It occurred to me this morning that I am incredibly lucky. Five years ago I had a horse which had spavins and was not able to do the job I wanted, no money to buy another one and loans and credit cards which needed to be paid off. Fast forward to today and I have no debt, one nice horse who does the job I want and another on the way.
I honestly think we make our own luck and I always try to make the most of any opportunity that arises as there is always opportunity in the horse world but it will not be given to you on a plate. Horses will often turn around and be heartbreakers but it’s how you rise out of the ashes that matters.
I am incredibly lucky as I don’t own any of these horses and just have the pleasure of riding them. I have a great owner who I have known for a long time and it was back in 2010 that the first horse came along through my mother being in the right place at the right time. Spotted this nice head looking over the door and told me that I should ring Lizzie up and have a chat. This resulted in the horse being dropped off without me ever having set eyes on it but trusting Lizzie’s taste in horses and the journey with Arthur began.
For me I have ended up with nice horses that I could not afford otherwise. They are not world beaters but each of them has been pretty smart and exceeded expectations. The grey mare got a 30 in a dressage test the other day having only been schooled for 7 weeks with large areas for improvement. I was not expecting this kind of score so soon and it has left me with a conundrum about plans for later in the season. This is a good problem to have!
A lot of my dealings with horses have always been about being in the right place at the right time and making the most of opportunities. All the opportunities I have had have been good experiences and I have always learnt something along the way. Even as an amateur you should handle yourself as professionally as possible, work hard and keep your standards high because you never know when opportunity will come knocking.
When the spavin horse was off work, I made the most of my time with getting schoolmaster lessons, riding out for other
people and going off grooming at events for people. This led to a loan horse opportunity on a tricky but amazingly talented horse on a yard where I was riding out. I learnt so much in the process and though it was frustrating and difficult, I had a rapid learning curve mainly through things going wrong! I learnt about the amount of work you need to put in, accommodating a horses needs and that just because you want something bad enough it will not always happen. I also learnt that honest communication is the key to a good loan relationship. This early loan relationship helped me with my later ones and set up a process I still follow now with regular texts, emails and phone calls.
I do a lot of volunteering. Sometimes it drives me crazy, other times it’s an amazing experience. I always try and fit some in with my busy lifestyle and there is always time to get some in. You just have to make it work. Out of volunteering, I have done my UKCC2 for a subsidised cost, had arena time, had lessons with great trainers, met some great people and squeezed in late entries to events. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to network and meet people that as an amateur are often quite difficult. Choose wisely where to spend your time volunteering and make it count!
Finally, conduct is vital. The horse world is a small world and however much you might hate this thought, but you are always being watched by someone especially if you put yourself in the public eye with competing. Competitions should be about progress and putting your homework to the test. There will always be days where things don’t go right but set yourself up to succeed rather than fail. People notice when a horse is beautifully turned out, when things have improved and how the rider conducts themselves and these little things can lead to opportunities.
This brings me back to my title, ‘when one door closes, another will open’. Sometimes you have to bang on that door to open it, sometimes it will be already open. Work hard and stay positive. Just because you are an amateur rider who works full time, it does not mean opportunity is not out there for you, if you go and grab it!
Top Tips for opening those doors!
1) Volunteering – I volunteer a fair bit. I can always make it fit with my busy life and use it as an opportunity rather than a chore. Through my volunteering I have had free arena time, done my UKCC2, squeezed late entries into events but most importantly met a lot of people who I would not have met otherwise. Volunteering is a massive networking opportunity especially for an amateur who might not be able to cultivate those connections otherwise. I choose wisely with my volunteering time in order to make the most of it.
2) Word of Mouth – If I am after something, I tell everyone! I use social media and contacts. The horse world is a small world and someone, will know someone, who knows someone. I also use this to get background if I need it. Don’t just jump for the first offer that comes along. Do a bit of research as long term it will pay off especially with loan horses etc.
3) High Standards – It seems obvious but always have high standards with turnout, preparation and how you conduct yourself. It gets noticed by a surprising amount of people and you never know who you are going to meet on any day.
4) Always be positive – Just after my novice horse was PTS, I was devastated as all my dreams had just been crushed again. But you have to pick yourself up and be positive and make things happen!
5) Get a good team around you. Even as an amateur you need a good team surrounding you. Choose people who genuinely want to help you and prepared to tell you the turth. It can take time to assemble this team which will include farrier, vet, chiro, trainer and friends but they are just as likely to help you out as anyone and provide you with opportunities through people they know. We probably bang on about this a lot on E-Venting but its vital!