Summer's nearly over, but Heather and Socks are still finding ways to make the most of what's left of the season. Here, she explains a busy couple of weeks and why a break from riding didn't turn out to be a break at all.
Late summer always comes with the dour prospect of oncoming Autumn, but there’s one last hit of summer excitement: stubble.
When we first got Socks, she didn’t understand stubble, just didn’t know what the fuss was all about.
It didn’t take long for her to realise that stubble means speed, especially as our old pony was such a speed demon.
Cut to me asking an increasingly impatient, foot-stamping Socks to wait at the edge of a stubble field while some dog walkers came off the path.
Socks had quite obviously reverted to her point-to-pointing days.
Then I dropped my phone trying to take a photo for mum who was on a boat somewhere in the Loire valley, because, let’s be frank, she would have been unbelievably jealous.
So finally, I remounted, reset my stirrups, assured the dog walkers I was fine, and let Socks go.
It’s times like this where I wouldn't have anything else but a thoroughbred! We met a couple of our friends coming out of another path at the end of the field, and it turns out we were going so fast that they thought I’d fallen off and Socks was loose… oops!
A week off riding… apparently
I was lucky enough to go on a second holiday this year, to a chateau in northern France. It was beautiful, with all kinds of things to do: tennis courts, a swimming pool, horses on site.
That’s right – the most clichéd thing to do with me ever happened. Everybody had sat down for lunch, and the shout went up: “Look, Heather’s on a horse!”
His name was Quemy, and he was a lovely, gentle giant! I said at the beginning that I wasn’t going to ride, but by the fourth day my resolve had weakened. Talk about a busman’s holiday!
After coming back, I knew I only had one weekend free this month, so I packed it full. Because, obviously, I have limitless energy.
The weekend where I never stopped
On Friday, the weather was lovely, so I went down to the private pool that my boyfriend lifeguards at and had a swim.
After that, I had a showjumping lesson with Petros. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how happy I am with Socks’ showjumping – she was absolutely mega, and size doesn’t seem to be an issue any more!
After that, I dropped in at the gym I work at for a cycle circuits class with my Dad. I slept very well that night.
On Saturday, we went to Ely Eventing Centre for a play on the cross-country course with my friend Rachel and her horse Josh – Rachel's usual steed Squirt was eventing the next day so was deprived of seeing his wife, Socks (the lack of distraction did him good – he won his class!).
Wondergroom Mia came with me and brought her Proper Camera so mum, who was very sulky that she had to work, would believe that I’d jumped all the things I’d say I had.
We had an absolute whale of a time!
I said I didn’t want to have any stops, but it’s getting to the point now that if she does stop, I learn something from it rather than just being mortally offended that my horse didn’t want to jump for me.
We worked on ditches and steps and, after a little encouragement and some leads from Josh, we were motoring.
I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself to get everything right first time – neither of us have done much cross country at all in the last couple of years and I’m not Gemma Tattersall. Finally I’m happy to admit we’re making progress and we’re not failures!
The highlight of the day came when we went for a play in the water.
“I fancy that log into water,” I said.
(I’ve found, since camp, that my range of jumps I’ll say I “fancy” jumping has grown immeasurably.)
“That’s normally in the Novice,” Rachel replied, eyeing it up herself.
“Let’s do it!”
After a lead from Josh, Socks flew it!
I’m so lucky to have a friend like Rachel who's happy to come schooling with me knowing full well that it’ll probably mean coaching me around as well – it must be the cake I always make sure I bring!
I also got to have a go on Joshy, who always surprises me with how different he is to Socks. He’s so powerful that some of the fences I jumped felt like absolutely nothing at all! When I galloped him I couldn’t help but give a “Woohooo!”
AND THEN on the Sunday, I rode a 13-mile cycle treasure hunt. Somehow, I was still able to walk on Monday.
That’s all from me for now, but catch me next time when I find the perfect way to celebrate Mum’s birthday…
See you then!