Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

I mean, we’ve all been there, right? Where do all the missing gloves (and expensive riding socks) go? And why, after so many months away from eventing, is it SO hard to remember to pack your horse’s passport, your cross-country watch, and the last vestiges of your sanity? Just me? Surely not.

Despite the thick layer of mental rust that’s accumulated during lockdown, I’ve definitely found I’ve come back to the competing with a different mindset. Because this year is a bit of a write-off for me anyway – every goal I’d set has been annihilated by the pandemic – it’s allowing me to take things a little bit slowly. Also, suddenly and spectacularly, I’ve realised that no one’s judging anyone else for what they’re doing or how well they’re doing it – we’re all just operating within our own little bubbles, focusing on our own horses. That was a godsend of a revelation when I made the decision not to run my mare cross-country at her first event back, despite being certain that the course would be right up her street. The ground was a little bit too hard, something seemed not quite there with her fitness, and my gut, for the first time, simply said ‘withdraw’.

And so I did – and you know what? Unless anyone explicitly asked me how the event went, no one actually knew I’d used it as an expensive combined test. Why should they? I think so many riders — particularly those of us who don’t ride at the top level — get so hung up on people’s perception of the level they’re at and the competitive decisions they make. I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but if you’re happy, your horse is happy, and you’re able to go and deliver a confident, fun run, that’s all that matters, whether the fences are six inches high or four feet. Just do you — no one’s bothered about the rest.

National Holiday: It’s National Lollipop Day. Someone inform Lil Wayne.

Your Monday Reading List:

Eventing anecdotes are always a bit wild and woolly, but they don’t get much better than those from the ‘golden era’ of the sport in the 80s and 90s. This piece with the legendary Ian Stark is chock-full of them – from waterskiing with an adrenaline-crazed Mark Todd to flag-related injuries at parties, you’ll want to hop in a time machine to a mad world before mobile phones were around to keep everyone civilised. [Ian Stark’s early riding lessons: ‘I learnt stickability and I absolutely loved it’]

The timetable for equestrian sports at the 2021 Tokyo Games has been released. We’ve taken the time to translate it into a few key time zones so you don’t have to. Get ready for some viewing parties at… weird times. [Mark Your Calendars (Again): Revised 2021 Timetable Confirmed for Equestrian Events at Tokyo Olympics]

Aspiring working pupils with a good sense of humour and a great work ethic, listen up: a rare opportunity has come up to work for Andrew Nicholson at his Marlborough, Wiltshire base. You guys don’t really need me to tell you what an utterly incredible job this would be to have. Andrew’s looking for applicants who are 18 or older, and can bring a horse with them to take advantage of the myriad training and competition opportunities the role will offer. You’ll be based in one of the most beautiful – and eventing-heavy – bits of Britain, with one of the best riders the sport has ever seen. [Jump on this one fast]

In need of some new summer reads? Nöelle Floyd has rounded up four great books that you need to have on your bookshelf. There’s nothing I like better than crisping myself on a sunny evening with a good read and an Aperol Spritz, frankly. [2020 Summer Reading List: What We’re Reading (and Why)]

On a related note, congrats to the winner of our most recent book giveaway compliments of Horse & Rider Books! Reader Lauren Blizek will receive a copy of “Stride Control” by Jen Marsden Hamilton. You can read an excerpt from the book here [Developing Your Jumping Options] or purchase a copy of your own here.

The ongoing commitment to the conversations that the horse world has so often sidestepped is giving new voices with different experiences the impetus to speak up. In this case, that voice belongs to a former teen equitation rider, whose struggles with mental health – and the lack of support she found from the community around her – led to a departure from the sport and a suicide attempt at the age of just 15. Now, four years on, she’s found her way back to horses, but this time, she’s taken to the cross-country course. Her story sheds some much-needed light on the work that needs to be done to ensure the equestrian world looks after its participants. [The Silent Side of Burnout]

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the little tyrant dinging away in your pocket? Maybe it’s time to Marie Kondo your digital life. This piece explains how, and why, you should do so, allowing you to get back to simply enjoying your horse. [8 Strategies for Being a Better Advocate for Yourself]

What I’m Listening To:

One of my best friends, a fellow journalist at Horse&Hound, put me onto a real winner of a podcast after I tore through 14 episodes (!) on my to-be-listened-to list during a 10-hour round-trip to Nicola Wilson’s yard for a photoshoot and suddenly found myself in need of some new downloads. Fake Heiress is a compact six-parter from the BBC studios, and it focuses its attention on one of my favourite subjects – lofty scams.

Many of you likely remember the curious case of Anna Delvey, the German heiress who took the NYC social scene by storm a few years ago. Except that, you know, she wasn’t any of those things. The pod, written half as narrative journalism and half as radio drama, delves into the trail of devastation she left in her wake and how, exactly, she was able to convince friends, lawyers, and even banks to put up ludicrous sums of money for her. It makes me want to write a book about an equestrian scam, and it’ll certainly speed up trot-sets for you.

Where I’ve Donated:

This week’s suggestion isn’t a monetary donation, but rather a time and brain space donation.  The Plaid Horse is hosting a webinar this evening at 7 p.m. Eastern time with speakers including showjumper Mavis Spence. The webinar will focus on increasing diversity, upping inclusion, and generally learning to be a better ally in the horse world – something we can always do with brushing up on.

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Come join me, @mavispence @dear_gabbi on Monday at 4PM (west coast friends) and 7PM (east coast friends) as we along with other equestrians as we continue the discussion on inclusivity within the showjumping community and becoming an ally during this current movement. Thanks to @theplaidhorsemag and @kirstiedobbskartje for organizing this panel once again. This will be a bit different than the last panel. This time some of you will have the opportunity to ask us your questions and talk to each of us a bit more. The three of us will be in a group and we’re excited to meet all of you! ❤️ —- please note, this panel is not associated with BLM the organization, but supports Black Lives Matter the phrase and the meaning behind it.

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Monday Video from Fleeceworks: #PonyPower at Strzegom

It’s admittedly been a while since I’ve been a live-stream devourer – generally speaking, I’m lucky enough to be on-site at the events I follow – but with Strzegom running behind closed doors this year and no provisions for press, I’ve incorporated live-streaming into my normal routine. You’d better believe I was attempting to follow the CCI4*-S while bringing horses in yesterday, wishing all the while for a phone-holder that I could strap to my head.

Anyway, all this to say that there’s no better way to start your Monday than by reliving some of the best bits from the weekend. Like, you know, THE PONY 2*. I’m obsessed.