By Sophie Wyllie
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Sophie, daughter of Andrew and Manuela McLean, sister to Warwick and Alistair McLean, wife to non-horsey, but best most supportive husband, Alex. I manage ESI and I’m essentially a PA to my parents (the tables have turned since I was young, they must be loving it!).
I’m a rider, non-professional, prefer jumping to anything else, and have been horse mad since I was about 2 years old. Growing up, I don’t think anyone for a second thought that I’d end up the hobby rider and the boys would end up professionals. To be honest I didn’t think that either! I had Olympic dreams like any other horsey kid, but as I grew older I started to see a different life, and I wanted a balance between what I love and what I do. After a few years away from riding while finishing school and getting through university, I was happy, but still getting giddy when I saw a horse on TV, so I decided to get back into it. So for the last 10 years, I’ve balanced life and horses: my work is with horse people (let’s face it, I can’t get too far away being a McLean!), but my riding is for myself, and weekends are free for me to choose between horsing around or city living… The balanced life is good, and for my hobby, I just so happen to be surrounded by some of the best coaches in the business!
Growing up as a McLean, I always put unnecessary pressure on my riding, and felt like a total failure when it didn’t go right. The problem with being able to diagnose every problem behaviour my horse ever had, meant that I treated each problem behaviour as my own fault (for causing it, or not being able to fix it by myself) – this is shattering for the ego! But even the best rider in the world knows this is silly, and that mistakes are easy to make; your mental game is as important as your physical game, and the sooner I realized that horse riding is roller coaster, the more I enjoyed the ride. There are a million factors that influence your horse’s day-to-day behaviour, and sure, a well trained horse’s behaviour varies less than a green or confused horse, but the fact is that environment, nutrition, hormones, and weather all affect the horse, and not to mention what affects the rider that day – tough day at work? Low on time? Bad mood? Hungry? And maybe the biggest thing to affect us is our expectation of the ride – ‘she was so good yesterday!’; ‘My coach is watching!’; ‘I’m competing tomorrow!’.
I’m not here to tell you how to deal with all of the above (sorry), but I am here to tell you it’s normal, even when you’ve been raised by experts in horse behaviour and training. What you could do, is look at the bigger picture – what’s the 6 month progress report look like? Most would see a gentle incline. If not, call an expert (I highly recommend the McLeans), but one or two bad rides? No biggie. It happens to everyone.
That’s it for now! I might go and see what my mare has in store for me today 😉