The Journey Begins at the End

Welcome to my new blog, where I’ll be sharing my progress in running and equestrian activities with you. I’ll also be focusing on healthier eating, and mental health.

I’ll begin by admitting that I’m currently on a bit of a break from running (frustratingly)… A few weeks ago my lower leg began hurting after running. Thinking nothing of it, I kept running on it, which probably wasn’t my smartest move. But having had a couple of weeks off, I should (fingers crossed), be back at it next week!

I hope you’ll join me then to hear how it goes.

Jess

Ups and Downs

It’s been a better week this week. Despite not riding properly since last Wednesday (we need more cobs for us all to ride) and being nervous about the possibility of riding Pinky again – I literally had nightmares this Wednesday night – I got back on her for a lunge lesson on Thursday.

The takeaway points were:

  • Using my weight aids during transitions
  • Taking deep breaths when I feel myself tense up
  • Establish a good sitting trot before either rising in the walk-trot transition or walking in the trot-walk transition

All of these things should help me not to tip forward so much as I’ll be teaching both myself and the horse to respond to my weight aids. It should also help me to start getting more of a feel of the correct trot diagonal when I do start rising (I got a few right!).

Jess

Raising the Bar

Let’s just say this week hasn’t been my finest. Wednesday just wasn’t my day riding wise and I’ve taken a knock to my confidence. Our instructor on Thursday is coming up with a solution though – I think the plan is to take me out of group lessons for now and build up my confidence before I rejoin group lessons.

In terms of what went wrong, the pony I was riding is clearly very enthusiastic about jumping, so much so that put three trotting poles in the middle of the arena and she jumps the width of them. Then proceeds to go into her silly cantering mode with me struggling (I have an awful habit of tensing up and leaning forward, and squealing it turns out).

Anywho, on a more positive note (or maybe not for my parents) I found a gorgeous pair of denim jodhpurs earlier which fit perfectly and have become an early birthday present (how am I almost 22 yet remain the height of a 11-13 year old?…)

We also seem to get lots of rainbows here, so I’m sharing a photo of one I took earlier this week.

Jess

Work Hard, Play Hard

It’s world mental health day, and time for a long overdue blog post.

I’ve spent the last few weeks settling into a new routine having started a horse care apprenticeship (I sign up officially on November 3rd – my birthday).

I won’t share any photos just yet as I haven’t asked for permission, but I’ve started doing a bit of lunging with one pony, helping to school another pony, AND we have a student dressage competition coming up. I’ve ordered a show shirt and purchased a tie, just need to give my boots a bit of a clean beforehand.

I can share photos from some of my days off, where although I haven’t been doing much extra with the horses, I’ve been taking some much needed me time and exploring the local area.

I’ve purchased a guide to walking the South West Coast Path so I’m hoping I can walk small sections on some of my days off.

Talking of days off I’m excited for a couple of weeks time to be headed to a literary festival (my pre-birthday treat).

On the subject of books, three years ago saw my first self-published poetry collection Angel Awaiting which documented how I felt during my A Levels. Last year I self-published a second collection The Colour Behind Me reflecting on the progress I’ve made while at uni. Admittedly, I still have wobbly days (I know I’m not alone there) and Covid-19 didn’t help initially as I still had my degree to complete and no jobs available, but having started my equine apprenticeship I’m on the way to combining my interests of horses and writing, and becoming an equestrian journalist!

Look after yourselves, keep doing what’s best for you, and love yourselves.

Jess x

Of Equestrians and Exhibitions

I’m not quite sure that that title could be the next Of Mice and Men, but maybe it’ll be worth a shot.

I’ve been a bit quiet again (limited signal and WiFi/mobile data) but wasn’t going to miss the chance to update you guys on the past couple of weeks I’ve spent with horses. I’m on a short break now, spending a few days with family before I start as a level 2 equestrian student at the end of next week! I’ll have to ask for permission to share any photos or videos I get, but if I’m allowed I’m thinking I’ll document my time as an equine student on here, sort of like a diary.

In the meantime I thought I’d at least share some snaps taken up at Haytor the other week (I wasn’t going to go to Dartmoor without seeing these little guys).

Continue reading “Of Equestrians and Exhibitions”

The Strong Never Sleep

Sorry for the silence – it’s been a busy couple of weeks.

