In The Saddle column: Why being a tough mummy is sometimes the way to get results

Alyssia Marsh and Iceford Sweetie (Mara) captured by photographer Jason Goodland.
Alyssia Marsh and Iceford Sweetie (Mara) captured by photographer Jason Goodland.

It’s been a busy few weeks with the horses. We recently took our ten year old daughter out competing her pony at the local Epworth Agricultural Show.  

Alyssia has been competing there since she was six years old. We started off in the lead rein class where I ran round the ring holding her pony. I’d just had a knee operation and my running wasn’t perfect.

We were astounded to get first and third place despite my dodgy knee. We enjoyed it so much that the following year we made sure it was in our calendar.

When the annual show came around again Alyssia had grown more confident entering the ring on her own, showing her lovely first pony - a little bay Welsh Section B pony called Gypsyville Jan (Jazz).

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Once again, she came home with rosettes and a big grin. So did we. Especially since she had just trotted and cantered round the ring in her own little ‘show’ not really doing what the judge had asked!

The judges must smile inside with these little children bombing off on ponies doing their own thing. Yet they  are always very encouraging to the children explaining very nicely how they can improve.

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It seemed only two minutes till the next year’s show came around. My little duo had progressed to showjumping. They had a fantastic last show together before we had to move up on ponies due to Alyssia growing fast.

We missed the 2018 show following Alyssia’s knee injury from athletics, but this year she was back with her new pony ‘Iceford Sweetie’ (affectionately known as ‘Mara’) and very excited to be showjumping again.

As many of you may remember from my recent columns, they have gained such confidence from their adventures this summer at Pony Club Camp.

She was begging me to jump in the 65cm class, but she hadn’t been jumping that height for long. I was more wary.

Ideally you want to be jumping higher at home than you do in your competitions. It helps you and the horse have confidence going into the ring as they seem a nice easy size. And that brings me nicely onto this year’s show.

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We had checked the weather a few days before and it was set to be a scorcher.

Everyone was sun creamed up, even her pony (she has a very pink muzzle) and I think we were already climbing into the late twenties by 10am.

Alyssia's first class was ‘clear round’ which is a super little class to get your confidence in. Nice and easy. No scary fillers in the jumps but you must jump clear to gain a rosette.

It seemed Mara wasn’t so keen on jumping clear. When she got to the crowds at one end she refused a jump. Alyssia came out crying saying she didn’t want to ride.

Well, I won’t have that carry on. Life isn’t about winning all the time. We all have struggles with our horses. You have to go out and give it all you’ve got.

If anyone saw us they might think I was a tough mummy that day, but there are lessons to be learned in life one of which is to never give up.

I told her straight to stop crying, that she wasn’t allowed to just get off and go home.  She had to go back in the ring, ride strongly into the jumps and tell Mara to ignore the crowds.

So, the second time she went in she listened with tear stained cheeks and despite Mara’s eyeballs on stalks, looking at the crowds, Alyssia rode her firmly and went clear. Elation.

From that moment on they went on to compete in the 55cm, with a double clear round, coming 4th place and coming 3rd in the 65cm class with another double clear - the biggest height they have ever competed in. She was thrilled and so she should be.

One thing life has taught me with horses is there are ups and downs but you should never ruin a good ride thinking about a bad ride you’ve just had.

You get back on, you do it again. It’s a lesson in that crosses over into all areas of life. Never. Give. Up.