Fitness, Enthusiasm and a Pilate's Ball?

                 What made Gerry get back in the saddle after a fifteen year break?

Horse Answers Today caught up with Gerry after a flatwork lesson and found out what inspired her to get back in the saddle after a fifteen year gap.

Gerry's response was instant, “watching my daughter Amy train and compete at dressage and seeing the enjoyment as she progressed and developed reignited my passion and desire to own my own horse”.

Having decided to take the plunge after a 15 year break, during which time she raised a family and worked hard at developing her career in education; Gerry took time to decide the breed of horse she would like to own.  The one thing Gerry was very clear about, was taking a long term approach to the correct training of her horse. The current trend for dressage tends to be the Warmblood, big moving and lots of presence. Even though in the past Gerry had ridden Thoroughbreds and racehorses, her love was for the Irish Draught.  It was their intelligence and good nature, wanting to work with you that appealed.  After many months, and miles driven, and some disappointments along the way, Gerry eventually found Tommy Tipple; whose temperament and work ethic is superb.

As a child Gerry learned to ride at a local riding school, riding ponies that no-one else would ride as they were considered a little wild, and usually came straight off the Welsh mountains.

Gerry developed her ‚Äö√Ñ√∫seat‚Äö√Ñ√π and recalled Carl Hester's story who rode ponies and donkeys, in fact anything he could find to ride. He discovered he had a naturally good seat and went on to great things - the rest is history as they say.  So Gerry's philosophy is simple - 'anything is possible, you just have to try'.

Gerry's Fitness!

It came as a bit of a shock at just how much I had underestimated how fit you needed to be.  I discovered muscles that had been dormant for a long time, as for core muscles, I think they had gone on an extended holiday!  So, next thing, get fit!  I read that top event riders use a Pilate's ball to help with their core strength, helps with balance, stomach muscles, legs and goodness knows what else. You can do it at home so all I had to find was 5 or 10 minutes every day.  The difference it has made is enormous, and I would recommend the ball to anyone, try it and reap the benefits‚Äö√Ѭ∂. I did in a few weeks.

Other Benefits

Now back into riding and feeling a lot fitter my work colleagues and family started to notice quite a big difference in me.  I was happier, less tired, more animated and in general had a more positive outlook. Not quite sure how they viewed me before! I put this ‚Äö√Ñ√∫new me‚Äö√Ñ√π down to having a more holistic approach to life. After fifteen years of my focus being on work and developing my career, I had now taken a step back and got some ‚Äö√Ñ√∫balance‚Äö√Ñ√π back in to my life.  I know how easy it can be once you get into your 40's, 50's or even 60's to just not to bother, this is a huge mistake, just go for it.

Managing Work and Tommy

The key is to have a routine and be organised, things have to become a habit. I work in a stressful educational environment, and for the Open University, together with setting up a new unit and attending evening meetings. It is essential I define blocks of time for riding, and unless there is an emergency this block of time is non-negotiable. I try to ride 4 or 5 times a week; in the summer it is obviously a lot easier with the longer days. I have an understanding husband and my fabulous daughter who is a massive help in keeping the home running and generally being supportive.  In that respect I am very lucky. Interestingly, I no-longer have time to watch television but do not miss it at all.  I feel fitter physically and mentally, more focused and sleep better.  It is hard work but the joy and benefits make it worth it.  If you are really passionate and serious about getting back into riding do not be put off, you will find a way of making it work for you.

What Else Do You Do With Tommy?

Gerry believes variety is the spice of life, including for her horse.  Gerry and Amy hack a couple of times a week in all weathers, and having the correct clothing for handling or riding your horse is a must.  They also box up and go across to an outdoor school where they can practise flatwork and also jump.  They also do short burst of schooling whilst out hacking. Competition is seen as part of their training, getting feedback from the judge as to how they are progressing.  It is certainly not the be all and end all, but part of the mix of what they do. Finding the right trainer who motivates you and your horse is crucial says Gerry and if they don't you need to question whether you are best suited. At the end of each session you should always walk away feeling enthusiastic and have a clear idea of what you need to work on between lessons. Even when I have been feeling tired or a little flat, I always feel re-motivated and that Tommy and I have improved and can achieve our goals.

Gerry's Words of Advice?

When looking for your ideal horse keep an open mind, try not to go for a type that is in fashion.  Have a list of questions you want to ask.  The advert will only tell you so much, you need to keep digging, get as much history as possible.  If in doubt, walk away.  Believe you can do it and have fun trying!