So below in italic’s is something I had intended to post over two years ago now when I had not long been back from South Africa. However just scanning through the paragraphs I can tell my enthusiasm for writing had gone. Which frustrates me as going to SA was literally a life changing experience, something I wanted to write about in depth and with all the passion I felt in my heart that week. I cannot explain why my writing went down the plug hole but I feel now I may as well post this piece and remove it from my drafts… Clear my drafts and hopefully clear my writers block as I would love to be able to write and let the words flow once again.
Forcing words onto paper or screen is as difficult as faking happiness. I am going to try my utmost to write again for the sake of my busy little brain, an online diary for my future self. Inspired by the fact I have just finished reading my late Great-Grandads memoirs. His memoirs were so interesting and gripping involving the war and first love so a lot more enticing than mine could ever be. But who knows in eighty years time I may have grandkids who find reading my ramblings about muddy horses and daily ups and downs semi interesting.
‘I had intended to do a tonne of write up posts for this but as per usual I was split in ten million different directions with a handful more distractions.
How it came about…
My good friend Sally at 4 Strides Equestrian had this crazily amazing opportunity come available. It was to send the first UK team over to south Africa to compete in Internationals at the South African Western Mounted Games Association in Parys. When she offered me a spot I somehow managed to control my self doubt and accepted. The nerves hit me straight away but I was super grateful for the chance to do something so amazing.
There wasn’t much of a build up in form of training for this trip, more watching previous SAWMGA competition Youtube videos in awe and wondering what the heck I had let myself in for. Other than a few barrel days and a mess around with the poles I had never competed in any form of Equestrian games in my life.
Diary (I had done a break down of days but I kept getting the happenings of each day mudded up)…
Sarah picked me up late afternoon and drove us to her Mums house where three of the other girls were waiting. We had organised it so we could all get a minibus to Heathrow together. Considering we had all only really met once other than Joanne & Rachel who were Mum and Daughter we all seemed to click straight away on the minibus and the conversation was unbroken. Due to the case I had borrowed off my Mum showing signs of busting at the seams I had to lastminute.com re-pack into a much smaller case meaning I had to wear my Barbie pink cowboy boots and Michelin man up, wearing as many layers as possible. The layering up resulted in a seriously bad image, by the time we arrived at the airport I was in my pink boots, double denim, bright orange body warmer on top and my Crafty Ponies teddy mascot hanging out my hand luggage (I just needed a cone on my head to top off the image). Heathrow airport was ruddy huge, I felt like crocodile dundee when he comes to the city! Thank heck the other girls were more travel savvy than me haha!
The first part of the flight seemed to ‘fly’ by, I had my earphones in and listened to the Highway Men album. After seven and a half hours we landed in Ethopia ready for our connecting flight. We literally rolled off the first plane straight onto the next. We all tried our best to have forced nanna naps knowing that when we landed we would be riding in the afternoon.
On landing a few of us who needed to draw some rand from an ATM managed to sniff one out at the airport. Numbnuts over here didn’t think to contact the bank and I got my card blocked straight away. My phone was also not working so ringing the bank wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, doh.
Marinda & Michelle were at the airport waiting for us all. They had come in Michelles big beautiful blue bus. We all clambered in and started getting giddy about the whole thing. We made a quick shop stop before heading back. All of us were like kids in a candy store inspecting all the foreign chocolate flavours and food.
Once back at the ranch we all fell in love with the South African sun on the porch and sat breathing it all in with some of Colin and Marindas super affectionate dogs.
After an hour or so soaking in the sun the pony trying out began. First I was handed the stunning Dream, she was an Appy cross and what a beautiful mare she was. We had a trot about in one of the stock saddles, unfortunately the stirrups were at Colins length and couldn’t go any shorter so I didn’t feel as secure as I’d have liked. We swapped the stock saddle for an English hoping it would make me feel more secure… I dont know what was wrong with me but I just couldn’t seem to find my rhythm on her or get us to flow. Dream needed her rider to be confidence for her to feed off it as she felt rather on edge, when I adjusted my stirrups she had a moment and I got myself in a ‘self doubt’ bubble and couldnt give her the reassurance she needed. I felt very awkward on top of her and I think Tana picked up on this too and put me on Layla. Layla had very high head carriage and super narrow shoulders. She trotted around with big floaty strides but was ready and rearing to go. My stupid head still hadn’t shaken the self doubt and Laylas forward thinking was knocking my confidence. I didn’t feel a good enough rider to go forward with her.
