Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

A friend sent me a video earlier of a vaulter performing some sort of unfathomable mid-air flippy moment aboard her sweet-eyed and enormous horse, with a short message: “Next time you ride Bella?” As a remarkably unathletic person, the very idea of it fills me with horror. But vaulting as a sport is something that I find fascinating, though I know so little about it and have no intention of ever touching it with a bargepole myself.

But why don’t I know anything about it, when I’m an innately curious person and irredeemably obsessed with all things horse? Had I simply written off the discipline as something so wildly unconnected with my life that I need never think about it again, except on the rare occasions when it’s forced into my line of vision and I feel a little flicker of something in response? Did that mean that vaulting, as a discipline, has any less merit than my mediocre attempts at eventing? Had I just accidentally stumbled upon some sort of slightly tenuous but decidedly apt metaphor for what’s going on in the horse world right now? In any case, this week I plan to learn a thing or two about vaulting, if only from following the utter badass pictured above. But no, you won’t see me trying the same move on my spaghetti-necked eventer…!

National Holiday:Ā It’s National Camera Day, which just serves to remind me of how little time I’ve been spending with my trusty Nikon over lockdown. I’m sorry, little guy. We’ll be back at it soon, I promise.

Your Monday Reading List:

13-year-old eventer Trinity Allman is the star of a series of fairytale-inspired images that are being used toĀ promote diversity in the sport.Ā And let me tell you, this kid can WORK a camera. Her mum Kerrie hopes that the images, taken by Jade Greenfield, will inspire companies and media outlets to diversify their shoots and increase representation. [ā€˜Willingness to changeā€™: hopes fairytale pictures will help promote diversity in equestrianism]

Kieran Paulson is a transgender man. He’s also an equestrian.Ā Our sport is among the most gender-equal in the world, undeniably, with men and women competing on equal terms and winning in equal measures. But transgender and gender binary riders are few and far between, so many of us may have some questions or confusion about their experience. I’ve been devouring this beautifully-written blog, which sadly hasn’t been updated since 2018, but is well worth a read nonetheless. [Transequestrian]

Indoor arenas are re-opening in the UK from July 4Ā after the British Horse Society lobbied on behalf of its members.Ā Rightly so, really, when you consider that most indoors don’t even stop rain or snow from venturing in, so they surely aren’tĀ that indoor, right? [‘Welcome news’ as government confirms indoor arenas may open from 4 July]

This astute, heartbreaking, comprehensive piece about top dressageĀ rider andĀ trainer Philesha Chandler has been on my mind for days.Ā From being tasked with cleaning a trainer’s house as a working student to being sabotaged by her own trainer at the NAJYRC, Philesha’s experiences will leave you winded — but the scope of her accomplishments and the extraordinary optimism and wisdom she shares will fill you with hope, too. [A Change is Gonna Come: A ConversationĀ with the Chandlers]

One of the biggest talking points of the weekend came fromĀ within the showjumping world.Ā US rider Andrew Kocher is under investigation by the FEI after allegations that he used electrified spurs in competition, and in the wake of the accusation, multiple photographers have checked their archives and found evidence of the same device in use at shows over a long period of time.Ā This prompts several questions, including: is it time for another review of the FEI stewarding process, which only allows for a slim glimpse at an often-adrenalised animal? [FEI Investigating Allegations That Kocher Uses Electrified Spurs]

Inspired by the plethora of polework videos popping up on the ‘Gram?Ā Dressage rider and coach Elizabeth Allen offers up five great ones for you to try this week, each making use of a different part of one mega layout. Get those biceps working, chums. [Five creative polework exercises]

Sometimes you just need a bit of the wry wisdom of Mr Stickability to start the week right.Ā Formidable and surprisingly funny, Andrew Nicholson is a modern legend for good reason. This republished interview is full of great snippets — though it does make me miss the greatest challenge an equestrian journalist can undertake, which is getting a ‘well done’ out of him for an interview. [Absolute Andrew]

What I’mĀ Listening To:

I’d hate for you all to crack on with your Monday morning mucking out without a great podcast to listen to, and this week, I’m treating myself to a deep-dive into the archives of my favourite,Ā The High-Low. Hosted by delightful journalistsĀ Dolly AldertonĀ — ofĀ Everything I Know About LoveĀ fame — andĀ Pandora Sykes, it’s a weekly hodge-podge of cultural chit-chat, book, TV, and podcast recommendations, interviews with authors, and, in a recent episode, quite a lot of discussion of peculiar-smelling deep-sea sharks. It’s a great way to dive into whip-smart conversations on current events while also feeling as though you’re propping up a bar with two bloody excellent gal pals. Diarm Byrne of EquiRatings gets an eternal high-five from me for introducing me to this weekly treat while we were (propping up a bar) at Aachen last summer.

Where I’ve Donated:

Forgive me for what could be seen as self-promotion here, but last week I launched something I’m super excited about — a limited range of t-shirts and sweatshirts bearing the slogan ‘RACISM AIN’T COWBOY’. 100% of the profits from the sale of these snazzy garms will go to equestrian access programmes in the UK and the USA, and each sale also buys a book for Saddle Up and Read, the North Carolina-based literacy programme that gets kids in the library and in the saddle.

There’s no doubt that the Black cowboy will be one of the enduring symbols of the 2020 human rights movement, but this isn’t a new phenomenon — in fact, it’s estimated that around 25% of cowboys were Black, and ranching was one of the first legitimate jobs that free Black people pursued after the abolition of slavery. I’ve written about this in some more depth over on the website — head on over and have a look.

Monday Video from Fleeceworks:

This vintage Kentucky footage is CAPTIVATING… and also slightly terrifying. After some serious lockdown binging, I’m pretty sure I’d be let loose on course without any weights in my saddle cloth.