Sunday, 28 August 2016

Making decisions: heart or head?

'I know it fits the brief, but it just doesn't feel right!' How many times have you heard this on the TV programme, Location Location Location and other property shows? No matter what it looks like on paper, most people know when they find 'their home' and it's usually accompanied by an emotional reaction which sends presenters, Kirsty and Phil, into an excitable spin. Yet many people would argue that you should use your head when making life-changing decisions like buying a house. So, how should you make decisions?

Recently, I've made a decision that goes against the advice of some experts I've consulted. Yes me - the ultimate conformist and people pleaser. Why? Because the choice I made felt right for me at that time. And, I believe the best decisions I've made in life have come from my heart. It's how I've found my animals - how else can you explain the arrival of Moose, a rather expensive souvenir of a holiday in Ireland? But, look at how much joy he brought? Similarly, when I tried Wilbur all my lofty ambitions about intermediate eventing melted as I grinned from ear to ear. I didn't care if we never jumped a stick again. In fact, buying a horse must be heart-felt because if we looked at how much they cost in money and time, surely no-one in their sane mind would buy one!

Then I look at the decisions I made with my head, and it's not such a happy tale. I did a University degree that, if I'm honest, didn't really make my heart sing. It was a choice based on advice from well-meaning career advisors, friends and family.  As a consequence, I started my working life as an unhappy research chemist. Thankfully, fate stepped in - I escaped the laboratory and pursued a career in clinical research which I loved because it played to all my strengths.  This, in turn, provided the opportunity to follow my passion of writing - technical and equestrian. And it's through combining writing and equestrianism that I found myself in the press tents at international three day events such as Badminton, Blenheim, and the Eventing Europeans in Fontainbleu, interviewing my heroes of the sport and seeing my work in print. Happy days!

When we follow our heart, we are actually taking note of our gut instinct. This inner voice, or our subconscious, knows all the answers we need to live our life well. However, it's often drowned out by the constant chatter we have going on in our heads. As Susan Jeffers says in her brilliant book, 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway', there are no right or wrong choices, just options with different outcomes and consequences. So, next time you have an important decision to make, by all means write down the pros and cons and do your research, but best of all, quieten your mind and tune in to what feels right for you, because then you'll be tapping into the heart of who you really are.

What decisions have you made using your heart or head and how have they turned out for you?

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

IWMT 2016: Another successful event at Smiths Lawn Horse Trials

Winner, Rachel Harris, receiving her prizes from Kathryn & Louise
 It wasn't just the sunshine providing the heat at Smiths Lawn horse trials, Windsor, the competition for the Ian White Memorial Trophy was hot too, with the top 5 riders all completing on sub-30 scores.

Rachel Harris and Manor Mayhem led the field from the start, posting an unbeatable dressage score of 24.5, with no extra penalties to add after the final phase. "We entered this section last year as our first BE100 and came second, so it was amazing to go one better this year!" Rachel also commented on the lovely atmosphere of the competition saying, "we really like the encouraging feel this section gives to amateur riders plus the whole event at Smiths Lawn is great and really friendly." Rachel wins a training session with top trainer, Gill Watson, as well as lots of other goodies from our wonderful sponsors.

Just 0.6 of a penalty separated the next 4 riders with Giselle Mackinlay (Dark Spirit) taking the runner-up prize (29.3 penalties), followed by Olivia Mitchell (Woodland Lad) in third, on a score of 29.5. Fourth placed Jessie Vanassche and her stunning horse, Da Vinci II, finished on 29.8 and are a familiar combination in this class, having been the IWMT champion it last year. Their impeccable turnout won Jessie the Willow trophy for the second year running.
Willow trophy winner: Jessie Vanassche

The Moose trophy, awarded to the combination closest to the optimum time across country, went to 11th-placed Amanda Brettle on Ysgwynfawr Fergus - every commentator's nightmare!

And, as has become a tradition in the IWMT class, there are no losers; Gina Weare on Youghal Grey Boy, will receive a box of brownies from Chester the Eventer and his owners, Cala and Garry Russell. Gina and 'Louey' sadly parted company at fence 10 but thanks to Louey's 'quick thinking', Gina was able to remount and complete the course. "He waited for me, very conveniently next to one of the driving obstacles, so we even had a mounting block." But, perhaps eventing is not Louey's first love, as Gina explained. "Louey is looking forward to the winter when he can go and do his proper job of jumping big hedges with the Mid Surrey Farmers Draghounds, and doesn't have to do stressage and pole vaulting!"

