Guest blogger and owner of the much loved ‘Diary of a Wimpy Eventer’, Victoria Brant, shares her story as she has gone from “rock bloody bottom” to completing BE events and actually loving a days hunting. Here’s her inspirational story…
“One day, not all that long ago, I was galloping across the hunting field, clearing hedges bigger than my Dad’s conifers and feeling ready for Badminton Horse Trials. Growing up in rural Lincolnshire the horse-bug bit me hard. Car journeys as a child were spent eyeing up fence lines deciding which bit of it I would jump and likening the bumps in the road to the feeling of going over them! The combination of coming from a non-horsey family and a mountain of student debt, meant that I didn’t have enough disposable income to buy my own horse until I was in my mid 20’s. Until that point, I was utterly FEARLESS.
Being short of money meant a series of unsuitable horses and 2 horses in… I was a wreck. The first was a £400 racehorse, bought from a bloodstock auction. Slowly, I brought her on, sold her to a lovely home and started again – Unaware of how, riding something that sharp and dealing with the challenge of a re-schooling project had affected my confidence. The second, a scrawny Landgraf/Voltaire 4 year old warmblood, pretty much bought off the field for a pittance (I was still poor!!). Another challenge – after a bad start of being cut free from the trailer on his ride home, all my money and time was spent on rehabilitation and getting some sort of trust established. With the woods and trees all merged into one, I couldn’t distance myself enough to overcome the problems we had. I began doubting whether I had the capabilities to help him develop and progress.
8 months passed and the thought of getting on made me feel violently ill. I quickly sold him. I wanted something safe, something older, something I could cry on and tremble on and not die on. With this in mind, I went to look at another young horse!!!! (“Vic – What are you doing?!”) But a 5 year old, not 3 and not a £400 racehorse, a nice young horse… by the sharpest stallion in history – Master Imp!! (“IDIOT!!!”) BUT… He was kind, he was gentle, and he was quiet and a little introvert – just like me at the time. At that point I was at rock bloody bottom in every way. I had gone through 4 years of a 6 year turbulent (and not very nice) marriage. I loved that scraggly bag pony instantly.
Clinging to a horse so inexperienced and relying on him to look after me was a terrible mistake – what a burden for my beautiful boy. He coped well but I had just plastered over the cracks, they were still there and coming through faster and deeper than ever!
3 years in and 3 drafted for sale adverts later, I was at rock bottom. 3.30pm each day, I would begin the battle. My heart would race, my toilet visits would increase and by 4.30pm, when I finished work, I could barely grip the car steering wheel through sweating palms. I was consumed by guilt, consumed by fear, unable to see light at the end of the darkest tunnel I had ever been in.
I started paying someone else to ride him, I couldn’t really afford it but I was so desperately at rock bottom. I just couldn’t face it anymore. I wanted to give it all up. I made the final call, to a professional, enquiring after sales livery and arranging the pick up. Sobbing, broken and waving the white flag, I was asked a question by my husband, one I will never forget – “Will you regret this for the rest of your life?” After zero deliberation, my answer was “yes”. I imagined how depressed I would become seeing someone else succeeding with MY horse, someone else loving him and enjoying him just how I should have, that was my pivot. I wasn’t going to let someone else do the things I so desperately wanted to do – NOT ON YOUR LIFE!
I began re-inventing myself. We moved yards and within a week I had entered for a ‘Champagne Breakfast Hunt Ride’ – sounded the perfect opportunity to ease ourselves back into the game, just enough pressure not to feel out of my depth. I wasn’t at all ready for this, but it gave me a focus, a reason to prepare and better myself mentally.
Each day we did a little more, we took each day as it came and 2 weeks later the dreaded day was here! I was more scared than I have been of anything for a long, long time. We set off on the ‘jumping’ ride (there was a non-jumping ride but – in for a penny, right?!) and I instantly felt at home. I held onto my strap for the first hour, but we did some jumps, galloped across fields and had no brakes at times!
2 hours later I was hacking home, grinning like never before. I had done it, we were alive, I was full to the brim with pride. It was far faster and hairier than I had anticipated but in the thick of it, there was no turning back. We were courageous for the first time in years and what a feeling!
Ever since this day, I have tried to emulate that feeling. We have completed our first ever BE event at 80, then a second one at 90, we have jumped 5ft hedges and our first 5 bar gate out hunting, I have hacked on the buckle, galloped in an open field, jumped 1.10m in the arena and all because I want to feel that wonderful feeling. It’s like a drug. Conquering fear is the best feeling in the world, grab it with both hands – IT’S FREE – take as much of it as you want!!! Be brave, do something courageous, the repayments you get, far outweigh the terror – I promise you. After 8 months of being unable to get my saddle out of the tackroom, I made the decision to change the world. Just our world, the small bit of it that we take up, and look at us now.
Yes, we still battle, not hourly or daily anymore, but certainly weekly. I still visit the toilet WAY too much before a show, I take more Imodium in a month than most people take in 5 years but I’M BLOODY WELL OUT THERE DOING IT!! Building dreams and knowing we have every chance of achieving them, is the very best adventure I could ever wish to be on and long may it continue.”