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  • A Dream Left Dying

    2013 - 06.09

    For most of my life, I had a Dream. Just the one, and but it had no limits and it was all I needed. It was all I wanted: just a life with horses.


    This is not me. But this is where I went in my head.


    Worn down by years of begging, my parents promised me horse riding lessons when I turned ten. I will never have a birthday more magical.


    But before that time, I genuinely believed that horses were my destiny, so everything was possible. My assumption was that I would have a natural affinity with them, and would inevitably become an outstanding rider, trainer and teacher. Case in point for an assumption making an ass out of – well, at least me.


    Yeah, hilarious.


    At my stables we used to joke that the love of horses was an addiction: irrational to anyone not afflicted with it, and all-consuming of time and money, often to the detriment of friendships and relationships. This is perhaps less funny when you realise how true it is. Through my teens I didn’t know a horsey girl who would put the needs of her boyfriend before those of her horse. Those boys were dragged all over the country at all hours of the day to groom the horse, drive the horse, support the rider, do the heavy lifting and, most romantically, pick up poo. Myself, I never had a boyfriend. I was too busy with horses.


    I read every book in the school and local library with a horse on the front cover. I wrote stories about horses. I recall my mother and teachers despairing that I would write nothing else. I only discovered fantasy because Piers Antony’s On A Pale Horse had the eponymous horse on the front cover. This led me from his outstanding Incarnations of Immortality series to his Xanth novels, which frequently had equines on the cover, because he was an author who adored his horses. I think it would be safe to blame my later dream of being a writer on Piers and Helen Barrett, a sadly unappreciated writer of horse novels set in my hometown of Adelaide.


    But alas, after I was finally permitted to ride ponies at Sheoak Hill Riding School, reality set in. No amount of love could overcome my innate lack of natural affinity for horses, but enthusiasm ensured I learned slowly by practice what I could not intuit through feel. I was fortunate in that, although my family did not fully understand my obsession hobby, they were nonetheless tolerant and supportive and afforded my lessons until I was able to work the stables all weekend in lieu.


    I tell you true: there was nothing in the world that could beat a day in the stables.


    LOVE LOVE LOVE (photo by Exposure Studios London)


    Now in my adult years, I cannot put into words the excitement I felt, week after week, year after year, every time I ‘went to the horses’. It is my sincere hope for every child that they have something in their life that enchants them so, and for every adult that they have something so joyful to remember. As I remember and write this, I am quietly devastated to realise there is nothing in life now which feels as good as ‘going to the horses’ felt to my teenage self. How I do envy her those golden years.


    These days, when my life is a disordered mess and my dreams are multiple, myriad and confused, I say every July that regardless of what calendar year I’m turning, I still feel 19. And that’s because it was when I was 19 that this simple, consuming, glorious dream started to properly fracture. Cracks had been forming for years before, through the Dark Ages in which my run of bad luck became local legend – god, I remember a mother offering me the ride on a horse, and having to retract it when her daughter refused, in case my ‘curse’ struck them.


    But the year I turned 19 – and I got my biggest break – really fucked it up. I became acutely aware of my inadequacies. I began to expect and then even await the worst in all situations. I became very trapped by the knowledge of what I could not do, forgetting the existence of the alternate choice: to be empowered by what I could do.


    Long story short: 19 came, broke me a bit inside, and passed, only I carried it with me. I never left it behind. A year or so later, in which my glorious destiny of equestrian awesomeness still remained in absentia, I gave up a really good horse, Bing, because I was in full time uni and working 5 shifts a week at the local supermarket to pay for him and my education. It was an irrefutably logical, practical and sensible decision.


    And I still hate myself for making it. I left the Dream dying. But mostly, I gave him up because I didn’t really believe I could get good enough to do him justice, and that ate me alive inside.