Thats when Michelle rocked up with her trailer in tow. I had a chat with her and said how I felt and she told me I would love her ‘Cloudy Poo Poo’, she came out the trailer full of sass and well she was just the sweetest looking little mare. Of course my heart was drawn to her due to the fact she was a little cow pony.
We strolled around the arena with purpose and set on with practising some poles, my gosh I loved little Cloudy already. She was a little pocket rocket.
After having a word with Mich & Tana we all agreed I would practise at Michelle & Cloudys yard so that she didn’t have to trailer her every day and it gave me a bit of time to gain some confidence without worrying what everybody else thought, (of course nobody was judging me in the slightest I just hate riding in front of other people).
In the evening we had an absolutely amazing BBQ with all the family, owners & team. Freja and myself discovered ‘multi-meat’ sausages and its safe to say we were impressed haha! At one point whilst strolling across the kitchen my belt loop got caught on the bar chairs meaning I fell forward and its as if Lady knew what was going to happen as she stood in front of me and pinched my entire pork chop! Mel wasn’t joining us until tomorrow meaning both me and Freja had the room next to the back porch… to cut a long story short we had to message the other girls across at the other house to then message Colin for him to come and rescue us as we locked ourselves in the bedroom…
My bodies overly excited alarm clock got me up rather early so I thought I would have a shower and then go sit out on the front porch with a coffee and have morning snugs with the dogs. But bloody heck I didn’t realise the mornings would be so chilly! I opted for sitting at the breakfast bar in my pjs with a coffee as Colin & Matthew were also already up.
Mich picked me up after her morning jobs and we went out to practise my turns on the poles and a couple of the other games. Whilst setting up the ‘hurry scurry’ I saw a group of cowboys & cowgirls taking the cattle out. This looked super beautiful in the morning sun with the horses kicking up orange dust, when I got back to base I found out it was actually the girls riding out with Colin that I saw! Hurry Scurry was a super awesome game to practise and Cloudy seemed to love it too.
We didn’t overdo the practise as we still had an hour tomorrow and we didn’t want to tire the ponies out before the competition.
The team were completely buzzing from their cattle drive when we got back and still untacking horses so Michelle and I went to pick Mel up from the airport.
Im now writing this just over a month later so my sieve brain really isn’t helping me out…
I do know that on the Thursday we went into the pasture and all grabbed a horse each. Once again I was attracted to a sweet looking coloured mare. She was called Roxy and was just four years old, it was quite obvious she was Colins baby. She had the kindest eye and was so honest, Colins bond with her had obviously made her a courageous girl. We all headed out to the Miles’ equestrian playground. There were, ditches, tyres, mounds, bowls, see-saws you name it! Roxy gave me such a fun time and was willing to do near enough all of the obstacles.
Whilst in one of the big clay like bowls I saw Jade walking over to get me for my training lesson on Cloudy. We both headed back to the barn and handed Roxy to one of the fabulous yard hands and walked across the land to her house. Along the way Jade laughed at me for my lack of South African wildlife knowledge, turns out there isn’t masses of wild turkeys and the ‘pet’ rabbits they had so many of in their yard were actually wild.
We practised flags and speedball today. It was safe to say Speedball was going to be my ‘bum’ game. The fact I have never participated in English games was quite a disadvantage and leaning over the side of Cloudy was just not sitting right with me despite having 100% trust in her.
Today was travelling day. We were all up and ready for loading, getting our ponies wardrobes and supplies ready for the show. The transporter that arrived was absolutely blipping mahoooosive! Cloudy Poo Poo was looking super cute in her travel boots and blue travel sheet. All the horses loaded like a dream and were on their way to Parys. Michelle took me, Freja, Jade & Mel in her backie. We drove past some stunning rivers and landscapes including a reserve with zebra on. The transporter beat us to the Afridome and had already put the horses in their stables etc by the time we arrived, they all seem settled and happy.’