I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to spend three months at the Horse Boy Foundation's headquarters in Texas, having been involved with Horse Boy camps and activities in the UK for three years. I run a therapeutic horsemanship centre in the UK where we work with disabled and disadvantaged people with horses, and as I became more involved with Horse Boy it became clear that I needed to improve my riding skills to be able to offer Horse Boy work to its full potential.
I had been struggling with my confidence around riding for a few years, and my anxiety around riding new horses, cantering and trail riding had reached a point where I knew I had to face my fears head on or I would never be able to ride to the level I needed to work effectively with my clients. I was honestly at the point where I was considering giving up altogether and my anxiety was having a hugely detrimental effect on my life.
When I arrived in Texas it became clear just how severe my anxiety was. I was nervous to canter in the arena on a very quiet horse, I had a complete meltdown the first time I went out for a trail ride, and at the age of 36, having not even thought about jumping for at least ten years, the thought of facing a fence again terrified me.
I began having lessons with Rupert and Iliane and it soon became clear to me that this was a once in a life time opportunity to develop my riding skills and learn a new perspective around training and riding with their beautiful horses. I was able to feel piaffe and passage on their schoolmasters, develop my seat on the lunge, experience airs above the ground and face my fear of trail riding and jumping in a supportive environment where I felt safe and understood.
I was taken out of my comfort zone on several occasions, however I never felt forced to do anything that I was uncomfortable with. I gained an understanding of how to train horses more effectively from the ground, watched Rupert and Iliane train their Lusitano stallions and learned to understand the practical applications of dressage movements to every day riding and training horses for therapy work.
One of the major breakthroughs for me was having the opportunity to feel levade and pessade on a beautiful Spanish gelding called Reno. I felt like I was flying and I couldn't possibly imagine that I would ever be so pleased to be on a rearing horse! Spirit, a mustang, helped me to conquer my fear of trail riding, jumping and cantering in the open, Marvel, a large warm blood, helped me to gain my seat on the lunge through learning to sit to his huge movement and Hope, a quarter horse, gave me the confidence I needed to back ride with a child, something I didn't believe I would ever be able to do when I arrived in Texas.
By the end of my time at New Trails I had learned to understand laterals and ridden shoulder in and travers, I experienced my first flying changes on a six year old Lusitano stallion, jumped in the arena and in the woods, cleared a three foot fence, tackled riding up and down steep banks and galloped a mustang and a quarter horse around a ranch, feeling confident and enjoying my riding for the first time in years. I did have one fall when jumping, but I got back on and jumped again, because I wanted to, not because I felt obliged to.
Rupert and Iliane are both exceptional trainers, the horses are schooled beautifully and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to ride and learn in such a supportive environment without any judgement. My experience in Texas will stay with me forever, and every time I feel worried about riding at home in the UK, I remember everything I learned and achieved in Texas and it gives me the confidence I need to get on board and remember what I am capable of. I am still learning every day, however now I feel I am capable of being the rider that I would like to be in the future. I can fully recommend training at New Trails with Rupert and Iliane to anyone who is looking for a refreshing and supportive approach to dealing with horse riding related confidence issues or anxiety.