    Fast forward about a decade: stop at last Sunday. I’m in Snowdonia on a vacation that was cunningly devised as a date both with a boy and with horses (incidentally, also my first attempt at a relationship in a decade – so perhaps I can’t blame my perpetual spinsterhood on horses, after all…). You can take the girl away from the horses, but – well, you know the rest. Alas, I broke the romance in its infancy though, and very nearly discarded the trip altogether…


    …but I really, really wanted to go and meet Dylan Jones at Dolbadran Film Horses. We’d been connected by a mutual friend on Facebook and I just had this feeling: I had to take this trip to Wales.


    Dylan and his fire stunt stallion, Valmorim, at work


    My good friend John Henry came to the rescue as my holiday partner, and an outstanding one he was at that. He soon discovered, however, that he had in fact come on holiday with a child: one completely obsessed with coffee, cake, hash browns and photographing everything in sight. We drove up on some ungodly hour on Saturday, and I arranged a riding lesson with Dylan on the Sunday morning. On Saturday, I was excited, to a degree impossible for even the best cake to achieve. By Sunday though, I was properly nervous.


    ‘The problem,’ I tried to explain my erratic behaviour to John, ‘is that for all the love in the world, I’ve never shown any aptitude for being a good rider.’ I think too much. I’ve never had a good enough independent seat to be consistent in the rein. Being near a horse puts a massive smile on my face but getting on one puts me into a debilitating state of conflict because I always put them wrong, but I’ve never been able to really put this right. I know it’s my fault, but I don’t know how to fix myself. Through the intermittent riding attempts of the last few years, I’ve not found someone who could show a rigid over-thinker like me the way.


    This must have all sounded like gibberish to John at the time.


    Perhaps to you too? Let me explain: horses are the truest mirror in the world. They don’t give a shit what you look like, but they’ll reflect everything that’s going on physically and emotionally. When a horse consistently goes badly, the rider went badly first. When you know this for truth, and you can’t get any horse going well (and understand that by this I don’t mean “in the right direction and at the right pace”, I can do that no problem, I mean “in harmony and comfort with softness, collection, swing and on the lightest aids”) and you haven’t found the person who can help you go better yourself, you’re in a difficult place of perpetual guilt and perpetuating self blame. If you’re me, you’ll grill yourself into an inextricable state of conflict.


    Thus on that Sunday, I was caught between ‘horses, wheeeeeeee!’ and ‘oh hell, here comes another reminder of how shit I am, and in front of Dylan. Why am I doing this to myself?!’


    The answer is obvious of course: because I had to. The biggest dream of my life is a twisted, dying tree in the garden of my soul. It chokes everything around it. It is a wound, and a scar, and it costs me so much.


    On arriving in Llamberis, I bounced into the yard, highly strung as a fresh filly on spring grass. Dylan showed John and I around the horses, many of which have appeared in the BBC series Merlin.


    Diablo, Merlin’s Wales horse for the BBC series and the only working blind stunt horse in the world


    Then we met the grey stallion Aramas, who would be my mirror for the morning, and Dylan started talking.


    Dylan and Aramas


    I swear, he could have talked to me all day. For a week, for a year, and I’d still be learning. He broke everything down anatomically and psychologically. He showed me, without any kind of judgement, that aspects of my behaviour impeded my learning and progress. There wasn’t anything there I didn’t recognise on some level, but it was outstandingly helpful to have someone I respected tell me like it is. From the side of the arena, John witnessed Aramas’s changes between riders and then between how I started and finished. Everything I said earlier started to make sense.


    And me? I was unbelievably happy. I’m pretty chipper as a normal state of play, but that day, I was Joy incarnate.


    Happiness: this is IT


    There was only so much Dylan could teach me in a single session, even though I know he ran far over time – and he taught me everything he could in the time. But what he gave me in a single lesson – that’s a different story altogether. He gave me back the Dream. He gave me back hope. I realised that here, I had found my Jedi Master. The fact that he is in Llamberis and I in London, with no capital to support leaving my life for a month or more to train with him, was a bitter pill to swallow mind you. So close! And yet – so far.


