As a young girl, I was “infected with the horse virus”, I got my love for horses. My dad is still being blamed for this. We lived at the foot of an embankment in a small village(back then) in the vicinity of Rotterdam. When a horse would walk across the embankment, my dad would yell: “Look, a chicken!” My standard response was always: “No dad, that’s a horse!” Just recently, I came across my photo album from when I was a baby. It doesn’t only include baby pictures, but also the circumference of my hands and feet, when I got my first teeth and the first word I could properly speak. Unfortunately for everyone who pointed their finger at my dad… my first word really was the word horse!
When I was seven years old, I was allowed to take horseriding lessons, and when I was twelve years old, I got my first (lease)pony. When I could walk along when ridingvthat horse, and that was pretty quickly since I am blessed with stilts a stilt-walker is jealous of, an acquaintance of my mom arranged another horse for me. I have always been very passionate about riding, but definitely in riding around as Xena the Warrior Princess, playing dress-up while atop of a horse and riding the most difficult routes, with a sandwich in my backpack and the Walkman (yes, the device with a cassette recorder) on my head. I saddle broke my first horse myself in the paddock, while my little sister tried very hard to help, but honestly also didn’t know what she was doing. That really wasn’t important. As long as we were having fun, and miraculously, it all went well. We have laughed our butts off. The horse luckily didn’t really mind, especially when we hung on the other end of the lunging line on our bellies, and we were unintentionally plowing the pasture. That was our favorite game (back then). Luckily, the farmer allowed us to set apart a piece of the
pasture and then it all got a lot easier. I really learned riding when my mare was about 8 years old. I wanted to try riding competitions and started taking private lessons. From that point on, riding got a lot easier, even though it was a big turnaround.
Within two years, we got out first points in the 3rd level and I was as proud as one can be. I felt like I really was something and I thought I could really ride. I now know that that definitely wasn’t true. At the barn I stabled at, the way I rode did open an opportunity for me and I was allowed to ride the horses that were for sale and take them to competitions. After a few months, I was also allowed to train the young horses and from that point on really started to learn how to ride. I learned that not all horses are the same and that a stallion is very different from a mare. I can still see myself fly off the horse, while the other stallion and his rider didn’t know how fast to get out of the arena. It’s supervisor dragging behind on their butt, because they didn’t want to let go. That stallion was very angry at that point. Luckily, it all worked out fine. One thing led to another, and after a few years I quit at that stable and I bought a horse from a good acquaintance of mine. That horse, I took to competitions and after a small year, he got sold for a lot more money than I bought him for. With that money, I invested in a new horse. As it goes with all females, that went all wrong. Instead of a 2,5 year old gelding, I bought a three months old mare foal AND two 2,5 year old stallions. I was as smart to coordinate this beforehand, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A fulltime job, my own mare who had her own foal at that point, a horse which was owned by someone else and which I trained, and two young stallions who had yet to learn everything.
One of those two stallions was a chestnut. From the moment I started riding that chestnut, I had a special feeling. Of course, the plan was to sell him, but I decided to really enjoy him. Our first competitions were a great success and I don’t remember what scores we got, but I was out of the 1st-level within two competitions. That chestnut has an amazing mindset and I always rode him with a big smile. The previous years, we flew through the levels and then we started 4th level after an amazing season in the 3rd level. I had never had as much nerves as I did then and completely tensed up, I rode my tests. That completely failed, which resulted in my scores only dipping. That was so frustrating. Sleepless nights, discussions with other equestrians and eventually I got another instructor. This meant a big turnaround, and while training we improved a lot. The first time in the competition arena wasn’t the best, but we still scored about 60%. That was the turning point for me and I decided to go for it again. I also noticed it in my horse, he enjoyed training more, because he understood what I asked of him. I still make plenty of mistakes, but we’ve really grown to be a team by now. The points in the 3rd level were accumulated pretty fast and at the end of 2011 decided to take a leap and start 4th level . This went exceptionally well and I finished the year with 6 points out of 5 tests. Then, I took a break from competitions. It was all developing so quickly and I had a hard time adjusting. It was new for me, and one way or the other, I gave myself some sort of performance pressure. That didn’t feel good, and I worked on it.
Training at home is still going amazing and I want to start competing again soon. This coming summer, I am hoping to make my PSG debut with the chestnut and I want to share everything about this in this blog / column. I currently own three horses, out of with I compete with two. Next, I also have a young horse who I want to prepare slowly for the competitions. With the other two horses, I am also going to try to compete at a highest level, but I do it step by step with the wellbeing of the horses on the foreground. I hope to give you an impression of what it’s like to be someone whose hobby got completely out of control, and who set everything aside for that hobby to train her horses to the highest point possible.