A huge thank you, as always, to our fabulous sponsors, who provided the fantastic goodie bags to 10th place.
This year they were: Protexin Equine, Gill Watson, Equilibrium Products, Elizabeth Hough of Your Great Mind Coaching, Nigel Taylor from Aston-le-Walls horse trials, Crisy Salmon of Feelgood Forever, and Sarah Alexander (alexander technique teacher/craniosacral therapist). Not forgetting the lovely Tissie Reason and her super team at Smiths Lawn horse trials, who have supported the Memorial Trophy class since our first year in 2009.

A special thank you must also go to Bradley Hall of Running Fox Event Catering who kindly gave me and my support team (Liz Bonnieman, Dawn Bentley, Alison and Eleanor Dexter and Louise Leverton from Protexin) free bacon butties (delicious they were too, I might add) while we were judging the best turned out prize, donating the proceeds to our charity this year,  Brain Tumour Research.
Judging the best turned out with the help of our canine friends!
Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Girl power: Gail and Grace Wilson ride high on their talented mares

Mares don't always get a good press largely due to hormonal issues linked to moodiness and behavioural problems, particularly when they are out competing. However, there are many mares out there bucking the trend and achieving success in the various equestrian disciplines.  Mother and daughter team, Gail and Grace Wilson, have enjoyed some fantastic dressage results with their mares and don't believe they present any more challenges than geldings if handled correctly.  Here they share their insights into riding and competing their mares:

Grace and Big Grace! Photo: Kevin Sparrow
Farantie (aka Olive) is ridden by Gail. She is 6 years old by Negro out of Garantie by Grande Cru and Gail has owned her since she was 6 months old
Giovanna (Grace) is ridden by Grace and is known as 'Big Grace' to save any confusion with the rider! She is 5 years old and is by Glocks Johnson out of Zepety (by Rhodium). Grace has had her since she was a weanling.

Were you looking for mares specifically?
Gail explains, "we were looking for youngsters of either gender." "Who were well bred," adds Grace.
What are the best things about owning and competing a mare and is it any different to owning/competing a gelding?
Both agree that the quirks they see are not gender-related, but due to personality differences, though Gail adds, "Olive thinks she is a stallion sometimes, which is quite amusing - she arches her neck and grows a few inches taller when she sees other horses. I tend to ignore her antics and canter on!"
Gail and Olive under the watchful eye of their Dutch instructor, Jeroen Hulsman
Age is another factor, as Grace explains, "I don't think, in my experience, that owning and riding a mare is any different to competing a gelding. Big Grace is a young horse so we have green moments, as you'd expect. She has been tricky to do some things, like loading onto the horsebox, but she's brilliant now. Oh, and she can trash a rug in 3 seconds if it's not tough enough! She's just a princess really. At 17.3hh, it's not so much the hormones that are the issue, but the size and she grows even bigger if she doesn't  like something."
Grace relaxing at home
What top tips would you offer other riders considering buying/competing a mare, or who may own a mare and are having problems?
"When buying any horse, I really don't think the sex matters - you need to look at conformation, education and behaviour. If someone is having a problem with a mare, I would get them to consider a few things, assuming the horse is sound and otherwise in good health: hormone supplements have helped a few mares I have known to cope with day-to-day life. I would also ensure you set boundaries early on to avoid the horse becoming the boss, although this would be true for a gelding as well," suggests Grace. Gail agrees, adding, "it's really important to consider the combination of horse and rider and look at factors such as training level and age. If you're having issues, try and understand the root cause of the problem".
Gail and Olive competing at the Hickstead Masters; photo: Bonnie Bubbles Rug Wash
What are you top achievements to date with Olive and Grace, and what are your hopes for their future?
"Olive came 3rd in the Badminton Qualifier as a 4-year old and did well in the International Dressage Horse Qualifiers as a 6-year old, coming 6th. We qualified for the Hickstead Masters this year and at the final we got a brilliant mark of 69+%, finishing 10th. We've also qualified for this summer's BD Regionals at novice level. As far as the future is concerned, only time will tell. She will go as far as good health, training and natural ability lets us and then we will breed from her to produce youngsters for Grace to ride."
"My top achievements with Grace have been getting to the 4-year old finals at Hartpury, and winning the Shearwater Qualifier at Quainton Stud, which qualified us for the 5-year old Shearwater Semi-finals at Hartpury this year where we finished 12th. We too have qualified for the summer novice Regionals and we came 12th in the novice class at the  Hickstead Masters. My ambitions are to continue her training up the levels and see how far we can go, and then maybe she can have a foal, but with a pony stallion!"
Gail and Grace are based at Hill Green Farm Livery in Wigginton near Tring. Gail is available for lessons on your own horse or on one of her schoolmasters.
Equilibrium Products are celebrating mares and have recently launched a delicious 2-in-1 feed supplement, Simplymare, designed to support your mare's temperament and promote great condition all year round. To join in the conversation go to their website and share your mare stories #celebrateyourmare

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.