    Exposition time – always as entertaining as it was educational


    But Dylan made a suggestion: three days. Three hours riding a day. At an extremely reasonable price. Now nine hours, even with a Jedi Master, will not be enough to overcome the kind of ingrained mental and physical conditioning I have. The dark side is strong with this one. But you know what? I bet three days will give that blackened tree some new shoots, some fresh leaves.


    Well, that or prove I really am a hopeless case. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take.


    I ran the figures. On paper, I cannot afford to go. I have an overdraft and a loan and I’m not getting ahead.


    In my heart, I can’t afford not to go. This really is one of those ‘things I’ll really fucking regret on my deathbed’ moments. I mean I’d really like to see Istanbul, but I need to be able to ride well. Better. I need to believe again. I need to honour the dreams of my childhood.


    It’s only three days.


    On Wednesday, I wished to the universe for a windfall, I beg to be enabled to do take this opportunity.


    On Thursday, I was offered a double class I’ve wanted at a club I enjoy teaching at.


    That’s just over £200/month outside my budget. Between now and August, that’ll cover the teaching, B&B, trains and a day off work. Pretty much.


    There are other places that money should go. But I refuse to make another irrefutably logical, practical and sensible decision to hate myself over.


    I’m going back to Dylan and Dolbadran. I’m going to try to be a teenager again: invincible, ambitious and hopeful. I’m going to put faith in the master and myself.


    I’m going to let myself dare to dream again.



    4 Responses to “A Dream Left Dying”

    1. Sam Moyle says:

      Adele -BAD! BAD BAD ADELE!
      You know me, I’ve done everything -poorly-ish but I have been involved in horses all my life. I have judged dressage at all levels and my response to your blog -BAD ADELE! To put your riding down so much. I have seen you ride and I’ll tell you this -I DO NOT let bad riders on my horses!!!!!!! (in fact I am the worst rider who will ever ride my horses).
      We all have problems -even the greatest but I have never seen you slam a horse in the mouth to keep your balance nor flop around like a dying fish on top of anything. We may not be the most talented riders around but the love and respect you show for your animal (no matter who it belongs to, nor your reputed curse -which BTW Jordan DID NOT suffer from) is far superior as a horse person than someone who rides ‘pretty’ but at home jams the horse up so much that it is too scared to move its head out of position when they compete (or uses every false aid in the book to achieve their ‘goal’). It is false horsemanship nay (and pardon the pun) it is NOT horsemanship.
      As far as I am concerned a blue ribbon nor even an Olympic medal means anything if you are not a partner with your horse and rather dictate and dominate them to achieve your goals. Too many ‘good’ riders are doing well because they engineer a false ideal rather than carefully, slowly and understandingly building up a rapport with their partner. A human partner would not stand for having their heads jammed down their throats by a rider so ham-fisted and focussed on that blue ribbon that they will do so at any cost (or often by ignorance).
      You know me, I have judged all over and see ‘good’ riders and bad riders. I have seen people who would be good given the opportunity /money, I have seen talented riders give the dream away because they never really had that true love for horsemanship (the horse was always just a machine) and I have seen people who might not ever meet that dream (for various reasons) but who do not sacrifice their integrity to achieve that blue ribbon. You, my friend are one of these people -the best kind. Do NOT let evil Adele tell you, you are a bad rider. Like everyone you have your faults but none of us -NOT ONE are without our faults.
      Let me surmise it this way -if you were a bad rider I would’ve never let you on my horses! (and between you and me there are a number of the ‘good’ riders out there that I wouldn’t let touch my horses with a 10 foot pole!
      sorry incoherent rant over :-)

    2. […] Writing « A Dream Left Dying […]

    3. Adele says:

      Ha ha ha that’s true Sam, you trusted me with Jordan and he returned home quite safely! Thanks for the passionate defence, and always trusting me with your precious boys xx

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