Last week I spent a week of work experience at an equestrian facility, which was incredible! Sure, it was intense at times, but I coped well considering my lack of confidence (just over the week I know I improved, though)!

I’ve now got another two weeks of work experience planned from Monday, returning to a yard I spent a week at last year, with the prospect of potentially enrolling on a level 2 work based diploma.

In the meantime, I’ve been running again, earlier than usual as I’ve started getting used to being up early to bring horses in and it gets it out of the way before it’s too hot (I say that as if 21°C isn’t too hot – it is).

In other news, I received an exciting email the other day, in response to a poem I submitted for Like Jerram’s Of Earth and Sky project based in Gloucester. Locations are yet to be confirmed, but I’m delighted to say my poem has been chosen to be part of the installation.

The poem is actually one of the ones I wrote as part of my July poetry challenge, writing a poem every day of the month (I’m guilty of reading/listening to too many books/audiobooks and not writing enough). I didn’t share that particular poem on Twitter as I have done with the others as I didn’t want to jeopardize any possibility of it being selected, but you should be able to view it on the exhibition website (see link above) in due course.

Jess

Trials and (not so many) Tribulations

I’ve been a bit quiet again, listening to more audiobooks (currently on The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – thank you Rory Gilmore).

What’s that, though? I have some exciting news I might have failed to mention? I might have been slacking on the running front, but I’ve started running with a small group of other people again!

But that’s not all! Not only have I run with other people again, but I’ve also ridden for the first time since 11th March too! Reunited with my favourite Teddy bear, the lesson focused on transitions over the centre line and working without stirrups (normally I’m not too keen on trotting without stirrups as I tend to tense up and grip, but I think I was much more relaxed this time). That said, my arms were too tight, and I know I’ve got a lot to work on, including keeping impulsion through turns!

You might be wondering why I’m telling you all of this. Finally, the exciting news you’ve all been waiting for.

Continue reading “Trials and (not so many) Tribulations”

Saddle Up

Well, I guess it’s official. I’m graduating with a First!

That’s not what this post is about, though. Because the past three years haven’t just been about university. They’ve been about life, gaining new experiences outside university as well, and it’s some of those I want to reflect on now.

  1. Volunteering at Olympia Horse Show in 2018 and 2019 – I would encourage anyone 18+ who loves horses to apply to volunteer at Olympia. The first time I volunteered there also happened to be the first time I stayed in London on my own. Way out of my depth… But as soon as I settled into the routine for the week, engaging with other volunteers and assisting audience members with finding their seats etc. I enjoyed every second!
  2. Entering a poetry competition. And being among the winning entries, published in Beyond Boundaries, available through Glasgow Libraries. This also meant I was invited to a poetry reading for National Poetry Day 2018. Terrifying, despite having read at Lancaster University Poetry Cafe, but I had an appreciative audience! I also attended a creative writing industry day in Manchester, and a journalism day in Sheffield, putting myself out there!
  3. Spending a week at Pony Mag HQ to gain an insight into working for an equestrian publication – this week they announced that they’ve won children’s magazine of the year award. I got my first copy back in 2010, and still like to read it ten years later, as well as Horse & Rider. It was a pleasure to spend a week with the most amazing team! You can see some of the features I proof-read and drafted on my placement here.
  4. Volunteering as part of the media team at Blenheim Horse Trials 2019 – despite warnings that equestrian journalism isn’t necessarily a financially stable job, I remain undeterred! From social media posts to drafting end of day reports, and even gaining an insight on how Pippa Funnell intended to approach some of the XC fences, this provided me with another valuable insight to working in equestrian media!

Music to my Ears

We’re midway through July already, and things are gradually starting to look up as we ease out of lockdown.

At the end of June, I decided to set myself the challenge of writing a poem every day throughout July, and while some have certainly been easier than others, it’s been interesting delving into my inner self. If you want to take a look, you can see my poems on my Twitter feed.

My running hasn’t been going too badly either, although I’m still battling the hills to what seems like no avail to try to get sub-30. In some more exciting news, those of you who follow me on Facebook will already know that following London Landmarks Half Marathon being cancelled, and the Royal Parks Half Marathon being postponed until April 2021, I’ve decided to accept the offer of having my place rolled over to that. Hopefully that means I’ll get the run a half marathon for Scope actually in London!

