love and when I rode him for the first time I felt confident to jump an 80cm jump which was big to me, and higher than I’d planned on jumping something I didn’t know.
It wasn’t until I got talking to his owner after that I found out they actually lived next door to Hannah and were very involved with the charity and the Hannah Francis one day event! Straight away I knew I wanted to buy him. His owners then asked me if I would do the Hannah Francis one day event later in the year as they were very involved with the organising of it and would love to see him.
Of course, I said yes….it seemed a very long way away at the time ?.
It wasn’t all plain sailing and I had a couple of falls during our first few weeks together, one fracturing my knuckle, but I can honestly say these were never his fault they were always down to my bad riding.
There was a particular water bottle related incident where he bolted as I took a drink at a dressage competition (I laugh about it now but it was terrifying!) where we went flat out galloping through some poor lady’s dressage test about three times! *If your reading this I’m still so so sorry*
That did knock my confidence but a few weeks later as we sailed round our first unaffiliated to come 5th my confidence came somewhat flooding back!
I’m not going to lie at that first one day event I almost passed out from fear and anxiety and had to lie in the back of my car with my head between my knees while top grooms (my mum and husband) tacked him up. At the second one I projectile vomited across the Car park in front of all the other competitors (pride dented massively here).
But each time we go out it gets a little easier!
We had Wobbleberry camp just before the Hannah ode and I must say I felt as ready as I was ever going to be!
I think the atmosphere at the Hannah ode helped, everyone is in the same boat! We are all there because Hannah has inspired us in some way! Pretty much everyone was as terrified as I was and that had a way of making everything seem somewhat less scary.
We went into the dressage and I’d forgotten to put fly spray on Buck, he got eaten alive and was head shaking a lot, due to this the test felt tense, both of us were more preoccupied with the flies than what we were doing and ended up making a couple of small mistakes.
Next was the show jumping, this was the discipline that I was most concerned about as as lovely as the Willberry jumps where I was just a bit worried in case we backed off them a bit. I knew this was in my head and buck probably wouldn’t mind but I really felt nervous about going in. I made sure I walked the course a good few times and really paid attention to my lines.
It turned out we went in and managed to pull off a lovely clear, we hit each jump on the stride I’d wanted and I came out feeling absolutely over the moon! Just that round was enough as it was by far the best we’d ever done.
Onto the cross country, this is my weaker phase but Bucks strongest! It was a lovely course and there wasn’t anything TOO terrifying, the only jump I really wasn’t looking forward to was a skinny at the bottom of a steep hill but it was the fourth jump in so I knew it would at least be over and done with at the start.
I’m not going to lie in the warm up I nearly cried but seeing my friend arrive after driving for three hours really helped, I also had a group of Wobblies I’d met online egging me on.
The cross country was amazing! The skinny didn’t bother buck at all he never even looked at it! Or anything else on the course for that matter! We absolutely flew round and I loved every minute! Our gallop through the finish brought tears to my eyes!
As I was washing him down my wobbly friends all ran over, the first thing they said was ‘did you hear what was just said over the tannoy?’ I hadn’t as I was too focused on cooling him down but it turned out I’d just gone into first….yes first place ?
My dressage score turned out to be 28.3 so what I thought was a bad test turns out to be the best one we’ve ever done!!
I’d said to my husband before we left that absolute best-case scenario this weekend would be that I got a high 20s dressage score but I definitely never really thought it would happen…..I was absolutely over the moon!
Once the section had finished I finished over all in 2nd place and I honestly just cannot believe it, we also got the rosette for highest placed Wobbleberry and won a berry Pony who I have aptly named buckberry as without my very own wonder Pony Buck I would never have got 2nd place and won him in the first place!
I wanted to post my full journey just so all you Wobblies that feel like you are a million miles away from what you want to achieve DO NOT give up, you never know what’s waiting for you around the corner! Keep going and keep trying and keep Hannah’s amazing legacy in your mind!!
I think all you wobbleberries are the bravest and most amazing people I’ve ever come across! Your supportive of everything and everyone and that’s what this is about, I was terrified to go to shows in case I was laughed at or snubbed and that has happened but not in this community! We need more people like all of you out there in the equestrian world!
Don’t doubt yourselves no matter what stage of the journey you’re at, wobbleberry or not we have all been there! We have all cried because we didn’t want to even get on board at one point, all not wanted to do more than a walk and all doubted our own ability but don’t! You are all amazing and capable and brilliant people don’t ever forget that!
If I can do this…..anyone can!!
For anyone that does want to donate to this amazing charity here is my just giving link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebecca-holmes18 any penny would be greatly appreciated as it all goes towards creating horsey wishes for terminally ill children.