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Ponderings of an Equestrian Professional

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Why do we feel bad about asking for help?

Mental health is in the news a lot at the moment, and is thankfully, there for Equestrians.

It is still very hard to ask for help.

Equestrians do what we do because we love it. Very few of us are able to make more than a basic living though. I know that I am not alone in finding it difficult to ask for money that I have earned, and this month I have stepped into a whole new world of asking for help.

Many of you know I have Multiple Sclerosis. It is affecting my mobility more and more, and I hate that. My horse, Alfie, is just coming back into work, so I have been out of the saddle for a long time, and my lovely, comfortable Ideal Suzannah Dressage saddle just doesn't fit him. There is also the issue of me getting into, and out of, the saddle. It's very embarrassing when your leg gets stuck on the back of the saddle & you need someone to push it off for you 🙈.

I have ridden horses (and ponies!) since I was 8 years old. Having been out of the saddle for some time while Alfie was out of action, I am struggling with the physical requirements of riding. I am blessed with a horse who puts up with my weak legs, and is a complete gentleman, stopping when he feels me lose my balance, so I can sort myself out again, but I need a saddle that allows me to sit upright, and provides my legs with the support they need now, and is low enough at the cantle that I can swing my led over to mount and dismount with some dignity.

The most important reason for me wanting to get back into the saddle, doing what I love, is that that is where I feel truly alive. I may be struggling to walk, but in the saddle I can still do all that I could, apart from jumping, my balance isn't good enough to leave the ground now. If you've never ridden a horse you will not understand the freedom it can give. There is a very good reason that the RDA is so valuable to the disabled riders they help. The chance to move with an animal that is helping you rather than a wheelchair, or walking aids, is utterly priceless, and gives you a completely different view of the world.

I had been intending to apply for a sports equipment grant from the MS Society to help me buy a new saddle that works for both of us, then Covid arrived, limiting charity fundraising, and they have stopped all grants for the foreseeable future 😪.

So here I am, trying to get myself riding again. My lovely yard owner has a saddle that fits Alfie, but unfortunately it tips my pelvis forwards, which causes not insignificant pain in my lower back, and has a big effect on my balance. This has made getting a saddle a necessity, and as soon as possible.

Monday 8th March (tomorrow) is my 50th birthday. Lockdown means no get together, though I may try to do something later this year. Many friends are asking for contributions to charity rather than gifts. I have been thinking of an idea for over a month, but I was worried about what people would think if I did it.

Finally, I took one of the bravest steps I have ever taken. I started a GoFundMe fundraiser, asking friends and family if they would help me fund a new saddle.

I have been blessed with help from so many people, and I am grateful to everyone of you for giving what you can. I set my target at £1500, which will not be enough, but when I sell my current saddle I should have enough, and any leftover will be donated to the MS Society.

At the moment I am over halfway to my target, which is incredible. I hope, and pray, that I will be telling you all about the joy of being balanced back in the saddle later this year.

Although I know many friends are happy to be able to help me get something I really need, why is it that I feel bad about asking for this help?


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