Earlier last week I ordered some reusable face masks, which came this morning! Naturally, I was excited to try them out as soon as possible, wearing them for my run (turns out glasses steaming up combined with rain is a bit of a problem, but I’ve had a few tips on how to stop them steaming up so I’ll be experimenting over the next few days).

I mentioned in a couple of previous posts about applying for equestrian apprenticeships, and I’m excited to have a trial/interview for one of them at the start of August! Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze a lesson in beforehand as I haven’t ridden since early March. I think I can remember what a horse looks like?!

In other news, I spent yesterday creating a logo for The Running Equestrian, alongside some ideas for the future!

As usual I’ve also had more ideas for articles so now I need to get writing – as much as I enjoy reading, I don’t think it can be all I ever do… Although having watched the first episode of Mystic, available on iPlayer and CBBC, last night, I’m thinking I may need to reread Mystic and the Midnight Ride!

Jess

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Another week has flown by, and I’ve finished listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama and started (and almost finished) listening to Jackie Kay’s Trumpet. That was one of the set texts on the first year of my course at university, and while I focused on gender then, two years later I realise just how rich the text is. It’s about more than just gender – it’s about race, culture, life, and death. It’s about not being, and being. Sure, it’s a little uncomfortable to listen to at times, but it’s honest and it’s compelling.

Talking of honesty, I’ve had a mixture of runs this week from a couple of steady miles, a not-too-bad-for-me 5k, and a not-so-good 5k today. The kind of run when your body just kind of refuses to cooperate at all. The kind that involves almost as much walking as it does running. The kind when, as you take your post-run photo, you end up blinking the second the photo is captured. Tomorrow’s another day, though!

On what’s hopefully a more positive note, I’ve applied for a few equestrian apprenticeships. Having not ridden since early March, I want to return to it, even if it turns out now’s not my time. I actually saw a post earlier about musical halts, which I think would be brilliant. Think musical chairs, but you lose a stirrup, then another stirrup. Then the saddle. Reins. I’d probably end up on the floor, but it’d definitely benefit my position and (hopefully) teach me to stay the right side of the horse. For now, I’ll leave you with the link to a video of my riding, which I’ve been using for applications (I thought it best not to feature any of my fails, although we all have them).

Jess

A Different Sort of Graduation

It’s been a busy week with a lot to process. I’ll begin by saying that 3 years ago I was all set to celebrate finishing A Levels at the year 13 leaver’s meal.

Three years since my first Parkrun, and since then I’ve completed over 50 5k runs, a few 10k runs, a 10 mile run, and a local half marathon.

Oh, and a BA Hons degree in English Literature. More about that in a moment.

Last week I took part in a LURAC team event, completing my run in 30:46. Sure, it wasn’t a PB, and sure it was the slowest entry, but the team I was part of didn’t come last! Hills slow me down, ok…

Or do they?

Let’s imagine that my degree was a hill. No, a mountain. The rocky sort of mountain, with undulating terrain. Moments when I got too close to the edge, and moments when I paused for a second to take in the view, consider how far I’d come.

And I have come a long way. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’ll probably continue to make mistakes, but I’m learning all the time. Taking time to breathe, focus on myself, do things because I want to, because I love them.

I’m currently working on a few equestrian articles, with ideas for more buzzing around in my head, applying for equestrian apprenticeships, still thinking about an NCTJ Level 3 Diploma in Journalism.

I want to make a difference in this world, want to focus on making equestrian sports more mainstream, more accessible, more diverse. And I guess it all starts with the media – with literature, with culture. I wrote my dissertation on the representation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in literature, and hopefully I’ll be able to include my dissertation on here once results become official (provisionally I achieved a First, including an A- in my dissertation). But it goes beyond that. It’s about raising awareness, giving people voices that represent them accurately, not being afraid because we’re uneducated. These past few weeks alone, I’ve read (listened to) The Bluest Eye, Girl, Woman, Other, His Dark Materials, and I’m currently on Becoming by Michelle Obama. Next up, I’m planning on revisiting Jackie Kay’s Trumpet. All of these – including His Dark Materials – raise issues of innocence and experience. Reading is learning.

Jess